Choose which sermon series
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the first steps to turn your sermon series into a book. Determine which sermon series (or multiple series) you want to turn into a book. Once you choose your series and topic, take a look at your previous sermon series archive to see if you have other series or stand-alone sermons on the same topic. Finding other sermons or series on the same topic will provide additional content as you write.
Decide who will be involved
Before you start writing, consider who you want to involve in this project. Will this be a mostly solo project? Do you want to ask guest writers to write some of the chapters? Do you have volunteers, friends, or family who are great at copy-writing and could help out? Do you want to hire an organization to help you write? Can you identify people who would be great at revising and providing feedback?
Along the same lines, you’ll need to decide how to publish your book. Will it be a downloadable ebook resource for your congregation? Do you want to self-publish, or connect with a publisher? No matter which route you choose, do your research on the options available. When you choose your publishing option, research how to excel at that method. Take time to understand current design and aesthetic trends, and learn what steps you need to complete to create the level of professionalism you’re hoping for.
Know your audience
You’re probably familiar with this step from your preaching preparation. Before you write, set aside time to determine your audience.
For example, let’s say you’re writing a book based on a sermon series about parenting. Consider who might be in your target audience. Maybe one reader is a single mom, working multiple jobs to support her children. Another reader might be a young couple expecting their first child. Yet another reader might be a father feeling inadequate, or an older woman who’s been asked to mentor a new mom. Once you imagine your audience, make notes about what they love, what they’re looking for, and what keeps them up at night.
If possible, research your audience. Define your target demographic and look up their interests, goals, and hopes. Talk to people who fall into your target audience. Ask them which books they love to read, what makes a book worth reading for them, and what they’d love to learn if they picked up a book about your topic. Then, when you sit down to write, keep your audience at the front of your mind.
Determine the book style and purpose
Once you’ve determined who you’re writing for, take time to consider what you want to write. Are you writing a book to inspire, instruct, encourage, disciple, or teach – or all of the above? Write down your book’s purpose.
Take time to determine your writing style. Look back on previous material you’ve written and pay attention to recurring themes, patterns, or habits. If you’ve written before, share that writing with people you know and trust. Ask them to provide insight into what makes your writing unique.
It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between writing to speak and writing to publish a book. The writing style and strategy will vary based on how your writing will be used. If you aren’t familiar with how to write material that will be published in print, take time to research how before you start to write.
Transcribe your sermons
Now that you’ve planned your topic, team, audience, style, and purpose, it’s time to start writing! You may find it helpful to start with transcripts of the sermons in your sermon series. Write transcripts based on your sermon outlines (or if you preach from transcripts, pull those transcripts out). If you don’t want to spend time on this step, find a transcription service online or hire a friend or colleague to transcribe your sermons for you.
Remember – speaking content and written content vary in style. Don’t publish your transcripts word for word. Instead, use these transcripts as a launching point as you start to write.
Determine your main points
Every sermon series has main points. You can probably identify one key focus (often found in the title of the sermon series). Additionally, each sermon itself has an overarching message, as well as main points.
As you start to craft your sermon series into a book, determine how the breakdown of main points will transfer into chapter and section topics. Maybe each sermon becomes a section of the book and each sermon point becomes a chapter in that section. It might not be this clean of a breakdown though, so spend time considering what kind of outline will lead to a book that’s easy to read, follow, and understand.
At this point in the process, it will be helpful to make an outline for your book. This outline will probably look different from your sermon outlines. You may rearrange points, move points to different sections, add new points, and subtract some points altogether. As you make your outline, ask friends and colleagues to review your work and provide feedback. If you’re working with a publisher, involve them as well.
Set aside time to write
A book won’t come together without disciplined, dedicated writing time. Determine when you want to finish your book, and work backward from that goal. Take a look at your calendar and block out intentional time to write.
Know your own writing preferences. Do you write best in the early morning, or after you’ve had three cups of coffee? Do you prefer to write before noon, or after your kids are in bed? Are you more productive outside, or on a comfortable couch in the study? Do you prefer to write for hours at a time, or do you make more progress if you work in short bursts?
Don’t just wait for inspiration to come. Block out intentional time to write, and during that time, silence distractions. Put your phone out of reach, let your spouse take calls for you, or set an email auto-reply. Do what it takes to discipline yourself to write. Some days, ideas and words will come easier than others. But lean into a disciplined schedule and celebrate the fruit.
Brainstorm a title
You might already have a title, and if you do – skip this step! But if you don’t already, spend time deciding on a title for your book. Ask others for feedback on the title (or on multiple title options). Would that title catch their attention? Would it cause them to pick up the book in a bookstore? Does it capture your main theme? What comes to mind when they hear the title? Is it too close to any other book or movie titles?
If you want your congregation to make a connection between your sermon series and new book, consider incorporating words from the title of your sermon series. If you have a publisher involved in the process, they may have influence over this step.
Ask for input and feedback
If you already have a feedback team for your sermons, ask them if they’d be willing to read your work. Identify people that you trust, who care about you and encourage God’s call on your life. Ask that group for feedback every step of the way.
If possible, find people who fit your target audience and ask for their feedback as well. Ask them to read your drafts to see what stands out and what confuses them. Ask if they can identify the main points you’re trying to make.
Don’t forget to celebrate
As you write, celebrate milestones along the way! Celebrate finishing your outline, once a chapter is complete, and when you land on a title. Celebration will keep you motivated! Don’t forget to celebrate those who helped make your book a success – from your feedback team, to your family who offered support, to your congregation who allows you to lead them in their spiritual lives. Celebration is an important part of your spiritual life – and should be a key part of your writing process as well!