Thursday, April 7, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Steve Lawson, author of 'Giant Killers'



A former small-business owner and church planter, Steve Lawson recently stepped down as the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Greenville, Texas, to focus on his writing, speaking, and leadership training activities.

He holds a doctor of strategic leadership degree from Regent University, a master of divinity degree from The King’s University, an MBA from Amberton University, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Texas.

Lawson owns Leadership Transformation Inc., providing emotional intelligence training and consulting to organizations of all sizes. More information on his consulting services is available at www.leadershiptransformation.net. An avid blogger and writer, Lawson is available for speaking engagements in churches, seminars, and conferences. You can contact him at www.stevelawson.us.

He and his wife, Karen, live in Greenville, Texas. They are the parents of three grown daughters.

His latest book is the Christian/Christian living/personal growth book, Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities.
For More Information
About the Book:

It seemed a lopsided battle. On one side, a small shepherd with a sling and five stones. On the other, a heavily armored ten-foot giant whose taunts and challenges immobilized an army of seasoned warriors. The story of David and Goliath has become an almost universal underdog story; but in
reality, Goliath never stood a chance.

In Giant Killers, emotional intelligence speaker, consultant, and author Steve Lawson identifies the five vital emotional and social skills David possessed: identity, discipline, graciousness, action, and hope. When combined with the power of God’s grace, these strengths made it possible for David to defeat Goliath, build a mighty army out of social rejects, and establish the greatest kingdom in the history of Israel.

Identity. Discipline. Graciousness. Action. Hope. These five important emotional skills establish how we perceive and express ourselves—and how willingly we seize the opportunities God provides. Who better to demonstrate these powerful traits than David, who slew his own giant?

We all face giants in our lives—challenges and obstacles that intimidate us, limit our potential, and keep us from moving forward. It’s easy to feel like David fighting Goliath. And that’s good—because David won. Like David, we can overcome any challenge, seizing with confidence the opportunities God places in our path. Giant Killers teaches you how to do so, providing a foundation on which you can build success after success. It all begins with you—and your willingness to trust in God’s grace.

For More Information

  • Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?

The concepts in my book are twofold; a study of emotional intelligence and how God’s grace informs and empowers emotional intelligence. So the research for my book really evolved over time. As a former pastor, I found myself continually speaking about grace; what it is, it’s transforming power, how it changes the way we treat people, and how it changes us. As the topic of grace continually
popped up in various messages, my understanding of it and realization of how much I did not know continued to grow.

For several years I toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject of grace. But as I pursued the idea and talked with several friends that were authors or in the publishing world, I pretty much gave up on the idea. Grace has already been written about by many different authors and several big name authors. So for me, a small church pastor in a small town, to expect to be able to publish a book on grace that had any hope of gaining traction would be an exercise in futility. But it became my life message, and my passion for sharing that message grew. Consequently, I was continually researching, studying, and reading books on the subject.

It was during a leadership conference that I first heard of the subject of emotional intelligence. One of the speakers mentioned emotional intelligence and its importance almost as a side comment rather than one of his main points. But it peaked my interest and I began to see it referred to in a variety of sources. During my MBA several of the leadership and management textbooks devoted entire sections on emotional intelligence. This stimulated my interest in the subject even more, to the point that I began to buy various books on emotional intelligence.

During my doctoral studies on strategic leadership, emotional intelligence became my focus of study. I began to see it everywhere; especially the need for emotional intelligence in people’s lives. As a pastor, I deal with a lot of people, many of them on a deep level. I would help them as they dealt with various struggles, how they interact in relationships, and how they chose their careers and then experienced successes and failures in those careers. In doing so, I saw even more how an understanding of emotional intelligence, and the necessity to improve in the skill of emotional intelligence. This growth would make a huge difference in not only the quality of people’s personal lives, but their relationships and professional lives as well.

Because our doctoral program was an applied doctorate, we were able to customize and focus our work. As I continue to research and study emotional intelligence, I began to see the correlation of various aspects of God’s grace with the five main components of emotional intelligence. So for my final doctoral project, I wrote on the interaction of God’s grace with emotional intelligence. This became the foundation for Giant Killers.

Because this was for a doctoral project, my research intensified even more. So not only did I refer back to the books that I already owned on the subject, I downloaded scholarly articles from academic journals as well as several interviews from experts in the field. In addition, I became certified as an emotional intelligence consultant and trainer. This enabled me to not only teach a course on the subject, but also administrate the EQ-I 2.0 emotional intelligence assessment developed by Multi-Health Systems Inc.

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

I chose to self-publish. I was still a small church pastor from a small town in Texas. I was essentially a nobody in the eyes of the publishing world. I did not have a national platform or really any way to market and sell books. So even if I went through the work of sending out hundreds of book proposals and dealing with hundreds of rejections, I saw little hope and actually landing a publishing deal. So I chose to forgo the process altogether and went straight to self-publishing.

If self-published, did you hire someone to format the ebook version for you or did you do it yourself?  Can you tell us what that was like?

I self-published initially through Westbow Publishers, and they handled the formatting of my e-book. Once we went through the process of designing a cover, having my manuscript professionally edited, and formatting the paperback copy, formatting the e-book version was virtually automatic as far as I was concerned.

If self-published, how did you determine the price?

Initially, Westbow set the price. I later left Westbow and went with a new publisher who gave me much higher royalties, and promised a fairly involved marketing plan. I discovered within a few months that this publisher was not up to the task (I could write a book on stupid decisions, but that story is for another time…and kind of long…), and eventually landed with Create Space - Amazon’s self-publishing company, and they let me set my own price. So I spent some time researching the price of books in the same genre as mine, and set my price on the lower end of the spectrum since I am a new author.

Did you purposefully choose a distinct month to release your book?  Why?

No I did not. I didn’t even think about it. I just released it when it was finished (see above statement about stupid decisions).

How did you choose your cover?

Oh yeah, I have actually been through four self-publishing companies. I was trying to let those “stupid decisions” comments remain somewhat of a mystery, but it looks like I’m going to have to tell more than I intended.

Before Westbow, I actually began with a company called Winepress. According to their website and several review boards, Winepress had been in the self-publishing business for decades. They actually designed my cover, and that is still basically the cover that I’m using today. Unfortunately, they suddenly went out of business before we got much more done than the cover design. Actually, it turned out to be good for me that they went out of business, but I’m going to leave that in the “stupid decisions” category and let that story remain a mystery for now.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

Because my book was originally my final project for my doctoral degree, it read way too much like an academic document to be anywhere close to ready for publishing. In addition, I had to find an angle that would appeal to a larger audience. I mean a book on how God’s grace informs and empowers emotional intelligence isn’t the most attractive of concepts to the general public. So in a moment of inspiration, I chose the story of David and Goliath as my launching point for the book, and continued to use David’s life as a great warrior and King as my running metaphor.

I wanted to show how important it is to develop the skills related to emotional intelligence and how they impact everyday life. I wanted to show how they not only enable us to overcome difficulties, but also how they set us up for success. In addition, I see so clearly how an understanding and acceptance of God’s grace brings supernatural power to the process. So the story of a teenage boy killing a giant seem like a good place to start. It is a story familiar to many, and is very inspirational to those of us facing our own giants in life.

So I basically rewrote the entire book and revised as I went. I imagine that I am similar to most authors in that I revised, then revised some more, then edited, then rewrote, then revised again, and eventually had to simply declare it “done.”

Did you come up with special swag for your book and how are you using it to help get the word out about your book? 

No I didn’t. Westbow initially provided me with some bookmarks, postcards, and business cards, but they provided no instruction or training in what to do with them, so I basically just gave the bookmarks away to the people who bought my book at church, but had no idea what to do with the other stuff.

Did you consider making or hiring someone to make a book trailer for your book?  If so, what’s the link?

I have considered a book trailer, but with my history of bad experiences with publishers, I haven’t really pursued it.

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

When I finally published my book through Create Space, I enrolled the Kindle edition into Amazon’s Kindle Select program. I have done one three-day giveaway, and almost 2000 people downloaded my book. It seems to have made very little difference in terms of book sales. It would be nice if it would have; but at this point one of my main objectives is getting my name out there, and the giveaway has at least helped with that.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?

Because of my history, the first thing that comes to mind is doing your research in choosing who will publish your book. Check the history of the publishing company. Check the reviews. Contact several of their authors if possible. Compare their royalty rates with several other companies. Be sure and check their track record with other books similar to yours. Then choose the company best suited to help you reach your goals.

Secondly, develop a marketing plan. I didn’t do this at all. I had no clue how I to market my book. I didn’t know what a pre-launch was, or what I was going do after the book was published. Honestly, I’m still a little fuzzy on all of that. It’s quite possible, depending on your experience or lack thereof, that the development of your marketing plan will take just as much time and effort as it took to write and publish your book. But however long it takes, put in the work. It will save you time, money, and a lot of stress if you do.

Third, make sure your online presence is on point. Have your website, blog, social media, etc. ready to go in sync with your launch. If they all exist and you’re well-established online, that’s even better. But you still need to be ready to sync them up with the theme of your book so that you have a coordinated approach to your online marketing.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?

Work the plan. Follow through with your marketing plan. Continue to develop your website, blog and social media. And continue to research different ways to market your book. And while doing all of that, start your next book.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?

I probably should have used n/a more liberally during this interview. Because I really had no idea what I was doing in terms of promotion and marketing. I had a Facebook page and I even developed an author Facebook page, but I wasn’t sure how to use it. I had a twitter account that was dormant. And I had started two different blogs that were eventually abandoned. So while I set up a new website with the intention of blogging once again, I didn’t have a plan. And I didn’t have a clue what was available in terms of pre-promotional advertising. So at this point it seems like I’m still playing catch-up. But I’m starting to figure some things out and have finally hired a virtual assistant with experience in social media marketing, design, and business development.

Do you have a long term plan with your book?

My original plan was to write a study guide as well as develop a seminar to go along with my book. My study guide is about 80% done and it is still part of my plan. In addition, I would still love to put together a seminar where I could explore in depth the various concepts within my book and help people make specific application. But I’m learning that this is a long-term plan and will take a while to develop.

At this point, I’m in the process of developing a seminar with a friend of mine using the core concepts of Giant Killers as the structure of our seminar. The interesting thing is that the focus of the seminar is on physical and spiritual strength. We are gonna draw some parallels between what it takes to get in shape and develop physical strength and what it takes to get in shape spiritually and develop spiritual strength. We’re doing this as a one day men’s seminar, and will incorporate a few workouts within the various sessions.

I’m excited about doing this seminar, because I think it will be effective, and I think it has potential to become very popular. But I am also excited about it because it opens up other areas where I could do the same thing. So while I would still like to develop one general seminar over the material in Giant Killers, I can also see developing other specialized seminars as well.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

Giant Killers really is a good book. I don’t say that just because I’m the author, I say it because I’m very passionate about the message of the book and its ability to be transformational in someone’s life. All of us face obstacles. All of us deal with struggles that we can’t seem to overcome. And all of us, at one time or another, have had opportunities pass us by because we weren’t prepared or confident enough to take them on.

I believe that can change. I believe that we can develop the skills and character qualities necessary to take on both obstacles and opportunities with confidence. And I believe with all my heart that God’s grace has tremendous power that we have yet to understand. And I am convinced that He is not only willing and able, he wants us to experience that power more than we ever will. And I believe that the combination of the skills and character qualities found in emotional intelligence combined with the power of God’s grace have the potential to make us an unstoppable force.

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