Category: Educational

Tips For Getting Your Book Published

Posted by on 06/24/2016 in:

Publish written on a wooden cube in a office desk

Guest Blogger: Pete Nikolai

While the majority of people believe they have a book in them, very few actually start writing their book and far fewer finish. If you have started or even finished your manuscript then you may have begun looking into the options that are available for getting your book published that run the gamut from “the big five” traditional publishers to self-publishing. An author is usually best-served by considering the options in that order. Being published by a traditional publisher has numerous benefits including broader distribution and the affirmation and market position that comes with the support of an industry leader.

The first step to getting your book traditionally published is to develop a comprehensive book proposal as early in the process as possible—preferably before you start writing. In doing so, you will get to know the wants and needs of your target market, identify competitive titles, and begin to determine how to create the book your target market needs along with how they might become aware of their need for your book. Your book proposal should encapsulate the information literary agents and publishers need to evaluate your book’s commercial viability.

As you work on your proposal you should also research the literary agents that may be interested in representing you (if you want to be traditionally published). Most of the publishers you might be familiar with do not accept “unsolicited materials” directly from authors. Publishers rely on agents to sift through thousands of proposals and manuscripts to identify the strongest ones and to pitch those to the publishers who would be the best fit.

One way to identify agents to consider is to determine the ones who represented the authors of books similar to yours. Many authors mention their agent in the acknowledgments section of their book and many agents list the authors they represent on their website. The Write For Us page on the HarperCollins Christian Publishing site has a link to a list of literary agents who represent authors of Christian books along with links to other helpful resources such as a book proposal template.

To secure an agent, first identify several candidates and then visit the website for each to obtain their submission guidelines and follow those guidelines very closely. Your ability to adhere to those guidelines is a good indicator of whether you will be the type of author agents want to work with.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline for each milestone such as hiring an agent within 3 months and then securing a publisher within 6 months. Doing so helps you stay focused on your objectives and also provides some perspective as to when it might be prudent to consider other options such as self-publishing.

The majority of the books published and sold each year are self-published. Most readers rely on recommendations from their friends and associates or on reviews on websites to determine what to purchase so whether your book is traditionally published or professionally self-published will have little impact on how your book is perceived by potential readers. The most important elements include a quality manuscript and a professionally produced book (pages and cover).

Nearly every book is made available on the various book retailer websites and included in industry databases so it can be ordered by any bookstore. However very few self-published books are actually sold to bookstores and other accounts in any way close to the intentional and methodical efforts of a traditional publisher’s sales team.

At WestBow Press (the self-publishing services division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing that I manage), we help hundreds of authors self-publish their books and the ones that get strong reviews and sell well initially are then sold by the HCCP sales team to bookstores and other accounts.

If the deadlines you set for being traditionally published have passed and you’ve decided to pursue self-publishing then do your research so you know what to expect and are ready to take the necessary steps. Self-publishing service providers (such as WestBow) have a team of experts on hand to edit, proofread, design, market, sell, finance, print, and distribute your book.

Whether you self-publish your book or have it traditionally published, it can and should be a tool to impact your readers for good. You will put an amazing amount of time and resources into your book, and it can serve as part of your legacy—if you get it published well.

For more information including a free guide to publishing your book, visit WestBow Press today!

Pete Nikolai is the coauthor of Write Your Book and has been in the book publishing business for over 25 years, working in a variety of roles for Thomas Nelson Publishers before becoming the Publisher of WestBow Press.

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Resource Updates

Posted by on 06/16/2016 in: ,

Bookshelf and tablet PC

The benefit of eBooks and other digital resources is that when a particular resource needs to be updated it can happen quickly and easily. You’ve probably noticed in the past that there are periodic updates available for books in your Olive Tree library. The most common reasons have to do with fixing minor errors in the text, formatting changes, or revisions from the author or publisher.

Just as we are always working to improve the Olive Tree Bible App, we are also working to keep your resources up to date, looking beautiful, and working smoothly. It’s with this in mind that we wanted to let you know of a massive update we just pushed out to a majority of titles for the Bible App. This update is part of our ongoing innovation and commitment to providing you with the best reading and Bible study experience. We understand that it can be an inconvenience to update your resources and so we appreciate your patience and understanding as we strive to provide you with the most up to date resources available.

We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your trust in us to provide you with best Bible study tools possible! Thank you, and may God continue to inspire you through his word!

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A Conversation with Kent Hughes

Posted by on 04/06/2016 in: ,

R. Kent Hughes was in pastoral ministry for 41 years, the last 27 as senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He earned his B.A. from Whittier College (history), an M.Div. from Talbot Seminary and a D.Min. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Kent is the author of numerous books, among them the best-selling Disciplines of a Godly Man. He is also editor of the projected 50-volume Preaching the Word series to which he has made numerous contributions.

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I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Hughes and ask him to share how this series came about and to reflect on the role a commentary can play in a preacher’s study.

Of the 29 volumes of the Preaching The Word Commentary, you wrote 22 volumes. How did this project start?

I was [the pastor] at College Church in Wheaton which had lots of students and academics. I was very careful about doing all of my work on my sermons and then making them come alive when I preached. Lane Dennis (President of Crossway) and I were at an event and he approached me about publishing my sermons. We came up with the name Preaching the Word, which comes from 2 Timothy 4:2.

As you wrote a particular commentary, what goals did you have in mind?

The commentaries are homiletically arranged with careful attention to history, background, words, structure, and theology and with a focus on clarity in how they are presented. It’s important to also know that the content of each commentary has been preached live before a congregation.

If you were to pick the type of person that The Preaching the Word series is aimed at, who would it be?

It’s aimed at pastors, small group leaders, and Bible study groups.  For preachers, it’s not meant to be a substitute for personal study. It’s important that you do your own work first and then come to a commentary like Preaching the Word. If you come right to the commentary without doing your own study and outline first, then you’ll most likely end up preaching the commentary.

If I’m going to preach on a specific book of the Bible, what role should a commentary play in my sermon preparation?

If it were a small book like Philippians, I’d first read it 30-40 times through, mostly in my preferred translation but also in some others. If you’re able to, also read it in the Greek.

Then I’d ask, “What is the big theme of the book?” and look at structure, turning points, and applications – just try to get the text inside of me. Then I’d try and think of how to break up the book homiletically – how many sermons, where to break up the passages, and do my best to outline it.

Then, having done that, I’d open up a commentary and modify my sermon where needed. You should use a commentary like Preaching the Word as a part of your sermon-prep process. But if you use a commentary to start your process, you will become a commentary cripple.

When you look back at your own preaching ministry, what are a few things you wish you would have known as a young preacher that you’d exhort other young preachers toward today?

This matter of doing your own work is very, very important. You can borrow from all kinds of people and not really do your own thinking. The hardest thing to do is to sit down with the biblical text and ask God to help you. Do your own work first and then you can use a commentary to help you adjust.

*Editors note: This interview originally took place when the Preaching the Word Commentary Series was only 29 Volumes. We have recently added 11 more volumes to this series bringing it to 40 Volumes and you can get the entire set on special right now. 

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What’s the best Bible Translation?

Posted by on 03/31/2016 in:

I’ll be upfront with you. I’m not actually going to tell you what Bible translation I think is the best. I won’t even tell you which one I prefer or if it may or may not have colorful illustrations that make Jesus look like a California surfer. I tend to agree with Pastor Rick Warren when he said, “The best Bible translation is one that is translated into your life.” In saying that, there are some things that are worth knowing that may help you decide what you use for study, what you recommend to new believers, and even what you read to your kids.

Centuries of scholarship have gone into the English translations we have today.

The two primary metrics for how scholars have translated the original language into the the English Bibles we have today are based on:
1. How close the translation is to the original, literal word (word for word).
2. How close the translation is to the original idea being communicated (thought for thought).

The more technical terms are usually put into three categories:

Formal Equivalent
These translations attempt to reproduce the Greek and Hebrew as exactly as possible into the English language. Words, figures of speech, and sometimes even the sentence structure of the original languages are reproduced in a much more literal and limited way in this type of Bible. These hold -in varying degrees- to a generally word for word approach.

Dynamic Equivalent
These Bibles run on a more thought-for-thought philosophy than the Formal Equivalent translations, but not to the extent that a paraphrase would. Greek and Hebrew figures of speech are replaced with modern rough equivalents. They are typically easier to read, though sometimes in a freer translation passages may lean more toward an interpretation than a strict translation.

Paraphrase
Not usually considered ‘translations’ but rewordings of the Scriptures that speak in a very earthy, common tongue. Those who advocate these note that the New Testament was written in the common language of the people and not by scholars or philosophers. The results can be the clearest expression of Scripture on par with the original. However, theological lenses can more easily influence the interpretation. Some paraphrases are based on the original Hebrew/Greek and some are based on more formal equivalent English translations.

The centuries old challenge for scholars is how do you translate the original manuscripts in a way that makes them accurate and literal, but also readable and understandable?

For an example of this challenge imagine that I’m speaking to an audience in China through a translator and say, “Hong Kong is the coolest city I’ve ever been to.” If my translator literally interpreted my statement to the audience and said, Hong Kong is the coldest city I’d ever been to, they’d probably think I grew up in the middle of the Gobi desert (Hong Kong never really gets cold). I would want my translator to understand my culture and West Coast slang enough to take the liberty to translate my thought, as opposed to my literal words; “He really likes Hong Kong”.

And so for centuries the challenge for Bible translators has been to translate Scripture into thousands of languages worldwide, maintaining as literal an interpretation while still making it readable and understandable to the culture. So, unless you can read the Biblical Hebrew and Greek yourself every translation you have read has gone through this challenge.

Where does your favorite translation rank in terms of being word for word and thought for thought? Check out the *graphic below (click for larger image):

You’ll notice this chart doesn’t say one translation is better than another but it is a useful graphic to understand where the different translations lean in how they interpret the original manuscripts. If you want to dig deeper most Bible translations have an introduction that explains their translation philosophy. You can also check out the links below for more in depth thoughts on the differences between translations.

Helpful Resources:


* Please note that there is no specific difference (other than their place on the continuum) between the orange and green Bibles listed in the graphic

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3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Study Bible Notes

Posted by on 03/29/2016 in: ,

Study Bible Notes are a great resource for those wanting to go deeper in their study of the Bible. Here are three ways to use them in the Bible Study App that will help you unpack God’s word.

1. Resource Guide

In your Main Window, open the Bible translation of your choice. (I have the NIV translation open in this example).  Then tap the arrow to open the split window on the right side of the screen (bottom if you are in portrait). Tap the more button (3 dots) and then choose Resource Guide.

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You’ll now see relevant “hits” in the resource guide from all of the resources you have downloaded to your device.The Bible Study App also keeps up with the scripture passage you’re reading in the main window with sync scrolling.  This means that as you move along in the Bible text, the Bible notes sync to exactly where you are in your reading.  You’ll save an enormous amount of time with this feature alone.

As I scroll through the Resource Guide I can see all of my enhanced resources that have an entry pertaining to the current text that I’m reading. I notice that my NIV Study Bible Notes has entries for commentaries, outlines, introductions, and maps. The numbers indicate how many entries are available for each enhanced resource.

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The NIV Study Bible Notes in the resource guide shows two entries under the Commentary section for Romans 1:1-10. When you tap on the NIV Study Bible Notes it then shows me a preview of those entries and I can click again to read the full commentary. As you read on in the text, those entries will stay in sync with your passage no matter what translation I have open in the main window.

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2. Split Window – Specific Resource

Go to the main Split Window, Tap Open and you will see the navigation menu again.  Here you can choose Recently Opened, Library Favorites, My Notes, My Highlights, and My Bookmarks. At the bottom of that screen tap Open Full Library. This will open your Library navigation. Scroll down the list and find the NIV Study Bible Notes (or the study notes of your choice). Tap to open it.

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As with the resource guide, The Bible Study App’s sync scrolling will keep track of where you are in the Bible text regardless of what translation you have open.  This is a great way to study if you just want to focus on one resource in your library.

3. Resource Guide on a Verse

An additional iOS option is looking up additional information on just one verse.  Tap a verse number in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, add a Note, Bookmark, Share, Guide, and More.

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If you tap the “Guide” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific verse. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.  You can even choose to open your study notes in the main or split window.

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This is helpful if you want to read through your Bible “full screen” and refer to the study notes when you want to see what it says about a specific verse.

As you can see, study Bibles notes in The Bible Study App can save you a lot of time and will help you get more of of your quiet time.

Check out the NIV Study Bible Notes or other Study Bible notes here.

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Read & Research Bible Study Method

Posted by on 02/26/2016 in: ,

laptop with tablet and smart phone on tableMy early attempts at Bible study were sporadic and didn’t go that smoothly. I soon learned that I needed a more formalized approach to my Bible study. Here are a few tips & resources that I’ve found that will help you keep your Bible Study on track.

Prepare yourself through Prayer
“All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hardheartedness.” – John Piper, Martin Luther Lessons from His Life and Labor p. 33

There is no substitute for prayer when reading and studying the Bible.  Prayer takes the attention off of what we can do and puts the attention instead on what God can do in and through us.  Bible study is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1) in which we present our best to God.  We have to remember that this is not just a book we’re reading.  We need prepare our hearts and minds for Bible study.

Read the Scripture for yourself
Read and re-read the passage you’re studying.  Get familiar with the flow of the passage.  If there are terms that you don’t know, look them up in a simple dictionary.

Ask yourself these Questions

  1. Observe – What does the text say?
  2. Interpret – What does the text mean?
  3. Apply – How does it apply to me today?

Asking these questions will keep you focused on the study at hand.  These questions are also helpful when preparing, guiding, and leading discussions for small group and Sunday school Bible studies.

Read and Research

1.Bible Study Notes
There are multiple Bibles that have study notes written by scholars and trusted authors that will assist you in better understanding the Bible.  I recommend choosing one that corresponds to your preferred translation (KJV, ESV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, etc.)

2. Bible Concordances
Concordances are great tools that give you a list of verses that contain that root word in the Bible.  However, be careful that you do not JUST use a concordance in your preparation.  Concordances are a great place to BEGIN, but are never the END of your Bible Study.

With that “don’t try this at home” disclaimer, I do suggest using a digital Bible with Strong’s numbers integrated into the text for your Bible study.

Recommendations:

3. Bible Dictionaries
Dictionaries give you more explanation and meaning for specific words.  They also help us to keep our Bible Study on track.
Recommendations:

4. Bible Commentaries
After you’ve studied the Bible for yourself, it is often helpful to read trusted Bible scholars to see how they explain the text you are reading.

Recommendations:

I would also suggest checking BestCommentaries.com. It’s a great site with recommendations for commentaries on each book of the Bible.

Other Resources
Lastly, here are some useful resources to further your Bible Study methods:

Using these simple methods and tools will deepen your Bible Study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).

What are your favorite Bible Study titles and tools?

Be sure to check out this week’s highlighted offers on titles that will help your Bible Study this year.

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Start a Lent Reading Plan

Posted by on 02/09/2016 in: ,

Lent begins this Ash Wednesday—February 10 this year—and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. For many people, it is a 40-day period—not including the six Sundays—devoted to reflection, repentance, fasting, and preparation prior to Easter.

Unlike Christmas, Easter is not a fixed date on the calendar; it is sometimes described as a “moveable feast.” The Western church decided long ago to set Easter as the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). Since the date of Easter varies widely (from March 22 to April 25), the dates of every other holiday related to Easter vary as well. The week before Easter is referred to as Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday, which recalls Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Thursday of that week is known in some traditions as Maundy Thursday because it memorializes Jesus’ final instructions and last meal with His disciples. The term “Maundy” is related to the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” which is the first word in the Latin version of John 13:34 that records Jesus’ new commandment to His disciples that they love one another. Since Jesus washed his disciples’ feet that fateful evening, Christians often do as Jesus did and wash one another’s feet. Good Friday follows. It is the day that commemorates the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Calling the day “good” seems ironic since Jesus died such a horrid death that day. However, what Jesus’ death accomplished for the redemption of the world is the greatest good the world has ever seen. The Sunday following Good Friday ends the season of Lent and is designated Easter. It may be the most celebrated day on the Christian calendar, for it commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the beginning of the new Kingdom. – Adapted from The Voice Bible.

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Lent is a great time to think about starting a new reading plan.

Checkout our free reading plan especially for Lent.  Adapted from The Voice Bible, this plan starts on Ash Wednesday, February 10 and continues until Easter Sunday. This is a great way to prepare your heart for Easter.

  • Go to the Reading Plans section of the BIble+ App
  • At the bottom of the list of reading plans tap the ‘Get More Reading Plans’ button
  • The Lent Reading plan will be listed first

Once you tap the install button, the reading plan will be available to start.

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5 Benefits of NICOT/NICNT in The Bible Study App

Posted by on 02/01/2016 in: , , ,

The New International Commentary Series on the Old Testament (NICOT) and New Testament (NICNT) are highly regarded scholarly resources that are always ranked at the top by scholars, pastors, students, and professors.

Here are Five benefits of the NICOT/NICNT in The Bible Study App.  (Screenshots are from an iPad Mini 4.  Click on Images for a larger view)

1. Resource Guide

Open your preferred Bible Translation in the main window and have the Resource Guide open in the Split Window.  You’ll see relevant NICOT/NICNT commentary “hits” in the split window.

Bible+ also keeps up with the scripture passage you’re reading in the main window with sync scrolling.  This means that as you move along in the Bible text, the NICOT/NICNT syncs to exactly where you are in your study.  No more flipping pages back and forth.  No more holding the commentary text open on your desk in one spot, reading through your Bible text, and having to go back and find your place in the commentary. You’ll save an enormous amount of time with this feature alone.


2. Search & Look Up Feature

Search the NICOT/NICNT for words or passages.  Take “love” as an example.  You can search the entire NICOT/NICNT series for where “love” is mentioned in the commentary series.  You can also limit your search to the Old Testament, New Testament, biblical genre, or a specific book.

3. Linked Reference Pop ups

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One of my greatest frustrations in the hard copy world of biblical commentaries are the other biblical references within the commentary. With a hard copy, I have to open a different Bible and find each and every reference to read how the verse relates to what I am currently studying.  This is time consuming, slows down my study momentum, and requires me to keep all of my study materials out and open, spread out over a large desk space. With Bible+, the scripture references are hyperlinked within the commentary text.  All I have to do is tap the scripture reference to read it instantly.

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Related to this is footnotes/endnotes.  Since the NICOT/NICNT is a highly scholarly work, there are a lot of references to other materials.  In the past I would have to stop where I was in the reading, look at the footnote, then go back to where I was in the writing.  This also was a huge time waster, and I would often lose my train of thought.  With Bible+, all of the footnotes are linked.  Just tap on the footnote, read it, and go back to where you were without losing your place.

4. Integrated Dictionary (iOS Extra)

In iPhone/iPad app, you also have an additional option.  Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options to Copy, Highlight, Note, Save, Share, Define, Lookup and More.

If you tap “Define” you will get the integrated iOS dictionary pop-up.  This is extremely helpful when you run across a word in the NICOT/NICNT or even the Bible text that you do not readily know.

5. Look at One Verse (iOS Extra)

An additional iOS option is looking up additional information on just one verse.  Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options to Tap and hold on a verse number and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, add a Note, Save, Share, Guide, and More..

If you tap the “Guide” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific verse. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.  You can even choose to open the NICOT/NICNT in the main or split window.

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This is helpful if you want to read through your Bible “full screen” and refer to the NICOT/NICNT when you want to see what it says about a particular verse.

As you can see, the NICOT/NICNT within Bible+ gives you the best in scholarly work, while saving you valuable study time and tremendous effort.

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