Jerry Jenkins is the author of nearly 200 books with sales of more than 71 million copies, including the bestselling Left Behind series. Read on for his interview.
S.R.: You have an impressive career, as a 21-time New York Times bestselling author who has written nearly 200 books and sold more than 71 million copies, and your work as an editor and publisher. How did you get started?
J.J.: At age 14, I talked my way into sports stringer position with the local daily newspaper. The sports editor didn’t realize I how young I was and that I was two years from even driving. My mother had to drive me to the games and to the newspaper office after. The sports editor edited me hard and paid me a dollar per inch of copy that survived and appeared in the paper. Five years later I became the sports editor of that paper.
S.R.: At what point did you know or realize you could make a full time living from writing? And how did you get to that point?
J.J.: While writing my first 90 or so books, I worked full time as an editor and publisher. When I realized I could make about a dollar per book sold, I went full time freelance and never looked back.
S.R.: Your biography mentions that your arguably most well known work, the Left Behind series, came later in your writing career (Left Behind was your 125th book). That takes a lot of persistence. Any advice for writers still hoping for their big break?
J.J.: It’s true that the first Left Behind title was my 125th, but I’d had several bestsellers before that and was going to be able to pay off our house and put our three sons through college. So it didn’t feel like persistence. The surprise was that Left Behind became such a phenomenon when I was just doing what I’d been doing for 124 previous books.
Advice for writers hoping for their big break? You can’t make it happen. All you can control is how devoted you are to the craft and how much passion you put into your work. Give it your all and, no guarantees, but if it’s to come, it’ll come. 😊
S.R.: Your website offers a lot of great resources for writers, including blog posts and free guides. What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to most writers?
J.J.: Don’t start your writing career with a book. A book is where you should arrive, not start. Starting with a book is akin to beginning your education in grad school rather than kindergarten. You have a lot to learn. Get a quarter million clichés out of your system, develop a thick skin, learn to work with an editor, etc.
S.R.: You also offer a number of courses, and recently launched the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. Can you share a little information about the Guild and what writers could get out of it?
J.J.: For a modest fee, we offer four major features per month:
- A Live Online Workshop that includes specific teaching/training and at least 30 minutes of live Q&A.
- An Office Hours session where members can log in and ask me any question they want. If I can’t get to their question in the hour allotted, I guarantee a written answer within a few days.
- A Manuscript Repair & Rewrite session wherein I edit several first pages of members’ novels or nonfiction books and explain each suggestion. This has proven to be my most popular training, members telling me that they’re tired of polite rejections that don’t tell them what was wrong with their stuff or how to fix it.
- A Masterclass interview where I ask industry experts the questions members would ask if they had the chance.
And all these features are archived on our site for 24/7 access as well.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
J.J.: I’m writing a sequel to my novel Dead Sea Rising. The working title is Dead Sea Conspiracy.
Jerry’s writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. Twenty-one of his books have reached The New York Times best-seller list (seven debuting number one).
Jerry owns the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, through which he trains writers online.