Interview with Faculty Member: Bob Hostetler
Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, pastor and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His 36 books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored 11 books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices) and the award winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won 2 Gold Medallion Awards, 4 Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others.
You were a hit at last year’s conference, and a lot of people wanted you to come back. What kind of background do you have in writing, and how and why did you pursue it?
I often tell people I was raised in a family of readers and writers, so I’ve more or less been a writer all my life. I think the first time I saw my name in a publication was in Highlights magazine (I sent in a joke, which they printed, and then later sent in a drawing or two, which they also printed). I was fourteen or fifteen when I enjoyed my first byline (and payment!), for an article I sent to my denomination’s teen magazine. As a young man in ministry training, I took a creative writing course and submitted a few pieces, which were also published. As a young pastor, I continued to write occasional pieces for publication, which continued with some regularity until I composed my first two book proposals in my late twenties.
How did you get your name out there? That is, what did you start doing first?
I don’t know that my name is “out there” yet. My first few books were coauthored with Josh McDowell, so my name was the least important information on those books. I’m not a natural marketer or platform-builder by any means; I just do my best to keep after it. I have blogged regularly since 2005. I regularly update my website (bobhostetler.com). I speak at around twenty conferences, retreats, and churches every year. I pay careful attention to my Twitter feeds and Facebook friends, and keep them updated (but never inundated) with news about my publishing and speaking efforts. And so on.
Last year you said that the nonfiction market is far larger than the fiction market. In your experience, what can/should people do to get published?
Many of the people I meet at writers’ conferences are most interested in writing the next Great American Novel or publishing their memoirs. But those are pretty steep mountains to climb, so to speak. It is a far more likely path to publication and impact to pursue the many and varied streams of nonfiction in magazines and books, from puzzles and crafts to Bible studies and devotions, and more. I encourage aspiring writers not to focus so much on “getting published” as on “being read.” That can change the equation and bring a lot of joy while often leading to surprising results.
What is your spiritual/religious background, and how does that impact your writing?
I was raised in a Christian family and came to faith as a child. My faith background is The Salvation Army, which many people still don’t realize is a denomination in the Wesleyan tradition. I started ministry in The Salvation Army, and owe an immeasurable debt to that wonderful band of people. When I planted a non-denominational church in 2000, much of my ministry training from The Salvation Army went into that church’s formation and growth. Today, my family and I worship and serve at Cincinnati’s Vineyard Community Church. All of that—along with regular prayer retreats at a Catholic monastery, fellowship with family and friends from a wide range of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and more—has richly contributed to my writing over the years. I think my solid background and varied experiences have made my writing much more accessible and informative than it would have been otherwise.
Check out Bob’s three day Nonfiction Book Writing Course at this year’s conference!