It isn’t often that I get to sit under the teaching of a best-selling author and listen to him make it sound plausible that I could actually follow in his footsteps, but William Paul Young, in just a couple of hours, did that.
In case you haven’t heard of William Paul Young, he wrote, The Shack, a book which has been at the very top of the best-seller list for months. Over 6 million copies have already been sold.
Young, who describes himself as an “accidental” author, is an entertaining speaker and kept those of us who attended the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon last weekend, glued to his words for three sessions lasting more than an hour apiece.
According to Young, he did not set out to write a book for the masses; rather it was a story he jotted down for his own children to read. He did print it out and bind it together before he distributed it to family members, and later decided to send a copy to a friend. His amazing story really takes off after that.
His friend really liked it and called two of his friends to meet with him and Paul to discuss going public with the story. They were thinking of a screenplay, but decided that if Paul could just lengthen the story a bit, they would have it published as a book, first, in order to get people interested in it before moving on to making a movie. Paul took their advice and, with their help, lengthened the story.
Everyone loved it, and the story was immediately sent out to a couple dozen publishers, all of whom promptly rejected it. Secular publishers thought it was too religious; religious publishers thought it was too secular.
So, with what they thought was a great book, but with no interested publisher, the two friends of Paul’s friend launched their own publishing house, and called it Windblown Media. From there, it didn’t take long for the story, originally planned only for the eyes of the author’s children, to rise to national fame. A book that could have sold 500-1000 copies, like a lot of first books do, quickly sold out its first run of 10,000 copies, and they had to order more—and more—and more.
Keep in mind that all of these books were being sold from a garage they used for storing the books, and through an online website they set up themselves. According to Paul Young, the first million books they sold traveled through that garage on the way to customers, after being ordered from their website, rather than through an established bookstore. (See the 1st link below to visit their website.)
The story revealed in The Shack is riveting, and I won’t spoil it for you by revealing the whole plot, but it takes one man’s gruesome tragedy and turns it into a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption.
Critics, including Chuck Coleson and a number of highly respected ministers, say that Paul Young has strayed dangerously from Biblical truth in his presentation of the triune God, and what man’s relationship should be to that God. Others rave about how the book has changed their lives for the better, causing them not only to enter into a relationship with God, but also leading them to seek reconciliation between themselves and other family members. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which side is right. (Check 2nd link below to read criticism of the book.)
According to Young, he receives hundreds of letters and e-mails telling him how the book has changed the lives of its readers, touching their hearts and turning them to God. He is totally convinced that God led him throughout the writing of the book and in the marketing of it afterwards.
It’s plain to see, when you listen to the enthusiasm Paul Young has for the message in his book, that his readers aren’t alone in experiencing changes in their lives. The writer of the book, William Paul Young has also grown in his own walk with the Lord, and isn’t bashful about telling you so. (Check the 3rd link below for a video of Paul Young being interviewed on the 700 Club.)