Ten years ago this week, my book The Gospel in Ten Words was released. To mark the anniversary, I thought I’d answer a few questions nobody ever asked, such as…
Why did you write The Gospel in Ten Words?
I blame readers. When I began writing Escape to Reality, readers would ask me, “When are you going to write a book?” Never. Having just spent two years writing a dense statistics text for a major university press, I had no interest in writing any more books. I was done.
In 2010 I went to a grace retreat on Cheung Chau Island, and Rob Rufus happened to mention the proliferation of new grace books. Friends like Chad Mansbridge (He Qualifies You) and Wayne Duncan (A Matter of Life and Death) had written books on grace. Ryan Rufus had even set up a publishing company (New Nature).
None of these guys had big churches or TV programs. They were ordinary men with a burning desire to tell others the good news of grace. I was inspired. If they could do it, I could do it. So I began to write a book.
The Gospel in Ten Words?
No, a completely different book that never saw the light of day. It was called Adam, Jesus and Me, and it was about original sin and Last Adam’s greater work. It was going to be this huge sweeping overview of history. It was quite ambitious. Some might say it was pretentious.
As I was writing, I realized I didn’t want to write another big book. In academia you get points for dazzling readers with big words, but that didn’t motivate me anymore. I wanted to write something simple because the gospel is simple.
As soon as I made the decision to keep things simple, it was like a fire ignited inside me. The words came in a flood. I could barely sleep on account of the excitement. It’s been like that for ten years.
Why Ten Words?
Originally I was going to call my book The Gospel of Grace in Eight Words, but, inflation….
How did you settle on ten words?
I had written an article called “The Gospel in One Word, Two Words…” and that had been fun. I like lists, and I relished the challenge of reducing the gospel message into ten key words.
What were the ten words?
Loved, forgiven, saved, union, accepted, holy, righteous, died, new and royal. These are ten pictures of grace that describe the new life of the believer.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
After an unpleasant experience with a traditional publisher, I resolved to never again give up creative control of a title. At that time, Amazon was making it easy for authors to publish their own books, so I thought I would give it a try. I’ve never looked back. Anyone can do it.
What happened with the cover?
For some reason I thought I could make my own cover. I grabbed some red felt, some Bananagram tiles, and snapped a few pics. In my mind, it was brilliant. In reality, the cover is not even in focus! I have thought about going back and redoing it, but it looks kinda homey and authentic. Believe it or not, but it actually won a design prize.
(In the Patreon-only bonus materials that accompany this article, I chart the cover-creating journey from the initial concept to the final award-winning design. I also talk about how I now use professionals and run competitions to pick covers, and the possibilities of AI-designed covers.)
What happened when the book was released?
When it came out I spent $0 on publicity, did no podcasts, and I gave lots of copies away. Within a week, three publishers asked for the foreign language rights and it just took off. It was a total God thing. It showed how hungry people were for the gospel of grace.
After ten years, The Gospel in Ten Words continues to be my most popular book. People regularly tell me how they buy 10 or 20 copies at a time to give to people they meet. We recently released a free study guide to help small groups go through the book together.
Has it made you rich?
No. We decided years ago to price the book as cheap as possible to get it to as many people as possible. I think the paperback costs around seven bucks on Amazon. Most of that money is split between the printer and the retailer.
What are you doing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the book?
I’m giving away free copies of The Gospel in Ten Words to the first 500 Escape to Reality readers who click this link. (UPDATE: All free books have been snapped up. Subscribe to E2R and be the first to know about our next giveaway.)
For years readers have been asking me to write a Bible Study guide, and I’m finally starting to deliver with The Grace Bible project. The first installment come out at Christmas, with more installments coming next year. I am super excited about this project!
Any final reflections on The Gospel in Ten Words?
As I say in the book, many Christians haven’t heard the good news. They’ve heard a diluted, mixed-up version of the gospel that comes with hidden charges. They’ve been sold a counterfeit gospel that doesn’t work and leaves them anxious and fearful.
The authentic gospel is good news from start to finish. Just as there is no bad news in the good news, there are no price tags to the love of God.
The good news is still the best news you ever heard!