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Book Proposal: Your Heart Changes Everything

In The Nonfiction Book Proposal That Won Me a Publishing Contract, I share the book proposal for my first traditionally published book (Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back). Bethany House offered me a book contract a few weeks after my literary agent sent them that book proposal.

Not all of my book proposals have been so successful, though! My most recent idea for a book (Your Heart Changes Everything: 50 Ways to Experience Jesus in Daily Life) was reviewed with interest by the editor and publishing committee at Bethany. They never formally rejected it…but it’s been over a year and I haven’t heard anything from them. Nor has my agent contacted me. So, unless their emails and print book contracts have been lost in space, I assume they decided not to publish this book.

And I know why Bethany House decided not to publish Your Heart Changes Everything. It’s because not only were the sales of my first traditionally published book (Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back) were dismal. And because I didn’t do any podcast interviews, blog tours, or book signings. I didn’t do anything to promote my book.


I know how to promote books. I’ve even written articles such as How to Be Interviewed to Promote Your Book – Tips for Authors. I just didn’t want to. It was partly because I broke my shoulder a few months before the Growing Forward was published; after a major surgery I had no energy or motivation. But it was also because I didn’t want to live, breathe, and be the content of Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. It’s a book about moving through loss and reaching for the future; it attracts readers who are stuck, grieving, and lost. I couldn’t live in that space while promoting my book…and so I didn’t. And the book didn’t sell.

The other (and probably the biggest, most truthful) reason I didn’t promote Growing Forward was that I find blogging more rewarding, interesting, and immediate than book promotion. A gazillion more people find blogs online than read books. I’d rather be blogging than writing books.

If you’re an aspiring author, you need to know how to write a book proposal – and you can never read too many examples of book proposals! Here is the Introduction and Overview, Market, and Competing Titles of Your Heart Changes Everything

Book Proposal Introduction: Your Heart Changes Everything

When I facilitated an Alpha Course through my church last month, I asked the group members—ten Christians—what they hoped to gain. Six said a deeper relationship with God; two said they want to feel the presence of Jesus. One man said he didn’t know how to accept God’s forgiveness, and a woman said she’s never learned how to live out her faith. 

Alpha is intended for seekers who are questioning the meaning of life, yet it attracts Christians who yearn to experience Jesus. They have “head knowledge” but their hearts are lukewarm. Their daily lives, decisions, and relationships aren’t affected by their beliefs. They feel empty and unfulfilled. Intellectually, they know they can and should lean on God’s strength and power when marriage, family, career, and health problems arise. Their hearts, however, aren’t convinced.

The Alpha Course is just one small subset of millions of believers who want to go deeper in their faith but don’t know how. I know, because I was one of them. For years I struggled with Biblical but inapplicable church sermons, home group discussions, and Christian living books. I heard the same parables and prayers over and over. I knew God loved me so much He sent Jesus to die for my sins…but what difference did it make in my daily life? Not much.

My head was filled with knowledge, but my heart was cold. 

YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING: 50 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE JESUS IN DAILY LIFE is the resource I needed but couldn’t find. This nonfiction guide offers a unique blend of contemporary faith stories, Biblical examples of heart-changing encounters with Jesus, and practical, applicable tips for sustainable spiritual growth. Readers will meet men and women whose hearts were melted and reshaped by God. More importantly, they’ll learn how to prepare for and experience the same heartfelt change in their own lives


Tips for Writing for Publication

As part of the She Blossoms family, this book will follow the same structure and format as Laurie Pawlik’s Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back (Bethany House, January 2019). Her unique blend of Blossom Tips, personal stories, and Biblical wisdom is already known and loved by tens of thousands of She Blossoms blog readers, Facebook group members, and newsletter subscribers worldwide.

Laurie’s existing readers are already welcoming this addition to She Blossoms! New readers will be compelled by this fresh, practical approach to a deeper and more exciting relationship with God.

Overview

YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING: 50 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE JESUS IN DAILY LIFE is a 50,000-word nonfiction book for Christians over 40. They believe in Jesus but aren’t living out of their faith. They want a deeper, more personal relationship with God, but don’t know how to achieve it. They know the Holy Spirit exists, but aren’t sure how to actually activate and live out of His power.

According to Christianity Today, 80% of Americans believe in God, but this “head knowledge” doesn’t alleviate fears, lead to joy or peace in all circumstances, or translate to Spirit-filled living. Belief isn’t enough; even the demons believe in God! Belief is the foundation of a fulfilling, fruitful spiritual life…but it’s only the beginning.

Many of my How Love Blossoms blog readers, newsletter subscribers, and Facebook Group members are struggling with either a lukewarm Christian faith or an impersonal relationship with a “higher power.” They believe but feel unfulfilled and unequipped to handle the deaths, divorces, and diseases they’re facing. Their minds hold the truth but their hearts haven’t changed.

Paul the Apostle spoke of the difference between head knowledge and heart-changing love for Jesus. In fact, he prayed that “your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people. I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him.” [italics mine]

Part of the problem is that we don’t fully understand what the heart is—and what it’s capable of. Our heart isn’t just the seat of our emotions. Rather, the Bible says our heart determines what we trust, hope in, live for, and speak of.  

And even the most faithful, wise, loving hearts are capable of evil. “The seeds of the most terrible possible atrocities, the capability of the worst possible deeds, live in every human heart,” says pastor Tim Keller. “Even the best people, even the people who are converted by God. Everyone is capable of this. The seeds of those things and the seeds of the worst possible deeds are right now in your heart.”

Experiencing God in a heart-changing way isn’t purely an emotional or mystical experience. Living a heartfelt Christian life doesn’t mean we’re controlled by our emotions. On the contrary, we are called to think. The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to grasp and understand the power of Jesus. We need to create conditions that invite the Holy Spirit into our daily lives, meditate on His counsel, and embrace His truth for ourselves

Then, our feelings will change. We will grow into the deeper relationship with God that we long for. We’ll sense His presence in our daily lives. We’ll fix our minds on Jesus and receive a more exciting life than we can imagine! The joy and peace of Psalm 37:4 will become real to us: “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

Structure and Format

Each of the ten chapters in YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING begins with a story from me or a contemporary person (often a She Blossoms reader). This anecdote reveals the power of ordinary people experiencing an extraordinary God in today’s world. Readers will see how Jesus melts hearts and works in different people’s lives. Further, they’ll see what a difference it makes when faith travels the 18 inches from head to heart—and stays there.

Every chapter also features Biblical men and women who met Jesus and experienced a change of perspective, attitude, and life. Some transformed gradually (such as Gideon, one of my favorite stories!), others instantly (Paul). Some wrestled with God once (Jacob) while others prayed and worshipped (Hannah). Some were seeking God (Naaman), others minding their own business (the Samaritan woman at the well).

As you can see from the Chapter Summaries below, each chapter is aimed at the reader’s need and heart condition (e.g., hard hearts, fearful hearts, lukewarm hearts, etc.). 

Woven through each chapter are five practical, applicable “Heart Beats” to help readers:

  • Put Biblical teaching into practice in specific ways. For example, Jesus warned about the danger of “lukewarm faith”—but what does this mean? How do we ignite our hearts?
  • Experience the difference between head knowledge and heartfelt faith.
  • Explore what it feels, looks, sounds and tastes like to sense Jesus’ presence in daily life—at the grocery store, in a conflict with coworkers, in the emergency room after an accident or death. 
  • See that growing in faith doesn’t have to be somber, silent, or serious! Our God is holy and just, but He’s also joyful, creative, and intensely personal.

Each Heart Beat highlights a different aspect of who we are: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. This holistic approach ensures the whole self is addressed by incorporating spiritual, emotional, creative, physical, and intellectual growth. It also offers readers a variety of tools and techniques to choose from, so they can either stay in their comfort zone or try new things. Or a little of both!

The practical, applicable stories and strategies in YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING take readers beyond “head knowledge” to actually experiencing God’s love. At the end of every chapter are questions for journaling, small group discussion, and/or quiet reflection.

Reader Benefits

  • Reassurance that they’re not alone. Many Christians are unnerved, upset, or even afraid by their lack of faith or cold heart. They want to trust God and live more powerful, fruitful lives but they just don’t know how. The stories in this book show readers that lukewarm faith is a common experience but not a permanent condition.
  • A solid understanding of what a “changed heart” is. Even the most seasoned believer can misunderstand what it means to actually live out of a changed heart. Many Christians forget that the heart isn’t just the seat of our emotions. Our hearts can be set on people, places, or possessions. Our hearts are the things we trust in, live for, and even idolize.
  • Insights and practical life lessons from people who experienced Jesus. These nuggets of wisdom are directly applicable to the reader’s experience of emptiness, lack of connection, and inability to “feel” loved by God. Not only does this open up Scripture in a fresh way, it also reveals how Jesus works in different people’s lives both today and long ago.
  • A multifaceted approach to moving faith from head to heart. Jesus has a unique relationship with every one of us; our task is to explore how we best connect with Him. The five categories of Heart Beats show readers how to welcome the Holy Spirit according to their own personalities, lifestyles, abilities, gifts and talents. This structure also gives groups a unique slant for discussion in their YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING book groups or Bible Studies.  
  • A deeper relationship with God. Christians yearn to experience the power and presence of Jesus in crisis situations and daily life. They want to go beyond “head knowledge” to heartfelt faith. This book describes how to create conditions for growth. Further, readers will learn how to avoid the trap of spirituality that is emotion-driven or feelings-based.

The distance from our heads to our hearts is only 18 inches…but if our hearts haven’t been melted and renewed by Jesus, it might as well be 18 miles.

Features of Your Heart Changes Everything

  • Real stories that illustrate the signs of a changed heart, to encourage and inspire readers. These anecdotes include both quick growth spurts and more gradual shifts. This shows readers the different types of change, helps them be comfortable with their own journey, and encourages them to celebrate the signs of heartfelt change.
  • A total of 50 practical, applicable “Heart Beats” that encourage growth in different areas of self: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. This holistic approach ensures different personalities, mindsets, worldviews and abilities are covered. The Spirit Beats focus on faith, the Heart Beats on emotional healing, and the Soul Beats help readers creatively express their personalities. The Body Beats are physically strengthening, and the Brain Beats are intellectually stimulating.
  • Group discussion questions and journaling prompts to help readers explore their hearts—and God’s own heart— in a deeper way. The group interaction and individual writing prompts help readers dig more deeply into the material, encouraging private reflection and interpersonal growth.
  • Solid Scriptural foundations. The stories of Old and New Testament men and women who experienced heartfelt change are based on well-researched commentaries and interpretations from solid sources. 

Delivery Date: Five months after contract date.

YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING is a natural follow-up to my first book, Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back (Bethany House, January 2019). These two She Blossoms books will strengthen and sustain each other’s growth. More importantly, the books will reach readers who are in different stages of their spiritual journey at different times in their lives.

The Market

In my daily interactions with readers on my She Blossoms blogs, newsletter, and private Facebook Group, I see Christianity Today’s statistics in action. Eighty percent of Americans believe in God, but this “head knowledge” doesn’t alleviate my readers’ fears, grief, or feelings of being stuck and empty. They don’t feel joy or peace in all situations, and they aren’t experiencing a fulfilled, fruitful, personal relationship with Jesus. They’re scared and uncertain about the future. 

Book Proposal: Your Heart Changes Everything
Your Heart Changes Everything

My Christian readers—including those who believe in a “higher power”—have plenty of head knowledge. What they don’t have is the peace that transcends all understanding and guards their hearts and minds. They know what they’re missing, and they want to reach out to Jesus. They just don’t know how to create conditions that invite the Holy Spirit to change and grow them.

According to the Pew Research Center, half of all the adults in the U.S. believe God determines what happens to them all or most of the time. Not only do 80% of Americans believe God exists, 50% admit that God has a direct effect their daily lives. Seventy-seven percent believe God has protected them, and 67% believe God has rewarded them. Sixty percent believe God will judge all people, and 40% believe God will punish them.

The vast majority of Americans know God exists and is active in their daily lives. Intellectually, they admit He is in control, all-knowing, and benevolent.…but what about their hearts?

Pew’s survey found that 75% of Americans say they try to talk to God. About 30% say God talks back to them. People who pray regularly are more likely to report an actual conversation with God, in which they talk to Him and He speaks back. Interestingly, this survey also found that praying and talking to God are not viewed as the same thing. For example, 39% of people who claim to never or seldom pray nevertheless report talking to God.

Both Christians and unbelievers want to have a relationship with God. That’s why they pray and talk to Him! The problem is they don’t know how to experience Jesus in daily life.

YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING is for Christian men and women over 40 who are “good people.” They’re active in their faith. They attend church regularly, help out in their communities, donate money to ministries or charities, perhaps even go on short-term missions trips. They know all the traditions, prayers, routines and rituals. They know God intellectually, but their hearts are lukewarm, indifferent, or cold.

Thousands of books and other resources exist to help people overcome feelings of emptiness, lack of purpose, and even boredom with their faith. But—as you’ll see in the Comparable Titles section below—YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING fills a gap in the marketplace. The blend of contemporary stories, Biblical men and women, and Heart Beats help readers shift from head knowledge to heartfelt change in a unique way.

Competing Titles of Your Heart Changes Everything

The longtime popularity of Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy With God in the Busyness of Life (WaterBrook, 2000) is an excellent example of the desire Christians have to experience heartfelt change. Weaver combined a familiar Bible story with creative, practical strategies to help readers draw closer to God, deepen their devotion, and strengthen their service. YOUR HEART has a similar approach but includes a variety of Biblical stories and addresses both men and women.   

Change Your Heart, Change Your Life: How Changing What You Believe Will Give You the Great Life You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Smalley (Thomas Nelson, 2012) offers steps, strategies and beliefs for hiding God’s word in your heart. It is a helpful and inspiring book but doesn’t have the practical tips that YOUR HEART offers. Plus Smalley’s book focuses on memorizing God’s Word as the strategy to changing your heart.

From Your Head to Your Heart: The Change You Long For Is Just 18 Inches Away (Maria Durso, CreateSpace, 2015) contains examples from the Bible and stories from Mrs. Durso’s own experiences with abandonment, loneliness, rejection, and drug use. While this book’s theme is the same as YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING, it doesn’t offer practical tips for sustainable change.

In Experiencing the Heart of Jesus: Knowing His Heart, Feeling His Love (Thomas Nelson, 2003), Max Lucado focuses on the key characteristics of Jesus. This book brings people closer to the heart and soul of Jesus and helps them have a more intimate knowledge of how His gospel flows through relationships. While this book shares heart-changing insights, it doesn’t show readers how to take action and create conditions for heartfelt change.

Suzie Eller’s The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith without Borders (Bethany, 2018) describes how to love and live without limits. Her encouragement to unwrap the gift of Jesus’ presence and find a life of passion and purpose is inspirational and powerful. The addition of YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING to Bethany’s catalogue might be the perfect complement to this theme. Suzie focuses on the promises and teachings of Jesus, while YOUR HEART expands this idea and describes how to experience Jesus in daily life in practical ways through the Heart Beats section of each chapter.

What sets YOUR HEART CHANGES EVERYTHING apart is the unique blend of contemporary stories, Biblical men and women, and practical, applicable Heart Beats that create conditions for change. This book doesn’t just describe the difference it makes when faith travels the 18 inches from head to heart, it shows readers how to experience Jesus.

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Author Bio: Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, MSW, is the author of the nonfiction book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back (Bethany House, January 2019). She created the She Blossoms blogs and books, and lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and education, and a master of social work. Visit her at BlossomTips.com.

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