Yesterday, Amazon passed the forty-thousand mark for sales of books with my name on the cover.
Because most of the books people read are borrowed, I’m told that for each one sold, it’s not unreasonable to figure an average of five readers. That makes 200,000 people. I’ll divide that number by three—assuming most of those people will read all three of my books. This brings us to 66,666 readers influenced in some way by my little stories—the majority of whom I will never meet.
Shortly after Bruce Wilkinson’s book The Prayer of Jabez became popular, my husband wanted to pray this prayer and suggested I pray it too. I resisted. Jabez asked God to “increase his territory” which Wilkinson interpreted as increasing one’s influence. At the time, I felt burdened with more responsibility than I could handle. To me, more “territory,” or influence, only seemed like more responsibility. No thanks.
I don’t think I ever did pray that prayer.
I left behind many of my responsibilities and started writing books instead. It didn’t occur to me that I might eventually influence 66,666 people. And enjoy the process.
What did occur to me was that I could make a living at writing books.
I was wrong.
Even though my books are selling well and I never want to take the extra income for granted, earning out a $10K advance in six months--and then hoping royalties trickle in after that--does not equal the $10K I can consistently take home every five months as a part-time administrative assistant. Very few novelists make a living at it. Most supplement their income with another job, or they also crank out magazine articles and newspaper columns, or their spouse foots the bills, or they live in their parents’ basement. The minority who make it big, the J.K.Rowlings and others, are the ones every writer thinks they’re going to become when they set out to write a book.
So then, how DO you become rich writing books? Well, you write a better book. One that millions of people will buy. That’s all.
But back to that influence thing.
Yesterday was also the day a reader approached me with tears in her eyes to thank me for writing Bleak Landing. “You wrote Chapter 37 just for me,” she said.
I asked her what happens in Chapter 37.
“That’s where Victor delivers his sermon on forgiveness,” she said. “I had to read it twice. I’ve been hanging on to a lot of stuff and only hurting myself. It’s time to let it go. I wanted to tell you.”
And I suddenly felt absurdly, eternally rich.