Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How to Grow Rich Writing Books

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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Woman Gives Birth at Fifty-Eight

We take a break from our regularly-unscheduled 40th anniversary shenanigans to hold a birthday party. For a book.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep because it’s launch day for my third novel, Bleak Landing. It’s the day I get to have my hair and nails done, the day I'll party with friends and place copies in their hands, a day of celebration and nerves and running around and checking Amazon to see that online sales already began in Australia before I went to sleep last night. It’s all very exciting.

But it’s not the real “birthing day.” 

Releasing a book has been compared by many to birthing a baby. You labor and you sweat. Things get ugly and painful. Time drags. You endure a lot of indignities. Then finally, your baby is born and you think it’s beautiful and you hope others will, too, as you present him or her to your family and friends. 

But although today might be launch day, the labor for Bleak Landing was finished months ago and I’m now laboring over another work in progress.

At least for this author, the real labor comes in those wee hours of the morning, when I drag myself out of bed at 5:00 or 5:30, hoping to hammer out a few words on my novel before I need to leave for my day job. For most of the year, it’s still dark at that time of day. I don’t bother turning on the overhead light in my home office, though—just the desk lamp. I light the scented candle I keep on my desk. The fragrance and the light remind me that God is present in the room and has in fact invited me here. The candle has three wicks, representing my triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit. He’s teaching me what it means to write not for him, but with him. And it can be a wonderful journey, but it can be agonizingly laborious too. The words fight me. They don’t always want to come out, and when they do, they’re often ugly and wrinkly and slimy and howling with the injustice of it all. So for me, that first draft is the real labor. The editing process is when you finally get to push the baby out and see that your efforts are accomplishing something.

Which makes Launch Day much less like the birth day and more like the dedication ceremony at the front of the church, where parents and child are all cleaned up and respectable. Where family and friends stand with you to present the child before the Lord. Where you say, “God, thank you for this little one. Please help her to grow strong, to make an impact in this world, to serve your purposes, to bless hearts, to help people know how much you love them.” 

It’s the day you say something like Samuel’s mother did as she laid her baby before God: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

And you shed a tear. And you wave goodbye, knowing your baby is in the very best of hands.

(Local friends, please join me from 6:30 - 8:00 this evening as we launch Bleak Landing from the Portage Library. There will be pie.)