The Endangered Author

There are many kinds of creative writing, for personal enjoyment to the type for which you are paid. As an agent earning a living selling book proposals to traditional publishers, I evaluate everything based both on whether it fits the type of content I want to represent, but also if it is commercially viable for those publishers.

 Depending on where you are on the spectrum as an author, maybe some parts of this post today won’t be for you, but maybe some of the principles will apply, so you can make the connections to fit your situation.

Here is how you can tell if you are in trouble as an author. This includes both traditionally published and self-published authors.

The process of writing is distasteful

At the point you don’t enjoy the entire process of writing, reviewing, editing, honing, crafting, re-writing, reviewing again, re-editing, re-honing (is this a word?), and so on, you are in trouble as an author.

For successful authors, the writing process is the place where they feel most alive and energized. If this is the worst part of the process for you, you might need to take a break or move on to some other line of work.

You can’t think of anything to write

Inspiration is never on a schedule, however some would assert “writer’s block” is common only for those who have another means of financial support. Maybe desperation is the mother of creativity.

There are relatively simple remedies helping you push past temporary creative blocks. But a chronic lack of any ideas to write about could be an indicator writing books may be coming to an end for you. God is infinite, topics to write about are not.

Readers are a Pain in the Neck…or Worse

This is probably the greatest indicator of trouble. This would be like a human hating the air they breathe. Readers give good and poor reviews. They encourage and discourage. Some find your writing helpful and some find it pointless and tell you in no uncertain terms. Supporters can be silent and critics vocal.

An author’s relationship to readers can be complicated, and can easily wind its way to feelings of dislike. Still, authors need readers for better or worse.

Price is the most compelling reason to acquire your book

No product or business can sustain itself for long if the primary reason it exists is because it is cheap or free. Stores can offer price reductions for a short-term promotion in an attempt to cause increased interest, but if price is the compelling reason to buy anything, trouble is brewing.

Free eBooks have given false information to authors who consider 5,000 free downloads as “selling” their book because of high reader interest. Authors would be depressed if they knew what percentage of those 5,000 actually read any part of their book. It could be less than 10%. Maybe closer to 1% or less.


So what do you do? Some suggestions to dealing with the above danger signs:

  1. Be a prayer partner with another writer and help them walk through the rough patches of the writing process. Helping someone else is one of the best ways to work through your tough moments.
  2. Be open to leading from others about what to write. Don’t dismiss the possibility God could be communicating to you through another person. Ideas can come from anywhere…even strangers. Or strange agents.
  3. Pray for your readers. It will calm your emotions and transform your perspective.
  4. Charge a reasonable price (not the cheapest or the most expensive) for your work, but always be open to be generous to a person who cannot afford it. The solution is not to make it “all about the money,” but recognize a proper balance and place for good financial stewardship in your work. Household bills require dollars to pay them, not units.

Turning a potential problem into a positive is always a good approach. Summer is coming, go ahead and make some lemonade from the lemons.


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