Career

When the Outlook Is Bleak

In the constant ebb and flow of this industry, we have authors celebrating and authors in tears. Ask any agent and you will hear the same. For every author excited about their new contract another is experiencing bitter disappointment.

I wish I could fix it.

To hear the anguish is difficult, but to be the one who delivers the bad news is heart-wrenching. Why is it they seem to come in bunches? What do you do when you run into the inevitable disappointments the writing experience throws at you?

Define Success

If “success” is left undefined, it will be impossible to know if you have achieved it. Is it a byline? A certain size contract? An enthused publisher? A specific number of books sold? Making $100,000 in a year as a writer? Winning a coveted award? None of these? Then what criteria do you use to define “success” in the writing life?

Because there is very little public data available (sales info derived from Amazon rankings or Author Central is incomplete at best), a writer often defines success by comparing their situation with that of another author. (The irony is that other authors may be doing the identical comparison but going the other direction and using you as their criteria for success.) “Why are they successful and I’m not?”

Randy Alcorn wrote in his blog the following brilliant perspective:

Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly—even for a moment. We deserved expulsion; He gives us a diploma. We deserved the electric chair; He gives us a parade. Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?

So you’ve been rejected by yet another publisher? So your publisher failed to do what you had hoped in marketing your book? So your current publisher kicked you to the curb? So your agent thinks your new idea or manuscript is weak? Put it in perspective. Should your happiness or your contentment be contingent on publishing success?

Keep Writing

I know three successful authors who went through some very dark times in their careers. After having a half dozen books published, the first endured five years where she could not sell anything to anyone. The second had a dry spell of seven years between published novels. Seven years! Without a single sale? The third spent ten years writing nonfiction and had little or no publications before switching to fiction and finding success.

The principle here is that none of them quit writing. Each felt called to the work of writing and remained faithful to the art. Despite years of frustration, they kept at it.

So if you’ve hit a setback in your writing career, no matter the scale, take a moment or two to absorb the pain and disappointment. Then shake yourself with vigor and blink your eyes dry. Let that setback be just another step (albeit a backward one) in your writing journey.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.” (2 Corinthians 4:17; Psalm 95:3-4).

[This is a revised version of a post that originally ran in August 2012. Amazing how it still holds.]

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Read “A Christian Reading Manifesto”

Last year David Steele created this document: “A Christian Reading Manifesto.” It bears review for those of us in the writing of books and those who believe in the power of reading said books. Given the efforts of our secular culture to redefine words and their meaning, his statement “Reading …

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Age Is Just a Number

by Steve Laube

Last Friday in the comments Dr. Richard Mabry wrote, “Tired after doing a few household chores that never used to leave me dragging. Now I’m ready to be up and dancing. Age is just a number, isn’t it?”

Then on Saturday I spoke at the Christian Writes of the West mini-conference where one of the writers asked “Do older writers have a chance? Especially if agents and publishers are looking for a long career investment?”

It is a great question. Does it matter how old you are? No it doesn’t. When your proposal lands on our desk or on an editor’s desk it is the words on the page that speak to us. I rarely even think about the writer’s age, ethnicity, economic status, or any other non-writing ability classification while I’m reading the sample chapters. Of course there are exceptions. A few times I could tell the author was very young by the way they were writing a romance scene…they simply had not yet “fallen in love” and couldn’t quite express it in a full way.

We have a number of clients who are in their 20s we also have a number who are in their 70s. What matters is whether they’ve written a great book and have a platform (for non-fiction) to sell it from.

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Proofreading: Tips and Tricks

[Since today, March 8th, is National Proofreading Day I thought I would re-post this article from a few years ago, with some revisions. I’ve left the comments attached below since so many were illustrative. Please add new thoughts as well.] I have regularly displayed my lack of proofreading skills in …

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Writing Advice I Took to Heart

Today’s guest post is by Lori Hatcher. She is an editor, writing instructor, award-winning Toastmasters International speaker, blogger, and author of three (soon to be five) devotionals, including Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, and Hungry for God … Starving for Time: Five-Minute Devotions for …

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Coming Full Circle

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today’s guest blog is from Kim Vogel Sawyer a best-selling author whose books have topped the sales charts and won awards since 2005, when she left her elementary school teaching job to write full time. Her books have won the Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her stories are designed to offer hope and encouragement to her readers. Kim sees a correlation between the writing of a good story and God’s good plan for every life, and she hopes her stories encourage readers to seek God’s will in their own personal lives. Bestselling author Tracie Peterson says: “Kim Vogel Sawyer is an exceptional storyteller who is sure to please fans of historical fiction. Her attention to detail and love of God shines through.”

In addition to writing, Kim Vogel Sawyer is a popular speaker, freely sharing her testimony of God’s grace and healing-both physical and emotional-in her life. She and her husband Don reside in Hutchinson, Kansas, and have three daughters and four grandchildren. She is active in her church and loves singing, acting, playing handbells, quilting, and chocolate!

__________

In 2002, as my health was crumbling to the point that full-time teaching was no longer a possibility and I didn’t know what I was going to do, my dad–feeling as though I needed a major lift–took it upon himself to make my publishing dream come true. He sent a story I’d written, titled A Seeking Heart, to Steve Laube, who, at the time, owned a self-publishing company called ACW Press. And Steve agreed to help me get it into print.

Thus began a journey beyond the scope of my wildest imaginings.

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Judicious Sharing

As a writer, you’ll face times of profound despair and, I hope, massive victory. When successful, you’ll want to share your news with your supporters. But I recommend muting your enthusiasm with your detractors. And we all have those. To my surprise, a person who never speaks to me or …

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The Power of the Short Story

Today’s guest writer is Deborah Clack, who is a native Texan and nonrecovering chocolate addict. A high-school AP history teacher for 10 years, Deborah earned a master’s degree in education and was awarded Teacher of the Year for Arts in Education. Now she creates award-winning stories of her own with …

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