“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT)
This has significant implications for authors and book publishers.
Over my career, I observe cases that prove that “your future is determined more by your successes than by your plans.” Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say that at one point or another, multiple times.
Of course, that statement is flawed, leaving out the “interruptive” work of God in our lives, but assuming that is always present, I have seen the successes/plans cycle play out more often than not. It would not be much of a reach to assert that our successes are part of God determining our steps, right?
Across all of the arts, there are actors, authors, singers, comedians, painters and composers who at one point early in their lives had dreams that were much wider or at least different than what they are currently experiencing, but their success in a certain arena has determined their future.
An actor who always wanted to play Shakespeare becomes famous for a specific role in a popular television sitcom that is nothing like Hamlet.
A singer who wanted a long diverse career has one mega-hit and is asked to sing it over and over and over for the rest of their life.
Composers who never intended to make a living writing commercial jingles, are doing just that.
An author who wanted to write a variety of novels, poetry and social treatises is making a good living writing just one of those types of books. (usually not poetry)
It’s all part of “We can make our plans but the LORD determines our steps.”
For authors, this principle can manifest itself in the effect a particular book might have and who benefits the most from it. Books are not tame lions. They go where they will.
You might set out to write a book to help young adults reach their potential. But soon it becomes apparent that it is primarily being read by people later in their lives who need a mid-course correction. Or the reverse can be true.
You set out to re-write the Bible so your children will understand it and you create a revolution in Bible translation.
The success principle plays out in geographical terms as well. Every author who has ever written a book sells better in some geographic areas than others. Even national bestsellers have sold well in some areas and not-so-well in others. Christian books are generally strongest in the Bible belt and weakest in the northeastern states, but when enough people in Burlington, Vermont decide you are their favorite author, you can start your book tour with a signing there.
Even more specific, your book might sell 80% of its copies in three cities and none of them would the area in which you live. Go figure.
Here’s a suggestion:
Don’t waste your time, energy and money promoting your book to people-segments or geographic locations where sales have been weak. If you want to double your sales, that will happen by doubling where you are strong, not improving where you are weak. Focus on your strengths…your future is determined by your success, not your plans or what you want to happen.
Sure, there are exceptions to all rules, but if you are waiting for lightning to strike in a certain place at a certain time, there will be plenty of people passing you by who are playing to their strengths and shifting their sights to where lightning is striking.
Finally, and most important, avoid over-thinking and over-planning. Especially for Christian authors, there is the underlying power of God who often makes no logical sense to us as to what He is doing, at least until we can see what His purpose really is. After all, we humans see God’s handiwork in the past…not as clear about today or tomorrow. Only God knows that.
More than anything, book marketing has become more reactive than proactive. Sure, plan your blog posts and social media strategy, but also be willing to set your plans aside when God begins his work of ordering your steps.
When have you seen this happen in your life?