I’ll never forget the Sunday I was getting ready to leave church, and the pastor’s wife came up to me and touched my arm.
“Karen, my son can’t find a job, so he’s decided to make some fast money by writing a book and having it published. Do you have any counsel for him?”
I’m so proud of myself that I didn’t guffaw in her face. Not so proud that I fixed her with a hard look and replied, “Do me a favor. Don’t ever say anything so stupid to me again.”
Yeah, those spiritual gifts tests. The category I always lack is mercy.
Anyone who has ever gotten involved in this gig knows that writing and being published isn’t the way to make “fast” money. Or, for far too many, any money.
Okay, reality check. Walk into any large bookstore and take a look at all the books. Now, how many of those multitudes of authors do you think are making a living at writing? Brace yourselves. One percent. Yup, one percent! In fact, with all the things authors need to do to find a readership (marketing/promotions, writers’ conferences, reference books, and so on), and the costs for indie publishing (in addition to what traditional authors have to pay for, they have the expense of covers, copyrights, editing, and more) many end up spending far more money than they earn. So is it any wonder several authors responded to my initial blog on obstacles by saying money is a big one? Or the lack thereof.
Yes, there are financial realities to this whole thing. But let me ask you something: What if money isn’t an obstacle at all? I mean, God could, if it was the best thing for you, rain money down on you! So what if the real obstacle is a lack of trust? The feeling that if you don’t do all the things you’re told you need to do, things won’t happen the way they should? That you’re in this on your own, and if you have to put yourself in debt to do it, well, you’re doing it for God, right?
No. You can’t honor God by doing things He says not to do, like going into debt. But here’s what you can do:
- First, realize your task is to write. Make sure you’re doing that. Just get your seat in the chair and write.
- Then, when a seeming financial need arises, submit it to God’s approval and guidance.
- Ask trusted friends and family to pray about the issue, that God will make it clear what He is asking you to do. If God, and your advisors, don’t give you the amen, then let it go. And move on in the freedom that God’s in control of your writing.
- Know, in your heart of hearts, that you serve a God who WILL provide what He knows you need. And if that’s money, you can rest in His promises. Promises like those below. Promises to put an end to Writer’s Obstacle #9: Money Concerns–
Deut 28: 8, 12— “The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you…The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.
Psalm 34: 3-5, 6-10– …let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces…Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
2 Corinthians 9:10– For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Philippians 4:19-20– And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.
Thanks Karen. I have been praying about which agency to submit my Christian manuscript and you answered my question.
It’s always nice when a blog does double duty.
Thanks Karen. I have been praying about which agency to submit my Christian manuscript
Brennan S. McPherson
Great advice! This has been a really wonderful blog series. Thanks so much!
I’m so glad you’ve appreciated it, Brennan. Thanks for your comments.
Thank you! I love how you regularly go to God’s Word for the answer. So many folks just rely on common sense or the latest pop phrase like “Just believe in yourself.” A recent Bible teacher said on video, “Don’t listen to yourself. Preach to yourself.” We have the words of life, and they apply to all of life. Thank you for the reminder.
Adam, I’ve tried other sources for answers, and found them to be…lacking. And then some. But God’s word? ALWAYS speaks truth and life. Gotta love that.
I wish I remembered which author said this, but years ago I read an interview where she said that, figured out by the hours involved, her first published novel wound up paying her WAY less than working in a convenience store would have.
She’d gone on to enjoy admirable success, but it was a long and hard road to get there. Hardly “fast money.”
Thanks, Karen. This is a wonderful series.
I tell writers not to try to figure out how much they’re being paid an hour. SO depressing. Just remind yourself that the true payment is God’s delight in your obedience.
Damon J. Gray
Karen, you write so beautifully. I really enjoy reading your blog postings.
In this case, you and I and my wife are all pretty much on the same page. I choose not to stress over what happens with my writing. Wherever it goes, whatever comes of it is in God’s hands. He can, and will do with it what he will, and will use it for his purposes.
Thank you for this timely reminder.
Damon, thanks so much. I appreciate your kind words. And your attitude is perfect!
I thoroughly enjoy your blog and Steve’s. It’s good to find down to earth Christians that believe we have a great God, and He will open the door if and when he chooses (I believe when), but we have our part to play and it is hard work!
I believe with all my heart that God gave me a passion for writing, and I have come so close, but the door hasn’t fully opened yet. All I know is, He has given me determination and with Him for me, who can be against me, and I will not give up.
If all those amazing people out there hadn’t persevered – Edison, Walt Disney and of course JK Rowling; she has to be given credit for not giving up, and so many others over the generations, we would not live in the world we do today.
I believe I will be published, but it will be because God will open the door. I know it will not be easy, but all things are achievable especially as we have such an amazing Father. I will carry on writing and carry on believing as I know so many other Christians are doing.
However, I do believe that writing isn’t for everyone, and any one that thinks it is an easy path to making money must seriously consider a change in career.
To all my fellow authors – good luck, and to Karen and Steve for your inspiring and thought provoking messages, thank you.
Mary-Anne, you are most welcome! Thanks for encouraging others.
Whoa. This was exactly what I was talking to God about this morning. Talk about surreal, reading this after having the same epiphany sitting on my deck an hour ago!
At the possibility that this could encourage other writers, I’ll share part of my prayer from this morning, exactly as I wrote it. Excuse the randomness, normally no one else sees these but the Recipient:
“Lord, this life is expensive. Thank You so much for providing more than I could ask or think. I think maybe this is where my problem lies. I’m doing all this work because I love it but also to make money. Is that wrong? Should I just be seeking first the kingdom of God? And how?
“Oh Lord! Just look at this beauty! What must heaven be like?! Golden transparency concealing a verdant misty morning. Gold licking every surface and making it glorious! Transforming each individual leaf into art.
“So is my problem that I’m not enjoying it enough? I’m not trusting You enough? Is that it? I don’t trust You, so I don’t pitch articles? If you sow you’ll reap. Okay, Lord. I’ll work as unto You. Like You’re my Boss, which You are. Help me to.
“I’m not promising, I’m asking. Let me see You as my Boss. I work for You, and You provide for me. I pitch, and You pay. Whether it’s with an acceptance and a check or otherwise, through a bumper garden crop and the grace to use and preserve it, Thy will be done. All that’s up to You. Only let me be working for You!
“So here’s what I want to do for You today, Lord…”
Love this! Thank you! I always look at God as my CEO.
Don’t you love how God speaks His truth to many of His children at the same time? Just more evidence of His kindness.
Great post, i am bless through it. He has many ways/open doors to supply all our need. God bless.
For those who might think self-publishing is the way to wealth, my own experience will give some insight. I now have two Roman-era novels in market. After I decided to make the leap and let an editor who was considering the first one know we were going indie to keep rights for missions, he told me that fiction set in that era was underperforming for them and his company probably wouldn’t have decided to publish it.
My budget allows me to spend a bit over $1K on cover, interior, and partial content edit. Even doing all my own web work, each of my sites cost about $150 per year to keep them secure. (I was hacked once before I went https.)
I’ve read most indie books sell fewer than 100 copies. I believe it. The only thing that rescued mine from dying in oblivion was sending emails to at least 3 people every day letting them know about my history site (cost for books for research for it more than $500), where they would discover my novels in the sidebar or maybe from the link in my email signature. No emails sent…no sales that day.
The first got traction, and the second is selling about as well. If I sell 5 a day of a title, it makes the Amazon “bestseller” top 100 in Ancient World Historical Romance for a few hours. If it sells 9 in a 12-hour period, it gets (fleetingly) into the top 100 in the Christian Historical Romance category for an hour or three. The books yoyo in and out of being “best sellers” as the lists update hourly. I’m still amazed that so few sales can make one a best seller when there are many thousands that come up if you search Amazon using the category titles. If 5 makes a best seller, then most must not sell any that day.
If you do the math with a $2 royalty (only $1 for many overseas sales), 5 a day is $3650 a year; 9 would be: $6570…a wonderful sum to be able to give to missions and more than invested but really not much money at all. No wonder CBA trad publishers are afraid to contract anything that won’t sell at least 10,000 the first year and pay low advances until they know an author sells way above that level.
I’m thrilled with the sales level. As the KDP site reports each sale, I pray for every buyer to grow closer to God as they read it. I couldn’t be happier with how God is blessing my labor, but if I were just in this for personal income, I’d be much better off working retail sales or flipping burgers.
Carol, THANK YOU very much for your generosity in sharing actual experience. I felt very strongly early on that you would indeed become a “best selling” author. I feel all things publishing will continue to climb an upward trajectory for you as you traverse the learning/experience curve. Wishing you many more successes in the near future.
“Best selling” at 5 a day only because God is blessing the effort. The message of the power of love and forgiveness is so important for this world to hear!
Helpful insights, Carol. Thanks.
The only real wealth we have is the faith, hope and love we carry in our hearts. If writing doesn’t add to these, it’s time to quit.
So true, Andrew.
Beautifully shared, Karen. God owns the universe. Everything – including every penny – belongs to Him. He can distribute it however He chooses. If we come to Him with an open heart and a humble spirit, He will move mountains to accomplish His desires, which are ultimately to bring glory to the Name of Jesus. How this may work out in each of our lives is only known in the mind of God and may not look like what we expected, but if we are fully surrendered to Him and desire His glory above all else, we will never be disappointed. “Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21)
So true, Shadia. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Thank you for sharing. I think writing, like many careers, isn’t something you go into to make money, but rather to share Christ and do what you love. Obviously with the time put into it, an author would hope to make an income off it, but it’s not something that would ever happen overnight or even in a quick time frame.
I am so thankful you share the truth and applicable verses.
You’re welcome, CJ.
You have a great perspective, Karen. Your wisdom here is great. There are many hucksters out there trying to get you to believe you can make thousands, starting in six weeks. It’s sad, really, how many folks throw their good money at these people to learn how to get rich quick.
I appreciate your reliance on scripture and the faith you express in your counsel.
And for the record, there is a fine line between mercy and honest love, so don’t beat yourself up too much!
Okay, Ben, I’ll give myself a break. Thanks for your kind encouragement!
Great post, Karen. Thanks for your perspective and encouragement. It’s so rare to hear someone stand up for staying out of debt, so that is refreshing. That’s something my parents drilled into me growing up.
I stand up for it, Amber, because I didn’t learn how important it was until I was deep in debt. Sure wish we could learn our lessons without going off-track first! Sigh. Be sure to thank your parents for that lesson. It’s a vital one.
Oh my gosh, I want to cry at that interaction. I too, do not seem to have gotten my dose of mercy when the gifts were given out…
And yeah, money is it, isn’t it? Writing can be a very expensive hobby, even for the people with shelf space at the book store. There is a reason authors all teach, etc, etc.
I feel like every writer’s conference should have a coaching track style course of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University required…Or you know, show your FPU diploma at the door. 😛
I have to go home and chew on the 1% number though…because even though I knew it was rare to make a living at this…I had no idea it was that rare.
Traci, I think that’s a grand idea! You should put it together and offer to teach it!
…Shoot, if there’s room for it, I totally will!
Karen, it’s not always a lack of mercy–it’s sometimes the necessity to give the recipient a dose of reality. How many times have you, I, and everyone else in the publishing business heard this? “Don’t give up your day job.” Those of us still writing are doing it for God, and His payday may come much later than the one we desire. Thanks for this post.
I agree with you Richard. Sometimes we just need to be told the truth. I do love Karen’s honesty.
Julie Surface Johnson
Yes, Richard, that is so true. I’ve never made a dime on my writing, and yet God is using my stories and advice column to comfort people and give them hope. I know He has called me to write, and as long as that is true, I know I can count on Him to provide the funds needed. As you say, “His payday may come much later than the one we desire.”
Aw, thanks, Doc. Love to you!
Love the way you always go back to the Scriptures in your blogs! Are publishers frowning on the use of Biblical references in books they consider in this day of increasing secularization? I’ve got some Scriptures in a manuscript, and I don’t want to exclude them for the sake of publication. Am I being unreasonable? Thank you.
Edward, write what God tells you to write. Getting published isn’t worth not following what God tells you to do.
I believe the Lord gave me the thought that: if a writer is writing for the Lord, even if what he’s writing doesn’t sell well, he knows there is still value in it. The work is not done in vain; God will use it somehow, for as many or as few people as He desires. But if a writer is writing only in the hope of making lots of money and it doesn’t come, then what does the writer have? The writer working for the Lord’s market always has success.
Spot on, Peggy!
Amen and amen, Peggy!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Karen, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I believe that God wants me to help others through my books and my blog. The money will take care of itself if I am faithful to do what He wants me to do.
Just wanted to say that God has opened one door and an agent has requested my entire novel.
Obviously, this gives me hope, but I had Hachette Australia request another novel when worldwide we were going through such trauma financially. It took a year before they decided financially publishing was too volatile, but did invite me to submit at a later date. I haven’t yet as have been concentrating on this book.
Anyway, God holds the key and I’ll wait for him to open the door – probably not patiently. Still praying for this elusive gift!