Tag s | 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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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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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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When the Gloves Come Off

Fist Slams Table in Anger

The publishing experience is rarely done in isolation. This means working with other people. And if their performances or efforts do not meet your expectations, conflict can occur. Over the years I’ve seen more conflict than you can imagine–of all types and variety. But the majority of issues boil down …

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How Do You Measure Success?

by Steve Laube

A few years ago while talking to some editors they described an author who was never satisfied (not revealing the name of course). It this author’s latest book had sold 50,000 copies the author wondered why the publisher didn’t sell 60,000. And if it sold 60,000 why didn’t it sell 75,000? The author was constantly pushing for “more” and was incapable of celebrating any measure of success.

Recently there has been much ink spilled on whether Indie authors are better of than authors published by traditional publishers. Pundits have laid claim to their own definition of a successful book using number, charts, and revealed earnings. Following this dialogue can be rather exhausting.

I understand the desire to measure whether or not my efforts are successful. It is a natural instinct. If it is any indication, one of our most popular blog posts has been “What are Average Book Sales?” with thousands of readers.

In one way this is a wise question so that expectations can be realistic.

In another way it is unwise in that the cliff called “Comparison” is a precipitous one. I’ve talked to depressed authors who are wounded by numbers. I’ve talked to angry authors who are incensed by a perceived lack of effort by their publisher. I’ve talked to highly frustrated authors who wonder if it is all worth it.

Ultimately I can’t help but think this is all an exercise in determining a definition of success for the individual author. If you can measure it you can define it. That is as long as we know what “it” is.

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How Authors Make Money

So, you’ve written a book. Good for you. Now the money will start rolling in, right? Not exactly. There are a number of ways authors make money, but writing a book is only one step in a long and arduous journey. And, though the details vary widely from one author …

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Four Myths about Fame

Being rich and famous solves every problem, right? Let’s give that some thought. 1)  Once I have my first book published, I’ll be famous and the journey will be downhill from there. We’re tackling two myths here. One, once you are published, it’s not likely you’ll be famous, at least …

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Same Message, Different Reader

When a published book is successful (sells well), the publisher and author begin pondering how to be successful again with the next book. Often times, the solution to the repeat-success puzzle in non-fiction is having a similar message but aimed at a different audience. You’ve seen it happen many times, …

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