When Wendy Lawton, my agent, called and offered to represent me nearly four years ago, I had NO idea I would have books enough to line up on a shelf by now. With at least one more in the offing.
It’s a dream come true.
But like most dreams that come true, it’s isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.
So on the eve of the release of the final book in the Appalachian Blessings series I thought I’d share a few of my dreams, the reality, and what I’ve learned along the way.
DREAM: Seeing my book in print and being enjoyed by the millions of readers out there in the wide world.
REALITY: Getting a book published doesn’t automatically get it read. And while there ARE millions of readers they have millions of books to choose among.
LESSON: I’m not so much giving readers the gift of my stories–they’re giving me the gift of reading my stories. Reviews, blog posts, e-mails, etc. are how they wrap that very special gift.
DREAM: Winning awards and accolades.
REALITY: I have been blessed to receive some awards and accolades–some very nice ones. But if I focus on them, then I can get hung up on the awards I don’t receive. And there are way more of those!LESSON: Awards are nice, but they’re not a good way to measure success. They also don’t seem to do much to sell books. The better focus is on individual readers who let me know how much my books have meant to them.
DREAM: Reaching (and influencing) mainstream audiences.
REALITY: I’m almost embarrassed to admit I have this dream. Christian authors are warned that the crossover novel is an elusive creature. And yet I still hope . . . but I do offer a pretty direct Christian message and some folks just aren’t going to like that.
LESSON: I may not be reaching broad, non-Christian audiences, but I know of a handful of non-believers who have read my books. Being used to lead even one person to Christ would be enough.
DREAM: Standing room only at book events.
REALITY: If I can get a dozen people to come to a bookstore to hear me read or get a book signed, I count it a big success. Public events are hard and signed copies aren’t a big deal unless you’re Jan Karon or Nicholas Sparks.
LESSON: I do bookstore and library events not because I’m going to draw huge crowds and sell boxes of books, but because I’m building awareness, getting my name out, and maybe–if I’m lucky–meeting a few precious readers who really do love my stories.
DREAM: Becoming a full-time writer.
REALITY: Writing books does NOT pay well enough for most authors to earn a living at it. Some also write non-fiction or freelance articles or speak, but a very small percentage earn a living wage from writing novels alone.
LESSON: Thankfully, I have a wonderful day job that I really would miss if I were a full-time writer. I’ve adjusted my dream to working in ministry half-time and writing half-time. Will it happen? I don’t know . . . but I do know it’s good to have dreams.