10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #4

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

#4: If I write it, they will come.

Some wannabe novelists have watched Field of Dreams a few too many times. They can hear that mystical voice whispering across the cornfields. If you write it, they will come. Readers won’t be able to get enough of you. They’ll gobble up whatever you write and beg for more. You’ll be famous. You’ll be rich. 

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration for most of us, but when I was a kid I had this silly notion that if I just published a novel, I’d be instantly famous, and the road ahead of me would be paved in gold.

No, I didn’t hear voices (otherwise I’d probably be locked in a padded room by now), but I seriously thought authors were famous people who just kept publishing novels and had no financial anxieties. For proof all I had to do was find the latest best-selling novel by so-and-so and gaze enviously at the back cover, where I’d find the tan, pampered Author posing in his or her Gucci watch and cashmere sweater.

The Reality for Most of Us

When I was much older, reality hit me that tons of authors have published a novel. Fewer have published novels (plural). Even fewer have sold more than fifty thousand copies. And those who can call themselves “New York Times best-selling author”—well, they comprise a small group indeed.

The fact is, most published authors work regular jobs just like everybody else and squeeze in the next chapter during breaks, while on commutes, and during the wee hours of the morning. Most cannot afford to write full-time, and most wince when they pay the electric bill just like the rest of us. They don’t get six-figure book deals, and thousands do not line up at their book signings. But they still love to write, and they have a loyal group of followers.

Hard Truth

Though publishing a novel is cause to celebrate, it’s only the beginning. And finding a publisher doesn’t guarantee good sales or an instant following. In fact, I read recently that most novels fail to earn back the author’s advance. Marketing takes a lot of time and work. Yes, you’ll have to actively promote your novel. Building a following takes time and requires patience.

And even after all your hard work and promotion, there’s still no guarantee you’ll sell enough copies to be able to keep publishing novels. The hard truth is, no matter how good your novel is, if it doesn’t sell well enough, a publisher may not be interested in the next novel.

Is It Your Calling?

Okay, maybe I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture of what being a novelist looks like today (and with this economy, it’s even tougher to succeed). But if you see writing as your calling from God and not merely a dream or part-time pursuit, does lack of worldly success matter so much?

Consider this: The writers of the New Testament were a special group of guys nobody ever called “best-selling authors.” They just wrote what God laid on their hearts and had a message to proclaim. Granted, Scripture is a far cry from the entertainment-based fiction most of us write today, and we aren’t “inspired” like they were. Yet we can still learn from their example.

These men were authors who faithfully heeded God’s call.

Were these guys popular in their day? Not by a long shot. One was killed by a sword, another was crucified upside down, yet another was dipped in boiling oil. It’s not a pretty picture. But following their Lord and yielding to His calling were all that mattered to these guys.

Does God’s calling really matter to us? Have we become so dazzled by “famous authors” on back covers that we haven’t even considered our novel writing as a calling? Are we so driven by man’s approval that we would never consider ourselves “successful” without it?

What if you write it . . . and nobody comes? Will the joy of knowing you did what God called you to do be enough?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33 ESV emphasis mine).

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2 thoughts on “10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #4

  1. Pingback: 10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #7 | Adam Blumer I Meaningful Suspense

  2. Pingback: 10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #9 | Adam Blumer I Meaningful Suspense

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