By Martin Wiles
“I want to write a book.”
Over the last nine years, as I have taught grammar and writing to middle schoolers, quite a few have shared their aspirations to pen a book. Although I commend them and assure them doing so is a worthy goal, I also inform them about the roadblocks, struggles, and rejections they can expect along their journey.
And through my connections with other writers, I’ve heard quite a few of them express the same sentiments as some of my students. Without discouraging them, I’ve told them the same thing I tell my aspiring young pupils. Some give up the book route while others pursue it through various means: traditional publishing, self-publishing, subsidy publishing, or agents.
But wait. Why must we writers have a book published to be successful at our craft? Does doing so put us on a higher echelon than writers who haven’t published a book? Or had it published through a certain avenue? I’ve done the book publishing thing seven times—and through various routes—but I’ve enjoyed more success when I thought outside the book.
According to Scribe media, research shows the average self-published or digital-only book sells only 250 copies in its lifetime. Comparatively, the average traditionally published book sells only 3,000 copies during its lifetime—but only 250-300 of those sales happen in the first year (https://scribemedia.com/book-sales).
If I’ve done my math correctly (and I’m no math major), the average total of people whose lives I have infiltrated with my books’ words comes to about 1,750. Not bad, but nothing to brag about. After all, if God changes one person’s life by using my writing, then that’s enough. But why settle for less when I could easily influence more through other paths?
Each year when I attend the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, I pick up a copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide. While this resource lists agents, as well as book publishers who don’t require agents, the bulk of the book presents other forms of publication such as periodicals, devotional websites, drama, greeting cards, and Bible curriculum. And I would add newspapers.
For several years, I’ve had the privilege of writing devotional pieces for three newspapers. The combined circulation for these three papers is 26,979… in one day. Seems to me I have the potential of reaching more people once a month—even if only a portion of them read my articles—than I would ever reach in a lifetime through all my books combined. And that doesn’t include the other websites and periodicals I regularly write for.
If God is calling you to write a book, then by all means pursue publication. But don’t limit yourself. Websites, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters, greeting cards, and a host of other places need good writers. And if you’re looking to let God speak to others through you, those places might bring a high return on God’s kingdom work.
Don’t be ashamed or afraid to think outside the book.
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles and Amazon.com.)
Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com) and serves as Managing
Editor for Christian Devotions and as a copy editor for Courier Publishing. He
has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. He is a
freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor.