Publishing Ain't Easy
Jo March, Anne of Green Gables, and the heroine of practically every Hallmark Movie out there is a talented, struggling writer polishing her craft, and waiting for that big break. Finally, a big-time publisher sees what a wonderful perspective she has to offer and, bam, she's a published author. All her hard work is paid off, and she can run through the streets proclaiming the good news: she's a published author.
Not your experience? Yeah, me either.
Why is so hard to break into the traditional publishing world today? The number one reason is the market is flooded. In the "olden days" it was much more novel, so to speak, to be a writer and publish books. With the growth of the modern education system, more people are equipped to write and dream of being published.
Bowker reports that in 2019 over 4 million books were published in the United States alone, and that was before everyone was stuck at home during 2020 with plenty of time to work on unfinished manuscripts. This number is ten times more than what was reported in 2007. The market is flooded with books, and the world is saturated with writers. What a hard truth for an aspiring author to hear.
With the market so saturated, publishers, especially the big guys, can afford to be a lot choosier, and unfortunately, the game becomes which book will bring in the most profit. Profitable writing and quality writing are not synonymous anymore. A profitable book is more about who the author is than what is inside its pages. An author who is already famous, already has a large audience, or already has a place in the industry will rake in the dough. A phenomenal manuscript is no longer enough—another terrifying truth for a hopeful writer.
All this is made worse by the media explosion outside of the literary world. Books are competing with Netflix, movies, tablets, video games, Tic Tok, and whatever new platform is invented next week. According to BookScan, book sales are dropping lower each year, and less than 1% of books make it into a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Odds like that are enough to make an author throw the pen out the window and forget the whole thing.
Why do it? Why struggle and push so hard to break into a field that has such horrifying statistics? Why subject ourselves to nearly certain rejection and failure? I mean, does the world need another book?
I can only speak to why I chose to do it. I see it like this: I’m standing here with the five smooth stones, the fish and the loaves, the last drop of oil and the last bit of flour, and I’m giving my pen to Jesus. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but it is still a hard truth. It's easy to chase the money or get overwhelmed by the odds, but I chose to write what is on my mind and share what I can while trusting that God can use it to do far more than is possible—maybe not in terms of copies sold, but, Lord willing, in souls reached, even if the only person to grow from my writing is me.
I’m thrilled to get a publishing contract, but I want to keep my eye on the real goal, and the goal for all born-again Christ-followers, which is to love Jesus and tell others about Him and what He has done for me. For me, one of the best ways to do so is to write. So I will, despite the unfavorable market, and I will trust God to do what He does best with the mustard seeds we give Him.
*If you didn't get the references, check out 1 Samuel 17, Matthew 15, 1 Kings 17, Matthew 17:20