What does it take to get you down as a writer? Agents and editors who don’t respond? Editors who seem to have only a Reject button? A disappointing sales number on your royalty report? The news that some publishers have laid off your favorite editor? Failure to effectively connect with any editor at a Christian writers’ conference?
As a literary agent I have been seeing fewer positive responses to first novels than in years. I’m having to provide encouragement more often than usual. Even published clients are wondering about the impact of Kindle or the I-Pad on their future income as a writer. Yet discouragement, even feelings of depression, can dissipate quickly with some good news.
One year ago at Write!Canada I sat with Mags Storey on a bench in front of the Guelph, Ontario, Canada, Bible Conference’s main building, doing my best to instill hope in her. Her book, If Only You Knew, had recently been launched and wasn’t getting the exciting welcome she had hoped for. We talked at length about her dreams for a career as a full-time fiction writer and speaker. I read her book on the flight home and told her it was a genuinely well-written novel, that she had a really positive future as a writer.
Sales did not take off over the past year. Some stores did not even want to do a book signing. A second novel proposal with her publisher did not seem to be moving to contract. With that as background she and her husband showed up at Canada’s annual Awards Gala of The Word Guild to support the Gala and its recognition of top Canadian writers who are Christian. From her perspective, the authors listed in the categories she had entered with her book were intimidating and would clearly walk off with the top awards. But God had other ideas.
When the category for best romance for 2009 was announced she was not called in third place, or in second place. Resigned to disappointment, she was stunned to be called forward as the award winner for If Only You Knew. Unprepared to even give a short speech, she stumbled through some thanks and sat down. Imagine her surprise when she was called forward for the award for the top teen fiction book of the year for the same book, If Only You Knew. She did better on the thank you speech. Yet the greatest surprise was yet to come. Her name was called when the MC announced the winner of the new $5,000 Grace Irwin Award for the best book for 2009 by a Canadian writer who is a Christian. No speech could be satisfactory for such a shocking development.
Will this amazing recognition be a launching pad for other books already on editors’ desks? God knows the answer to that, but the awards have certainly established Mags Storey as a Canadian novelist to be reckoned with in the future.
I met another discouraged client at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers conference. Her foray into movie scriptwriting had gotten her into the top 20 of the Kairos Contest in 2009, a hopeful move. But this year her entry did not even place in the top 20. But when I returned from Canada I got the great news that Beverly Varnado had signed an option contract with a movie producer—and the world looked a lot more hopeful. Discouragement had been banished!
Lisa Hall, author of Take Charge of Your Own Health, wrote, “Two hours ago I was depressed because my sinking amazon.com ranking was at 846,000. Right now it’s at 14,899 – the highest yet!” So what happened to cause that? Well, the Huntsville Times published a wonderful article and an interview aired on Living With Joy (Christian radio show broadcast to 40 stations nationwide) with Phil Waldrup. That would pick up any author!
Even as agent I received good news. Two editors of romance series contacted me to let me know they were offering a contract to clients. I praise the Lord for the lift that provided!
God’s Word does have an antidote for discouragement. The apostle Paul writes, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). That’s really what it is all about.