That phrase is music to the author’s ears. Sold out! We whisper to ourselves, “Why that means they love me. They love my book. I am a success!”
And when we don’t hear those words, do we hear these? “I’m a failure. I might as well quit writing. I’ll never make it in this business.”
While you mope about, let me tell you about Tamerlane and Other Poems, a book of poetry written by an unknown. The author self-published fifty copies in 1827 and no one paid much attention. It was only a tiny book, about forty pages long, and the writer was a teenage nobody. He didn’t even put his name on the cover. The book’s author is listed only as “A Bostonian.”
Today, only twelve copies exist. One just sold for nearly $700,000. It’s not even a pristine, shiny brand new book. Why is it worth so much? That little book was the first published work of Edgar Allan Poe.
Just think of it. A teenage kid with little income scraped together enough to publish his first book. He didn’t give up when it was not a success. He kept on writing … and publishing. People would say his life was a failure. He was never a financial success and he struggled with addictions. He died in 1849, only 40 years old. Yet now he is touted as a writing genius and the creator of the modern detective story.
So while we whine about our lack of a contract, an editor, or a publisher, some other writer is doing just what we know how to do. They are writing—and horrors—paying their own printing costs and even marketing their own books with a view to the future. Oh, maybe they aren’t thinking two centuries into the future, but they are being true to their calling as Christian writers.
It’s not our books that need to be great; it’s our words that need to be true. True words stand the test of time, whether they are read by the person spending $700,000 or by the friend in need who is blessed by our epic. So let’s not sell out on our career. Let’s not take the easier way out. Let’s not give up. Our future lies ahead of us.