Success or Failure?

Success and failure used to be easy to measure. In school, you either passed or failed based on clearly established grading standards. In manufacturing, success is determined by output. Even in finance, successful deals are measured by profit.

But when you write for the Christian market, measures of success become a little more difficult to pin down.

Consider a new writer trying to establish himself in Christian publishing. He may spend years writing devotions or articles for non-paying markets. Is he then a failure because he has never been paid for his work?

Or what about the blogger who faithfully posts encouraging material. Readers are inspired, refreshed, or edified, but she doesn’t know it because few people leave comments. Or perhaps, despite the fact that a particular post attracted a mere handful of readers, one lone person was encouraged to persevere through a difficult time. Is the blogger a success or a failure?

Of course, publishers expect their books to turn a profit. Still, if a financially unprofitable book draws even one person to a vibrant relationship with God through faith in Christ, is it still a failure?

I began thinking about success and failure in writing for the Christian market when author and friend Renee Fisher recently blogged her reflections on this subject.

It boils down to expectations. We writers are a sensitive lot. In the absence of positive feedback, we wonder if our written work – whether books or blogs, devotions or articles – is good enough.  People may simply be too busy to say anything, but we tend to take it personally. Am I not good enough? Why didn’t anyone notice? Do I not have a big enough audience?

Who is my audience, anyway? Who decides if I’ve succeeded or failed? It goes without saying that writers need readers. But if I’m doing what God has called me to do, to the best of the abilities He has given me, shouldn’t that be enough? I constantly need to remind myself that it is enough.

Who is my audience? My first audience is the Lord.

Numbers are important. Readers are important. Publishers are important. Profits are important. But none of them are as important as fulfilling the call placed on my life by the One whom I most want to please. For the rest, I’ll do my absolute best to glorify the Lord and trust Him for the results…success or failure.

P.S. Renee – I may not leave comments…but please know your blog posts are a blessing!


Affirmation…by the Numbers

I was never much of a numbers person. Words are more my thing. Lots and lots of words, if you ask my husband! Numbers…not so much.

It’s one of the reasons I love to write. To be able to communicate using myriad combinations of a mere twenty-six letters is nothing short of amazing. Yet, my writing life is slowly being consumed by numbers.

Sales numbers and sales rankings. Blog readers and blog subscribers. Blog commenters and friends lists. Website views and page views.

Numbers.

I used to think the most difficult part of the publishing process was actually writing the book…until I wrote the book.

Then I thought the most difficult part of the publishing process was convincing a publisher that my book was exactly what they wanted. Not anymore.

I have now joined the assembly of authors who have learned that hard work doesn’t end with a book contract. The question now consuming my thoughts is whether people will purchase my book. Does anyone even know it’s available? So the impulse to follow the numbers trail begins.    

How many page views did my website receive this week? How many Facebook friends “like” my Author Page? Can I fit my next Twitter posting into a 140-character tweet? How many people commented on my most recent blog post? Was it more than the week before? If not, why not?

My latest compulsion is to check the book reviews for One Year Alone with God. As of today, Amazon.com has three reviews – all five-star. Whew! But cbd.com doesn’t have any. Should I be concerned?

Just when I begin to get overwhelmed by the numbers, I’m reminded that God is more concerned with people than with numbers. In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, pastor and author Jim Cymbala notes, “The Bible does not say we should aim at numbers, but rather urges us faithfully to proclaim God’s message in the boldness of the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than fall prey to the lure of numbers, I must remember that God works one person at a time to build His kingdom. If the reason God prompted me to write this book is to benefit only one person, then it is a successful venture in His sight. If I’m doing what He has called me to do, then I must trust Him for the results…and for my affirmation.

Of course, I will do everything I can to market One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God. But ultimately, I must choose: is my focus on finite numbers or my infinite God?

How do you resist the lure of numbers to bring you affirmation?