Today, I'm honored to welcome to the Alley an industry superhero who's also a dear friend and mentor, Allen Arnold. He is now offering freelance services to help writers shape the stories God has placed on their hearts. To read more about that, check out his bio. I hope this post encourages you today, whatever wilderness you're facing. - Ashley Clark
The publishing industry is not for the faint of heart. Not for those working in it – or the writers desiring to be part of it.
Bookstores are closing. Christian Fiction – as a category – has been in a dramatic decline in recent years. Numerous Christian Fiction imprints have shut their doors, while the publishing houses that remain in business continue to reduce staff and marketing budgets.
If signing with a publisher seemed daunting in the past, the odds are exponentially smaller today.
That’s what is happening in the world around you.
Yet, you are called to write. The story burns deep within – consuming your thoughts and imagination. It isn’t something you can simply ignore. The story demands to be told.
It’s hard enough just finding time to create between caring for your children, paying the bills, and keeping the chaos of your home at a manageable level. It feels like a losing battle.
But when the industry appears to be have lost its way too, it can seem too much.
It’s understandable that you’re weary and disheartened. You’ve put so much time into this story. Sacrificed so much to pursue your calling. But success hasn’t come.
If the world really needed your story, why hasn’t anyone else (starting with an agent and publisher) caught the vision? Or maybe you have an agent and have been published...but the results have been modest at best.
Maybe the current closed door is your answer. Maybe it’s time to accept reality and let go of your dream. Get busy doing something more productive.
That’s why I’m writing this post. God wants me to be a voice that reminds you of this fact. He loves your stories. He understands the cost is high, but it is worth it. Especially when you shift your definition of success to the time you spend getting to know Him as you create with the Creator.
The invitation is both passionate and intimate.
Do those words sound too good to be true?
I didn’t make them up. That’s the invitation we’re given in Psalm 27:14. I just personalized it to the specific call He’s given you. Let the words sink in deep.
“Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”
(The Message Translation)
Here’s the deal. None of us will ever control the publishing industry. It is filled with good people who love story and who are doing the best they can – but their world has forever changed and continues to change daily.
Publishing houses – once acclaimed for being influencers of popular culture by finding new voices to introduce to readers – now look to popular culture to tell them whom to publish. That’s why the first question asked in acquisition meetings is almost always: “How many followers does this writer have on social media? What is the size of their tribe?”
The ideas and content and storytelling used to come first. Those were the filters upon which publishing decisions were made. Now it is weighted far too heavily on social media. The problem is – a person can have a significant following online and sell very few books because the very followers willing to read the occasional tweet for free have little interest in paying $25 for a 100,000 word book. And many talented writers find themselves without a contract largely because they have immersed themselves in the art and craft of story more than courting “likes” on social media.
I cast no blame on the publishing industry. I invested much of my career in that realm, and they are my colleagues. In any industry, less risk is taken in tough times. And unpublished writers with a huge following seem like a smarter bet than an unpublished writer with few followers. The problem is – this tact takes the publishing team’s eye off fresh ideas and their own instinct for good stories. The industry, in short, has shifted from being proactive to reactive.
This post isn’t about whether to pursue traditional or indie publishing. Either could work, and both options have costs and benefits. Ask God which path he is encouraging you to pursue. He’d enjoy having that conversation with you.
|Photo by arztsamui from freedigitalphotos.net|
I simply want to remind you that God loves writing with you. That is the primary reason he gave you the gift of story – so the two of you could create together. Spend time on the playground of ideas together. So you could get to know Him as Creator.
So remember, if God has given you this story, then He will see it through. What happens with it may be far different than you can imagine today. But if you stay with him, he will see your Story (the one you are living) and the story you are writing through.
I’m not a prophet, but I will go out on a limb and say the world of publishing will continue its volatile swings. New technology will emerge, and fresh ideas will continue to shift the balance of power. Those who know the reader best will do the best over time.
But no matter what happens within the industry, the world needs more stories crafted from those who are spending time in creative fellowship with God. It needs stories written for the restless from writers who have learned how to rest in the midst of the storm.
God is not worried one bit over the seismic shifts in the publishing industry. He isn’t confused about His purpose or timing for your story.
He’s inviting us to put on His armor and continue the stories we’ve been given. The ones we were born to tell.
And He’s told us how to do it.
Allen Arnold's mission is to help artists pursue God and their gifting from an awakened heart in intimacy and freedom. He cut his teeth in the advertising world (think the HBO series Mad Men on steroids) and then spent more than twenty years in Christian publishing. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world's largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the transformative ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.
He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. He enjoys helping writers shape their stories and discover how to create with God. If you're interested in learning more, e-mail him at Allen@RansomedHeart.com.