By Dr. Martin Wiles
My rights have been returned!
Wait a minute. The rights for two books I signed over to the publishing company. The rights they accepted. Now, they were returning them. What exactly did that mean? That my two books would no longer be available? The separate year-long journeys I had made of edits and re-edits. The waiting game I had played—on design, on production—to finally hold a copy of my very own book and know I had written what lay inside the covers. All over.
I emailed my executive editor, a successful novelist, editor, and devotional writer. I needed comfort … reassurance. Was I finished as a writer?
“What they’ve done is typical,” she emailed back. “About two years is the life span for a devotional book. If it’s any comfort, they returned my rights too.” Mine had exceeded the norm. I guess something could be said for that.
Wait a minute. Did she say they had returned her rights? It shouldn’t have, but her statement made me feel better. If she—as a moderately successful writer—could have rights returned, then maybe … just maybe … I wasn’t finished as a writer after all.
A few months before receiving this news, I had learned about the fate of my first three books—published with another company. Perhaps I should have examined that entity more carefully, but I was a newbie to the publishing world. I hadn’t heard anything about royalties in a long time. When I googled my three books on Amazon, I noticed their prices scaled the roof.
I typed the publisher’s url address in my search bar. Nothing. So I asked god … the little god—Google. The company had been bought out by another company which declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter. The problem was, they had not returned the book rights of any author. Lawsuits ensued. Now my first three books are unavailable, and so are my last two.
Is there any saving grace in this dog-eat-dog world of publishing? Sure. Try another publishing company. I did, and I have another book in the works.
I display a copy of each of my five books behind my desk in my classroom. Sometimes students remark, “You have written five books?” As if they wonder why I’m still teaching since I’m such a successful author. They’re too young to understand the writing world completely. The world where most writers—and other artists—starve if they quit their day jobs and try to do full-time what they love most in life.
So, what’s my advice to writers?
- Dream of and work toward becoming a full-time writer, but in the meantime keep your day job. According to the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey taken in 2014, “Just over 77% of self-published writers make $1,000 a year…with a startlingly high 53.9% of traditionally-published authors, and 43.6% of hybrid authors, reporting their earnings are below the same threshold.”
- Accept the fits and starts of the writing life. Continual writing assignments or book contracts might not come. I must make efforts to make them happen at all. But I’ve learned that about the time my spirits are low and I’m saying to my wife, “I’ve haven’t had anything accepted lately,” that I’ll get an email offering a writing assignment or wanting to accept a devotion I’ve sent.
- Let rejection feed your determination. Even successful writers receive more rejections than acceptances. What makes the difference is their determination to keep writing and to keep sending their writing somewhere.
- Release jealousy. Jealousy is perhaps the biggest temptation writers face. Each journey is unique. And if I’m a believer, God designs my journey, and I must be satisfied with my journey, while rejoicing over the journeys He sends others on. As writers, we’re not in competition. Enough room exists for us all.
So, put your pen (or pencil or keyboard) to paper, and get busy writing what presses heavily upon your heart.
About Dr. Martin Wiles
Martin lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the founder of Love Lines from God. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, and author. He also serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as web content editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is the author of five books and has been published in numerous publications. His next book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapades in a Busy World, in under contract with Ambassador International.
Check out his website:
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