We all have expectations. Some are reasonable and others not so much. To expect is to consider something due to us, necessary or a reasonable obligation.
I wasn’t familiar with publishing and started with some unrealistic expectations. I have had to learn what to expect when it comes to the process and the path of becoming a published author. Now as an agent, I recognize the same unrealistic expectations in those I speak to about this publishing dream and journey. I hope to shed a little light with these few suggested Do’s and Don’ts.
What NOT to expect:
- Don’t expect to sign with an agent and get a book deal next week.
I remember the call; I was offered representation from a desirable literary agency. I was thrilled and in my naivete, my heart leaped in excitement as I imagined my new agent loving my manuscript and getting me a deal right away. A match made in Heaven—until it wasn’t. I had already traditionally published Bible studies at a large publisher without an agent, so now wanting to write my first Christian Living book, I was certain ( had expectations) that this agent would make a quick and easy pivot possible. But my words were not ready to be published and it would be three years of defining and refining before I ever received a contract.
- Don’t expect the process of getting a book deal to be easy.
I liken a book deal to a personal miracle. That might sound dramatic but honestly, it’s like the parting of the Red Sea—you must have a compelling unique idea, be a good writer, have a large growing platform, and be at the right place at the right time. Once your book is ready to be pitched, it can be weeks, sometimes months before you hear anything. After you sign a contract it can be 1-2 years to before you hold that long awaited book in your hands.
- Don’t expect your agent to write your book or your proposal.
You have a great idea, influence and followers— your agent encourages the direction, but you have to write the proposal and your book. There are collaborative writing exceptions but it’s not your agent who does the writing for you. You must be the one who researches comparables, outlines your book, identifies hook and synopsis. An agent can give you feedback and offer suggestions, but this is your book, not theirs. An agent encourages, guides and presents the best possible version of your project to publishers—with the hopes of a contract offer. But it is you, the author, who does the research, writing and crafting. And, it needs to be your best writing, so it’s a lot of work.
- Don’t expect fame and fortune in Christian publishing.
We live in a celebrity culture that has crept into the church. It’s not uncommon to have celebrity pastors, worship leaders and authors. Because of this writers and ministry leaders can get stars in their eyes and the expectation that once they are discovered they will be offered lots of money to write and speak. It’s an illusion and the rare exceptions that get large advances and make lots of money. Don’t expect to quit your day job, unless you are being supported by someone else. Work hard and maybe after a few books you can make a living as a Christian communicator. But fame and fortune? Lay it down, it’s not a Godly pursuit in this line of work. Christian writers are called to the creative pursuit of mission and ministry–not fame and fortune.
- Don’t expect popularity or your calling to be understood.
If you are writing for acceptance, identity or to see your name on a book cover to validate you…think again. I was surprised that not everyone shared the joy of my calling as a writer. Truth is, I have experienced jealousy when doors began opening for me. I lost friends and was misunderstood. I have seen this happen to many others too. Not many people understand the call of a writer. The more success you experience the more important it is to be connected to a writers community.
What you CAN expect:
- Do expect God to go before you.
God loves you, is for you and when it comes to your calling as a writer—will go before you. Count on it.
- Do expect God to open doors according to his will for you
Looking at another author’s path might give you hope but don’t count on their path to be the same as yours. What you can always count on is that God has a plan for you, and he will open doors of effectual ministry according to his plan for you—not his plan for someone else. Your path will look different but will have God’s hand on it.
- Do expect God to work in and through you.
God works in us to accomplish His plan in this world. Expect Him to do that with you. Look at the themes in your own story and let Him speak to you about the story you write or present to others. Let it be a God thing not just a good thing.
- Do expect God to always be faithful.
Amidst the angst of platform, mailing lists and being at the right place in the right time—know this—God will always be faithful to get you where you need to be, when you need to be there. He is the writer of your story and His sovereign hand leads you even when you feel confused and not led. You are being led by God and God is faithful.
I will close some words from Oswald Chambers:
“The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what he is going to do next.If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” (My Utmost for His Highest, April 29)
I wish you joy as you work hard and place all your expectations in God alone.