When Your Writing Career is Re-Storied

Handheld compass lying on a map showing the needle and cardinal points of north south east and west to aid in magnetic navigation to plot a route or direction to a specific destination

I had big dreams a decade ago. On the cusp of moving overseas to start a church in France, I landed two publishing contracts. Part of my worry of moving over there involved the very real fear that my publishing career would tank before it even started.

Thankfully, though, I received more contracts, wrote more books, and had plenty of fodder for dozens of books. Everything went according to plan. (Insert ominous music track here).

When I signed my first contract, the publishing industry stood on the cusp of a revolution. At that time, there were two ways to get published: pay someone to publish your book (vanity publishing, which did not have good products, and even uglier covers) or get an agent, then sell your book to a publisher. I took this second route, receiving advances on royalties, and working within the system to sell my books.

I made about 78 cents a book, but I didn’t pay much attention to that as long as publishers kept giving me advances. My story mimicked my fellow authors: write books, get paid, write more books, hopefully get more contracts.

Just as the music industry experienced a coup d’etat in the aftermath of the mp3 file, the publishing industry had a cataclysmic shift after the pioneering Kindle came along.

Soon authors no longer needed the gatekeepers of agents and traditional publishers to get their messages and stories to the world. And they had the power to get their books out quickly along with the added bonus of making several dollars per copy instead of 78 cents. They improved on editing and book covers, and they learned how to leverage their own personal platforms to gain an income.

Today authors live in the tension of these two paradigms: traditional publishing, and what is now called indie publishing. I’m living there too, and I’m finding the place unsettling—like the story I had thought I’d be living has suddenly been interrupted by upending obstacles.

Last summer, though, God gave me a word, a word that has proven helpful in this tumultuous journey. Re-story. He takes our tales of woe (even in publishing) and shifts them to epics of Whoa!

Here’s what I know is true about the publishing industry: it is in a constant state of flux. Those authors who understand the concept of re-storying will be able to become nimble and change with its shifts. Things may not be the same as they ever were, but that’s okay. Why? Because the best stories are full of adventure, of twists and turns, of obstacles and foes. We have the opportunity to yell, “Plot twist!” and move in new directions.

Here are seven ways I’ve learned to find joy in the midst of the re-storying process:

  1. As an author, live open-handed (and open-headed). Instead of seeing the next big change as an insurmountable learning curve, find one thing that intrigues you, and learn that thing. For instance, currently I’m working on Instagram as a way to connect with readers. I did this only after mastering other social media.
  2. Settle the truth that things will change. It will help you no longer fight, longing for the good old days of publishing. It’s moved on without you, and you can either become bitter about it, or think bigger.
  3. Understand that maybe your vision for the future wasn’t God’s next vision for you. Perhaps He wants something different from you, a new focus, a different place to work your creativity. Maybe it’s time to take care of an elderly relative or open that bakery you’ve always wanted to open. Gone are the days when people had just one career for their whole lives.
  4. Mentor those earlier on the journey than you are. When things shift so rapidly, new writers need seasoned veterans to help them navigate the change. And, they will also help you embrace new things, lessening your learning curve.
  5. Don’t be afraid of new ways of getting out content. Remember, your job is to create content. If it comes out in a podcast, an audio file, on youtube, or in an ebook, your basic job is still to generate content. It’s okay if the vehicle changes.
  6. Be grateful. Look back on your career and begin to list the ways God has opened doors for you. When you constantly look at what you don’t have, you’ll give into discouragement. But if you take stock of what cool things God has done, gratitude will grow.
  7. Consider creating a prayer team. In this volatile environment, it’s crucial that praying friends have your back (and your heart and your mind). I would not be where I am today without a prayer team. It doesn’t have to be something formal or hard. I simply email folks on my team once every three weeks or so, asking for prayers and advice, and praying for them in return. They have helped me navigate God’s restorying process in my career.

 

God has certainly re-storied my writing career. While I still traditionally publish, I have also rebranded my site, crowdfunded a book, jumpstarted my speaking career (with God’s direction and help), started the Restory Show, and waded into indie waters. The old has gone, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, but the new awaits.

 

 

Mary DeMuth is the author of over 30 books. Recently she started the Restory Show, a podcast where everyday people share how God has restoried them. Find out more at restoryshow.com.