Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I Write

I've heard and read all the hub-bub about authors self-publishing and making lots of money and earning a lot of fame in the process. And of course, there's the household author names both in the national market and in the LDS market that make huge waves and lots of people know and talk about their books.

What about the other authors out here like me? I'm not a household name and my name is not a big draw for a book signing. Does that mean I'm not successful. I guess that depends on your definition of success.

Sure, I'd love to sell 10,000 or 100,000 books because, to me, that would validate what I'm doing with my time and would also mean that many people shared in a story that I created from nothing. And, with The Upside of Down, that would mean that many people read my message about trusting in God and seeing trials as blessings.

But, I've learned that astronomical sales don't necessarily indicate success, at least not for me. Success for me is when someone says he or she enjoyed my story, was moved by the message, or came away with a new vision of something.

This week I wanted to share a couple of experiences. The first is from one of my daughters. She doesn't enjoy reading and she rarely reads novels. Instead, she reads non-fiction about gospel principles. I've been after her to read The Upside of Down since I'm her mom and wouldn't it be nice if my children read my books. So she decided to start reading it. Yesterday she called me and I could hear the emotion in her voice. I was worried she was upset or hurt or stressed. Turns out she'd just finished my book and was crying because she was "so happy." She said she'd cried throughout the book and she loved it (of course, she is my daughter so she'd have to love it) but I was pleased that she'd had such an emotional response to it. She listed all the things she thought I did right which made me feel very good.

Another experience was with my son's speech therapist. She'd purchased my book on Kindle and had just finished it. She isn't LDS so I was interested to get her reaction. She said that she didn't understand a few things (we do have our own lingo) but she really liked learning more about what we believe. She also liked the message about Down syndrome. But, what she got most from the book was how self-centered she is and how she needs to look beyond herself and do more service. In fact, she's doing a retreat this weekend and part of her message came from what she'd learned from my book. Wow! I was stunned because I didn't purposely write the book with service in mind, but that's what she took from it. I'm very happy with her reaction to my book--she even asked if I was planning to write a sequel.

Several weeks ago someone on an online site said that she'd never thought of Down syndrome as anything but a trial, but after reading my book she can now see it as a blessing. Her comment actually brought me to tears because she "got it." Someone has a new attitude about Down syndrome, one person has changed her attitude! Wahoooo!!

A young woman, not LDS, emailed me to say she was on Amazon shopping for books and she ran across mine and was very excited to read it. We exchanged a few emails and I was so happy to meet her. Of course, I believe in the book, but it's wonderful to hear from people who are excited to read it or who have read and enjoyed it.

For me, this is what defines success. Yes, there are those who don't like this book, but that's okay. Knowing there are people out there who've been touched by what I wrote is the validation I need. Sales may be the publisher's validation that publishing a book wasn't a mistake, but comments from readers are my validation for writing.

I may never win any awards or be a household name or make a million dollars, but the fact  that someone changed her mind about Down syndrome or someone now considers doing more service or someone was moved emotionally by what I wrote is what matters to me.

This is why I write.


Sherrie said...

Awesome! I haven't read that book yet, but I plan to especially now. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

Anonymous said...

I'm in a similar boat. My novel just released this month and outside of family and friends it looks like there will be few sales.

Thanks for helping me look for success in other aspects of this experience. I guess books that are designed to make a difference don't have to be read by as many people to change the world.