Finding the Good in Failure
Yes, I’m a published author. Of four books. With publishers that pay advances and royalties, and print books with paper and ink. Books that have shown up on actual bookstore shelves. And yes, a few months ago, I signed with a new agent (you’re reading her blog).
But that’s where the fairy tale ends (or gets temporarily stuck anyway).
Two years ago, my first book went out of print. I cried. And promptly bought 2300 remainder copies from the publisher for $1 apiece. This past February, another book bit the dust. I didn’t cry this time (well, not at first), but the news stung. It still does.
Then there’s my latest project, which is currently being rejected by one publisher after another (due, in part, to my “mediocre” sales history).
So, after four books in four years, I’ve hit a cement wall. And while I’d love to back up, take a running leap and scale the stupid thing once and for all (or borrow a bulldozer), I’ll bet God has some takeaway for me during this season of failure. Now, if I could just figure out what it is.
After this second book bomb, I questioned his methods. “God, I don’t get this. You know these books are really good, right? You know I get e-mails all the time from women who’ve been blessed, right? What purpose is this going-out-of-print stuff serving?”
He didn’t really answer. So I kept going.
“This is so disheartening. Humiliating. Everywhere I turn, someone besides me is succeeding. I know my life probably isn’t over at 34, but I can’t seem to see through the fog. I’m about ready to call it quits. For good.”
While I haven’t gotten an audible reply (or a rainbow in the sky promising another book contract), I slooowly started to see the silver lining in the cloud of failure-dom.
1. People empathize more with your failures than your success.
When I first blogged about my book going out of print, I got enough virtual hugs and words of affirmation to last a solid week. We naturally feel a stronger connection with people who are struggling. And in typical funeral fashion, people often wait until one of your books dies to tell you how much they loved reading it.
2. God has used my failures to grow my ministry—in a different way.
I’ve always wanted to write. The speaking gigs were an afterthought effort to keep my writing alive. Nowadays I speak 2-5 times a month, and like it or not, my ministry has evolved into sharing my weaknesses. No one wants to hear how perfect I am (thank goodness). They want to draw encouragement from the fact that I perpetually screw up and God still uses me. In an illogical (but biblical) twist of events, my weakness bears testimony to God’s greatness.
3. My failures have translated into getting my message to more people—for cheap.
Two days after my second book went out of print, my blog readers had snatched up 400 copies at a discounted price. Women who couldn’t afford the book before can read it now. Churches bought multiple copies to give to new moms. One gal started a book club with 12 pals. One woman encouraged me to imagine all my books circulating among friends and secondhand bookstores—”Who knows how many lives your words will touch?”
4. My failed titles have given me more time to focus on my two “survivors.”
One look at the sexy cover and you can see why my book Is That All He Thinks About? has sold relatively well. More importantly, it has helped heal marriages, and I’m on a holy mission to get it into more bedrooms.
Expecting is a sweet hardcover devotional for pregnant women. And thanks to my awesome blog readers, over 300 copies have been donated to crisis pregnancy centers around the world. Thank you, Jesus.
5. My failures have put me in my proper place.
I am loved. Gifted. Important even. But I don’t make the world go ’round. Self-absorption really isn’t a great look on me , and I’m slowly learning to get over myself. God’s plan for my life is just a small part of a Big Ol’ Story he’s had going on since the beginning.
Whatever role he wants me to play, whatever failure (and hopefully success) he wants to use to bring him glory, I’m game. Bring it.
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