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I wonder if you have ever tried your hand at selling something you have created or produced? Recently I spent the large part of a day selling my four published novels at a conference – always an interesting experience, to say the least!

I choose to sell my books directly, as well as via my website and through bookstores, for several reasons. For starters, people are more likely to buy books when they can meet the author face to face. I always offer to sign my books too – I tell my customers that when I am very famous they can put their copies on ebay and make their fortunes! After all, one has to remain optimistic in this novel writing and bookselling world.

But there are other advantages to selling in this way. I get to network with a wide variety of people and have some wonderful conversations in the process. I can explain what my books are about and how and why I came to write them. I can sit and observe people as they walk past – it is amazing how this little thing about one person and that little detail about another finds their way into my novels!  I can encourage others who are perhaps dreaming of writing a book one day. I always take the opportunity to write ‘God bless’ alongside my name on each novel I sell – for me these words are a ‘mini-prayer’ that God will truly bless and encourage anyone who reads the book. And when I finally hand over the purchase, I feel as if I am giving away part of me.

Yet I can well understand some authors’ reluctance to spend time personally selling their books. It is quite confronting to have people pick up your books that you have slaved over, browse through them with a bored look on their faces, put them down and walk away. It is even more confronting when you spend time answering all their questions, only to have them still walk away empty-handed.

But one experience that always amuses me is when people openly declare to you, the author, that instead of buying your book, they will simply borrow the copy their friend has just bought! Recently another author told me of an experience she had where there was a line-up of potential customers at her book table. Suddenly the girl at the head of the queue had a bright idea. ‘I know!’ she announced loudly to her friends lined up behind her. ‘Why don’t I buy just the one copy and you can all borrow mine – that would be much better!” At which point, her friends agreed and the queue dissolved. Well yes – it is ‘much better’ in some ways. After all, I myself lend out lots of books I own to others. I understand not everyone has spare cash to spend on books. But … well, from the author’s perspective, let’s just say it might be wiser – and nicer – to decide you will borrow your friend’s copy instead of buying one before you get to that book table, within earshot of the author!

I think the secret is to approach such selling opportunities with an open heart, trusting God will bring to my book table the people I am supposed to touch base with and those whom my novels will truly bless and inspire. And I also think it’s wise always to remember the words of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

So thank you, Lord, for each sale you bring my way and for all those who will read my books. May they be blessed, encouraged, comforted and challenged – and above all, be drawn closer to you!

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Yes, I was asked this question last week – although it wasn’t worded exactly that way! It occurred during a conversation with our four-year-old granddaughter and went something like this:

Olivia:    ‘Nanna, do you work?’

Nanna: ‘Yes … I work right here at home. I sit here at my computer and write my books – that’s my work.’

Olivia:    ‘No, but do you go out to work like other people?’

Nanna: ‘Well, I don’t go out to work – but I still work!’

My answers didn’t seem to satisfy our granddaughter. Obviously in her mind her Nanna didn’t have a ‘real’ job at all. Yet she isn’t alone in her opinion, I’ve discovered. Some time back, I was asked another similarly intriguing question:

‘We know you write, but what do you do?’

And then there was the form I had to fill out recently that asked about my employment status. Am I self-employed? Well … yes. Do I work fulltime or part-time? Hmmm! Why is there never a category for more than fulltime, which is where writers who spend many long hours at the keyboard would fit?

In her book ‘Walking on Water’, American author Madeleine L’Engle describes a ‘New Yorker’ cartoon depicting a woman opening the door to welcome a friend to her house. The friend notices a man there working at a typewriter, with a large manuscript piled on the desk beside him. The friend then asks, ‘Has your husband found a job yet? Or is he still writing?’ I am left wondering exactly how the woman responded! Madeleine L’Engle also tells the story of a businesswoman who asked her about her royalties, at a time when she was at last doing quite well in that regard. When told this, the businesswoman remarked, ‘And to think most people would have had to work so hard for that!’

So where does this leave me? Well, I could sit here feeling sorry for myself, as I put all my heart and mind and soul into preparing four talks I am scheduled to give in the next four weeks and simultaneously try to write my current novel and plan out a workshop. I could nurture great resentment at the lack of understanding out there and the devaluing of the whole creative process in general. I could try to be superwoman and prove myself on all fronts, looking for a ‘real job’ to hold down while I seek to produce my next ‘great Australian novel’. Or I could simply laugh it off, knowing my granddaughter at least couldn’t be expected to understand, and develop a thicker skin about it all.

But I believe there’s an even more positive way forward. I believe I need to remind myself that God has called me to spend these long hours writing and preparing talks and that I need to be faithful in responding to that call. I need to view this vocation of author and speaker as an absolute privilege – one in which, after all, I get to be ‘me’ and feel completely fulfilled, whatever the tangible rewards or lack thereof. I need to remember to throw myself into it all with a full and grateful heart, as Paul reminds us:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

So whether we have a ‘real job’ or not, let’s remember our ‘audience of one’ and perform our hearts out with great thankfulness!

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