Friday, April 19, 2013

What if Nobody Likes Your Book? (Except God?) Guest Blogger Michael K. Reynolds

The vanity never goes away.

One of my doctors said this, just this morning. You know how it goes:

“How are you doing?” You are asked as you sit on wrapping paper, fashionably adorned in a backless cotton gown.

“I’m tired. Old. Fading.”

“Oh, why is this?” Clipboard lifted, bedside manner eyebrow elevates.

“Writing deadlines. My next novel is due. Overdue.”

Then it happens. Despite the fact some health insurance agency is getting billed hundreds of dollars an hour, you are no longer the patient. Instead, you are now the victim of an onslaught of appeals about, perhaps, a talented nephew who just needs to get connected to someone like YOUR agent. Or maybe it’s concerning an aunt with a fascinating life which MUST be written and hardbound…and by you.

In this case, my dermatologist (we red heads refer to them as gold diggers) shared about her friend who was a famous author who lived on a sailboat and was a heavy alcoholic. Despite all of his success and the fortune amassed through his writing talents his ultimate conclusion was, “the vanity never goes away”.

A familiar tale, clearly understood by Christian authors, right? Because Solomon already taught us this lesson. No? Well…maybe we can’t relate with him because he was…so rich.

But Moses? The one with the anger management issues? He was much more of a regular guy. Moses wrote a bestselling compilation which endured through the ages. What was his greatest writing moment?

It was his mountaintop experience. He ascended into the cloud of God’s glory on Mount Sinai and wrote for forty days and forty nights. It was a tremendous time of intimacy with the Creator of the Universe with words flowing like Manna from the Heavens. Eternal words. Life changing words.

But what then? He came down the mountain. Because, while we are here on Earth, we must always come down from the mountain.

And disgusted by the activities and response of the people below he shattered his great oeuvre d’art on the hard soil in frustration.

Through the power and instantaneity of social media you can vicariously enjoy the “mountaintop experiences” of your favorite writers. So many pictures of smiling faces. There they are embracing their new agent. Signing their first contract. Clinging to the newly arrived copies of their first book. Then there are the Amazon bestseller lists. The sparkling awards they receive in their finest gowns. There they are, dancing with the stars.

But do you get to see the pictures of these same authors smashing their precious tablets when their hopes and expectations aren’t met? When the vanity never goes away?

The true mountaintop experience is one that can be experienced and cherished by all authors, whether they are called to write for one or for millions.

It’s those precious moments of intimacy with God as He sits in the room with you as you tap away on the keyboard. When He’s there helping you to build new writer relationships. And yes, even during those times of rejection when He rests His arm on your shoulder.

If we don’t understand where the real mountain lies, then we will suffer one of two fates. We will be an unpublished and bitter writer, ever ungrateful for God’s gift of fellowship.

Or we will be a published writer, left alone to caress our Golden Calf.

It’s sad to hear editors speak of how so many anointed scribes are able to “make it big”, only to be changed, and not for the better.

What if everybody loves your book…except God?

How many books can we say that about? All too many.

As Believers, writing with God and for God is the ultimate reward. It should be above everything we strive for as an author, a poet…or merely as someone with a story to share.

Then…and only then, can we reach that lofty place, where the cheapness of vanity is no longer pursued and where our words are etched with eternal, life-changing value.

About the Author
Michael K. Reynolds is the author of the Heirs of Ireland Series published by B&H Publishing Group. The first of the series, Flight of the Earls, launched to outstanding reviews this January and explores Irish immigration to historic New York in the 1840’s. The second book, InGolden Splendor, is set during the California Gold Rush and arrives in July. Songs of the Shenandoah, continues the page-turning saga of the Hanley family through the Civil War era, and will be available January, 2014. You can learn more about Michael and subscribe to his Blog at

Ruthy note: I met Michael over at 1K1HR the fun Facebook group that helps keep each other focused and with butt firmly in chair, writing.... rather than playing on Facebook, silly games or (in my case) cleaning my sweet old farmhouse! Michael had some fun mini-rewards systems of getting a gumball every so often... word count, hours, whatever it is, I'm a big fan of mini-rewards because they have been a mainstay for me from odd job to odd job... And those mini rewards kept me smiling and focused on the short-range and long-range goals.   I've got Friday Frittata inside (spelled correctly this time, LOL!) and there's some cinnamon "SNICKERDOODLE CAKE" ready for taste-testing! Come on in... let's talk about an audience of 1.... or more.



Vince said...

“It’s sad to hear editors speak of how so many anointed scribes are able to “make it big”, only to be changed, and not for the better.”

Ah, but this is not writer specific: it’s the human condition. The term “Will Success Spoil…” is a cliché known to all. While writers create worlds of their own, they are firmly embedded in this world, the common world, and are as much children of God as anyone else.


Tina Radcliffe said...

First. Welcome to Seekerville.

Secondly, long pause.

What if nobody likes your book? (Except God?)

Yes. Thank you.

I'm at a loss for words.

You said it so well.

I'm just going to stand here and nod. Very slowly and thoughtfully of course.

Melissa Jagears said...

Wise words.

Marianne Barkman said...

Success went to their many times don't we see or hear that? And yet The Bible says do all as unto The Lord. I'm trying, but humans seem to get in my way!!!!!! Thanks for the goodies, Ruth

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

It's Michael, Mr. Gumball himself! :)

Welcome to Seekerville!

WOW... Do I love this post or what? Thank you for this most excellent perspective. May I please borrow this word instantaneity? Terrific!

Thanks for inviting him, Ruthy! Adore 1K1H on FB. Good group and helps keep me focused.

/waving to Vince/
/waving to Tina/
/Melissa & Marianne/

I've been editing away all day, communing with the Lord on a K9 Spy book. Go figure. Hey, kids need something decent to read... :)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Oh, and Michael... I'm a red-head too, blessed with a Mom who FORCED me to stay out of the sun. Evil woman, when I was a teen. In middle age, I appreciate her wisdom!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...


Of those two choices, I pick... neither one.

I definitely want to follow your excellent advice and write 'up on the mountain top'.

Michael, you know I'm a big fan. And not just because I won your book somewhere. Given a table with 6 different genres on it, historical Christian fiction might be one of my last picks. I just don't go there FIRST.

But hey, I won a free book and it was mailed directly to my house, signed and everything!
So, it had to be read.

I was completely blown away. The guy who writes 8-10K in a day was writing THIS?

After I dragged myself back from the cliff's edge of despair, I made sure people knew how great this book is. (This book is amazing! In case you didn't get that the first time.)

I still have a little twinge of jealousy and I heartily avoid looking at Michael's word counts on the fb group.

Anyway, hate to use such a cliché but this post resonated with me at a deep level. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Thanks for the focus as I get ready to start revisions next week. I find I write to learn about myself and God's will as much as anything. But sometimes, I forget.

Peace, Julie

Jackie said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Michael.

If only God likes my work, I won't understand why I spent so many hours writing, researching and learning if I could have been feeding his children. BUT.....if God is pleased that I'm following his direction for me, who am I to complain.

My biggest fear of not ever being published is disappointing him.

I'm so glad you stopped by today. It made me stop and think.

Jackie L.

CatMom said...

Welcome Michael, and thank you for sharing your excellent wisdom with us---I plan to add this to my "Keeper Files" to re-read as a reminder. ~ As the mom of three redheads, I liked you immediately *grin*. Redheads are truly special, you know!

After Ruthy's food has been eaten, please enjoy the Georgia Peach cobbler I've baked (with extra cinnamon-sugar on top) and the Georgia Pecan Pie.
Blessings, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

P.S. Meant to also add that on a daily basis I try to remind myself that I am writing to honor and please the Lord, because HE is the One who gave me this great love of books and writing (in addition to my love of children and cats, but that's another story!) :) PJ

Debra E. Marvin said...

I like those moments when something in the Bible (that you really should know by now...) jumps out at you. This just happened. Thanks Michael. And yes, you inspire us over at 1k1hr.

How true that when we just finished basking in God's love, the nasty 'old flesh' likes to pop up and mess with our day. I just saw the irony here for the first time. Moses SHOULDA had a bit more patience and love at the time of the tablet tossing, eh?

Like we all SHOULDA had better countless situations.
(like no road rage on the way home from bible study--that's not a personal testimony BTW)

I don't think so much that God loves my book, as I think about honoring him in the effort. I do think that every plot line and character, conflict and resolution is all part of how I PERSONALLY grow, and that's probably the point. He wired me as a writer for a good reason.

Debra E. Marvin said...

more on that subject...

Michael, on a rating of 1-10, how clean is your 1k1hr writing?

I'd say a 5 means you only toss out half the words. 10 means it's good to go to the publisher. 1 means you are copying your first story in 1st grade. or worse.

Donna said...

I love post that I read before I need them.
I like to be prepared. :- ]

"the cheapness of vanity"

I love that!

Maybe Michael will share how he writes so quickly!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning MICHAEL and welcome o Seekerville. And thanks RUTHY for bringing a frittata to enjoy.

What a stunning statement. And I have done that often. Written just for HIm. Apparently. chuckle

But each word I write is a growing experience for me so am sure it is for all of us. Even though I would like to grow up a little faster.

Have fun today.

Sandra Leesmith said...

I am going to have to check out that fb page. I keep hearing great things about it.

Thanks PATTI JO for the peach cobbler. Hits the spot.

Audra Harders said...

Oh Michael, such wise words. We have to keep this very essence in mind as we write...

Who exactly are we writing for??

Thank you for putting "vanity" into words.

I've got to get over to that 1K1HR group...

So glad you came to play in Seekerville!!

Jeanne T said...

Wow, Michael. Just wow. Great words. Great thoughts. Yep, it's easy to forget Who I am writing for in the hustle and bustle of trying to accomplish. Thanks for bringing me back to the most important One in my life.

Myra Johnson said...

Michael, this is a truly inspiring post--one every writer, whether published or not, really needs to take to heart. We get so hung up on what a contest judge or agent or editor or reader or reviewer will think of our story, always looking for validation--when the bottom line, really, is what does God think of our efforts?

Thank you so much for being our guest today!

Piper Huguley said...

The only way that you can be satisfied with your writing is to think about writing for Him and to not count on validation from others, just as Myra said. This is still a struggle for me on a daily basis, so I appreciate the reminder--thank you Michael!


Mary Connealy said...

There is so much power in this blog.
When we want to be published so desperately it's like a hunger.

And then someone comes along with truly indecent work and self-publishes it and makes a fortune.

It's just so TEMPTING.

It can feel exactly like Satan trying to lure you off the straight and narrow road

Missy Tippens said...

Michael, thank you so much for your wise words, such a good reminder to keep the right perspective and keep our priorities straight.

Virginia, I totally know that feeling of despair when I read something so very good! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Debra M, I love your question! I'll be interested to see what Michael says about how clean that copy is. :)

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Words full of Godly wisdom. Thank you, Michael.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Michael,

Thank you for such a funny post, yet profound. I've never been motivated by the trappings of publication (maybe that's why I'm still unpublished). I'd rather have been like those 19th century writers who used pen names and stayed in the closet. I'm rather scared of the limelight, but that's the world I live in, so I'll have to deal with it because I know God likes my messages, but He expects me to produce the best book I can so people will read those messages, and I'm lazy. 1K words an hour, are you kidding me?

pol said...

well a good post for the ending of the week, I liked it. Don't know Michael, but glad to meet ya. I liked the part about Moses and his going up and down the mtn, as we must all come down, you say.
Down to earth, everyday things. I am a reader and enjoy so much the little tidbits I glean when I stop by Seekerville..Thanks for your imput Michael.
Paula O

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I wonder if God has a report card, a rating system?

Would we be 5 STAR folk...


WOULD WE BE TWO STARS? Good intentions, but little follow through?

Michael, great post on perspective. I love your words. Mind you I don't feel a bit guilty about getting paid to write because I spent a lot of years writing for nothing, so I don't think gainful employment is ever a bad thing. Staying off the unemployment line is not a bad objective from this upstate NY mother!

Could we honor God better with our work? I think that the honor of touching peoples hearts and souls is a wondrous thing... but I think touching them with humor is just as important.

Remember the letter to Erma Bombeck from the imprisoned young mother, jailed for killing her (I believe) two young children? "I didn't know I could laugh at such things..."

Life is filled with chaos and bad turns and sometimes humor is the great defuser.

Michael, I haven't read your books as yet... are they humorous? I think Irish/Celtic humor is some of the best. Do you remember the way Carrol O'Connor portrayed the Irish grandfather in "Return to Me?" Very Catholic, old-world contemporary and funny.

Tell us about your books. What makes them special?

Debby Giusti said...

Thoughtful post....

Thank you!

May I mention a couple lines from Sarah Young's JESUS CALLING devotion for today:

"Bring your performance anxiety to Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps."

God is speaking. I must listen.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Elaine, are you familiar with the 1K1H group?

You should join.

Carol Moncado moderates it.

Tina Radcliffe said...


Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for the inspiring post!

This week I found I out was a finalist in one contest, and 'not so much' in another contest! What a way to stay humble!

Your books look so good - but I love anything Irish!


Julie Lessman said...

WOW. Let me repeat that. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! If ever I needed a post, THIS was the post I needed, my friend, and my heartfelt thanks to Ruthy for inviting you to guest blog on Seekerville today!!

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, MICHAEL ... like Sue above, I love ANYTHING Irish and your books sound and look GREAT!!

Now back to your post ... my husband keeps trying to convince me that every author goes through this "vanity" stage, and I truly believe that, but I wondered if some were more prone than others to wallow in it ... like myself.

"Yes, Julie, all authors wallow in it at times," he assures me, but I wasn't so sure. I was inclined to think that I was a worst-case scenario, but your blog shook that theory to the core, and I thank you for such an eye-opening article that I reallllly needed today.



Cara Lynn James said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Michael! I'm so sure I'll like your book I just bought it!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Michael! Your post touched me. I know I write for God. So why does the opinion of others matter to me? Perhaps I'm unsure of God's opinion of my stories. Yet as Debby's quote from Jesus Calling promises, God wants to replace my performance anxiety with His unfailing love and will direct our steps.


Digging for Pearls said...

Great reminder, Michael.

Jodie Wolfe

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Sue. Contests have a way of keeping us humble, don't they? :)

Jan Drexler said...

Amen, amen, amen.

Good words to ponder.

Loving "Flight of the Earls" - savoring it, really, and looking forward to your next book.

And as part of the morning shift over at 1K1Hr, I really don't know how you night owls do it. My brain shuts down after 5 pm!

Elaine Manders said...

Tina, thanks for the info about 1K1H. I should take that challenge. It's hard for me to get in 1K in one day.

BTY Michael, I'm putting all your series on my TBR list. Especially want to read about the California Gold Rush because I did some research on that and became interested.

Kim Kendall said...

Michael, It is good to see you here at Seekerville! As I perused the Christian fiction section at our local B&N, your book prominently displayed, it was a thrill to see it there on the shelf.

All you say resonates with me, as I know personally it is a discipline of sorts to keep one's mind focused and centered on our identity in Christ. No matter what we choose to do with our time, ideally it is all an offering to the One who gives us so much. It is our moment by moment struggle to remain mindful of our place, and to humbly offer ourselves for His purposes. Yet we can rejoice to see the fruits of our own work and that of those we know and care about reach a level of ability that can make it an effective and enjoyable means of storytelling.

And I do like your book! :)

Diana Grabau
~Writing as Kim Kendall

Chill N said...

>> But Moses? The one with the anger management issues? He was much more of a regular guy. Moses wrote a bestselling compilation which endured through the ages. <<

Thanks for the wit, wisdom and smiles :-)

Nancy C

Michael K. Reynolds said...

What wonderful encouragement from so many of you! On that subject I did want to add that we are called to encourage one another in our faith and ministries to others. And we should continually be improving our craft because our God is a God of excellence. So I didn't want to demean the value of contests and sharing milestone photos, etc. We need to hang together and support each other because there are so many obstacles in this pursuit.

This post came out of a struggle I was having in writing my third book of the series while the first was coming out. I was being so distracted by the confetti of my debut novel moments that I was losing my connectivity to God in writing the third.

It was a joy for me to come back to the mountain again, to reconnect with Him and now the third book is shaping up as my favorite of the series.

As far as those 8-10K days...there are miracles which occur when the smell of deadline gunpowder is in the air. No, those were not finished, polished words. I am a heavy plotter, so the first draft comes easy...but the refinement process takes me much more time. At some point I may post on my process as it may be helpful to others.

Ruth...there is humor in my historical novel series, but it comes out through the characters and some of the settings. The voice is much more deep and descriptive as the storylines trace three very difficult time periods in our history (The Great Irish Potato Famine, The California Gold Rush and the Civil War). But my promise to all readers is that they'll always see God's redemptive powers and encouragement in my writing.

And thank you for all of the great baking...oh my, Georgia Pecan Pie!

Connie Queen said...

I don't picture letting publication go to my head if I ever made it big. But I guess I'd never know until it happened. (There was one principal from my son's elementary school who told me she doubted I could help him w/his writing and wanted me to leave him alone. I would love her to see my name in the big lights...Guess that's a little vain.)

I am one of those who does not think as my writing for God, but am very careful not to upset God. If if the faith thread is not a part of my stories, they are always about Christian people...if that makes sense.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Michael, glad you made it over here! And pecan pie... Well, now I'm totally jonesin' on that thought....

So would you say more of a Frank McCourt style, then?

My ancestors on the Logan side came here in the 1840's during the second wave of potato famine. Great-grandpa was a plumber in NYC, and my great-aunt Maggie pretended her name was MARGARET... So even in their tough times and obscurity, there was humor in the human condition.

I'm pleased to hear that book three's coming along better. That was the one you just turned in, right?

I love deadlines, but only because I love being months ahead. I don't do last minute anything, I'd get agita, people would rush me to the ER, I'd have to have crazy weird things done to ascertain my well-being and eat hospital food.

Therefore I always work ahead of the curve. But I know so many folks who do last minute deadlines... I think with my sprawling family, I'm always afraid we'd have an unforeseen emergency (which has happened) and I'd have to scramble.

So I work ahead of the game so I don't have to scramble. Scrambling would make me an uncharitable housemate: A WITCH.

Dave would be unamused. But I do cook for him occasionally so he'd choose his words with care.

Or order out!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh wow, this is a wonderful post, Michael! I really needed to hear this.

You know, I'm kind of glad I've had so many rejections, even after I got published, and that I do get my share of 1 and 2-star reviews on Amazon. It keeps me painfully aware of the fact that it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks of my book. God is the only one who matters.

Thank you for this reminder! It is easy to get caught up in wanting to be revered and loved and praised and recognized. But God keeps reminding me that I'm really not all that. LOL! Well, he loves me and He's pleased with me, but you know what I mean. My kids help too. They don't think I'm all that. They know I'm just Mom, who makes a lot of mistakes and has no clue who the most famous singers on the radio are.

Natalie Monk said...

Hello, Michael! I've enjoyed your posts in 1K1H and this article is wonderful!
Like Dr. Adrian Rodgers said, "If we please God, it doesn't matter whom we displease, and if we displease God, it doesn't matter whom we please."
P.S. Your book cover is spellbinding!

Karen Barnett said...

Fantastic post, Michael! I'm suffering from that pre-release what-if-everyone-hates-it anxiety, so your words are like gold to me. Thank you!

Did you say you were going on Dancing With the Stars?

Sara Ella said...

Great truth here, Michael. It's easy to get caught up in the hype! My first novel is still a WIP, but I have had a few articles published in magazines and even those small accomplishments have gotten to my head at times.

So many times I have read best sellers or watched authors give TV interviews, all the while thinking "I want that!". The question then occurs to me, "But why?" Is it because I want the spotlight or because I want it on Jesus?

In the end, I think God uses those humbling experiences to remind us that we are the moon, not the Son. Our purpose as Christian writers is to reflect Him. To Him be the glory and honor and power forever!

Edwina said...

Excellent, powerful post. Thanks for sharing.

nissa_loves_cats said...

Hey, if God likes my book, I'm OK with that. He's got a lot of friends.