I remember when Beth Suess asked me for the manuscript’s title.
“Party of One,” I said. And she laughed.
All of my coworkers laughed, in fact. They knew I was submitting a book for publication and that its content centered around singleness. But I hadn’t yet spilled its title, and I felt covered with Tinkerbell dust in excitement.
Until a few hours later when I discovered (by happenstance) there already existed a Christian book on singleness. Written by Joy Beth Smith and published by Thomas Nelson, it had 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon. And it was called Party of One.
Immediately, fear punched me in the throat. Because who needed my book on singleness if one like it already existed?
By the end of the day, I knew everything I could about Smith’s Party of One without actually reading it. My eyes hovered over her reviews and talk-show interviews, and I angrily took my offenses to God.
“Are you serious? What is this?” I wanted to corner Him in the kitchen and have Him explain the issue I found. “You ask me to write this book. You make sure I have plenty of time in order to do so. And then this story already exists?”
I knew going into publication there would be a price to pay for entering into consumerism. In exchange for a broad audience, I opened myself—and my creative work—to everything that came with the book publishing market.
Profit margins, readership analysis, Instagram likes. Raving reviews and hold-nothing-back criticism. My story was going to be dissected and pitted against others’. And it would have to be selected. It would either be included on editors’ lists… or it wouldn’t.
It’s hard to not consider it all hogwash when I, myself, use market traffic signs. Before I purchase a book, I Google reviews. Before I add jewelry to my cart, I inspect the number of “likes.” And if I’m going to buy a pair of rain boots, I’m only going to buy one. I’m not going to risk money and white socks on a pair that haven’t been 5-star(ed) before.
I mean, that’s the way the market works, right? Somebody wins; somebody doesn’t. And if a creative already holds a monopoly, what’s the point in even trying?
“Because you have something different.”
When I finally let God break through the fear static, it was the one thing He kept repeating. “You have something different. There is a book already published called Party of One, but it is not like the one we’ve written.”
In preparation for the book publishing world, I’d forgotten the point of my story: to share, to understand, to bring clarity of heart and mind. It was for the ones who’d lost hope in desiring good romance—the kind that would taste good and still be good for them.
The point of publishing my story wasn’t for the sake of profit and fame. The story’s production wasn’t in favor of business or to monopolize the Christian single population. It was written to resonate with deferred-hopefuls.
This isn’t to say that numbers, marketing, and reviews are unimportant. Creative consumerism is the highway to deliver this redemptive story, but I need to remember that it shouldn’t support nor deter its publication.
Because if I’m trying to be the only provider—or even compete with other creatives—then I’m actually not trying to help God. I’m trying to be God instead.
I would love for my soon-to-be-published book (with a brand-new title) to be reviewed favorably, “liked” across pages, and listed among notable editors. But if my heart is pure and grounded in His purpose, then I should hope any book inspired by God is listed there as well.
Featured Image by Becca Tapert