Why My Book Launch Will Fail — And That’s OK

How Do You Define Success When Walking by Faith?

I don’t know about you, but I hate to fail. I hate it with a passion. The feeling that I have fallen short of the goal – even a goal I’ve set in my own mind – has to be one of the worst feelings ever.

Finish Line

It happens every time I set aside a day for yard work. I conjure up a long list of things to accomplish. But no matter how much I actually accomplish in the day, it’s never enough. The list is always longer than the day.

Solomon put it this way: “Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.” (Prov. 27:20)

Yep. That would be me. Never satisfied.

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

Can I be brutally candid with you about the launch of my new book? I think it will fail to meet my expectations. Here’s why.

A Story Worth Telling releases everywhere on May 19 – in just 13 days. The truth is that I know a lot about what should be done to launch a book. I’ve studied the methods of Michael Hyatt (author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World), my friend Jeff Goins (author of The Art of Work), and numerous others. I even help people develop their platforms and execute strategy for such things.

I know that to launch the book well, you need about six months of prep time. But previous commitments – the ones that pay the bills and feed my family – kept me from focusing on it until only two months from the launch. And I still have several worthy projects on my plate and a family that needs me to be present and active.

That hasn’t stopped me from busting my butt to prepare. But there’s always more that could be done, that I think should be done.

And here is one thing I know for certain about me: I will not be satisfied.

I even had a dream the other night of Jeff Goins lecturing me about my failure to launch well as he dipped into a fresh batch of guacamole – which he didn’t even share. Thanks, Jeff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot from Jeff (and I highly recommend his Tribe Writers course ), yet no matter how many copies are sold, no matter how many lives are transformed, no matter how many people awaken from their faithless slumber and start walking by faith, I know I will be tempted to think my book failed.

If only my mother reads the book, it will not be enough. If 500 people buy the book, it will not be enough. If 5, 10, 25, or even 100 thousand copies sell, it will never be enough. I will always tend to think that I could have done more because I failed to live up to my own ever-shifting expectations.

By the way, wrestling with this insatiable desire to always do more and be more is likely the subject of my next FaithWalkers book. As I’ve unpacked what I am feeling and talked about it with others, I’m finding a lot of us feel this tension between the drive to achieve more – a good desire – and the need to be content and rest in Christ as our source of true satisfaction.

How Should We Measure Success?

What I am coming to understand – slowly, to be sure – is that as long as I am evaluating results by my own expectations, it will never be enough.

But when God and I discuss my story one day in heaven, I don’t think he will be demanding an explanation as to why my book didn’t sell as well as I had planned or why I didn’t figure out a clever way to market the book to maximize exposure. Those are not bad things at all. They’re just not the main thing.

Our conversation will be about one thing: did I trust Him enough to keep moving forward?

This book began with a step of faith. The writing process itself was a journey of faith. [ See my post What Writing a Book Taught Me. ] And now the promotion of the book, the spread of its message, and any media and speaking opportunities that arise – all of it – will be the result of God, not me, doing something more than I can do.

In my book, I unpack these words to the people of Israel when they faced the Red Sea on one side and the world’s largest army on the other: “‘Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace….’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.‘” (Ex. 14:13-15)

I have a choice. I can spiral into depression at the thought of falling short of my goal – a very real possibility for us creative types – or I can choose to keep moving forward by faith in the One who delights in showing Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are completely His.

I’m choosing the latter option. Because God is at his best when our situation can’t get much worse.

Question: How are you defining success today? If God wants to define success differently, will you be OK with it? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or otherwise unhelpful.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Shortly before a book of mine came out, I was listening to another writer giving a talk, and she joked that “the moment before your book is released is just the silence before the silence.” I chuckled to myself, never forgot the comment, and was reminded that it often takes a lifetime, or at least many years of sustained effort, to build a readership.

    • Thanks for the reminder, my friend. Although in my experience, we seldom let reality get in the way of our expectations. 🙂

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