Debunking a Myth

Jerry B. Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins

Naysayers will tell you that if you want to get rich, do something other than write.

It may seem disingenuous for one who has, in essence, hit the lottery to tell you why you should buy a ticket.

But forget 63 million copies of Left Behind series titles sold in a decade. Before that tidal wave rolled in, I was already making a good living as a full-time freelance writer. My annual income was in six figures, and my wife and I were going to be able to pay off our home and put our three sons through college.

Why? Because I was never one to be cowed by statistics, bleak as they might be. Neilsen BookScan says the average book published in the United States currently sells fewer than 250 copies a year and fewer than 3,000 overall. Of the 1.2 million titles BookScan tracked in 2004 (during publishing’s heyday), 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies.

If those numbers set you back on yours heels, freelance writing may not be the game for you. But if you’re the type who hunkers down and works, who reads and studies and grows, determined to hone your craft and defy the odds, you can be among the few who make more than a living at writing.

If you were drawn to writing partly because so few succeed at it, you can be the one who excels. Give yourself wholly to your art, and be the one. Be the one.

(This originally appeared in Writer’s Digest, September 2010 issue.)

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