Writerly Wednesdays

The Writer / Advocator: Confidence Tips

Every successful novelist has had to do something very distasteful before they were published.

They had to advocate for themselves.

If you’re the typical writer, being assertive makes you scream inside.

A few years ago, a writer told me he could quickly sell two hundred books at a sale. “Hand the person your book. Then he or she will HAVE to either buy it or hand it back to you.”

He handed me his book and I read the back cover. “Looks good.”

“And now…” He drew out the last word and crossed his arms. “It’s only fifteen dollars.”

I tried to hand back his book, but there was a twinge inside me. “Oh. I see what you mean. I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Soooooo.” He reached for a pen. “Would you like me to sign it for you?” The trap snapped shut.

I walked away with a book under my arm and my wallet lighter.

Soon, it was my turn to sell. I tried to hand people my books, and in every case, they gripped the cover to read. Before they even finished, I’d reached out to take the book back. Why?

Because the Puritan ancestors that live inside my head scream to be humble. Because rejection means I’m the worst person in the world. And even though I’d gotten my degrees, won a publishing contract and $20,000 in prize money, won debut author of the year… I was sure they would hate my work, and by extension, me.

My value lies in my self-degradation.

I faced my fear. I read my Bible. I prayed. I cried. I ate 50 gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream. And in that moment, I realized I needed therapy and started writing a new manuscript. Then I paused. I really did like writing the manuscript. I liked the history featured in the work. I liked my characters. And I hoped, I prayed, that others would like it too.

I suddenly knew I wasn’t alive to sell books. Instead, I was there to make friends and connections, so that, as C.S. Lewis says, “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

So now, I hand out my work to agents, publishers, readers, my dog, and anyone who may like it. Sure, many hand it back. But it’s not a rejection of me. It’s the fact that they don’t dig the same thing I am into. And if God blesses, it will find the right person, and I’ll find a new friend. And I know you can as well.

About this post: Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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