Many of my ideas for my books have come to me this way. My first two books are about marriage. To Love, Honor and Vacuum was written to help women who feel like they are holding the entire house together and nobody appreciates it or seems to want to help. We have this mistaken idea in Christian circles that domesticity will be a form of bliss for all women, and when it's not, it can be a big burden to bear. My second book, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood, talks about exactly what it sounds like. My husband liked the research.
My next two books were quite different: one was a compilation of my syndicated parenting columns, and one was a short grief book. My agent really thinks I need to stick to marriage. I need to build my name recognition to sell more books in this area.
But I'm increasingly wondering if writing books is the best way to get the messages that God gives me across, anyway. More people receive my weekly column (now in about 85,000 households) than have bought my books. It's quite likely that my columns are more widely read than my books. I certainly get about ten times as much email in regards to the short, 700 word snippets that I write than the 250-page books that I love, that I birthed, and that took so much of my time. And at my speaking engagements, more and more women are eschewing the books in favour of the CDs of recordings of some of my previous messages and conferences. They want something to listen to, rather than something to read. But even those who do want to read seem to read in a different way. My website now has about 300 unique visitors a day, with thousands of daily hits, and almost a thousand people have signed up to receive my free weekly ezine.
I look at these trends and wonder what the future is for writing in Canada. If we are to reach Canadians with the messages that God has given us, I don't think we can be confined to books. People want their messages in small, easily consumed bites. It's a hard adjustment for an author to make, because we like writing. That, of course, is why we do it. Also, how does one make money on the internet? We're only starting to figure this out, though I know some writers who make so much advertising money in their ezines that it has become as lucrative as writing books.
I don't want to give up on books, because I think Christian publishing is so important in Canada. But the idea of what constitutes Christian publishing, I think, is shifting as people want downloadable material for their Palm Pilots or iPods, and not just a book they can leaf through. Personally, I could never read a book on a Palm Pilot, but it seems that there are many who prefer it that way.
It used to be that writers were loners who would retreat to a lakeside resort with only a typewriter and let God give them inspiration. Today we need so much technology it's overwhelming. And we need to stay on the cutting edge, something authors aren't necessarily known for. But this year, as I've been lamenting the future of my authorship, and wondering why God isn't opening more doors for more books, I've slowly been realizing that He's opening doors with speaking, and with the internet, and with audio sales, which can reach a whole different crowd.
These things, of course, are circular. As we authors become known on the internet, our book sales will increase, and bookstores will benefit from that. But more and more we need to think beyond the bookstore and into other areas of writing. It takes more time and a different part of our imagination. But in the future, perhaps the ideas that God will be sending us won't just be about what to write; they will be about how to say it. That's a different kettle of fish altogether.