Not long after my first novel was published, I decided I would love someone to invent a little book tracking device so I could see where all those copies ended up! As the years passed and a few more of my books were published, I became even more curious. This device need not be too intrusive, I decided—just a little microchip somewhere down the spine, perhaps, that would send a signal to my laptop to identify where it was.
I know I can find out from some Christian bookstore websites how many of my books have sold and in what part of Australia. I know the name at least of those who buy my books via my website and where they live. I can go online and discover which libraries stock copies of my books. And of course I can meet customers face to face at my book table after speaking somewhere or at some promotional event. But I find it fascinating how others get hold of my books in all sorts of roundabout ways. Perhaps a friend lends them a copy or someone sends one as a gift to the other side of the world or they see it on a library shelf and remember meeting me somewhere. A couple of times, I have received emails explaining how readers have found one of my novels in a second hand bookshop or in a pile of pre-loved books at a church fete! On those occasions, I always hope the original owner read the book first and enjoyed it enough to feel it should be recycled rather than thrown in the rubbish bin!
Recently, however, I have begun to rethink the whole ‘book tracking’ idea. Yes, it would be interesting. Yet, while we need to do our best to sell and promote our books, ultimately we have no real control over who buys them. So, rather than fret or speculate, I tend to feel now that it might be better to let those books go freely into whatever places they might wander and trust God much more in it all.
That is probably why some words I read recently in an email from author Joyce Kornblatt, commenting on novelist and short story writer Richard Bausch’s thoughts along the same lines, resonated with me:
May you all find the true heart of your work and send it out into the world, which might mean to one other person or a wider audience. Doesn't matter. Once you have released it, it is like a bird that will find its own way, branch to branch, tree to tree, land to land. You won't necessarily know how it has travelled, who has been reached and touched, but you have done your part: creating the work and releasing it. Bearing witness to the life you have lived, and sharing something of what you have understood. Such a good gift to offer.
Beautiful thoughts, don’t you think? We write because God calls us to do so and because that is what we are gifted to do. Then we offer our gift to the world in whatever way opens up for us. And then we let it go free, knowing we have done all we can.
How do you as a writer respond to this whole concept?