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In the early days of Title IX, I attended a small high school working to establish an equal number of sports for girls as we had for boys. As a result, girls now had more options available. I had grown up playing softball and running track, but now I added basketball.
I’m sure my early efforts weren’t pretty. Until that point, most of us had only played basketball in gym or pick-up games. Some were quite proficient, but most were like me, relatively new to this sport. The drills were grueling – all sorts of running and movement exercises that constantly had us on our toes.
Our coach informed us that when we were on our toes, we could quickly shift position to follow the ball’s movement or to defend against an opponent. And so, we drilled: zigzag patterns, up and down the court, shuffling from side to side, all while up on our toes. I remember being drenched with sweat and gasping for air when we completed these drills.
But they were essential, because remaining on our toes wasn’t natural. Not only did we tend to stand with flat feet, thus slowing us down if we had to suddenly change position, but emotionally we were flat-footed as well. We weren’t anticipating the next move of our opponent.
To be ready to shift position immediately, we had to remain on our toes.
This sports lesson, as often happens with lessons learned on playing fields or courts, bestowed a lifelong knowledge that still helps me today in the writing world. We have to play this writing game on our toes.
The publishing industry is constantly in flux. When I began writing fiction about a decade ago, everything about publishing was different.
Agents were required, but doors were shutting to not only them, but also to publishers. The average author made around $10,000 annually, because our product was scarce. Then “self-publishing” meant you had paid a vanity press to publish your words, and now you had a car trunk and a garage full of hardcover books to peddle.
Enter Amazon. About eighteen months ago, the number of books offered (e-book and paperback) surged to 12,000,000, but it has now fallen by 75% to 3,000,000. According to Data Guy, the average author now makes about $1400 annually if they’re self-published and $875 a year if traditionally published. Our product is no longer scarce.
We cannot play this game flat-footed. We must constantly anticipate changes and adjust our methods and our marketing. We have to know about “funnel books” and keyword search engine optimization tactics for our titles. We need to work on our craft, for even writing has changed. Stories now contain little prologuing or backstory. Plot is driven by dialogue and action. Jane Austen herself might not be published today were she competing in this market.
To play on our toes, we remain true to ourselves and to the voice and message God has given us. We listen to the inner nudging of the Holy Spirit. We must keep abreast of our industry, mentally anticipating these changes, adjusting our techniques, and finding new ways to bring our stories to light, rather than remaining flat-footed. We cannot be afraid.
When Joshua took over from Moses, he had to play the game in a new way. The people were no longer journeying across the desert, but into the Promised Land, much as we hope to enter the publishing equivalent. In Deuteronomy 31-32 as Joshua “practiced” for the transition and in Joshua 1 as he began to “play the game” as the new leader, the Lord repeatedly reminded him to stay on his toes (be strong; be courageous) and not to be afraid.
This is good advice for us, too. For the Lord is with us, wherever we go.
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