Publishing: An End or a Means?

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Getting published does not equal ‘arriving’.  Why should you pay attention to me saying it?  I’m probably the first unpublished author ever known to say it.  Even though I really want to be published, all of my reading, studying, and praying has brought me to the simple conclusion that publishing isn’t everything to my writing career.

Here’s why:

Why publishing shouldn’t be your goal

First off, writing with the goal of publishing can be distracting.  Publishing is a business which has to meet demand in order to stay in the black.  Writing with it on your mind, may keep you from writing what you really want.  That, in my opinion, is bad.

Writing with the goal of publishing is setting you up for a big letdown.  Can you guess what happens once you’ve been published?  More writing, on another book, hoping that that book also find a publishing house, and a crowd of readers.  Speaking of finding readers, once you publish that first book, you’re going to have to spend time marketing and selling it.  That’s less time for writing.  I know.  Not cool.  🙁

Writing takes time.  Lots of time, actually.  If you’re writing a novel then you’ve probably figured out that it doesn’t happen overnight.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible to do in a month.  (Nearly, but not quite.  Thank you NaNo.)

Anyway, having a short sighted goal of ‘getting published’ can be discouraging, especially when your first, second, or even third book doesn’t sell.

The correct view of publishing

As a Christian author, my goal is to advance the kingdom of Christ through what I write.  So what does that mean for publishing?  Should publishing be my goal?  Should it be the idea that motivates me to keep writing?  I think biblically the answer to those questions has to be “No.”  The goal of writing (as in eating and drinking and whatever we’re doing) is to glorify God.

Can you novels glorify God if they’re not published?  Yes, absolutely.

So… what is publishing then?

Publishing is a means.  Writing that changes the world has to be read.  By one reader, ten readers, or ten thousand readers, writing must be read.  To be read, it must be printed.  To be printed it (usually) must be published.

Publishing is a means to success.  Not Success itself.

Publishing is a step in your writing journey.  Publishing is a process that puts you in a position (both as a writer and just a person) that you haven’t been in before.  Publishing is a learning opportunity.  Those are good.

Publishing is a milestone.  It’s what you’ve dreamed about since you started writing.  You can be excited that you’re getting published… and you can push yourself to work towards that goal.  Just remember that it isn’t your final goal.  Publishing isn’t why you write.

You’re deeper than that.

Finally… who doesn’t like to get a paycheck?  I mean, right?  And for what you love doing at that.  Yeah… I’m still looking forward to my first advance.  Maybe it’ll be pennies… but precious pennies none the less.

Know your goals

So what should drive you as you write?  What should keep you looking ahead through those long nights of editing?  I can’t answer that for you, but don’t sell yourself short.  You write stories which speak to the soul.  You write of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

Sure, signing papers is fun… but is it what really matters?


Photo: ArtGrafx Chaos Grunge, ArtGrafx, CC BY-NC 2.0

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Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.


  1. Kameron Striplin August 17, 2016 at 12:43 AM - Reply

    People usually keep asking me when I’m going to publish my book.
    Internally my reply is “Probably never.”
    But I know they’ll return with “What? All this time and effort and you won’t even publish it?!”
    I’ve had the discussion before, and to those of you with hopeful writer friends; don’t get your hopes up. If you do, direct your angry letters to whatever publisher your friend sent their manuscript to.

    • Brandon August 18, 2016 at 8:57 AM Reply

      Yeah. Feel free to dream, but focus on the true goal.
      And life might just be better without an angry letters… 😛

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