Some Things Are Out of Our Control

As I look ahead to the coming months, I’m excited at the numbers of writing friends who will be publishing their books for the first time. In fact, in the next six months or so, I have four writer friends debuting with books I’ve endorsed (or am in the process of reading for endorsement purposes).

As I watch many of these friends embark on the debut publication experience, I’m glimpsing a wide spectrum of emotions from heavenly elation to paralyzing fear and everything in between. Watching my friends is bringing back all those similar feelings I experienced at my debut.

We try to get everything just right so we can have the best possible success. We want to have the perfect launch party, an effective blog tour, the most interviews, and the right amount of giveaways. We increase our web presence, and we do all we can possibly think of.

And that’s only natural.

But in the midst of all the busyness, our emotions ping-pong back and forth. One day we’re sure we’re doing everything we can. And the next day we worry that we aren’t doing enough.

Anytime we embark on something new whether we’re querying for the first time or entering a contest or going to a writer’s conference, we go through the gamut of emotions: excitement to fear, confidence to doubt, enthusiasm to weariness. And worry. We end up worrying a lot.

When I look in hindsight on my debut and everything else I’ve done, I’m not sure that I’d do anything differently . . . except for perhaps worry less.

We should be as diligent as possible in marketing and promoting our books or getting them ready for contests or for querying. Do all we can. Put forth one hundred percent effort to help our books stand out.

But . . . even though I work really, really hard to do everything “right,” there are still authors who don’t tweet or blog or have a lot of online connections, and for whatever reason they rise faster and shine brighter.

When striving for success in the publishing industry, I’m learning there’s only so much we can humanly do, that ultimately the rest is out of our hands. Whether we’re seeking an agent, book contract, or aiming for a best seller, there are some factors we can’t control. All the worrying in the world won’t change those factors.

I was reminded of this recently when I read an article that described step-by-step how The Hunger Games became a blockbuster hit. I was fascinated how strategic Scholastic was with their marketing.

The marketing department did numerous things to start the buzz about the book many months in advance of release. So much went on behind the scenes to get the early copies of the books into the right hands at the right times.

Sales reps were particularly strategic with their attempts to get the ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) into the hands of prominent reviewers also called “Big Mouths,” which is children’s publishing lingo for booksellers who have exceptional influence with co-workers and peers. And then the Big Mouths had to get excited and spread the chatter to their circles.

What struck me was how many factors were involved in making the book successful. Many, many, many. Too many factors for most of us to ever dream about. Too many factors that are completely out of our control.

The article reiterated to me that I personally can only do so much.

I need to be faithful with the little that I’m given. I need to work diligently with my talents. I need to continue learning and doing whatever is within my scope of possibility.

But then . . .

I need to remember not to worry about the rest, that it will happen in its time . . . if it’s meant too. No amount of fretting will make anything happen faster. Checking Amazon rankings or reviews won’t make them improve. And obsessing over what more I can do to turn my books into blockbusters won’t help.

All we can do is put our heart into writing the best stories possible and do everything we can to help market them. Then we have to step back, stop worrying, and remember to enjoy the journey.

Are you doing all that you can and being faithful to use your talents wisely? But do you also find yourself worrying about things that are out of your control or wishing for more than you have? Do you need to stop worrying so much and relax a little more?


  1. Great blog. I hope to take away some of your tips in my own writing.

  2. I would love to stop worrying... but how?! Lol!

  3. Lately, I've been convicted about worrying.

    It is such a waste of time and energy.

    If I spent half the energy I spent worrying (about my debut, about our adoption, Ryan's surgery, bills, etc, etc, etc)in prayer, I'd be a bonafide prayer warrior.

    This has been my focus lately. When God says not to worry about anything, He's being for real.

    I want to turn those worries into prayers and like you said, work diligently on what is in my control and let go of the rest.

  4. Thanks for endorsing my book, which is just a month away from release now. I've started keeping a list of everything I'm doing or my publisher is doing for promotion. It's tucked in the front of my calendar where I can look at it often and see that the list is growing steadily. In those moments when I think I'm not doing enough, I look at the list and see everything that is already checked off. That helps me get perspective.

  5. Jody, Great post and one that I needed to read. Lately, I've thought a lot about the philosophy of the famous baseball player, Mickey Rivers: "Ain't no use worryin' 'bout things you can't control, 'cause you can't control them. And ain't no use worryin' 'bout things you can control, 'cause you can control them. So ain't no use worryin'."

    That's almost as good as a Scripture verse for helping my worry muscles relax. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Are you in my head or something, Jody? :)

    I am the worst worry wart. Seriously. (Thanks a lot, Mom! I inherited it from you!)

    When I started this writing journey, I told myself I would take things as they come. There have been times I've been good at that. Times when I've been bad at it too.

    All in all, God has given me a surprising amount of peace, though. Maybe that's because so far, I've only entered a few contests and haven't queried extensively. At first I wanted to dive in, but then God showed me I needed to slow down, to be happy with where I was at. Reading posts like this helps me to see that getting to a certain "place" in my writing journey will not fulfill me or stop my worrying. Only resting in the fact that God has my best in mind will do that. Thanks for your honesty, Jody. It is so refreshing and so appreciated.

  7. Timely, so timely.
    Two of my fellow "Debs" have already replied (waving to Katie and Olivia). My book debuts in May.
    And, yes, I'm working to see that it debuts well. And I've had fun connecting with Olivia and Katie and Dani (who just may show up here later) as we cheer each other on.
    I've also worried.
    Too much.
    So ... as I said, this post is timely.
    I want to e-n-j-o-y where I am. Debuting your first novel (is that redundant) only happens once. I can do it wrapped in worried or I can do it "being happy."
    Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Thanks for this post. My book debuts in November, and I'm a huge worrier. I see all this marketing and social networking I need to do, and some I understand, some I don't. I keep telling myself this first book is about learning and building an audience, but I'm terrified of falling flat on my face.

    You're right - sometimes we just have to accept we've done all we can, and move on. As long as we know we've done things to the best of our ability, worrying changes nothing.

  9. I read a long time ago that every time we start to worry we should turn it into prayer. I must admit that this is easier said than done for me, especially for things -- like this path to publication -- that seem really big. But I'm improving. Thank you for the encouragement today, Jody.

  10. I really love this advice. And it seems common sense enough. But to shut off that worry switch in our brains is another thing. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. I remember when my book was released last year and I had that famous Steve Martin line from "The Jerk" in my head: "Things are going to start happening to me now!"

    Ha ha.

    Did my book become a blockbuster best-seller? No. And that's ok.

    What did happen was that many people have read my book, I met a lot of wonderful kids at school events, and have a relationship with a great publisher.

    And I learned that it's not about me or my's about the Lord and what He can do through me.

    Thanks for this reminder that it's all out of our hands!

  12. Hey everyone! Thanks for adding to the discussion today! I'm truly appreciating hearing everyone's thoughts on this.

  13. Great post, Jody. I think we all need an "on/off" button for worries! It drives me nuts!

    One thing I do to prevent the endless worry Loop? I practice slowing down my breathing. I tell myself to STOP thinking along those lines. And I say a few God-based mantras. While there's usually a layer of worry below my consciousness, I can at least stop the active worries!

  14. "No amount of fretting will make anything happen faster. ... All we can do is put our heart into writing the best stories possible and do everything we can to help market them. Then we have to step back, stop worrying, and remember to enjoy the journey."

    Thank you.

  15. I really, really needed this right now. There is so much craziness going on in my life right now, and it's all good stuff, but I've been worrying way too much. Thank you for this wonderful reminder :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  16. I've thought about that article a lot since you first shared it. I work in marketing, and this kind of "tipping point" phenomenon really interests me. I think the biggest thing I've learned in my day job of marketing is that it's never one thing that is going to sell your product. It's a combination of factors. Like you said, all you can do is focus on the things you can control. Great post!

  17. Another beautiful and thoughtful post, Jody. Thank you. :)

  18. We can waste so much creative energy on worrying! In a brief sunny spell a couple weekends ago I wandered through the gardens, checking emerging perennials and pulling away some of the winter's debris. I noticed a favourite peony didn't seem to be putting out many shoots and I began to worry that I was going to lose it. What to do? I realized I had prepared it well for winter and what happened now was no longer up to me. Sure enough, yesterday I looked again and there was an abundance of new shoots. Our prolonged cool weather had slowed it down, but in God's good time He was warming the earth and bringing forth the new growth. "To everything there is a season...." [Ecclesiastes 3:1]

    In our writing lives I think it's important to recognize what we have control over, and what we don't. Then we need to put our energy into doing our part and trust that God has the rest in hand.

  19. I can totally relate to this post, both because of my efforts as a fiction writer and because of my efforts as a graduate student. In grad school, there's only so much I can personally do, like you said. There are a lot of talented, intelligent people out there with graduate degrees, but only a select few get the good jobs, while everyone else continues to struggle just to keep up. It's a similar kind of thing with fiction writing: there are a lot of really great fiction writers out there, but only a select few get the major book deals and fame, while everyone else keeps trying and writing and trying....

  20. I'm fairly certain it was worry that landed me in the ER a few days ago... I just think it takes such a physical toll, and it really did on me.

    This is such a good reminder--for all of us, whatever point we're at in this journey. Thank you so much!

  21. "Worry less." Possibly the most brilliant writing advice I've heard in a long, long time. Thanks so much for your perspective, Jody. It relaxed me!

  22. What a welcome post. You are astonishingly good at writing the perfect blog post for me at the right time. Fantastic advice, even if it is so hard to follow. It's such a competitive industry that it's hard not to feel everything is passing me by.


  23. So glad to hear the post resonated, Graeme. With the speed of social media and seeing what everyone else is doing every day, we do tend to get an undue urgency.

  24. Courtney! I'm so sorry to hear about your trip to the ER! Book release time is stressful. There's so much to do. If only we could reduce the worry though! Hope you're doing better!


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