95,000,000 Shades of Success

95,000,000 Shades of Success


The 2012 earnings reports were in and no shocker here, E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, was at the top with over $95,000,000 earned in 2012. Yeah, you read that right, all of those zeroes are supposed to be there.

As I watched the news program I found myself having a little talk with Jesus (or, more like a whine-fest), “Why is it like that, Lord? Why is it that a book like that sells like that? Why is material like that so successful?”

But Jesus is good about bringing me back to the truth when I get all worked up over injustices, because it is an injustice. It’s an injustice when people—including many Christians—are more willing to spend money on a message about sex than on character building, encouraging, hope or healing. The demand is high for escape-ism, and painfully low for truth and reality. Sex and erotica are perfect avenues of escape into more me-ism (that is, the study of making ME happy, because I’m all that really matters) and those are avenues that earn writers (in those markets) a lot of money.

As great as having financial success sounds, it’s not what I am about. I don’t write Christian devotionals and articles and Bible studies because I want to be rich and famous. And if that was my motive, God wouldn’t bless it anyways. The more paychecks I’ve earned over the past year (and I use the term “paycheck” loosely), the more God has purged my heart of improper motives and given me multiple opportunities to bail on this whole writing-for-publication-in-the-Christian-market thing.

But you wrote a book, Rebecca, you’re an author. Surely you have some financial success in that regard?

Well—the truth is, my last (and only) commission check for my self-published Bible study was a little over $10, and that was for selling nearly 50 copies over nine months’ time. I make about $0.24 per book sold. So, contrary to popular belief, being a writer/author is not synonymous with money or glorious stress-free days of sipping mochas while watching the bank account grow with each online sale.


(The above is a photo of a recent “paycheck” I earned)

Of course, there are exceptions to this. And I’m not saying all writers (namely, Christian writers) are simple folk like me. But I’m pretty sure if you talked with those “successful” writers, they would all say the same thing: If you want to make a living as a Christian writer, be prepared to work hard, sacrifice much, and make some investments of time and resources long before you’re earning that much desired “nice” paycheck.

I know this post is coming across as whiney but I am not whining, I’m merely sharing my heart as I’ve wrestled with this issue. A lot of you who read my blog are writers as well, or are involved in another Christian ministry of some kind where you’re tempted to judge your “success” in that area (heck, I am even tempted to judge my “success” as a Christian parent). I’m here to tell you right now, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment if you let go of your expectations; I mean really let them go—your expectations for money, success, or even how many people will be helped in whatever ministry you do.

In His response to my prayer, Jesus made it clear that there is only one shade of success as a Christian writer, or even as a Christian in general, and it is measured by how I choose to apply in my own life (live out through my behavior and my words) the following:

•Seek His will above my own (Matthew 6:33)

•Give all my expectations/rights to God—they were never mine to begin with (Job 38-42; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

•Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by making this about ME; it’s about Him and the fact that He really does know what’s best. Make it my goal to listen to Him and follow Him wherever He leads (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 6:6)

•Seek peace and pursue it (not the hippy, new age peace, but the inner personal peace that comes through living out my God-given purpose), and I’ll find that the success I was after was already a gift I’d been given (Psalm 34:14-15; 1 Peter 3:11-12; Psalm 119:165; Philippians 4:7) 

7 thoughts on “95,000,000 Shades of Success

  1. Pingback: When Your Heart is Wrecked | Rebecca Aarup

  2. Love your unabashed transparency!! Thank you, for it is just as if you were listening to my heart! I don’t see your post as whining, but kindly confirming. Again, thank you!

  3. Rebecca,

    I am amazed at how your devotion/blogs come at just the right time for me. I got up this morning before 5 a.m. to write a thought that came to me, lest I would forget it later. It was for a book I started 37 years ago and have decided to finally finish—about my mother. (I just turned 72, so I must hurry to get it finished.)

    Only God knows my ups and downs about this writing thing, but undoubtedly He revealed to you just what I needed to read—so thanks from the bottom of my heart for allowing God to use you for writers like me.

    And we may be blessing more people than we will ever know. I was at a large Fall Festival Sunday afternoon and a man I had never met came up to me and said that his niece forwards him my Knee-Mails…he copies them and gives them to prisoners at his prison ministry. I thought, “Lord, you are using them for your glory.” Maybe that is God’s way of using me to minister to people in prison, as He said to do in His Word. The Lord knows I am a “chicken” and lack the qualities of courage and bravery to go in person, so He is sending my material.

    Rebecca, you are young—you have time to receive multiple shades of Glory for your work in writing. I honestly believe that with your talent, one day you will be financially rewarded. You will deserve it! Keep on writing! Keep on encouraging writers like me!

    Rachel Quinley

    • I love you Rachel, and I love your heart! You have been such an encouragement to me since I began this writing adventure. Thank you for all the notes and encouragement you have sent me, because God has greatly used you in my life!

      I’m so blessed and honored and HUMBLED that God chose to use what was on my heart to help you today. He always amazes me. He is good!

  4. Preach! It is startling that a book like that has been read by so many. An earthly escape that plants a seed, I think. I wish you blessings on all your endeavors. Keep up all your good work!

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