How the Right Mindset Leads Writers to Success

And How the Wrong Mindset Is Bad for Everybody, Especially Writers

Recently we had to send out the dreaded “OP” letter again. It goes something like this:

Dear Author and Agent:

We are writing to inform you that due to low marketplace demand for your book, we have decided to discontinue keeping it in stock.


The Publisher

“OP,” in other words, stands for “out of print,” and publishers send it to authors and their agents when demand for a book falls so low, the publisher can no longer justify keeping the book in their warehouse.

The ideal, of course, is for a book to stay in print forever. The first book Baker Publishing Group (the company I serve as an editorial director) ever published over seventy-five years ago, More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen, is still in print. And if a book stays in print for twenty or thirty or fifty years, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Courtesy of Unsplash

The cases that grieve me are when physical books go OP after just twelve months. These days publishers often keep the ebook version in print because it costs very little to do so, but in an OP situation the physical copies become unavailable. And it’s a sad day in the life of a book.

Here’s the thing I don’t want you to miss about authors whose books go OP that quickly: About two years prior they received what so many writers pine for—the Holy Grail of ambitious writers the world over, the great and mighty, the glorious book contract!

Unfortunately, if an author’s book goes OP in twelve months or less, it will be really hard for that author to get another book deal. So it’s just bad for everybody, particularly the author. In fact, one could argue that in a case like this a book contract is more of a curse than a blessing.

The Right Mindset

How can we writers stay out of this predicament? Great question, and the answer has everything to do with how you define success.

If you define success by whether or not you win a book contract, you are headed in the wrong direction. Now don’t get me wrong. Book contracts can be an important means to an end, but they are not the goal. They are functional; they are a tool, nothing more.

The right definition for success is to write a compelling book that goes out to thousands of readers. I know one author who defines success by selling 100,000 copies of a book in the first twelve months. That’s too high a bar for most authors, but my point is this author is aiming in the right direction.

So how do you make sure you write a great book that sells thousands of copies? You write a great book that sells thousands of copies by doing the day-in, day-out work of craft and generosity.

You write a lot, and you share a lot. You keep writing until you become a good writer, which just about everyone can become. And you share what you’ve written—over and over again. You love on your tribe. You serve readers. You help them with the real needs they really have, which might mean addressing a felt need first so that eventually you can address a deeper one.

Finally, you decide that you’re in this for the long haul. If you make up your mind to stick with it no matter how long it takes, you’re all but guaranteed to succeed.

The Really Good News

So that’s it. No magic formula. No silver bullet. The recipe for success is deciding to show up day after day to become a better writer and to serve people.

The really good news here is you have a lot of agency in whether or not you succeed. You don’t get to decide whether a publisher picks up your book; that’s not up to you. You do get to decide whether you show up and do the work. And as long as you keep taking up that challenge, you really can’t lose.

And consider this: How would you rather spend your time? Fact is, if you’d be happier doing something else, cut your losses and go for it. Most writers I know wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. The human heart was made to do the work of its calling, and if you’re a writer, your calling is to write and serve people with your writing.

It is a sacred vocation, worthy of your best efforts. Do your best to enjoy the journey.

Would you like to design a writing process that aligns with who you are and your season of life? I created a PDF worksheet called ‘My Writing Process’ that will help you do just that.

Click here to download the ‘My Writing Process’ worksheet.

Question: What did you find most helpful in this blog post? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi, Chad! What I found most helpful is how you advise we not worry about what we cannot control but rather find our success through showing up and doing the work. I found this part especially encouraging: “The human heart was made to do the work of its calling, and if you’re a writer, your calling is to write and serve people with your writing.” Thank you, Chad, for serving people who write.

  • Donna Stearns

    Your blog encouraged me in he direction I am going. Keep on keeping on. Promote God in the writing and He will take care of promoting His word through me taking it where He wants it to go, whether it be to many or few. It will go to those He plans. I am enjoying the journey.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Wonderful, Donna! Thanks for writing in!!

  • Love this post, Chad! Fantastic advice.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Thanks, Bo, for taking the time to say so!

  • Remembering it’s better to wait until the time when my book can really do well keeps me going when I just wish a publisher would take me on. Knowing God likes me just as much now as he will when I’m a ‘real’ author doesn’t hurt either.
    This is a marathon and, like these others, I can’t quit even when it would be easier and even more lucrative to find something else to do. It’s God’s message and as such, he will find a way to get it to people when the time is right in his eyes. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Great perspective, Cheri. Thank YOU!

  • Thanks, Chad! I found the first part of this piece a little… well, terrifying. 🙂

    I hope so badly that our books remain useful to many folks for many years to come. Only time will tell!

    Thankful for you and the team. The next 18 months should prove interesting!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Indeed, Ryan! Glad to be on the journey with you.

  • Aaamen. Ditto these comments!!! Thank you once again for sharing your stories and insights for us writers. I’m encouraged and inspired to show up regularly, embracing the “sacred” calling in my writer’s heart to serve real people, with real needs, in a way that so touches the spirit, it’ll never go OP.

    Thx for the ‘My Writing Process’ resource, btw!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Shannon, love it, you’re welcome, and thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

  • Rashawnda Dunbar

    Chad, this is an amazing post and I’m so inspired! My favorite line: The human heart was made to do the work of its calling….It really resonated with me and I’m encouraged more than ever to do my heart’s work! Thanks for so graciously sharing your gift.

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re very welcome, Rashawnda, and thanks for commenting!

  • I agree with @disqus_TEB7BkPle3:disqus! You’ve done an awesome job of helping me develop the right mindset, Chad! Thanks for this post.

    • Chad R. Allen

      My pleasure, Scott! Thanks for choosing that mindset again and again.

  • Sarah

    So encouraging, Chad. Thanks so much for all you do to serve us and to keep us inspired!

    • Glad you found it helpful, Sarah. Thanks for commenting!

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re welcome, Sarah, and thanks for taking the time to comment!