Who Is Your Sanballat ?

When Sanballat heard that we were building the wall of Jerusalem, he was very angry and upset. He started making fun of the Jews.  Sanballat talked with his friends and the army at Samaria and said, “What are these weak Jews doing? Do they think we will leave them alone? Maybe they think they can finish building in only one day. They cannot bring stones back to life from these piles of trash and dirt. These are just piles of ashes and dirt!”

This month I’m reading Nehemiah during my devotional time. On February 21, as I studied Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, I felt God prompting me to ask: “Lord, who is my Sanballat?”

We all have some adversary who tries to discourage us — a negative voice that seeks to destroy our work.  Many times our enemies gossip and slander in the shadows, working in stealth-mode.  I rarely pay attention to what others say about me or LPC.  As long as I’m doing God’s work, His opinion is the only one that matters.  But that February morning while I read how Nehemiah sought to rebuild the wall, I felt called to pray for insight into any unseen attacks lodged against our work.

Yesterday, as I prepared to leave the Florida Christian Writers Conference,  an individual sought me out to warn me that someone at the conference had told others: “Signing with LPC will kill your writing career.”  This Sanballat claimed that authors who signed with small publishers would never generate enough book sales to earn the respect and attention of a larger house.  Literary agents and large publishing houses DO look at sales numbers.  Your book’s sales and reviews are two indicators of how well your writing resonates with readers.

But if an author cannot succeed with a small press they probably will not succeed with a large house.  Jesus said as much when he shared the story of the talents.  Every “one talent” book contract is a chance to succeed.  Make the most of that opportunity and more chances will come your way.

A small press is a great place to learn how the publishing process works and what’s expected of the author.  Yes, it’s minor league ball, but you’re in the game.  You are learning what it takes to become a successful author.  If you are humble enough to start with a small press, odds are you will learn sooner rather than later how to control your ego, work with your editors, and treat your writing as a product you create, not an extension of yourself.

If you can afford to wait five years … ten years … longer … to land that three-book contract with one of the Big Five houses, God bless you.  That’s a noble goal and one I applaud.  Just know that the same hard work required to succeed with a small press is necessary with a large house.  In fact, the work and expectations are greater.

One final comment about the Sanballats in our lives: In chapter three of Nehemiah there is a verse that shows the corrosive influence of those who gossip and slander in secret.  “Their nobles did not lift a finger to help their supervisors.” – Nehemiah 3:5.  Notice how the nobles, those who believed themselves too good to get their hands dirty, refused to work.  This, too, is a consequence of listening to the Sanballats around us.  Not only do they seek to discourage those hard at work — they destroy the work ethic of others.

Refuse to listen to the Sanballats in your life.  They come only to steal and kill and destroy.  Work where you are, make the most of every opportunity, and leave the results to God.