Thoughts on quality, quantity and the kind words of a dying man

During a time of lock-downs, quarantines, rampant violence and troubling uncertainty I hope you will find a measure of solace in these words.

One year ago, my book “Offerings” was released, and what an exciting day that was for me. In fact, I saw a post on Facebook that June 1 was the one-year anniversary of my first book signing. A friend of mine posted some pictures of that happy day, a day filled with smiles, handshakes and pats on the back. The book is a faith-based, motivational book with 365 entries, one for each day of the year.

However, in honesty I have to say the experience with my book during the past year has been a mix of feelings – rewarding at times and very frustrating at others. It’s been exhilarating on some days, aggravating on others and at times downright confusing.

I have to admit that early-on I got caught up in the numbers game. How many books would I sell? How many books could I sell? I suppose every author, if they are honest, has let their mind wander and had those thoughts. I also had to fight through feelings that the number of books I sold somehow equated to the quality of my work, which involved a lot of hours and a lot of very early mornings. To date, I have sold approximately 1,500 books, far less than I thought I would sell. Again, the number of books sold was always on my mind, so this is where the frustration and aggravation come into play. Hindsight always being 20/20, I clearly lost my focus and direction on why I wrote the book.

I have shared these feelings and sought advice from some author friends of mine (David Kroese and Gary Moore) who both assured me that I am far ahead of the average for books sold for a self-published author. I was astonished to learn during out conversations that most people who self-publish sell less than 25 books, primarily to family members only. Based on that, I have done well, but the feelings of failure and frustration, based on the quantity of books I sold, still persisted.

I pray daily, and one of those prayers was that my book would reach the right hands, that it would bless people and that it would be successful. My logic was that if folks in my neck of the woods loved the book – and many, many tell me they do – other people across the country would too. When sales were not what I wanted them to be I was frustrated and confused because I felt like, and often spoke, that I believe the words of my book are God-given words, yet the sales never, ever measured up in my mind. I have struggled mightily with those feelings daily during the past year.

I admit to these deep, heartfelt feelings and struggles and I bare my soul a little today because of a text message I received, ironically on June 1 that left me (literally) without words after I read it.
Here’s the story.

On several occasions I have had people buy five or six books to give to friends. One of those instances was several months ago from a friend of mine who lives in the northwest part of the United States. I received a text message from my friend and he told me that one of the books he gave away was to a man he knows – a man I learned yesterday that has a terminal illness. The man, who is in the last days of his life, sent a text message to my friend and asked him to reach out to me.

My friend forwarded me the dying man’s text. Here’s what it said:
“Please convey to your friend Jim Muir how much his book and writings have meant to me. Other than “The Word” his book has helped me so much in these last days. It has truly been a blessing.”

I read his comments over and over, and in a rarity for me, I was speechless. His words have weighed heavily on my mind since I read them and certainly caused me to do some serious soul-searching, and also to ask God’s forgiveness about my petty fixation on book sales. Consider this: here is a man I will never meet in this life. I will never know his name, his family or his ‘story.’ Yet, on his deathbed he felt compelled to reach out to let me know that my humble book – the one that has sold ‘only’ 1,500 copies – has, in his words, “truly been a blessing” and helped him during his transition from this life to a face-to-face meeting with his Savior. His words make book sales seem very irrelevant … don’t they?

Without a thought about book sales, let me conclude with this thought. If all those long early morning hours, all the writing, re-writing, editing and proof-reading were accomplished solely to help this unknown man during the final days of his mortal life – then I can honestly tell you it was well-worth the effort. And while I don’t know this man, God certainly does!

In facing death, this man taught me a valuable lesson about life. That lesson is that “quality” always exceeds “quantity” and there is not a single thing more important than sharing the love and grace of Jesus and being a blessing in somebody’s life, even if it’s a total stranger.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and God Bless You!

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