Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dipping the Quill Deeper: The Overnight Publishing Success Story

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

In 2000, Multnomah Books published a book by Bruce Wilkinson titled The Prayer of Jabez. This less-than-100-page book was deemed the first in a ten-book series known as The BreakThrough Series. I’m not sure the publishing staff at Multnomah could have, in the beginning, envisioned the monstrous success this book would become. To date, it has sold more than 10 million copies and sparked countless numbers of products. I suspect I know why.

In this book, which focuses on a short prayer by a barely known biblical character named Jabez (1 Chronicles 4), offered what we all hope for: prosperity in our work, God’s hand over us, and His protection from the evil one.

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me,
and keep me from the evil one."
 And God granted his request.

The timing had been right for such a little book concerning such a little prayer. People needed to hear this message. Christians—and those who danced on the hemline of faith—began to quote the prayer daily, almost as if the words themselves held some form of magic. Most Christians I know found themselves growing stronger in their faith as the days and weeks went on. Some did not (perhaps they were praying for all the wrong reasons). And many, such as myself, came to realize that “enlarge my territory” came with a great deal of responsibility on the part of the one praying. To have the territory in the first place means to work the territory. To “let your hand be with me” means to grab hold of that hand in our work and in our families, and being kept “from the evil one” means that you wake up in the morning and the devil has reason to fear.

This Means Work, Not Just Words

It’s easy to pray a simple prayer. To recite it to the nth degree. To hope the results are like those from the twitching of Samantha Stephen’s nose or Jeannie’s arms-crossed-blink. And God granted his request does not necessarily read “and God said, ‘Poof’ and it was done.”

It is clear that Jabez, like King David, was a man after God’s heart. He didn’t just pray—he cried out. He also saw that the enlarging of his territory meant the blessings of others; I say this because I don’t believe God would have blessed Jabez so that the man could hoard the blessings. Jabez was, in my mind, a man who worked diligently at his job but knew that the blessings and profits did not come only from that hard work but from trusting God with the everyday tasks. 

He also knew the devil had his eye on him and his prayer tells me that he didn’t rely on his own strength. Or his own abilities.

The Overnight Success

I have yet to meet a Christian writer who was an overnight success. Oh, it may seem they were because you’d never heard of them. Few had heard of them until one day—poof. But poof did not really happen. I promise you that behind that “easy success” was years of work and preparation. Work and prayer. Work and follow through. Work and more prayer. 

Take the author of The Prayer of Jabez for example. Before writing his “overnight success,” Dr. Wilkinson had been (and continues to be) a consummate teacher. He earned multiple degrees (one does not typically do this by slouching)—a B.A., a Th.B, a Th.M., and a D.D.—and served as a college professor. He had, years before penning Jabez, developed Walk Thru the BibleHe worked as a publisher and an editor and he served God by ministering in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Grass had hardly grown under his feet.

If This Is What You Want …

… then plan to work hard. Writing isn’t easy; if it was, everyone would do it, do it well, publish their work, and go on to be one of those “overnight success” stories. Writing to publication takes hours of poring over words. Research. Diligence. Late-night sessions in front of a computer when what you really want is to be asleep in bed. Revisions. Scrapping the whole project and starting over. Learning to take criticism and then putting that criticism to good use. It means not getting to do something you really wanted to do because you are under contract and the date is nearing. It means back cramps. Burning eyes. Headaches. Stiff and aching fingers. Meals that consist of a sandwich a few chips because you don’t have time to eat. 

To be a Christian author in particular—and in whatever level of success God ordains for you—means trusting Him with your work. Praying for an enlarged territory so that you can bless others (and knowing that an enlarged territory means more work, not less). And knowing that you know … there is an evil one with his eye on you. So, you’d best type with one hand and hold your sword with the other.

More on that next month …


Eva Marie Everson is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of its two conferences. She is the multiple award-winning author of nearly 40 works and has received awards as a speaker and Bible teacher. Eva Marie is often seen at writers conferences across the States. She served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild for several years, and taught as a guest professor at Taylor University in 2011. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy their grandchildren. They are owned by one small dog and a princess cat. 


  1. Another good one, Eva Marie. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Super good! And an amen to everything you said. Enlarging our territory cannot be about us. It is asking God to use our gifts (that He supplied in the first place) to build up the Church (not ourselves). When I was debating enrolling in seminary, I was afraid to make the leap because I wanted it so much. My friend asked me: "Will God get the glory if you do this, and then get published?" I had to think about that, but in the end, I knew God have given me something to share to build up women and help them in their relationship with Jesus. So I got the degree. And every day I write, it becomes less about me and more about Him. To be an instrument of His peace. And He has done amazing things. Thanks for the encouragement this morning, Eva. Awesome post. It should be required reading for every writers' conference conferee.

  3. You always encourage and inspire! Thank you Eva Marie.

  4. Love this, Eva! Thanks for showing the reality of the writing life. We do not sit around in our pjs in front of the fireplace writing our stories with a box of chocolates within reach. Writing is hard. But the hard part is what makes it good.

  5. Not a box of chocolates, no ... but by the end of every day, my desk looks like a cafe table that hasn't been bused yet. LOL

  6. Great post, Eva Marie! Yes, there is such thing as "overnight success" but it doesn't happen overnight.

  7. “Type with one hand and hold your sword with the other.” For me, Eva Marie, these words are another Nehemiah moment. Whoa!! Thank you!

  8. Thank you for your wonderful post. It's a great reminder that God's reason for blessing us and our writing is so we can bless and encourage others. Thank you for always glorifying God through your writing and your life. You are a blessing!