A man will never know what it means for a woman to give birth to a child. A person who has never hiked at a greater height than on the hills in the Netherlands (the highest is just over over 300 meters), cannot possibly feel what one experiences on the top of Mount Everest. And a Dutchman whose knowledge of other cultures is limited to the traditional dress of the women in some old fishing villages in Holland, will continue to wonder what could possibly motivate someone to trek through India or Vietnam.
Likewise, a person who has not yet written a book, cannot possibly imagine how it feels to hold the first copy of a new publication that one has written in his/her hands. From time to time I have tasted this sublime experience and last week was an other such occasion. My newest book—this time a ‘devotional’ with 366 page-length meditations (in the Dutch language)—one for each day of the year—was delivered by the printer at the head office of the Adventist Church in the Netherlands. When I received an e-mail with that news, I jumped in my car for the half hour ride to the office, in order to see to book, and to actually feel it. At this moment a copy lies next to me on the couch. It will, no doubt, be there for a few weeks, so that I will have the delight to, once in a while, pick it up and read a paragraph or two.
This quite naturally raises the question in my mind (and in that of some others) what my next book will be. To be honest, I am not yet sure. For some time I will still be quite busy with my assignment in Belgium. But I hope and pray that I may remain healthy enough for quite some time to remain active as a writer. Should I maybe this time write another book in English? I have given some thought to working on a devotional book for the English-language market in the SDA Church. But I have to face the reality that the writing of ‘devotionals’ for that market is a privilege for some prominent Adventist (American) authors and that it is not very likely that I will be able to join that select little group. But, ‘no worries’, there are plenty of other projects that are already vaguely taking shape in my mind.
From time to time some colleagues or other church members make allusions, obtuse or otherwise, to the undoubtedly generous amounts of royalties that I get from my books and articles. Well, let me reveal the truth. One does not write articles and books for Adventist publishers if one aspires to become rich. Looking back at the last ten or twenty years, there probably were a few years in which I received a few thousand dollars in royalties, but I guess there were as many years when total royalty income did not go beyond a thousand bucks.
Twice I have written a quarterly for the weekly Bible study in the worldwide Adventist Church. The effort is rewarded with a one-off payment of a few thousand dollars. A few years ago I was happily surprised when I received a check of similar size from an Adventist publisher in South America. One of my books had been translated into Portuguese and had been printed in an edition of some 400.000 copies—if I remember correctly. Sometimes, an article will bring the author a few hundred dollars. Yesterday I received a mail message from Ministry magazine, informing me that my article Creating a climate for the discovery of truth: A perspective on doctrinal development will shortly be published and will earn me a payment of 250 dollar. I will not have much difficulty in spending that with Amazon.com.
These, however, are the exceptions rather than the rule. I have never expected normal royalties for anything that I have written for the Adventist Church in the Netherlands. Many Adventist journals in Europe and elsewhere ‘borrow’ freely, often without even asking. And when they do ask, if there is a payment it is rather symbolical. From time to time I do some Googling and discover that somewhere in the world some publication that I wrote has been translated and published. Usually the translator benefits considerably more than the original author!
But I have no reason to complaint (although I do not discourage publishers from sending me checks). No one forces me to write. I just love to do it. And my (quite frequent) extra reward comes when someone tells me or writes me that he/she has enjoyed, or even benefitted from, something I wrote. In the end, that is what counts. And, certainly, what also counts is this fabulous feeling when, at last, you hold the fruit of your labor in printed form in your hands. That feeling is more than money can buy.