I truly believe that everyone should write a book. Because every person who writes a book will buy and read a whole load more – and together, we are a self-sustaining industry.
But so many writers are held back by fear and self-doubt.
In this article, Scott Allan outlines 8 fears that hold writers back and how to break through them.
“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” — Robert Benchley
When I finally got around to publishing my first book in 2015, I had spent years prior to that writing, rewriting, self-editing, and procrastinating on publishing before taking the plunge. Like most hopeful authors, my thoughts were drowning in the fears of becoming a real writer.
The uncertainty of what I was doing compounded with self-doubt and a host of negative beliefs about my talent held me back.
My dream of becoming a published author was at the mercy of the many fears holding back progressive action.
- “What if nobody likes my work?”
- “What if my book doesn’t sell?”
- “What if I start writing a book and don’t finish it?”
- “Who am I to write a book anyway?”
When I sat down to write, I found myself frozen at the keyboard. Voices danced around in my head As it turns out, I had to battle the greatest enemy I‘ve ever encountered: Myself.
But as I realized through a process of self-discovery, if you are destined to write a book, breaking through your fears will make all your dreams come true.
Writing is not easy. But wouldn’t you rather write badly than not at all?
We have to write badly before we write well. Have you ever seen someone sit down at the piano and start playing like Beethoven in the first week? You have to put the time in.
People are not concerned with your creative talent as much as they want you, the author, to provide them with a unique learning experience. Take your readers on a journey and they will follow you.
Here are 8 Fears that hold writers back from getting their books published.
Fear #1. Comparing yourself to world-class authors. [I’ll never be good enough syndrome]
Have you ever caught yourself saying: “I’ll never be as good a writer as [famous author’s name here].”
Comparing yourself to JK Rowling, Stephen King or James Patterson is never a good place to start building your confidence as a writer.
[Note from Joanna: I call this ‘comparisonitis,' something many of us struggle with!]
First of all, we can only start where we are.
You won’t become a world-class author who has written multiple New York Times bestsellers if you begin comparing yourself to the people who are already there. You’ll never measure up in your own mind.
Within no time, you will become frustrated and impatient. When this happens, your future novel becomes a “someday” project. In other words, I’ll “get back to it someday” when I am feeling more confident.
When we compare ourselves to bestselling writers who have the success we want, it knocks our self-esteem and confidence right down the ladder. When we compare, we can always find fault in ourselves. I am not good enough. I’ll never reach that level. My writing sucks.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to fail before you begin.
Everyone starts where they are. Let’s not forget that JK Rowling, although now a global success story, was once a single mother on welfare when she decided to write the first Harry Potter book.
As for Stephen King, he had no money for rent when Carrie was finally accepted. Before that, the book was only completed and published because Tabatha [King] rescued it from the garbage can after Stephen tossed it.
Lesson #1: Begin where you’re at. Give yourself permission to grow as a writer. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Learn as you write and remember that it is okay to write badly.
Only compare yourself to where you were a year ago. How far have you come?
Fear #2. “I never finish anything, so why should writing a book be any different.”
Yes, I know. Starting a book is hard. Finishing it is even more difficult. But if you start with a solid mindmap and spend a few hours on your outline, you’ll have a good-sized part of your book finished.
Writers who spend time preparing for what they are going to write have a much higher probability of finishing what they started.
Here is what you can do. Spend one hour creating a mind map of your book. This is essentially a brain dump of all the ideas for your book. You can do this mind map using sketch paper, in a notebook, or use digital mind mapping software such as XMind.
Next, identify the chapters of your book.
Write down the chapter titles on index cards or sticky notes. Then, identify the points you will talk about in each chapter. These are your subheadings.
If your fear is that you won’t finish your book, doing this exercise before you start to to write will set you up for publishing success.
Lesson #2: Finish what you start. Plan ahead and brainstorm all your book ideas. Turn this into an outline. With your book structure intact, you have a solid roadmap.
Fear #3. This type of book has been written before.
I write mostly nonfiction. To be more specific, self-help books. At the moment, there are approximately 138, 610 books in the self-help category.
Do you know what this means? There is a good chance that the book I am writing has hundreds [or thousands] of similar themes and competing titles. But there is one big difference: They haven’t been written by me.
So, even though I may write a book on how to overcome fear, I’m sure there are many other books that discuss the same topic.
I’m not worried. My book will be written in my way and told by me with my own examples and experience. Besides, lots of competition can be a good thing. It means it is popular, and you can challenge yourself to beat out the competition.
Scrolling through Amazon, you can see thousands of titles in every kind of niche and category. Take a look at the books in your niche and ask yourself, “How can I do better? What are the gaps I could fill in?”
Discover your voice through your writing and package your book with a killer cover, compelling book description, and a dynamic title.
Lesson #3: Write your book your way. You have a unique voice that will resonate with your readers. Discover what that voice is and use it to tap into your audience. Look for the gaps other books don’t cover and use that as your unique selling point.
Fear #4. I don’t have the time to write.
Let’s keep this one short. You can make the time. If you have an hour a day to watch Netflix, you have time. If you have thirty minutes to spend surfing the web, you have time.
It takes about one hour to write 1000 words if you average 30 words per minute. In 30 days, at 1000 words/day, you have your first draft ready.
No talent? That comes with practice and you’ll know what talent you have until you write, and, you can only develop that talent if you write.
So write it.
Lesson #4: Ignore your excuses. Focus for one hour a day for writing. If you can’t do one hour, target 30 minute writing sessions. 500 words a day is still progress.
[Note from Joanna: Here's how to find the time to write.]
Fear #5. I can’t afford to self-publish a book.
No money to publish? I know what that’s like. When I was desperate and needed cash, I sold my stuff on eBay. My vintage comic collection, collectables, whatever I had went up for auction or sale.
Why? Because years later I didn’t want to look back and say, “Oh yeah, I never published because I had no money.”
You can publish your book for under $800 if you budget it right.
Book cover: $40-250
Many authors when they start out use sites like Fiverr to contract for low budget covers. This doesn’t mean that the quality is bad. In fact, according to this article by Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com, you can hire a good designer on Fiverr to make an amazing cover.
If you have more money to play with you can go higher and outsource to 99 Designs or 100covers.com.
Book editing: $250-700 [varies on book length]
The editing of your book is, next to the cover, your most important investment. The cost of editing depends on book length but on average expect to pay 1.5 to 3 cents per word.
Formatting: $100-250 [varies on images used/graphics]
Formatting costs depends on the type of book, book length, and use of graphics/pictures. If you are a DIY author you can check out the book formatting templates at BookDesigner.com
For example, by cutting down on my coffee expenditures and junk food every week, I was able to save $500 within three months. That’s enough to afford self-publishing.
Lesson #5: Cut down on expenses.
You can afford to publish your book if you make changes in your spending habits. Budget ahead for your book costs and by the time you are finished your book, you will be able to afford the publishing costs.
Fear #6. I’m not an authority. Who will take me seriously?
I used to think that, in order to be taken seriously, you had to have a PhD. or be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But the fact is, most readers don’t care about this. They don’t want credentials.
Rather, they need a story to be entertained or a book that improves their lifestyle.
You make someone have a great day or give them the tools to forge a better life because of the material in your book and, that is the only authority you need. You will have done your job as an author.
Remember: Write what you know. Your knowledge, experience and unique insight is your expertise.
Did you make a million dollars from turning over homes last year? Have you created a system at work to improve productivity? Do you love animals and you can teach people how to expand the life of their pets?
There is an audience out there that wants the information, experience and guidance you have and are willing to invest in your book.
Lesson #6: Readers aren’t interested in your credentials or awards. Give them something worth reading that will change a life. If you can do that, you become the authority in your field.
Fear #7. I can’t handle criticism and I know critics will rip my writing apart.
As an author who is publishing work for the public to see, when you get a bad review, or someone mentions on social media that they didn’t like your book, it can crush your confidence. You feel like you have let down your fans and, worse than that, you disappointed yourself.
You will get criticism from people who read your work. Your editor will give feedback, your early beta readers will give you their two cents, and ultimately readers will chip in with their thoughts. But this is good. We can learn from this.
Get into the mindset that you want this constructive criticism on your writing. This makes it better and improves the quality. That means less negative reviews and more happy readers.
Lesson #7: Criticism will help you grow as a writer. Some critics will be negative. Other critics will give you constructive feedback. Focus on the latter and use it to improve your writing. Turn your critics into your greatest fans.
Fear #8. I heard that authors have to market their own books and I’m terrible at sales.
Yes, it is true that a writer is responsible for promoting their works to a specific audience. Regardless whether you are a self-published author or under contract through a traditional publisher, promoting and marketing your work is part of the business. But you don’t have to be a sales person pushing a product you don’t believe in.
Years ago I took a job in sales and I did horribly. I had the weakest sales record on the team. Why? I didn't like what I was selling. It wasn’t “MY THING” but someone else's’.
When it comes to marketing your own book, you will discover that selling your own books, although hard work, is fun.
Why? It’s yours. You believe in it. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have written the book in the first place. And, if you have some extra cash to spend on book promoting, there are lots of services out there that will do the promoting for you.
- How to Market a Book: For Authors by an Author by Joanna Penn
- Guerrilla Publishing: Dangerously Effective Writing and Book Marketing Strategies by Derek Murphy.
- How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon by Penny Sansevieri
Lesson #8: you don’t have to be a marketing guru to sell books.
You just have to know who to hire for the job and where your audience is hanging out.
The world is our stage and we are here to dance. The image of a writer locked up in a cabin isolated from the world is a fairy tale that we long for, but in reality, we are dancing on stage every day, practising our craft, making mistakes and learning how to laugh when things go wrong.
Embrace your fears and take action no matter what. You can Do It Scared and when you persevere through your personal obstacles, you will become the writer you have always dreamed of.
“When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice shame resilience, we can embrace our imperfections. It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection.” — Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
What is holding you back from writing and publishing your book? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Scott Allan is a multiple bestselling author who has a passion for teaching, building life skills, and inspiring others to take charge of their lives. Scott’s mission is to give people the strategies needed to design the life they want through intentional choice.
His most recent book Rejection Free For Authors teaches writers to conquer writing fears and overcome rejection. Download his master checklist to take your book from basic idea to published for free here: First Draft To Book Launch. You can find out more at: ScottAllanAuthor.com
[Stop sign photo courtesy Michael Mroczek and Unsplash. Mount Everest photo courtesy Chen Zhang and Unsplash. Donuts photo courtesy Patrick Fore and Unsplash. Child hiding photo courtesy of Caleb Woods and Unsplash.]