by Vinnie Kinsella
Preparing to put your writing out for the world to judge can be scary. When you’re self-publishing, that fear can be intensified because every decision about the book is a reflection of your tastes. This fear can begin manifesting in your behind-the-scenes decisions, leading to unnecessary delay, expense, and heartache.
Having spent the better part of my career working with self-publishing authors, I’ve seen the sneaky ways fear does this. Let’s look at four actions that might indicate fear is sabotaging your project. The good news is that once you realize you’re making choices based on fear, you can step back and do the emotional work needed to move forward with confidence instead.
1. Pushing Back the Release Date
Once you’ve set a release date for your book, it’s wise to stick to it. Of course, there are legitimate reasons to push back that date—such as needing to accommodate for production delays or wanting to build in more time for pre-release marketing and publicity—but pushing back a release date can also become a stalling tactic. What easier way to avoid potential criticism of your writing than to withhold it from the world?
When you recognize this is what you are doing, a change in perspective might help. If you know you’ve done all you can to make a good book, then holding it back from your readers is robbery. Instead of thinking about the few people who might dislike your book, think instead about all the people who will love your book.
This one for me is personal. When I decided to release Fashionably Late: Gay, Bi, and Trans Men Who Came Out Later in Life, I knew there were people out there who would respond to it negatively simply because it has LGBTQ+ content. The fear of having to deal with potential haters made me look for reasons to delay the book’s release. Ultimately, though, I had to remind myself that this book was designed to help people and that it was worth the risk of receiving negative responses to get it into the hands of its real readers. When I got my first letter of thanks from someone who was deeply impacted by the book, I was so glad I didn’t let my fear rob that person.
2. Making Changes for the Sake of Making Changes
Your book will never be perfect. Never.
But with proper editing and revision, it can be magnificent. And there is nothing wrong with magnificent! Still, some authors will revise endlessly in pursuit of a finished product they hope no one can find fault with.
This usually results in a whole lot of changes that do nothing to improve the clarity of the writing. They simply restate what was already stated. If you’ve gone through all the stages of professional editing with your book but just can’t stop tinkering with it, you might be letting perfection become the enemy of magnificence.
When you recognize you’re doing this, it’s time to let go. There’s no moving forward to the next book until you let go of the one you’re currently holding on to. Trust in all the hard work you and your editors have done to shape the content—then let readers enjoy it. And while they do, start working on your next work of magnificence!
3. Giving Too Much Weight to Uninformed Opinions
Publishing requires teamwork. This is why you hire professional editors, book designers, and publicists to handle the tasks they specialize in and to advise you along the way.
Even with a skilled team, though, there are times you want some outside opinions. Maybe you can’t decide between two awesome cover comps your cover designer sent you, so you take to Facebook for a vote. Before you know it, you’re inundated with comments from friends and family who have ideas for a new cover. Then other people start chiming in with ideas for a new title. As the comments begin to pile up, you begin to second-guess the decisions you and your team have already made. Suddenly you’re full of doubt and ready to stop the presses entirely. This might sound far-fetched, but I’ve seen it happen. When it does, the root of the problem is always the same: giving too much weight to uninformed opinions.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for outside opinions as long as you give those opinions context. If you’ve written a romance novel and your cover has clear visuals that indicate the genre, your friend who reads only dystopian fantasy novels might not have the best insight into whether or not your cover is a keeper.
The danger of listening to too many uninformed opinions is that you can find yourself working too hard to please everyone and not working hard enough to please your target audience. The fact is, your book is not for everyone. Before you start opening up to outside opinions, make sure you have a clearly defined audience in mind. Doing so will help you sort through all the feedback you receive to figure out which responses should carry the most weight.
4. Adding to the Book’s Cost without Adding to Its Value
If you aren’t confident in the value of your own book, it’s tempting to try to add the perception of value in other ways. Opting for the most expensive paper, adding custom illustrations, creating a hardback version—all of these add cost to the book’s production, but they don’t always add to its value.
If you’ve written a guidebook, the cost of adding color images makes sense because the images enhance the content. If you’ve written a memoir, adding color images likely just adds cost. The more expensive your production costs, the more you’ll have to charge readers for the final product. This can do you more harm than good.
If given the choice between buying a cheaper book by a known author and a more expensive book by an unknown author, which do you think most readers will pick?
What readers want is a good read in a quality package, but they don’t want to pay for extra packaging. If your book is good, people will be just fine with a well-designed paperback or ebook. There’s no need for more. Save the fancy paper and color illustrations for when you hit it big and there’s demand for a special gift edition.
You Can Do It!
If you encounter any of these concerns in isolation, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if you find yourself facing down several of these, or circling back to the same one repeatedly, it might be the work of an inner saboteur. Take control
Vinnie Kinsella‘s love for book creation began in the second grade, when he and his fellow students wrote and illustrated a story about the adventures of an ice-cream-loving giraffe. As an adult, he has assisted in publishing over 200 books. He is the author of A Little Bit of Advice for Self-Publishers.