For a writer, this is the greatest age in recorded history: Never have there been more open doors, more opportunities, or more access to create a book, find an audience, and build a career. Yet some authors struggle with reaching their goals. Guest contributor Mike Fishbein (How to Write a Book in 10 Days) explores five common fears that block authors—and offers advice to help you achieve your breakthrough.
Despite the amazing opportunity that self-publishing presents, many aspiring writers and authors are held back, not by the physical act of writing, but by unhealthy mindsets. For many, the challenge is not finding time to write or actually writing, it’s overcoming self-limiting beliefs.
Below are a list of the most common fears and objections I hear people expressing about self-publishing and what I’ve experienced myself. First I will state the fear, and then I will provide my tips and advice for overcoming it.
Related: How to Publish a Book
How to Overcome Your Fears and Finally PUBLISH Your Book
When I first started blogging, I would get a huge adrenaline rush every time I was about to hit publish. I would start second-guessing myself, or be concerned about what the reaction from readers might be. Anyone in the world could read my post! After I hit publish I would check back frequently for comments and to see what people were saying about it on social media.
After publishing more blog posts, the anxiety turned more towards excitement. I would be excited for people to get exposure to my ideas and for the opportunities it might present for myself.
Many writers, including myself when I was first getting started, experience shyness over sharing their thoughts with the entire world. This was especially true when I was sharing my opinions or emotions.
My advice for overcoming fear of vulnerability:
- Start small. Try tweeting or posting a status update on Facebook or LinkedIn. You’ll notice your hands won’t get cut off. It will reduce your anxiety for future shares and help you start sharing more and more.
- No one actually cares what you write. Most people won’t even notice if you don’t share it with them. If you write under a pen name, they most certainly won’t notice. People are always more concerned with their own self images, and probably think a lot less about you than you think.
- If anyone thinks less of me for self-publishing, I think of less of them. If someone won’t hire me or work with me, I wouldn’t want to work with or for them. It would clearly be a bad fit.
2. “I don’t have anything unique to write about.”
I hear from people all the time who think they don’t have anything unique to say. Well, it’s probably true that some people live extremely boring lives, but I would guess that if you’re reading this that you’re at least in the 60th percentile of interesting and have something that you could write about.
My advice for overcoming fear of not being unique:
You don’t have to be unique. In fact, competition can be a good thing. If competing books are doing well, it shows there is demand for books on the topic. You don’t have to “beat” your competition to benefit from self-publishing. Maybe a potential client finds you and then sees that you wrote a book and that helps boost their perception of you and leads to a sale. In addition, many people will read multiple books on the same topic. Books are not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can benefit a little or you can benefit a lot, but it’s not binary.
We all have something to share. Share your stories and opinions. Those are always unique. Write a book while researching or learning about something you’re interested in. Or, if you have to, outsource the writing.
3. Fear of Failure: “What if no one buys my book?”
What if no one likes it? What if the book fails? What if all the time I put into my book is wasted? What will I tell my friends, family, and colleagues?
My advice for overcoming fear of failure:
There’s always a risk of failure, but you can’t succeed if you don’t try. Accept that failure is a possibility, but don’t let it cripple you. If it was a guaranteed easy success, everyone would do it. Your ability to tolerate failure will enable you to seize opportunities that others will be scared away by.
4. Imposter’s Syndrome: “I’m not an ‘expert.’”
Many people think they need to be an “expert” in order to write a book on the topic. They think that they need to have years of experience and be one of the world’s best in the field. That may have been true during the old publishing era, but it’s certainly not true now.
My advice for overcoming expertise insecurity:
- Part of the beauty of self-publishing is that you don’t need to be an expert at all. Anyone can do it! Self-publishing has lowered barriers. To get a publishing deal you have to be an “expert,” but anyone can, has, and will self-publish. Self-publishing is the new blogging.
- As a “non-expert,” you can relate better to your audience. You may have more relation to the challenges your audience is likely to be experiencing, the questions they may have, and/or the way they might be thinking about it.
- There must be some small component of the topic that you’re the best at. Expert is a relative term. I wrote a book on conducting customer development interviews, rather than about Lean Startup as a whole. This post is about how to think positively about writing, rather than how to make a million dollars self-publishing.
5. Perfectionism: “It needs to be 110% perfect.”
Perfectionism holds many people back from publishing their book or even finishing a chapter. Of course your book should be valuable to readers, and as good as you can possibly make it, but it doesn’t need to be more than 100% perfect.
My advice for overcoming perfectionism:
- Spending a year on something without knowing if people actually want it is insanely risky. Getting feedback as fast as possible gives you more time to iterate or spend time on other opportunities.
- If the book is truly solving a need and delivering valuable information, readers probably won’t mind a few small typos. It does look unprofessional, but it would not completely deplete the value of your book.
- It’s so easy to edit on Amazon. You just reupload your book file and it takes about 12 hours to go live. You don’t even need to stop selling the existing version. If you realize you made a mistake, you can always edit it after you publish. You can even take the book down if it’s really that bad.
Mike Fishbein is the self-published author of more than half-a-dozen books, including How to Write a Book in 10 Days. The founder of Startup College, he’s written on customer development, networking, and content marketing. He has been published in Business Insider, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, Convince & Convert, and more. Mike’s personal blog is mfishbein.com.