Tag s | Book Business

The Curse of the Writer

I have more conversations with clients about their feelings of anxiety, apprehension or insecurity than almost any other topic. Nearly every writer I have ever worked with as an editor or an agent, at some point in their career or in the process, severely doubt themselves.

Doubts occur in the midst of creation. (“They are going to find out the truth…I have no talent.”)
Doubts occur when the “letter” arrives from the editor. (“They hate my book. I’m a failure!”)
Doubts occur when the disappointing royalty statement arrives. (“Why do I work so hard for so little?”)
Doubts occur … just because…

It is the curse of the writer. Writing is an introspective process done in a cave…alone. It is natural to have the demons of insecurity whisper their lies. And, in a cave, the whispers echo and build into a cacophony of irrepressible noise.

Once I had an author with dozens of titles in print and over three million books sold turn to me and say with a somber voice, “Do I have anything left to say? Does anyone care?” I didn’t quite know how to reply so tentatively said, “Well, I like it!” The author responded with a harrumph, “But you are paid to like it.” After we laughed, we agreed that this lack of confidence would pass and ultimately it was a normal thing to feel.

When all is written and done there is the extraordinary feeling of accomplishment when the book is finished and that ministry of words begins. However the doubts don’t go away because critics will write reviews. One or two stars show up on Goodreads or Amazon. Or, even worse, no one cares enough to write a review at all!

Writers complain, “But my book has only sold 3,000 copies!” Instead of focusing on the few, consider focusing on those who bought the book. Put all 3,000 people into one room. Imagine it. An auditorium filled with people, wall to wall. And every person in that room has paid money to read your book. And then you walk out onto the stage to give the glory and honor to our God. That can help put things in perspective.

I hope we don’t write for fame. I hope we don’t write for our own glory. We write because we must. There is something in you that must get out. So many authors will say, “I can’t not write!”

Maybe your magazine article arrives on a doorstep the very day that reader is struggling with a wayward teenager. You’ll probably never hear from that reader, but your words are a salve to the soul. Books aren’t the only way to get published.

Maybe your blog or podcast is forwarded by someone to a person in need. Someone you don’t know.

My advice? Know that the curse of doubt is normal. See it for what it is, simply part of the process. Embrace it but don’t let it debilitate!

 

[a version of this post originally ran in September 2010.]

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Our Rapidly Changing Culture

Every year Beloit College creates a “Mindset List” which reflects the culture that the incoming Freshman class have grown up experiencing. It helps their faculty know how to relate to these incoming students. Click here for this year’s Mindset List.

I download this list every year and read it with increasing wonder at the speed of our cultural changes.

The college graduating class of 2014 was born in 1992. Think about that for a second. If you are a writer, you can no longer assume that your audience will understand your cultural references. In a mere six years, today’s 18-year-olds will be adults…possibly with families and jobs and children…they will be reading your books and articles.

And you will only be six years older than you are now.

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Retail is Dead! Or is it?

You’ve read the news. This calendar year bankruptcies or total closures were announced by Toys R Us, Gymboree, Bebe, American Apparel, Guess, Rue 21, The Limited, Gander Mountain, Vitamin World, and Family Christian Stores. Sears and Kmart announced last Friday that they were closing another 63 stores in January, on …

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Deadlines Are Friends, Not Nemeses

When is your next deadline? What? You don’t have one? Why not? Aren’t you a writer? I know some writers create fine prose or poetry without deadlines—I just don’t know how they do it. “But,” you may protest, “I don’t have a contract yet. How can I have a deadline?” …

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Be Published? or Be Read?

Is your goal “being published” or “being read?” What pieces of writing and publishing advice do professional agents and editors wish would go away…forever? I asked that question of some of my friends in the industry (yes, I have friends, and most are much smarter than me). The last two …

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Vocabulary Word of the Day: Bifurcation

Some words are specific to a certain field of endeavor and some are flexible, used to describe something in a variety of arenas. One such word is our vocabulary word of the day: bifurcation. Simply, it involves splitting something into two distinct parts. The prefix “bi” indicates two, so it …

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Marketing vs. Publicity

by Steve Laube

Recent I have run into a common misunderstanding. Some writers use the words “marketing” and “publicity” (or P.R. “public relations”) as synonyms when actually one is a subset of the other.

There are marketing departments that have a publicity division or a marketing department that outsources their publicity. The two go hand in hand and should compliment each other.

The best way I can define it is to say that:

Marketing is all about creating multiple impressions.

This can be through ad placement, in-store displays, banner ads, reviews, contests, etc.

Publicity is all about meeting the author.

This is done through radio and television as well as through all forms of social media.

The difference is that author “feels” publicity because they are involved. They do not “feel” marketing, per se.

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Publishing is a Global Business

Recently a list of the world’s largest publishers was posted by “Publisher’s Weekly.” It reminded me again of how large the publishing business really is and how easy it is to forget that fact. Below is the top ten listed along with their sales revenue. Rank 2017 Publishing Group or …

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We Need More Reader Segments

In the bookselling world, books are categorized with a coding system developed by a collaborative industry organization called the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). They own and manage the BISAC codes, an acronym for “Book Industry Standards and Communications.” No matter how you are published, you will be required to …

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Someone Stole My Book Idea!

Years ago, a successful author friend of mine contacted a group of us, horrified at the discovery that another author’s most recent release centered on the very same little-known historical event as her just-turned-in book. What should she do? What if that author—or readers!–thought she’d stolen the other author’s story …

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