Q: Do you ever wish that you never started writing?
“I am a new author, with two books self-published to date. I have a good life, a supportive husband and children, but for some reason I’m not happy because all I think about is book sales and trying to make it big. I have never in my life wanted anything more. I check my sales multiple times a day and question whether I am good enough when I see that my books aren’t selling. I have no idea what I should write next. Lately, I’ve been thinking it would have been better to never have started this journey.”
Do you ever feel ready to give up?
A: This question demonstrates the essential need for both dream-affirming and reality-testing along this crazy, creative path we have chosen to travel. Allow me to answer in two parts.
First, a bit of of humbug: self-published writers rarely make bank. Professional authors published through traditional houses or respected small presses rarely do either. Most must also teach at universities, or make a living from speaking engagements and a host of other cobbled-together activities. Only a lucky few make the big-time. Writing is something one does to share a story that impacts others. If you hit it big, that’s a bonus.
Now, if you wish to move more books in this industry, as either a self-or traditionally-published author, you’ll need to hire a reputable publicist, strategically and persistently market on social media, write/speak in visible forums on a topic related to your book, and develop a solid launch campaign to ensure pre-orders and first-week sales hit key numbers.
It takes more than refreshing rankings on amazon to sell.
After all, if you’ve invested years of your life crafting a story people will want to read,
it only makes sense to plan on spending another year promoting your project.
Think of your book as a debut album and yourself as a new band: you wouldn’t just drop it and hope it climbed the charts; you’d send singles to every radio station and even hit the road on tour for a year, playing nightly gigs.
Another option to earn an easier living might be to consider writing in genres that tend to sell: self-help, how to “sell selling,” YA, and so on.
But most writers write what they are grooved to write. And that’s OK: if you love what you create, keep creating, simply seek more strategic ways to improve your craft and promote widely.
From a psychological standpoint: starting ANY endeavor with the intent to “prove” (presumably to others) that you are “good enough” by winning external approval (especially in a fickle, challenging, subjective field such as ours) is a set-up for emotional anguish, fluctuating self-esteem, and possibly depression.
You are good enough because you exist. You do not need to earn this. Write trusting this, and enjoy the journey. If you write to prove you are good enough, it will place too much pressure on any given project, and allow factors outside your control to determine how you feel about yourself. Instead, try to reconnect with your deeper reasons for writing.
If you’ve had success completing even a SINGLE writing project, of any scope, you have already achieved something few people ever accomplish. (And you have completed and published two book-length works.) Celebrate this.
If you’ve already moved the bar higher, my guess is you need to separate your love of writing from your need for validation. This is not easy for any writer, but it will result in you be happier with what you create, happier whether or not you create, and enable you to create with greater ease. ☀️
an Arizona-based editor who turns ideas into art. Need to get your book publication-ready?