You can find part one of this thorny question riiiiiiight here. In it I offered two questions to ask yourself before self-publishing. To summarise, if your story is complete, positively received by betas and well-written then you’ve probably got a good wind behind you for publishing the thing. (Actual LOL! That may be the shittest piece of ‘wisdom’ I’ve ever shared.)
But for the final two questions, I’m moving onto the less obvious stuff. The stuff that relies on inner fortitude and ability to develop a thick and impenetrable skin. Basically:
3. Are you ready to fail spectacularly–or more likely, fizzle out with no fanfare whatsoever?
We’re all biologically wired to fear abandonment. OBVIOUSLY few of us are going to be thrown out of our tribe for not being an incredible author (if you are I STRONGLY encourage you to find a new tribe toot sweet), but there’s still something within us that makes us want to shy away from putting ourselves out there, to invite scrutiny, ridicule, pity…
For me personally, this is an inexplicable barrier that I’m really having to push through. Like most things holding us back in life, it doesn’t make any sense but that doesn’t make it any easier to ignore. However, if this is holding you back, here are some things that are helping me push on through:
– Write yourself the worst review for your work you can possibly imagine. Really go to town. Just drag that baby through the mud and then stamp on it. Then read it, and breathe it in. Then write yourself your dream review. The kind of praise that would make you weep with joy. Again, go wild. Then read that and let it sink in. If you publish your book, and tell the world about it, are you ready to read reviews like this? Are you ready to accept that both reviews can be true, and that both can be false at the same time? Can you step back and acknowledge that other people’s opinions will generally tell you more about the reviewer themselves than the book being reviewed?
– Find your favourite books and go read the worst reviews. There’s bound to be at least one crappy review for every book. Which just goes to show that you can’t please everyone, and it’s not personal. Also, that some people just get great joy out of being angry and disappointed by everything and who are you to ruin their fun by giving them a book they might actually like? Puh-lease.
– Embrace your insignificance. You might knock a bestseller out of the park on your first book. But more likely, not that many people will read it. Or, lots might, but they won’t tell you about it. A tiny percentage of readers actually leave reviews. And I know from experience that even people you think would be dying to read something you’ve written (ie, your family or friends) might not actually get around to it. Or they’ll just casually forget that you’ve done something as astonishing as write an entire book. It happens. And though it sounds a bit sad, I find it quite comforting, because it boils down to this: nobody is going to care if you don’t get it exactly right. Readers don’t know how many books you’ve sold, fellow writers are too wrapped up in their own creative quagmires and your friends will know whatever you choose to tell them. So relax. Do your thang.
If all of this still feels a bit terrifying – and you really can’t imagine embracing the fear and doing it anyway – then maybe you’re not ready to publish. No-one in authority is going to pat you on the back and give you a big sticker, after all. (Though I will totally celebrate with you! Hit me up with your achievements – tiny and tall!) In reality, the worst that will probably happen is that nobody will care either way, and is that so terrifying?
4. If you don’t do it, will you regret it?
Finally, this. You can talk yourself out of a lot of opportunities and put a lot of things off forever – out of fear, self-doubt, discouraging family members, whatever. But if you feel happy that you can positively answer all the questions above, and there isn’t anything left to do, then what’s stopping you? Everyone has to start somewhere – and anyway, it would be weird if your first book was your best. Weird, and really annoying – I mean, where is there to go from the pinnacle of your career except down? This is just the first step to bigger and better things.
I’m reminding myself that book one is an experiment, a fun foray into self-publishing, and that if the whole world turns on me for writing a terrible book (I flatter myself with my own importance) then I’ll just take it down and start again.
Hope this helps anyone in this strange, exciting and slightly nervy position that I’m in. And if you’ve already reached the giddy, dizzying heights of self-publishing success (whatever that looks like to you) then please comment and share your experience so that we may learn from your wisdomosity. I bow at your writerly feet.