Fear of publishing a book is a very real thing. I have written 16 books and I’m pretty much convinced that each book will be hated, or (at the very least) someone will find some glaring flaw that I missed. When I was first published, some 17 years ago now, I recall having nightmares that people hated my first book so much that they were chasing my down the street, throwing copies at me. No joke. The fear is real and often it can be so paralytic that it keeps us from reaching our higher goals. And, I imagine, it has resulted in a lot of great books remaining unpublished.
Coaching indie authors is a big part of what I do. And, while we often work on books that are already available for purchase, sometimes we start book marketing campaigns several months prior to publication. A common theme in my conversations with authors is their very real fear that their book will be hated. This two-part article focuses on overcoming those fears – the first part today will teach you how to put yourself out there, while the second part will help you move past your first bad review.
Why You Should Go For It
Just the other day, I spoke to an author who said that she has held back her release date because she’s afraid of what will happen when her book publishes. “What if they hate it?” She asked. My response? “They might. And they may also love it. That’s the risk of putting it out there.”
There isn’t much you can do about this fear, except publish in the face of your fear. Because no book is a sure thing, and someone, somewhere, will dislike it enough to tell you so. Expect the hate, and someday you may even welcome it since well-constructed criticism will help you become a better writer.
When I published the very first edition of Red Hot Internet Publicity, a blogger hated it so much (and wrote a scathing review) that you’d have thought I ran over his cat…and then laughed about it. But after I got done rocking in a corner, I realized that while he could have found a better, less angry way of explaining his views, a lot of what he said was right. So right in fact, that I incorporated most of his ideas (at the time I called them rants) into the next edition.
The thing is, some people just want to hate – those people shouldn’t matter to you. I’m sure a psychologist could draw a zillion conclusions – but the bottom line is this: Paulo Coelho got it right when he said “How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.” Don’t let the Negative Nancies get to you. I have authors who won’t get on Goodreads because they’ve heard there are haters there. Guess what? There are a lot of awesome people on Goodreads as well. Are you going to let a few bad apples spoil your entire experience there?
So how are you going to get past your fear and realize your dream? Make sure your book is the best it can be. If you aren’t sure if your book is ready, let’s have a look at some factors that can help you determine whether it is:
Cover: this is a big one, people do judge a book by its cover. I’ve written a ton on this (You may have read about it in 10 Ways to Breathe New Life Into An Older Book or Help! My book isn’t selling! 9 Things to Consider Before Giving Up. Both articles have more great tips to consider, too!). Suffice it to say that book covers are often a key factor to your book selling, or not. Even if the cover is great, it it’s misleading, readers may end up dissatisfied, which probably means poor reviews. Do not self-design covers, use sketches or drawings or anything that will make it look amateurish. And if you ask your friends what they think of your cover, even if it sucks, they will say nice things, or try to. So don’t ask your friends and family. Ask someone who won’t feel like they should sugar coat things.
Editing: No one you are friendly with should ever, ever edit your book. By the same token, no one you see on a regular basis should edit your book either. Why? Because you want someone who can tell you point-blank when it needs to be rewritten or, in some cases, if it just plain sucks. I have a motto: if at some point I don’t strongly dislike my editor, or they don’t make me want to cry, my editor isn’t doing her job. No joke. Your edits should make you feel so uncomfortable that you don’t even want to tackle them. Why? Because that’s how you grow.
Book topic: Is it relevant and interesting? Is it worth killing trees over? Are you the right person to be writing this book? I’m quite serious when I say this. You can have the most beautiful book, the best cover and the best editing, but if your book isn’t a topic people are interested in, OR if you aren’t an expert writing about a topic that requires expertise, you may want to get some help. An example of this would be to write about dieting or money, if you are not an expert in either. If this is your situation, get yourself a co-author or someone to write a foreword who is trained in this area in order to lend your book some credibility.
Book description: Whatever you do, do not over promise and under deliver. If you want to get people mad at you, and gather a boatload of bad reviews, this is a great way to do it. Make sure your book description, and what it promises, is a solid reflection of your book. Need some help with this? Read this article for tips on writing a great book description.
So if your cover, editing, topic, and book description are solid, then you’ve done your due diligence as a writer. Once you’re sure you’ve met these criteria, it’s time to publish, right? And keep in mind, that a lot of readers’ opinions are going to boil down to personal preference. Even when your book is solid, you may still get people who don’t like it. Watch for Part 2 in this series to learn how you can move past a negative review.