Meeting the Challenges of Self-Publishing

Half Full

Half Empty

When the cup is half full, it’s a challenge to view it as half full instead of half empty.

So what about a cup that seems like it’s 90% empty? Can you stay positive and view it as 10% full?

Because that’s the way it seems sometimes to the indie author.

There are so many challenges to face. Charles Yallowitz recently listed dozens in his recent post, “Paranoia in Self-Publishing?”

Indie authors ride a roller coaster of hills and valleys. When several bad cards fall in place in a valley, it can really challenge you.

Writing should be the hard part, right? After all, that’s the main job. You’re a writer.

But writing comes easily. You’ve been bitten by the writing bug. Muse, rather. She’s sitting on your shoulder. You have no choice but to write. Sure, you might have to deal with writer’s block, but that’s the least of your problems.

And there are serious writing challenges, like choosing the right tense and person, balancing the show and tell act, finding the best way to present dialog, figuring out what effect your book really has on your target audience and how to pull it off as best you can, and any number of intricacies of the craft. You love writing, though, so these are the kinds of problems you live for.

It’s the publishing industry that makes you feel like you need to be connected or sell out, the editing and formatting that never seems to end, the holy-cow-how-could-I-do-that typo that shows up after you order a dozen review copies, the sales that don’t come, the false need you feel to stimulate reviews, the sales that don’t come after you get reviews, the bad review with just the right words to sting you where it counts, the in-laws and exes who point out the exaggerated disadvantages of self-publishing, and especially when a few of these issues slap you in the face while sales fall off a cliff all in the same never-ending week. So you decided to self-publish, eh?

Half Full

There are positives and there are negatives. There are times when many things are going your way. You don’t realize how much it’s going your way because you see how much better it could be. No matter how good it gets, it could always be better. But when the negatives come by, you don’t miss them.

It’s like Chutes and Ladders. When you’re going along, you think how you could be going up a staircase. When you’re going up a staircase, you think how you could be going up the super long staircase. And there are so many players in this game, some are going up that staircase. When you slide down a chute, you feel like you’re losing the game. But you could be glad that you’re making progress, on average. You could be grateful you didn’t fall down the really long chute and have to start over from the beginning. You could be happy just to be playing the game.

The negatives will test you. When several come together, they will really test you. They beckon you to react emotionally, instinctively. They challenge you to do what you know you should refrain from. They tempt you to put your reputation on the line. They may even make you question your scruples.

But it’s just a long, deep valley on this roller coaster. Statistically, there will be periods where many negatives come together.

It’s also an opportunity. To show what you’re made of. To demonstrate your patience. To be professional. To show your character. To draw motivation. To meet this challenge. To survive. So that the next time you come to a valley, you will have a positive experience to draw from, remembering how you’ve been through this before. So the next time you reach a peak it will taste that much sweeter.

You can do this.

  • Count the good things. You’re a published author, you get to enjoy writing, you’ve sold X books, you’ve had Y good reviews. Make a list of 20 positives. Get your book out, look at the cover, see your name on the cover, browse through the book. You’re a published author. Enjoy the feeling. Remember when you first saw your book?
  • Exercise. Get some of that frustration out while also doing something that feels healthy. You spend too much time sitting at a desk. In stressful situations, you need to exercise and eat healthy foods.
  • Work on a writing project. Outline your next book, write a poem or short story, write a blog post (but don’t publicize problems that may cast you in a negative light), start a new book, edit a book, do something that will make you feel productive and help get your mind off the negativity. Or get away from it all and spend time with family.
  • Do a search online and read about other authors who’ve gone through tough times. Don’t let yourself get talked into making mistakes. Find mistakes that authors have made and learn from them. See that others have gone through worse. Discover what others have done that was unprofessional, and force yourself to go the professional, patient route.
  • Seek support and advice from your connections, but don’t do it publicly in a way that may make you seem unprofessional. Find someone who will give you comfort when you need it. Find someone who will tell it like it is and offer valuable advice when you can handle it.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything helpful that you can draw from the experience. Sometimes the bad provides an opportunity for improvement. Sometimes the bad is just bad and doesn’t offer anything positive. If there is something that may be useful, try to use it to improve. If there is nothing useful, try to put it in the past and move on.
  • Try something new that you’ve been considering that’s free or low-cost and doesn’t involve a large time commitment, like maybe a new marketing strategy that just requires a couple of hours to learn something new. This is not a good time to spend much money or devote considerable time; think low-cost and not much time long-term. It will help get your mind on something else, and it will give you a new source of hope.
  • Make a dartboard with your bad reviews, bad comments, lousy sales rank, or whatever other problems are on your mind. Throw darts at your problems, shred your problems, stomp on your problems. Get it out of your system.
  • Don’t make any quick decisions during these times. Think them through carefully. Get a good night’s sleep before deciding. Patience can be your best ally against stupidity and embarrassment during times like these.
  • Feel creative. Find your passion. Refuel your motivation. If you’ve been working hard, take a break and come back rejuvenated.
  • Do some small good deeds. Help others in some way. Especially, help others anonymously. The gift of giving not only helps others, it might make you feel a little better, too. It takes a special kind of someone to spread goodness during tough times. You could be that someone. You could be a super hero. A disguised super hero. It may give you the inner strength of a super hero.
  • Read a book. Go to another world, live the life of a hero, find a better reality, overcome tougher hardships. Rediscover that writing is about the reading.
  • When you get knocked down, when you get kicked while you’re down, don’t give in to the circumstances. Rise above them. Laugh hysterically. Ask, “Is that all you’ve got?” Tell ’em, “’cause I’m a writer and I could do a whole lot worse than this.”

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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5 comments on “Meeting the Challenges of Self-Publishing

  1. Chutes and Ladders was an oddly malicious game around here. That final chute near the ending felt so cruel if you hit it. I never thought of looking for other author’s stories about slumps and obstacles. Great idea.

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