Writing and publishing a book can be a highly stressful experience. But, it doesn’t have to be. One of the best aspects of self-publishing is that you get to make all the decisions. And how much stress to take on is one of them.
As a second-time author, I’ve managed to bring my new book to print with a tiny fraction of the stress I experienced with my first book. The sheer terror I felt from the possibility of negative reviews nearly had me abandoning my first book midway. My stress bubbled up each time I imagined clicking on my Amazon page and seeing a critical comment.
Thankfully I’ve learned a thing or two since that time. Plus I’ve been writing about and studying stress for a decade which helped me get very good at learning how to shift my stress and get it to work for me instead of against me.
Here are my top five tips to help you experience less stress when publishing a book.
As a second-time #author, I’ve managed to bring my new book to print with a tiny fraction of the stress I experienced with my first book. #lessstresswriting @jamiesus
Unless you’re the kind of writer who loves the pressure of a tight timeline (that is not me), think twice before you give yourself a deadline.
Will you produce better writing by setting aside a structured four-hour block of time each morning?
Will completing your first draft by the first of the year help you stay on track?
What if setting these arbitrary deadlines instead stresses you out and leads to writer’s block?
Simply do your best at each stage of the process. Trust that you’ll know when to move on. You’re the boss of your book so why add time pressure to your plate if you don’t need to? Will it really matter if your book is published in June instead of January?
Every writer has points in their process that get their heart rates rising. One writer might be freaked out when she reads a book similar to hers that seems oh so much better. While another writer might get frustrated by the technology glitches that slow down his process.
When you pinpoint what triggers your stress while you're publishing a book, you have the opportunity to lessen it by asking yourself this important question: What can I do to handle this situation with less stress? Create a list of options like:
When you’re ready to let others into your writing process be careful. Very careful. All it takes is one badly-worded comment or lack of support from a friend for your stress to skyrocket. Especially when your book is in its infancy, early criticism can send you second guessing everything or even bailing on your project. Pick people who:
Be crystal clear about the kind of suggestions you’re seeking. Ask for specific feedback like, “What ideas do you like best from chapter two?” or “Which character felt most believable to you?” Then, as you feel more comfortable, confident, and brave, ratchet up your questions to seek more pointed feedback. Because that’s what will make your book better.
You might also try an idea best-selling author, Brené Brown, writes about in her book, Daring Greatly. Brown suggests getting a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper and jotting the names of the people whose opinions most matter to you. She calls this your square squad. Stick with those folks and you’ll be calmer as you consider their feedback.
There are many aspects of publishing a book that are out of your control. For example: You’re ready to examine your preview copy thoroughly and are frustrated by the ten-day wait before it arrives. Then you may want to coordinate the publication date for your book of love quotes with Valentines’ Day since the marketing will be magical. Things like this will add to your stress unless you leave a big enough time cushion.
If you’re planning a book signing or launch party, be sure to select dates far enough in advance to eliminate worry about whether your books will actually arrive on time.
One thing you can count on is that most steps to getting your book to your readers will take longer than you expect. You will keep your stress low by planning more time than you imagine will be needed — during every phase of publishing a book.
Whatever your budget might be, consider where you can most use the help of a professional along the way. Rather than going through months of angst about the organization of your book, consider seeking the expertise of an experienced structural editor. Often a fresh set of professional eyes will help you gain a new perspective while calming you down in the process.
Or maybe you think you and your circle of writing friends can provide all the copy editing you need. While using your friends will save you money, you might also be faced with a time crunch when you’re hesitant to put your friends on a deadline. Instead, by hiring an experienced copy editor, you’ll know exactly when to expect your project will be completed—and you can count on it being done well. Check professional references before landing on who to hire. Knowing your colleagues have confidence in a particular professional will help lessen your stress about bringing that person on board.
You don’t want the process of writing your book to take years off your life or cause your family and friends to steer clear of the writing lunatic in the attic. Crazed writers are only interesting in the movies. When you remember that the best part of self-publishing is that all of the decisions are up to you, you can look for ways to use your decision-making power to help you choose less stress. You’re the boss of your book so you get to decide how to go about writing it, how you want to feel during the process, and what it will take to help you feel proud (and sane) when you’re done.
What other tips do you have for reducing stress while writing and publishing a book?
Jamie Sussel Turner is a professional coach, speaker, and award-winning author. She has been featured in The New York Times, received an ATHENA Leadership Award nomination, and served as a speaker curator for TEDxAsburyPark. Before becoming a professional coach, Jamie served as a public school educator, including twelve years as a school principal. She holds Master’s degrees in both Educational Leadership and Elementary Education. Jamie lives her more serene life in coastal New Jersey, with her husband. Ever grateful for her magnificent sunset views over the water, she is passionate about her grandchildren, working out, reading, travel, and her daily dose of dark chocolate.
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