Are you releasing your book while you’re in the process of writing your first draft? If so, you could be killing your creativity and stunting your book’s progression from idea to full story.
Self-published authors have a lot to consider, from book concept to publication. That means it’s a little too easy for us to get ahead of wherever we are in the publishing process now. If you’re pouring time and energy into planning your book’s release while trying to create the first draft of your book, you’re going to sabotage your process.
How to Prioritize Publishing Tasks
Self-publishing can be incredibly overwhelming for many authors because we’re responsible for every part of the book development process. It can be difficult to prioritize each piece of the puzzle well, but it’s important to put each phase in its place early on.
Let’s simplify it: if you’re in the middle of writing your first draft of a new book, focus on writing. Full stop. Once you reach the editing and polishing processes, it’s much easier to begin thinking about marketing and sales.
(I’ll pause there to note that there is a significant difference between sharing your progress and promoting your book to secure sales. Posting unedited snippets, talking about your characters, and sharing things with readers about a WIP is different than trying to get new readers, attracting them to your pre-order, setting up ads, and other sales-related tasks.)
The ability to prioritize your process will help you keep your head in your story while you write. Prioritizing well requires a shift in perspective.
First, acknowledge that selling your book is indeed important–once your story is complete. Then, stop worrying about how, exactly, you’re going to sell all the copies you need to break even on your investment (you know you’ve done it–me, too).
Cutting out the worry requires having a “Yes, and” discussion with yourself. If your inner monologue is working overtime to convince you that you have to think about sales now, just respond with, “Yes, and I’ll handle that when the book is finished.” That way, you’re not spending a ton of energy arguing with yourself. (But if you are, you know…no judgment here.)
Now that we’ve established that “yes, brain, sales are important,” here’s another critical point: the process of creating a story is a journey, and your finished book is a product.
It’s counterproductive to worry about selling a product you haven’t created yet. So, let’s differentiate the story from the product in order to prioritize effectively.
Storytelling ≠ Selling
The creative process of developing your characters, building your world, and discovering your plot is a journey. You need focus and undivided attention in order for your story to become fully realized. That requires a lot of creative energy, and it’s important to preserve and protect that energy while you’re developing your book.
The editing process takes the story you’ve created on your journey and refines it. Like writing, editing requires a tremendous amount of creative energy–though it’s channeled in a different way.
Once your book is finished and ready to be released, it becomes a product that you now need to sell. Shifting your perception of your book from a journey to a product helps you to detach from it before you launch.
Selling Requires “Strategy Brain”
Releasing (mentally) while you write drains creativity and moves us into a completely different headspace–let’s call it “strategy brain”. Strategy brain will not serve your story creation process well, so you need to put it on hold while you write.
Marketing and selling require strategic thinking, positioning, and carefully-planned action in order to get your stories into the right hands. But if you think with your strategy brain while you’re trying to craft an incomplete story, you’ll inevitably end up writing it to satisfy whatever strategic criteria you think you need in the moment.
For example, let’s say you’re a romance writer, and you want to boost your sales. Rather than diving deeper into your own values as a storyteller, you look to what the market is doing–and you notice that sexy books seem to be selling really well. You don’t really want to write steamy books, but you begin adding sex to your stories to meet market demands. You’re suddenly not feeling so great about writing this story, right?
(While market research can be very valuable, it can also be subversive. So if you’re researching trends, stop to ask whether the trends for your genre align with your values as a writer before you dive in headfirst.)
Strategizing while you write doesn’t serve you as a writer–and it also doesn’t serve your characters, your story, or (ironically) your readers.
Simplify Your Process
Trying to figure out how you’re going to sell a product you haven’t yet created puts too much pressure on both the story and the creative process. When in doubt, keep your process simple and stay focused on the phase you’re in right now.
Remember, you get the final word on how you’re going to get your stories into the world. Taking things one step at a time is the real secret to successfully publishing and selling your books.