The biggest risk I’ve taken in my life recently is taking on the business of publishing my first book. For most authors, publishing that first book is terrifying, mainly because we worry about what readers are going to think about it—will they like it? will they hate it? will they give me a decent review? Honestly, what I worry about most is what people I know personally will think about the book—and by extension, how will their opinions about my writing affect their opinions about me?
None of those questions are relevant to publishing a book, however. Of course I want my work to be well-received. That’s not stroking my ego but affirming that I’ve connected with people via my words on the page. The work itself is its own relevance, which is a truth easily overlooked when authors make it personal. Not everyone who picks it up is going to enjoy it. That’s just a fact. Still, that isn’t the part that truly terrifies me.
What terrifies me is tripping and landing flat on my face as I jump through all the hoops necessary for putting a book out into the world. Writing one was a snap, comparatively. I’ve applied for copyright and acquired ISBNs so that I can legally sell the darn thing. I’m not sure why this part was so daunting, perhaps because those official tasks make the book real? And because I’ve never done this before. Fill out a form, submit my credit card info and my “deposit” (dontcha love government-speak for “manuscript”?), push send, and wait. Honestly, this was not hard—so why did I struggle with this part?
When I sent the manuscript to a professional editor and awaited her verdict on it, I experienced trepidation and intense heartburn. After all, what if I really sucked at something I’d always wanted to do? But she showed me that I could write and write decently well, and now the two of us have a lovely working relationship. Submitting my work to an editor was a risk worth taking. Which is good because she’s currently editing book number seven. See? Writing the novels is not my problem. Dreaming up stories is something I can’t seem to stop myself from doing. The problem is publishing them.
Publishing a book is a business. I majored in English in college, for crying out loud, not business. All that data collection and analysis, marketing, numbers—yeah, no. Nonono. Let me read and write stories already. Yet, here I am, working with vendors to put together the best debut novel I can, and that requires doing business. When the cover designer sent me the cover proofs, I could hardly contain my excitement. Except, obviously I could contain it because it took me nearly a month after I received the cover mockups to engage a formatter and apply for these two important legal publishing requirements. I wanted to launch the novel before the end of the year (decade—yikes!), but I dragged my feet.
I’m sure some psychologist would have a blast with me right about now, determining why I’ve procrastinated on something that’s been my dream since I was in the sixth grade. Somewhere, I read there’s a psychological fear of success that’s almost more paralyzing than fear of failure. For some reason, we can visualize failure with ease, but visualizing success is much more difficult, and by extension, more terrifying. But I’ve made promises to people about putting this book out there for them to read, so I guess it’s time to step off that proverbial cliff and hope I land on a cloudbank rather than in a boulder field.
Only one way to find out.
Yours in taking a risk (or thirty),
Tam DeRudder Jackson
Are you procrastinating taking a risk you know you really want (need) to take? What is it, and why do you think you’re putting it off?