4 Emotional Obstacles That Trip Writers Up

4 Fears Writers Face Literary Agent (short)

Well, happy summer and happy Friday to you all! Today I’m over on Chad Allen’s blog, where he graciously hosted me for a guest post about the fears I most often have to talk my authors through. If you missed Chad’s wonderful guest post about how editors review and acquire proposals, then hop back there for some great insight.

And if you want to start this gorgeous weekend off feeling a little more ready to conquer the obstacles that lie ahead, here’s a great start:

4 Emotional Obstacles That Trip Writers Up, Plus How to Work Through Them

I often laughingly say that the job of a literary agent is to be a therapist and coach as much as a negotiator and advocate. It’s funny, but it’s true. On an average day we’re just as likely to be talking an author off the ledge as negotiating a contract.

Through this I’ve found one thing to be unfailingly true: the creative process can drive you batty.

I see how authors pour their entire hearts and souls into their books, sometimes sharing the deepest parts of themselves with the world. And I’ve seen how this often leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of fear and doubt. But I’m a firm believer that 80 percent of the creative battle is won in the mind. That’s why authors often need the perspective and encouragement of a friend and agent to talk them through the particularly tough parts.

After walking dozens of authors through the publishing process, I’ve come across many of the same emotional sand traps, just waiting to swallow up an unsuspecting writer. So today let’s pretend we’re sitting across from each other, sipping lattes and catching up, and let’s talk through some of the emotional obstacles that may come up on your path as a writer…

Click here to keep reading this post on Chad’s blog!


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4 Fears Writers Face Literary Agent (long)

A 2-Minute Retreat for Writers

guided meditation for writers with anxiety

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

6 Strategies for Getting Your Book Published (Chad R. Allen): This is a must-read post for nonfiction writers. Because it’s true: there is a very set, step-by-step formula for getting a book deal. That’s not to say the steps are easy, but if you stick with it and follow Chad’s advice, you will see agents and editors come a’knockin’!

20 Signs You’re the Biggest Book Nerd in Your Friend Group (Jen Harper on BarnesandNoble.com): “So you think you may be the biggest book nerd in your squad? We’re here to help you confirm it.” I have to say, none of these applied to me. I also have to say: that’s a complete and utter lie. I am guilty, guilty, guilty.

The Top 4 Secrets to Keep Book Sales High Post-Launch (Chad Cannon): “One of the biggest misbeliefs I see in the publishing world is that you can push a book into the marketplace with an awesome launch plan…and then just call it done. The reality? Marketing is never done.”

100 Must-Read Books About Books (Margaret Aldrich for Book Riot): If you love to read books about books (me, me, me!), you need this list. And if you’re fascinated by design and book covers, take a peek, too. Do you see how the cover and title for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is so similar to the cover and title of the big bestseller in the category, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? THAT is how you signal to readers that if they liked that book, they’ll like this one, too. And it works. Broken Wheel was just added to my to-read list.

Everyone’s Getting Into Video. Should You? (Jane Friedman on Writer Unboxed): “Unless you’ve been garreted away working on the Great American Novel—and maybe you have!—you’ve probably noticed that video is becoming a big deal…As a writer, should you care? And if you’re interested, what’s next?”

A Two-Minute Retreat for Writers (& A Book Deal Announcement!)

meditation for writers and bloggers with anxiety

A writer’s life is filled with anxieties. Really, the life of anyone who puts their work out into the world is filled with anxieties. Will people like it? Is it any good? Will it succeed? Will it have impact? Should you shred it right now because, oh wow, this is terrible?

I’m a firm believer that 80% of the creative battle is won in the mind. I see it all the time—the most successful authors have fought those show-up-and-just-do-it battles early in their careers, and they’ve made peace with the fact that their work isn’t for everyone.

Even some of my sweetest, softest-hearted authors will laugh about how you can’t please everyone on the Internet. And if you can’t please the Internet masses, you sure as heck can’t please everyone in publishing.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Authors

7 habits of highly successful authors to get published

But first, the stories worth reading this week:

A Former Book Publicist’s Advice to Traditionally Published Authors (Andrea Dunlop on JaneFriedman.com): “What’s true now is that you don’t have to so much as leave your couch to help your cause. Get your head around social media, web analytics, bloggers, all of it—there are a million resources out there to help you help yourself, and there’s no excuse for you not to be an integral part of your book’s promotion.”

Brews and Books: Beer and Book Pairing Recommendations (Aram Mrjoian for Book Riot): “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, books and beer are a perfect match. Trust me, if you need a legit fix for a lousy day at the office it’s the best medicine. Here are some new recommendations for pairing books and brews.”

The Biggest Marketing Mistake an Author Can Make (Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary): “YOU HAVE ALREADY CREATED SOMETHING. You created your book. Now is the time to step out of the world of creation and into the world of relationships and networking. Get in front of the people who would typically read your book (and no, your author friends don’t count). Engage them. Befriend them. Let them know your book exists. THAT is marketing. And THAT will sell your book.”

Neil Gaiman Shares Writing Advice to Fans on Tumblr (Kristian Wilson on Bustle Books): If you’ve ever wondered how the pen behind Sandman and American Gods keeps writing, you’re going to want to pay attention.

Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner’s Guide (Kirsten Oliphant on JaneFriedman.com): “Finding the balance between actual writing and all the online promotion is a real struggle for writers. Lately I’ve heard many voices saying that writers need to be on Pinterest. With all the platforms to choose from, is Pinterest really an effective platform for writers?”

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Authors

This week I’m over on She’s Novel, a great writing website run by the lovely Kristen Kieffer. I first came across Kristen’s site through Pinterest (yes, Pinterest is chockfull of writers), and I loved that she had totally nailed her branding and built such a vibrant platform—as a fiction writer!

I know I promised everyone a post answering that big question—do fiction writers need platforms?—but I thought it would be much more interesting to have Kristen tell you herself why she found platform-building worth her time, even when it means less writing time.

So next week I’ll be sharing a conversation between Kristen and I, as well as some of her on-the-ground advice for balancing writing time and platform time.

Until then, let’s talk about the simple habits that any writer can start building now to lock-in their success later…

Remember that earmarked book from the 90s that was supposed to teach us how to be highly effective people? I think we need one for publishing. Raise your hand if you agree!

Everyone wants to be highly successful. And we all know who the highly successful authors are: they get all the sales, all the reviews, all the fame and fortune. But how did they get there, and how do they stay there? Is their success the perfect confluence of writing skill, platform savvy, and maybe some pure, dumb luck?

Yes and no.

Yes, there is an extraordinary amount of whacky, weird luck in the publishing world. (Lookin’ at you, adult coloring books.) But there are also some underlying principles—an operating system, really—that runs on autopilot for these successful authors. They know how to do the right things, because they’ve done them over and over and over again.

When I started out in the publishing world as an editor, I didn’t know a foreword from a preface. I had a full tank of enthusiasm and an empty skull, waiting to be stuffed to the brim with publishing wisdom. At the time, I was pretty sure I knew nothing about publishing.

And I was pretty right. But what I didn’t realize was that I did, actually, have a few things going for me. (Other than a knack for pestering the heck out of people until they would give me interesting work.) I had four things:

  • An obsession with following up and deadlines. (This from a brief stint as a paralegal at a law firm.)
  • A stubborn desire to be over-the-top nice so that every single person would like me. (This is not always a good thing, let me tell ya.)
  • An annoying amount of curiosity about how publishing worked. (I think I abused the “any questions?” prompt more than anyone can reasonably forgive me for.)
  • No other options.

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The Good Stuff: Why Patience is A Good Thing, Plus a Free Jack Kerouac Art Print

personality traits for writers
personality traits for writers

As I wrote about here, August is the month of The Good Stuff around these parts. Every week I’m going to be focusing on something worth celebrating in the publishing journey, whether it’s stories about new deals and successes, or writing inspiration, or platform-building encouragement…

Now, last week we talked about the 6 moments along the publishing journey where you should stop to celebrate. But what if you haven’t started that official journey to publication? How can you savor a journey you haven’t even started yet?

A Literary Agent's advice on how to enjoy the process of writing and publishing a book

Well, here’s a newsflash: no matter where you are, you’re on your way. The real publication journey starts far before signing a book contract—it starts with years of building skills. And the most important skill to build in order to succeed in publishing? Patience.

I know that sounds groan-worthy, but it’s the truth. You’ll need patience with yourself when you sit down at your computer and all the words come out wrong. You’ll need patience when you try to build your online presence and can’t figure out why people aren’t flocking to you. You’ll need patience when you want results now, but all that’s in front of you are new, confounding challenges.

And all that patience you’ll be building? That’s A Good Thing.

I know it doesn’t seem like it—it never does. But as Wayne Stiles wrote this week over on Michael Hyatt’s blog:

“This season of waiting is a present—a gift that allows us to deepen our commitment to why we do what we do. Whatever our why is, it alone helps us to keep writing, keep speaking, and continue building while we wait.”

The person who has seemingly instant success with anything in life probably spent years building the foundational skills—both the tangible skills and the character strengths—necessary to execute on that creative vision. Those years were also the incubation period for a deep connection to the why that fuels us in our most challenging moments.

When we accept the reality that it takes time, we can start enjoying that time. We can also stop yearning for that mythical “one day…” when everything is finally easy and perfect and comfortable. When everything will suddenly be changed. That “one day…” will never arrive.

As a reminder of that (because it’s the easiest thing to forget in this industry!), you can download a free printable art print with Jack Kerouac’s famous quote:

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.”

A free printable art print of the Jack Kerouac quote "One day I will find the right words and they will be simple."

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