If you want to induce an anxiety attack in me, take me into a bookstore.
I’m not talking about doing a bookstore book signing, either. I’m talking about walking into a bookstore to browse, to wander aimlessly among the shelves, to read titles on spines and admire book displays. I stroll through the aisles, suddenly paralyzed by the enormity of talent that lays before me between book covers.
The reason for my reaction is that walking into a bookstore brings me face-to-face with what I am attempting to do with my writing career: competing with all the other authors out there for readers. It unleashes a storm of insecurities inside me.
Why would someone choose my book to read over all those others?
What value does my book have in comparison to the other thousand on the shelf?
Did I write a good story?
Did I write an adequate one?
Can anyone even find my book amid everyone else’s?
Who would be willing to pay money for it?
What was I thinking?!
And then I recall a pivotal conversation with a dear friend of mine, my mentor and an accomplished author in his own right. “You should write a book,” he said.
“I know,” I replied, voicing the nagging desire I’d felt for years. “But why would anyone want to read what I have to say?”
“Because no one else can say it in the same way as you will,” he assured me. “Every one of us experiences life in a way unique to us, and that’s what you’ll bring to the table. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, no one will tell it like you will.”
Encouraged by his confidence in me, I took the plunge and wrote a non-fiction book about personal spirituality. The first publisher who was interested in the manuscript wanted me to change the perspective to reach a different audience than I had originally intended; I wrote the book for adult Christians, but he wanted to revise it and aim it at adolescents. I did something that I now (as a much more experienced author!) marvel at – I told him “thanks, but no thanks.” I believed in the value of what I had written and for whom I had written it, and even if it meant I had to continue looking for a publisher, I would do it. Eventually, I did find the right house and the book was published.
And then I learned, the hard way, that I was almost solely responsible for marketing it.
I had no idea what to do. The book never took off, although it sold enough copies for me to savor being an author.
I vowed if I ever wrote another book, I would do it differently.
Differently may be an understatement.
Now I write fiction – both humor and suspense – and market aggressively. I love what I do, and I know that if just one reader enjoys my book, I’ll be glad I wrote it.
But I still try very hard to stay out of bookstores.
What keeps you writing when you think of your book afloat in a sea of competition?