This week, in prep for Halloween, the Debs are writing about their biggest fears about publishing.
The quote in the headline comes from Thomas Hardy in his “A Laodicean.” I found it apt for this post. Why? Because I’m a worry-wart. I probably should have added that to my confessions post,. I over-think nearly most every situation, prepping myself for what might come. I recently learned that the term for this is defensive pessimism. I carefully consider all the things that might go wrong and plan for my course of action if they do. Please note that I don’t consider myself a negative person. In general, I like to believe that everything is going to be awesome but I want to take all the steps I can to salvage the situation if the opposite should occur.
Getting ready to publish my first book has put me into a place where this defensive pessimism has kicked in on the extreme. I am constantly going over all sorts of scenarios in my mind.
There are some (mostly irrational) worries which I have no way to combat:
- What if my agent/publisher realizes that I’m a hack, a fraud, and that my writing and my story are really just crap?
- What if all the reviews say as much?
- What if readers also find out?
Of course, this defies all logic, including the fact that both my agent and publisher chose to work with me out of the thousands they could have chosen, and that I had so many positive blurbs on my book that my editor told me I don’t need to get any more. It’s quite possible that some readers won’t like it. I’m steeling myself for that and reminding myself that liking a book is entirely subjective.
Then there are some things which I have a little more control over, or at least can come up with some course of action to prevent or respond to if they happen:
- My agent or publisher will lose interest in my work at some point, maybe before, or immediately after publication. Again, mostly illogical, but not impossible.
- That there won’t be very much promotion attached to my book (and I don’t have enough money to make up for it).
- The book will be a flash-in-the-pan.
- That I will have really screwed up something in the history and all the die-hard ancient Rome fans will come after me with their pointy wooden swords.
- That I won’t have built up a big enough digital audience before my launch, thus reducing the possible reach my book has.
- My book will be lost in the hundreds of thousands of books that are launched every year (many of them horribly mediocre with terrible covers).
- What if only my friends and family buy the book?
- That I forgot to thank someone in the acknowledgments (or people will assume I should have thanked them then be upset at me because I didn’t choose to do so).
- My email list isn’t big enough (and what on earth will I write about in a monthly email)?
- That I won’t ever be able to transition my career to writing books…that it will never make me enough money and I’ll always have to do it on the side.
I also have flip-side worries about it being too popular, which is probably the most ridiculous of all. Fears like:
- What if my friends/fellow writers are jealous of my success and treat me differently?
- What if the book becomes wildly successful and people end up stalking me?
- What if the movie that is made from my book (because of course I’m planning that there will be…hello directors out there!) turns out to be radically different than my novel?
I spend ridiculous amounts of time worrying about all angles of the publishing and writing process, how to combat all of those what-ifs. It sounds like I’m a massive anxiety machine, doesn’t it? But it’s not like that–quite the opposite. It’s how I prevent the anxiety and stress. It’s how I ready myself for any possible downside. I don’t really like to leave everything to chance. But note, I’m fully hopeful that everything will go well. It’s just that I want to be in control if I need to reset expectation. That’s what it’s mostly about. I’m a control freak. It’s a pre-coping mechanism.
Maybe some of the above fears will come true. I hope not, but if they do I’ve already set myself up for the possibility. I’ll be able to take it a bit more in stride and will have a plan of action for what I will do next. See, not so scary.