The writing industry is huge. In 2009, over 1 million books were published (both traditionally and self-published). That means there are at least a million authors. If we added unpublished writers to that number, there could easily be two million writers in this world, if not more.
With so many books and writers, it’s easy to feel like we’re a fleck of dust.
Maybe our query sits in an agent slush pile with hundreds of other writers’ manuscripts. And we feel like we’re just another nameless, faceless writer trying to break in. Maybe we go to a writer’s conference and get lost in the crowd. Or maybe we’re on twitter and the clamor from everyone else drowns out our voice.
It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like a nobody. Perhaps we think publication is the answer. We look forward to the day when our name is on a cover, when our book hits shelves, and people everywhere finally see and hear us.
However, now that I’m published, I can honestly say, publication doesn’t change the problem of being a nobody. It just changes the location. Now instead of being an unknown in a slush pile, we’re an unknown in a bookstore.
On Amazon, readers likely won’t come across our book unless they’re specifically searching for it. If our book makes it into a brick-and-mortar store, a couple of copies will sit on the shelf amidst the stacks and stacks of other books.
The fact is, even published authors get lost in the crowd of other published authors. It’s a tough reality, especially for debut authors. Over the past months, I’ve had my share of concerns that The Preacher’s Bride was just another book lost in crowded bookstores.
Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out. It’s hard to shake off obscurity and turn our name into a brand that people finally begin to recognize. Whether we’re published or not, none of us likes feeling like a nobody.
When I start to feel like a nobody, I usually give myself a mini-pep talk, which includes these four points in one form or another:
1. Lower our expectations.
Don’t expect overnight success. Remember it takes most writers many rejections and several books before landing on the break-in book. And I try to remind myself that it often takes published authors several books before they develop a strong readership, gain clout among the writing community, and start to sell more books.
2. Look for ways to do something different.
I’m constantly on the lookout for new and innovative marketing ideas. I’m not afraid to think beyond what’s currently being done. I try to evaluate what really works and what doesn’t. If I’m feeling particularly down about the obscurity of my book, I try to think of new things I can do to bring it back into the public eye.
3. Surround ourselves with writing friends.
As much as I respect my agent and in-house editors, they’re not my best friends. Sure they’re always available and incredibly supportive. But they’re busy people (with many other authors they work with). They don’t have time to hold my hand through each bump in the road.
The bottom line is that getting an agent or editor won’t solve our insecurities. We need other writer friends who will understand and empathize with our difficulties and share the burden with us.
4. Focus on writing an excellent book.
I tell myself the most important thing is to write an even better book the next time. I want to look for original story ideas, fresh twists, stronger characters, and find something that will resonate deeply with my readers.
In other words, we need to search for ways to make each story better than the last (and that includes published authors). We can’t settle for mediocre if we hope to eventually rise above others to the top.
My Summary: Whether published or not, it’s easy to feel like we’re just another name among many others. Insecurities will chase us, no matter where we’re at. We need to realize they’re normal. When they get too close, we need to shake them off. We can't let them slow us down. And we need to keep running the race hard.
With all of the other writers seeking publication, have you ever felt like just another name or face trying to get noticed? If you're published, have you struggled to make your book stand out among the millions of other books? When you start to feel like a nobody, what do you do to push past the insecurities?