Dealing with Writing Stress

It’s amazing how much anxiety authors tend to experience:

  • Trying to reach daily writing goals.
  • Wondering if the book will ever get finished.
  • Hoping that people like it.
  • Doubting whether it will sell.
  • Learning how to format.
  • The frustrations of the publishing process itself.
  • Searching for professional help.
  • Monitoring sales reports.
  • Waiting for reviews.
  • Receiving critical feedback.
  • Cyberbullying.
  • The scary world of marketing.
  • Deadlines (often self-imposed).

(So you want to be an author, huh?)

Authors can manage this anxiety.

One trick is to not let yourself get frustrated over things that are beyond your control. You just have to let those things go. First you have to realize that you just can’t do anything about them. The only thing you can do is get upset, and that doesn’t help at all.

You can’t control what other people say or do.

(No doubt, if you could, that universe would be incredibly boring to live in.)

You can do your best. If you do, this knowledge should provide its own satisfaction. Remind yourself of this.

Your behavior can also limit your anxiety.

If you frequently monitor your sales reports and product pages (looking for reviews), emails, blog activity, etc., you’re more likely to be disappointed.

Suppose for example you sell an average of 4 books per day. This means that you sell an average of 1 book every 6 hours. If you check your sales report every hour, 83% of the time you will be disappointed.

I know, when you see that sale, it gives you a temporary euphoria. But being disappointed by no sales most of the time isn’t worth it.

If you sell 4 books per day, just check your sales report once a day, and most of the time you will be happy to see some activity.

Try to wait long enough to see at least 10 sales, and don’t monitor your reports more frequently than that.

When you receive critical feedback, try to stay offline for a couple of days and engage in healthy activities. Keep your mind busy with those. Then see if the criticism offers something that you can use to improve. If so, use it and consider the matter settled. If not, discard it and forget about it.

Diet and exercise are highly important for writers.

We don’t get much exercise while writing. Think about that. We sometime keep irregular hours, staying up overnight to finish our thoughts. We sometimes don’t eat well – taking whatever is convenient – and eat in a rush.

Lack of exercise, poor diet, and especially anxiety can lead to stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and a host of other serious problems.

Exercise is a great way to help your mind deal with stress, besides being something that your body needs. Walk (but don’t pace), jog, ride a bike, play tennis, or go golfing, for example. If you can’t leave the house, buy an elliptical or treadmill and make like a hamster.

Balance. The more you check your sales reports and read reviews, the more you should exercise.

Avoid nervous habits like biting your nails.

Writing should be fun.

It is. Remember that.

We tend to make it far more stressful and less fun than it really is.

Focus on enjoying the art of writing. It may help to think of something far worse that you could be doing instead. A little perspective never hurts. 🙂

And here is something I’ve said before: Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself to your former self.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part II: Micro Issues

A handy checklist for editing.

Change It Up Editing

ID-10051081Whether you plan to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing contract, your post-writing/prepublication steps begin the same way. In Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers: Macro Issues, we looked at some “big picture” strategies you can use for your first round of revisions and self-edits. In this continuation, we’ll consider the smaller details, the “small-tooth comb” review, that every writer should consider before declaring a manuscript ready for the copyeditor.

As you may recall, addressing a manuscript’s macro issues includes reviewing for global details, like how the characters develop over the course of the story and whether or not the story arc works; micro issues include sentence structure and word choices.

When checking a manuscript for macro issues, here are some points (in no particular order) to consider:

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A Model for Pricing Books

Pick two.

If you want to go out to eat, the best you can hope for is two out of three.

The three options are:

  • Quality
  • Service
  • Price

If you want top quality – i.e. excellent taste, fresh food, amazing cleanliness, incredible ambiance, superb view – and awesome service – i.e. friendly greeting, quick seating, fantastic personality, everything you want just when you want it – then you should expect to pay for it.

It’s not reasonable to expect perfect quality, perfect service, and super low prices.

So if you want low prices, you should expect to sacrifice either quality or service to some extent.

Pick two. If you can get two of the three, that’s very good.

Sometimes you only get one. When it’s really bad, you strike out.

The ‘pick two’ idea has been around for some time. It’s worth considering when pricing books.

The first step regarding price is to try to find other books that are very similar to what you’re selling. Customers will be comparing your book to other books like yours when they shop.

Now the question is whether you should be at the high end or low end of this price range – or somewhere in between.

Don’t assume that you need to be at the bottom end of this price range in order to sell books. Don’t assume that you can’t compete with top selling authors or big publishers.

It’s intuitive to most people that a lower price should lead to more sales. It seems like a basic law of economics, right? But it often doesn’t work out that way.

One major reason is that so many people believe that you get what you pay for. Another issue is that several buyers have some experience with poor quality.

Thus, there are cases of authors selling fewer books after lowering the price or actually selling more books after raising the price. It doesn’t always work out this way, but sometimes it does.

Price doesn’t drive sales.

Look at it as two out of three. Price is only one factor.

Quality and service are two other factors.

If you have a high-quality book, setting the price at the low end of the range for similar books may be a problem. People who are looking for better quality may not be browsing the low end of the price range. Where are the readers who are thinking, “Nah, I don’t want quality”? Readers who’ve had a poor experience at the low end of the price range may be exploring somewhat higher prices, hoping to get something better.

Quality doesn’t just mean one thing. It includes good editing, good writing style, good formatting, good characterization, good plot, ease of understanding, entertaining, creativity, professional touches, evoking strong feelings, etc. It also includes a great cover, great blurb, and great Look Inside – since these features help readers judge quality when they’re about to make a purchase.

Then there is also service. For authors, this comes through marketing.

Marketing drives sales. Price doesn’t drive sales. Price may deter sales, if too low or too high. But price doesn’t create sales. Quality and service (i.e. marketing) help to stimulate book sales.

Marketing can be a service. For one, marketing helps bring the book to the customer, whereas it’s such a challenge to find the right book through a search.

A good review online or at a blog from a credible source helps customers find a book in a genre that they read, which may potentially be high in quality. That’s two out of three already, so the price shouldn’t be at the bottom end of the spectrum.

Personal interaction helps to sell books. Interact with the target audience in person. That’s a service that the author provides to the reader.

Readings and signings are services, too.

If you have a quality book and you market effectively, your book shouldn’t be at the bottom end of the price range.

If your book is at the bottom end of the price range, shoppers may be wondering what the book may be lacking. If it’s not lacking anything, it should be worth paying for.

If a cup of coffee made in less than a minute can sell for three bucks, a book that reflects months of hard work should be worth more than that. 🙂

One last word about price. Just having a low price doesn’t suggest a great deal. It suggests that quality is lacking.

But having a sale may stimulate sales. If the price is normally higher, a temporary reduction in price may have this effect. Not from the random customer who just discovered the book – this customer doesn’t know that the price is usually higher. You have to promote a sale for this to work.

Promotion is a form of marketing. As long as you’re going to the trouble to spread the word about your book, you might want to earn a higher royalty for your effort.

A sale can be useful if the copies sold at the promotional price are likely to draw in additional sales. Promoting the first book in a series or discounting an omnibus may have such an effect, especially when the first book is very good at compelling readers to want more (this isn’t the case with all series).

A sale is also more effective when it’s not too frequent. Otherwise, people will just wait for the sale, and it will be hard to sell books in between sales.

Finally, you want your promotion to be targeted at new customers. If you’re advertising your sale to people who’ve already bought your book, you’re not reaching new customers – instead, you might be frustrating buyers who’ve paid more.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon