“If my book is really any good, people will read it… right?”
It’s this unspoken belief I hear hovering at the edges of an author’s voice. Fear.
- I wrote a book. Does this mean I’m good enough?
- I have an agent. But am I good enough?
- It sold to a publisher.
- It comes out in a year.
- It has a couple of great reviews.
- Am I good enough, yet?
Hello, Imposter Syndrome!
When you’re stuck in a loop questioning your worth, you’ve opened the door for that bossy little saboteur. She crosses the “Nice Underwear” welcome mat, tracks mud into your house and makes herself at home.
Instead of pouring her a cuppa tea and listening to her every word, recognize her for the false prophet that she is. And use her to move forward.
You see, Imposter Syndrome hates the unknown. So when you start questioning your worth and doubting your awesomeness… Congrats. That’s a sign that you are taking a risk and pushing yourself outside of that lovely comfort zone.
It’s scary to put your book baby out into the world. You’re not alone.
Even the big name authors get nervous about every single book they publish. Will it live up to the expectations of my readers? What if people no longer care about vampire-mermaids living in a underwater post-apocalyptic world?
Just read what award-winning author John Green said on a 2015 Reddit AMA…
When it’s time to share your beautiful story with readers, you can’t let that little boss get in the way. Time and time again, authors undersell their book because of Imposter Syndrome. They self-deprecate when they think they’re being humble and end up turning readers away.
Guess what? Readers don’t want to know how much better you wish it was. They just want an amazing story experience. Don’t get in their way.
You might think that the easiest way to deal with your little saboteur is to stuff your feelings of failure and impostering deep inside. But pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
In fact, those emotions will put up a tent in the back of your brain, camping out at the edge of your subconscious. Leaving them there, unarticulated and undefined, allows them to grow. They’ll loom over you, trying to convince you that your publisher’s minimal marketing is a sign of how ‘good’ your book really is. That there’s no point in you putting in any effort because the readers won’t buy your book anyway.
You have to face these fears head on.
As my old therapist used to say, “Write down your emotions using simple language. When you define them, you force them to adhere to reason and logic.”
So, when Imposter Syndrome stops by for a visit… Pour her that Earl Gray and ask her what she’s scared of. What is she so worried about? Write down those thoughts, then counter them with logic and reasoning.
Using the example above: ‘What if someone gets excited by this great review and then feels totally let down by the book?’
Will the world end? No. Will they hunt you down and leave poop on your doorstep? Unlikely.
Will they write you a bad review? Maybe. So what? You aren’t writing for everyone, which means there will always be people for whom the book just doesn’t work. That’s not your problem. Because other people, like that first reviewer, will adore it!
Every book has lovers and haters (ok, dislike-rs?).
- In 1963, Publisher’s Weekly called Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are “[A] pointless and confusing story.”
- Many religious organizations banned J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. She’s the first and only author to become a billionaire from her books.
- “…while there is little that is distinctive about King’s writing — and while the exposition… is clunky, and the characters are thin, sentimental figures who exist to be buffeted about in the storm of plot, and the so-called build-up of tension is more tedious than scary.” Someone legit said this in the Los Angeles Review of Books about Stephen King’s much loved Christine. Does the opinion of this one critic make him an absolute fraud?
So, if those books can still be beloved by the general public… what are you worried about?
Imposter Syndrome is simply born of fear of the unknown. She visits when you’re putting yourself out there. Taking risks. So, when she comes knocking, hear her out, but don’t let her be the boss. You can’t change your life without taking that risk.
“The magic happens when we feel blindfolded and lost in the dark, and we’re just curious enough to see what lies a few steps farther. And a few steps farther. And a few more. The magic happens when we walk with fear–rather than flee from it–and see every moment of uncertainty and discomfort as an opportunity to explore…” Amber Rae, Choose Wonder Over Worry
When you really break it down, what really are the consequences of your fear? Define your emotions, tackle them honestly, and share the story you are passionate about.
Don’t let Imposter Syndrome slow you down or get between you and the amazing future you have as the next billionaire author. 😉
P.S. If the anxiety of your book launch (or your life) feels totally insurmountable, pick up a copy of Amber Rae’s Choose Wonder Over Worry. It’s an incredible kick in the ass that will boost your confidence. (I’m obsessed.)