20 Ways to Overcome Self-Pub Overwhelm

Overwhelm is the biggest hurdle to self-publishing. Many would-be authors think about the cost, author platform, writing, editing, design, and all the unknowns of self-publishing, which leads to overwhelm. There is a lot to know and do in the process of self-publishing your magical words.

Who among us has had that spark of inspiration to only have the spark die out because we don’t know the sequence, don’t have a plan, or don’t know what comes next? Have you almost reached the finish line only to pull back at the last minute?

Fear of judgment. Fear of failure. For me, it was even fear of success. When we’re about to put our writing out into the big, wide world, self-doubt and overwhelm take the wheel bringing with them their old friend…FEAR!

Did you know that 97% of writers never finish their book? What?!

If you love your wonderful gift of writing, trust that it is for a reason. Writing may give you the freedom to express who you are, be a character in your book, share your knowledge and wisdom, or inspire others. You have the power at your fingertips. Writing empowers, entertains, moves, and inspires.

Have you heard the old saying, “Words become things, choose the good ones?” This is the power of our words. This daunting and overwhelming. Think about this “for every 100 writers who intend to finish their book, only 3 do.” Why is that?

Oh, and there’s more…

  • If you are one of the 3% who finished your book, let’s celebrate you! That’s huge and congratulations!

  • If you published your book, WOW! Go you!

  • According to a new market report by Smithers, they expect the print book industry to reach $821 billion by 2022, driven by digital and print-on-demand printing. And could easily exceed that level.

So how to do you get a piece of that pie?

Finish your book, get it professionally edited, and get a professional cover designer at the very least. Oh, here comes our old friend OVERWHELM.

As a writer and author, I don’t want to dismiss this feeling of overwhelm. There is a lot to know about self-publishing and spit-polishing your book for the masses. When you add marketing, which you absolutely must, suddenly you get major overwhelm and begin to hyperventilate. So, let’s break it down into bite-size pieces to make it doable.

Write Your Book

The first step is to get your book written. You may find that parts of your book flow and others are like pulling teeth. Here are 5 ways to eliminate overwhelm during the writing process.

1. Plan. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you need to plan. Overwhelm kicks in when you don’t plan. I hear you in the back saying you don’t enjoy planning. If that’s the case, then plan the way it works for you.

Check out this article about planning before you write.

2. Create a writing schedule and make it sacred. Think of a schedule as the banks of a river. The water (your words) can still flow and meander (creativity), but the banks (schedule & structure) hold the flow to keep it moving. Otherwise, you have nothing but a dark, stagnant swamp…and overwhelm.

3. Have a dedicated writing space. I know writers who have a basket that holds their laptop, notebooks, research, and finished pages. They bring the basket out when it’s time to write. All their tools are in one place, so they don’t get distracted looking for a pen. Other writers have a designated room for their writing. Do what works for you and have a dedicated space for your writing.

4. Thought-dumping & Heart-storming. If you get stuck while you’re writing, take a moment to thought-dump and heart-storm a solution. Ask “Why,” “How,” and "What if," a lot. I love lists. Think of the most outlandish ways to get your characters out of a situation or complete a nonfiction topic.

5. Outline. Whether you’re a planner or a pantser (someone who writes on the fly) or someone in between (tweener), you’ll do well to create an outline. An outline keeps you from flying off the rails on tangents that have nothing to do with your topic. It will also show you plot holes, inconsistencies, and missing information before you even begin writing. It makes the writing process so much easier and more efficient.

You wrote your book. Now what?

Everyone's favorite, Editing!

You first! Unless you’re working with a writing coach/development editor, you need to polish your writing. The first draft is not a final manuscript. Let me repeat that…The First Draft Is Not A Final Manuscript.

Here’s how you avoid overwhelm in editing:

6. Write First. Edit Later. I know this makes writer's squeamish. While you’re writing, keep writing. Now is not the time to edit your work. Give your words room to breathe. Allow your words to flow from your heart. It will be crap, and that’s okay.

7. Think big picture first. Did you say everything you wanted to say? Are there any holes in your structure or plot? Read through the manuscript and look for structural integrity first.

8. Mid-level editing. It’s about the reader. What does your reader still need to know? What questions will they have? Where is your story slow? What parts do you really love? Can you make any parts of your story more exciting for your reader? Where are you telling instead of showing? Mid-level editing (your second pass in self-editing) is about how your words will come across to a reader, look for inconsistencies and flow.

9. Detail editing. This is your third pass of self-editing your manuscript. It’s time for you to check your own grammar and spelling. You may have been doing this while doing the other self-edits, but now it’s time to really polish your manuscript to a spit shine. If you have facts or dates, double and triple check them. If proofreading is not a mastered skill, use software like ProWritingAid or Grammarly to support your self-editing.

10. Hire a Content Editor/Proofreader. Trust me. Spend the money on a professional content editor. Your readers will thank you. Content editors will find all the things that you missed and then some. Take what they say seriously, give it some thought before dismissing their recommendations.

A good editor is like a therapist, you may have to try a couple of them before you find the one that gets you and your writing. If you get your manuscript back with a lot of edits, thank your lucky stars. Every writer, and I do mean EVERY writer receives this kind of feedback from a good editor. If you don't get any feedback, questions, or recommended changes, get another editor.

Alright your manuscript has been edited many, many times, now what?

Design, Baby!

You are now ready for the design process. Here is another place to spend some money. Your cover is the first impression for a reader. What impression do you want to make on your readers? How do you want your reader to feel? If the cover doesn’t look professional, it will make the reader think that the content is also unprofessional.

11. The Cost. Overwhelm sets in when we think about the time, energy, and money it costs to self-publish a book. The cover is not a place to skimp. A cover design can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500. Plan for it.

12. Not all designers are created equal. Book design is its own specialty. Someone may be a fantastic logo designer but doesn’t have a clue about the book design market. Hire a book cover and layout designer. If you’re on a shoestring budget, try Upworks for a Book Cover Designer or use Canva. Just know that with these options you may not get the professional cover you’re looking for.

13. DIY a Cover? Sure, create the cover yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself. Be realistic and honest in your answers.

  • Do you have the time and energy to learn design software?

  • Do you have the desire, time, and energy to learn book cover design?

  • Do you have a love of graphic design or have the skills and expertise to design your own cover?

Need a cover design? The Book Witch has a new package for cover design only.

See my services, costs, portfolio, and next available time slot here.

14. How do I hire a designer? Once you find a designer or two. Interview them. Most designers have a free exploratory session to ask them questions.

  • Ask to see their portfolio (if it isn’t on their website) and other books they’ve designed.

  • Ask if they do the design themselves or hire it out to other designers.

  • If they hire out, where are their designers located? There has been a trend lately by some editors who have become publishers. They don’t have design skills, so they hire out that part of the self-publishing process to India. These designs are cheap for the publisher, but the designs don’t meet the standards for professional publishing.

  • How many rounds of edits do they provide? 2 to 3 edits is average.

  • Who pays for the proof? Who orders a proof? Who uploads the files?

15. This is where your book gets real. I cried when I held my first book in my hands. I also had a gigantic wave of fear sweep through me and wanted to back out of publishing my book. Know that when your book gets real, these feelings come up. They also pass. Stick with it, make the book the best you can.

YAY! Your book is designed, files are uploaded to the printer. Now what?

Welcome to Marketing!

You are now in the Marketing Phase. Truthfully, marketing begins in the planning phase and goes through the entire self-publishing process. When you think of everything that needs to happen to launch and market your book, consider it will take about 10 to 20 hours a week. Many writers are under the mistaken thought that once they publish their book, they're done. Nope! This is where the work begins.

16. Your Author Platform. Many aspiring authors think social media is all they need. Uh, no! Social Media is only a small piece of the Author's Platform pie. And this goes for fiction or nonfiction writers. Think about your website, other author sites, your author platform on Amazon. What about merchandise that supports your book? All of this contributes to your Author's Platform and marketing plan for your book.

17. All Hail the Tortoise. Take your marketing slow and steady. Begin in the planning phase to consider how you want to market your book, you’ll have time to get everything ready before you launch and eliminate overwhelm.

18. Ask for help. We are such individualized creatures in modern society that we forget to ask for help. If you aren’t a website whiz, ask someone to help. Don’t have cash for the help? Trade if you have something to trade, help that person with something they need or don’t have time for. We can’t be experts at everything. I know. I’ve tried. So, ask others for a little help spread the word about your book, doing your website, taking on social media, reaching out to podcasts, or setting up systems that will work for you. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

19. Know that marketing is on-going. Just because you published, doesn’t mean you’re done. Think about it. Who's going to buy your book? How will they find out about it? Getting the word out about your book is going to be up to you. Luckily, there are hundreds of ways to do just that. Sit down and thought-dump or heart-storm some ways that will work for you.

20. To Social Media or Not Social Media, that is the Question of today. I found social media completely overwhelming. I know there are a lot of writing/book coaches out on the webs that say you can’t publish and have success without it these days. Maybe. Maybe not.

Did you know the average person spends 10 hours+ per week on their social media accounts? If you count up all the time you spend thinking about posts, finding images for posts, writing the post, actually posting, and then staying up on the stats…YIKES!

That’s a lot of time that you could be marketing in a unique way that makes you stand out from the crowd. Think long and hard about whether social media will be part of your author’s platform/marketing plan or not.

Before they even publish, fear easily overwhelms writers: “What if my book doesn’t sell, and I can’t make my money back?”

This is all linked to fear of the unknown and self-doubt. These feelings are very common. Yeah. The fear is real. When you step outside your comfort zone, you are unprotected in unfamiliar territory, but it is also exhilarating. Flip the script, and enjoy the ride.

If this type of fear is holding you back from writing or publishing your book, ask yourself:

What would happen if I never published my words?

Self-publishing is hard work. But if you want to publish a book, you will. Nothing will stop you. Every author I have published has experienced feelings of achievement, confidence, and a deep sense of well-earned pride. These thrilling feelings are priceless.

Where do you want to land in the statistics? Will you be the 3% who finishes their book or the 97% who lets fear stop their dreams?

The good news is that YOU get to make the call.