Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

How to Overcome FOMO as an Independent Author

How to Overcome FOMOHow Indie Authors Get FOMO

If you choose the path of independent publishing, you’ll quickly learn that you have a lot of responsibilities. You’ll need to write your book, manage the editing, cover design, and formatting, and handle the publishing and marketing. While you can (and should!) hire professional help, in the end, you’re the one who makes the big decisions. This pressure alone can make you feel like you have to be a super human to make it as an author.

The good news? There are thousands of books, podcasts, blogs, and other resources ready to help you in your journey. The bad news? Each one exalts a different method of writing, publishing, and/or marketing – and new tactics emerge almost daily.

As this information flies at you from all sides and other authors skyrocket to success (seemingly overnight!), you’ll feel like you’re missing something, some crucial key to your success. So, you latch onto those new tactics. Yes! Signing up for a new social media site will boost my exposure. Yes! Paying for this new ad service will increase my sales. Yes! Selling my soul to a crossroads demon will make me a best-selling author for 50 years!

Okay, that last one might be an exaggeration (everyone knows crossroads demons only give you 10 years), but you get my point. All this chasing and hustling and worrying has a name: Fear of Missing Out (aka FOMO). And the best news? Once you know its name, you can define and defeat it.

What is FOMO?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

Applied specifically to independent authors, it’s what I described above. Anxiety that you’re missing out on a new marketing tactic, writing technique, book convention, etc. that – if you did participate in it – would be the key to your success.

How Can I Overcome FOMO?

If you’re still with me, I assume you don’t want to live in constant fear of missing out. Or, you at least want to learn how to know when you’re really missing something and when you’re wasting your time. As I always say, you’re the only one who can answer that question for yourself … but I’ll do my best to help guide you.

Know Your Why

This is my favorite lesson from the gang at Sterling & Stone (one of the top indie publishing outfits). Essentially, you need to know what your goal is for your author career. Is it to replace your full-time income? Is it to win a literary prize? Different goals require different paths.

Personally, I want to earn enough money from my book sales to become a full-time author. So, whenever I sense FOMO creeping in, I take a step back and evaluate the tactic from that goal. Will signing up for a Snapchat account help me gain readers and sell books? Maybe. But wouldn’t the time it takes to sign up, build a following, research how to effectively use the platform, and actually use it, be better spent writing more books, utilizing proven advertising methods, and connecting with readers via my email list and familiar platforms? Absolutely!

Think Like a Business

If you’re in independent publishing to make a career, then you’re an entrepreneur. Think like one!

Whenever you participate in a business activity, you’re investing resources: time, money, energy, etc. Before you jump onto the latest craze, ask yourself: what is my investment? And what is my logical return on investment?

For example, let’s say I find a book review service. I pay them to reach out to book reviewers on my behalf. How much does that cost? How many reviews can I expect in return? Who are these reviewers, will they like my book, and do they write quality reviews? How many reviews do I need to actually impact my book sales? What is the “cost per review” then?

It’s not a perfect science, and with the qualitative nature of our field, the answers might be unclear. But the more precise you can be, the more intelligently and effectively you’ll use your resources.

Take an Outside Perspective

When we see what other indie authors are doing, it’s easy to evaluate their decisions in a logical manner. We can look at someone else’s Twitter timeline and say, “They should spend less time tweeting about their book and more time editing it.” While I’m not advocating you scour your feeds looking for authors to criticize, I encourage you to take note when those thoughts strike you. When they do, you’re probably basing that person’s actions on your own goals.

Consider the last tactic you tried and imagine that this “misguided” author was the one doing it. Would you judge them? Would you list “more important” tasks they could complete? Or would you admire their hustle and business savvy? That should tell you everything you need to know.

Find a Mentor

My indie author mentor is Joanna Penn. No, I don’t know her personally. However, her career path aligns with my personal goals. Therefore, whenever I learn of a new tactic that worked for her, I know it’s worth considering for me.

Focusing on one author helps narrow your options, and if they meet your definition of success, it gives you one (of infinite) paths to take. Which author could you follow?

Do What’s Really Important

It all comes back to the first point: knowing your own writing and publishing goals. Define your goals, research the best way to achieve them, and then do it. Focus on the broader strategies (not the new tactics and get-rich-quick tricks that pop up) and you’ll get there.

You’ll feel better, too. Earlier this year, I spent a lot of time feeling overwhelmed. So many authors have been touting new services and courses and tactics, and it gave me a serious case of FOMO. This month, I’ve focused almost exclusively on writing my next book, which right now, should be my No. 1 priority. And you know what? I haven’t felt FOMO once, because I know that I’m actively doing the most important thing for my author business.

When is FOMO Justified?

Here’s the BIG secret: most of the time, you’re not missing out on anything. There will always be a new social media craze, snazzy marketing service, or revolutionary writing technique to adopt. If you spend your time, money, and energy chasing them all, you’ll never get anything productive done.

That being said, sometimes your FOMO will be justified. In those rare cases, the shiny new button will be something that aligns with your goals, makes good business sense, works for other authors with similar goals, and doesn’t leave you with the nagging sensation that you’ve wasted resources or the guilt that you’ve ignored what’s really important. If you stick to those tenants, you’ll know something valuable when you see it.

What Now?

Use your best judgment. Be honest about your goals and how your actions serve them. And, as the latest catchphrase insists: work smarter, not harder.

Do that, over and over, day-in and day-out, and you’ll make it. The only thing you’ll miss? All the time you wasted worrying about or chasing all the crap that never mattered in the first place.

Author Business & Publishing, Fiction Blog, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

Introducing Boxthorn Press!

A few months ago, I explained why I will independently publish as well as that I would do so under a company I own. Today, I am excited to officially announce my publishing imprint, Boxthorn Press!

Boxthorn Press Logo - Full color
Image copyright © 2015 by Kate M. Colby. All rights reserved.

Boxthorn Press is the company under which I intend to publish all of my novels and books of which I am the sole author. I officially established the enterprise in April and right now, it operates solely as the publisher of my books. In the future, it will encompass other creative services and perhaps even operate to help other aspiring authors reach their publishing dreams.

Originally, Boxthorn Press was going to be a joint venture between Daniel (my husband) and me. When that was the case, Daniel chose the name “Boxthorn” to honor his Australian roots, as Boxthorn is the street on which he lived as a kid. However, even when Daniel decided not to publish independently, I kept the name. Why? Partly because I like the plant itself and the symbolism, partly because Daniel is the one who introduced me to the idea of independent publishing, and partly because I think it’s a punchy name.

The logo for my company depicts a boxthorn plant emerging from the outlines of a box. On a practical level, the logo shows what a boxthorn plant looks like. On a personal level, it symbolizes the fact that I am pushing boundaries and stretching my creative capacities with everything I do. On a reader-oriented level, the logo represents my fiction. The boxthorn plant is contradictory — it is alluring (juicy berries) with a serious/dangerous undercurrent (thorns). Likewise, as the plant extends from the box, so does my fiction extend across traditional genre borders. I don’t just write in one genre, and each of my books does not fit clearly into one genre box, either.

I hope that, as you read my fiction, you will see what I mean.

Now, I imagine some of my readers may be wondering — if you are self-publishing, why bother with creating a company? Isn’t the point that you are doing it by yourself? These are valid questions, and ones I thought myself when I first encountered author-entrepreneurs.

Here are my reasons for creating my own imprint:

  • This is my career, and I take it seriously.
  • Keeping my business and personal finances separate is important for my record-keeping and tax purposes.
  • One day, Boxthorn Press may expand into a larger company and/or small press.
  • Print-on-demand and online publishing services should not receive publisher credit for my hard work on online retailers. In other words, I want my work to show as published by my company and be easily connected to my brand.
  • It’s enriching, fulfilling, and just-plain-fun to be an entrepreneur.

Thank you to everyone joining me on this ride! I appreciate your support, and I cannot wait to see how Boxthorn Press and I evolve over the years.

NOTE: My logo was designed by the brilliant Brenda Tietze, and I am ever-grateful to her for bringing my ideas to life. And yes, she will design one for you, too! (Note on the note: The fuzziness is not her doing — merely WordPress being finicky with sizing and file types.)

Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Indie Book Review: Business For Authors

Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur
Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that I have explained the three forms of publishing (traditional, vanity, and independent), I wanted to use this “Feedback Friday” to share with you all the book that secured my decision to independently publish: Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn.

As I described before, until April 2014, I knew basically nothing about independent publishing and held the same stigmas about it that most academically trained creative writers do. Of course, as you know, this stigma dissolved completely, but I was still left with a lot of questions and self-doubt. Could I make indie publishing work for me? How can I do this with little-to-no business knowledge? Well, thanks to Business for Authors, I now have the confidence that I can achieve all my indie dreams.

In her book, Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur, Joanna Penn outlines basically every aspect of turning one’s love of writing into a business. Penn begins by describing the mindset one must have to be a successful entrepreneur, and I imagine, quickly weeds out those who see themselves too much as “artists” and not enough as “business people.” This approach may be off-putting to some readers, as many writers do not like to think of their art as business, but it also sets the tone of the book and instills confidence in those who are (or want to become) more business-minded.

The content of Business for Authors builds similarly to an actual business. Penn helps the reader identify her potential business plan by outlining the various business models authors can have as well as the products and services they can offer. However, where the book really gains momentum is when Penn explains how to run one’s authorship like a business by hiring contract laborers (editors, cover designers, etc.), defining a customer base, and determining sales, distribution, and marketing strategies. Even someone with a highly limited knowledge of business can follow along up to this point.

Where Business for Authors becomes more complex is when Penn discusses the financial aspects of running a business. While her explanations are clear and concise, the subject matter still requires the reader to have a solid knowledge of finances, and if this knowledge is not existent, it may be difficult for the reader to follow along. This is not necessarily a critique of Penn, as she clearly states that technical financial knowledge is outside the realm of this book, but there may be some additional research necessary on behalf of the reader to understand this part entirely.

In the final content section of Business for Authors, Penn provides tactics for strategizing and planning one’s author business. This section takes the business knowledge from the rest of the book and shows the reader how he can apply it moving forward. For this section, Penn relies heavily on her personal experience, as she does throughout the book, and while this anecdotal approach is full of great examples and extremely helpful, it would have been beneficial to draw more upon the experiences of other authors and business people for more diversified insights into how an author entrepreneur business could be approached.

On a side note, while Business for Authors is intended for independent publishers, it is also useful for those looking to traditionally publish. Most notably, Penn has entire sections dedicated to agents, publishers, and contracts, and she lists multiple questions one should ask before signing away his rights as well as describes tricky situations and contract language to look out for. Likewise, authors seeking to traditionally publish can benefit from learning to view their novels as products and figuring out ways to market themselves and their products to potential agents, publishers, and readers.

My one advice to prospective readers is to buy the e-book edition and not the print book. Penn has loaded Business for Authors with dozens upon dozens of links to other reference books, articles, and videos, and of course, in print form, you cannot click on these links and must physically type them into your browser. I have not yet re-purchased the book in e-book format (I am considering it, because it is that great of a resource!), but I strongly encourage you all to learn from my mistakes and buy the digital copy to have those resources close at hand.

Additionally, Penn provides a Business for Authors worksheet on her website, which I highly recommend. The worksheet is free, and it contains questions to help guide the reader’s framing of her author business as well as a business plan template that the reader can fill out and revise as necessary.

If you are dreaming of or seriously considering turning your writing into your full-time career, Business for Authors by Joanna Penn is the perfect place to start. The book will walk you through the basic process, step-by-step, with personal examples from how Penn built her own author entrepreneur business. Where the book lacks, Penn will direct you to more detailed resources, either from herself or other publishing professionals. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to independently publish and considering going the extra mile to full-time entrepreneurship.

View all my reviews

Business For Authors. How To Be An Author EntrepreneurIf you are interested in reading Business for Authors and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

NaNoWriMo 2014 is Over: Now What?

It is official. National Novel Writing Month is now over. You did it, writers. Take a bow.

So what comes next? I like to call it “National Now What? Month.” As the frenzied writing of November slows down or ceases, writers are left with several more hours of free time, the impending obligations of the holiday season, and painfully empty fingers. The community-enforced mission of NaNoWriMo is over. There are no more status bars to track your progress, no more hyperactive Twitter hashtags, and no more overflowing NaNo forums. Now what?

I can’t tell you. Only you can decide on the next step in your writing journey. However, if you are having trouble making up your mind, allow me to offer a few suggestions. Scroll through this options guide to find the statements that best fit your NaNoWriMo experience and see if my ideas strike a cord with you.

NaNoWriMo participant 2014I did not win NaNoWriMo, but I loved the experience! If this is you, keep writing! As long as you enjoyed NaNoWriMo, there is no reason why you should not continue working on your manuscript and attempting to finish. Now, you can do it at your own pace, on your own terms. Or, if you feel like you need a break from your story, but not from writing, start working on your next idea. Either way — get to it!

I did not win NaNoWriMo, and I did not have fun. If you did not win NaNoWriMo and you were unhappy throughout the entire challenge, maybe writing is not for you. I would never steer someone away from writing simply because she finds it difficult or tedious, but if you flat-out did not enjoy regular writing, you might think about channeling your creative energy into a different medium. Try a different kind of writing, painting, playing music, dancing, etc.

I won NaNoWriMo, but my manuscript is not finished. Need I say it? Figure out your post-NaNo writing pace and finish that novel! However, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your story, you could always take a break and write a bit on your next idea. Luckily for all of us, there are no rules!

I won NaNoWriMo, and my manuscript is done! If your manuscript is finished, you have several options. A) Resume regular life. B) Resume regular life and prepare for NaNoWriMo 2015. C) Try out a different artistic medium. D) Write another novel. E) Edit and revise your novel. F) Seek publication. More on these last two below.

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileI won NaNoWriMo, my manuscript is complete, and I want to seek publication. Fantastic! If you want to make writing a career, this is the best place to be in after NaNoWriMo. However, if you don’t want to publish, that is fine, too! It’s your life. My best advice for this stage is to WAIT a while before seeking out publication options and consider these three steps.

Find beta readers and/or non-professional critique partners. Now that your novel is done, you need to create emotional distance and learn to look at it objectively. Beta readers, who are individuals in your target audience who read the book before it is published, can offer you feedback on the structure of your novel and how it will be received. Critique partners are a bit more formal, in that they will likely offer more in-depth analysis and criticism of your book. More on beta readers in a later post.

Edit yourself and hire a professional. It should go without saying that you personally need to edit/revise your novel at least once before you pursue publication. I would also suggest hiring a professional editor to go over your manuscript as well. This is especially important for those seeking independent publishing. There are three key types of editors that you will want to investigate if you do decide to publish: developmental editors, copy/line editors, and proofreaders. More on self-editing and hiring editors in later posts.

Decide which type of publishing you want to pursue. We are lucky enough to be writing in a time where there are several publishing options. You can go the traditional route, where you query an agent to help you sell your book to a publishing house. This can either be one of the “big five” publishers or a small or micro-press. You can go the independent route, where you set up your own author-enterpreneur business and publish your own books as if you were a publishing house. Or, you can vanity publish, where you simply put your books out to the world with little to no professional assistance. Click on the name of the publishing model to read more about it: traditional, vanity, independent.

As for me, I know my post-NaNoWriMo plan and why it is right for me. It will mark a huge shift in my life and at least a few ripples on this site and the rest of my online presence. I am very excited to take the next steps in my journey, and I am just as excited to share them with you all!

If you are interested in making a writing career of your own, or have just enjoyed my blog so far, I encouraged you to stick with me as I enter the next phase of my life. I promise it will be fun, informative, and keep alive that uplifting writing community that we had during NaNoWriMo!

What are your post-NaNoWriMo plans? Will you continue writing or are you going to take a break for a while? Let me know below!