“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” - Muhammed Ali
It’s a common occurrence. We decide to take The Champ’s advice and tackle some book marketing because we know that our personal involvement boosts both profile and sales. We get all gung ho thinking about all the wonderful things we’re going to accomplish. Maybe we even take a few tentative steps into this strange new world. And then, the excitement fades and we go turtle…retreating to something, anything, else that feels familiar. And that’s the end of our marketing initiatives.
What just happened?
For many authors, book marketing is a new skill to learn and anything new takes us out of our comfort zones. The unfamiliar feels risky as the ancient part of the brain, the part responsible for our survival, tries to figure out if the new activity is life-threatening. Unfortunately, our ancient brains are not really good at discerning what is a real external threat and what is only a perceived threat. Therefore, an imagined threat is just as stressful to us as an actual one.
Loss of control is very threatening to the overwrought ancient brain and so much of book sales and marketing can feel out of the author’s control—right down to not knowing where to start, what’s really important, and how it’s going to be received.
Enter self-doubt to sabotage your plans by raising all sorts of reasons why your plan won’t work and you aren’t the right person for it anyway.
While this is a useful response when considering physically risky situations it isn’t helpful for most of our goals.
For example, while I have marketed for many years, I have never written a blog about it. The first post went well because I did it so fast I outstripped the fear. This one has been another kettle of fish altogether and I know full well what it’s like to be waterboarded by self-doubt. Thoughts like "There are a ton of other people writing about this topic and they are so much better than me," "What do I know?", "This post sucks," and other wild and crazy thoughts swirl around in my head.
The "safe" response would be to do nothing. While this would relieve the discomfort, it does nothing to further my goal to help authors get the very best outcomes possible for their books.
“If you find something very difficult to achieve yourself, don’t imagine it impossible⎯for anything possible and proper for another person can be achieved as easily by you.” - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.19
So, how to accept the feeling of risk and quell the white noise of panic?
First, note the first three words in this post and accept that fear and self-doubt are experienced by everyone in new situations.
Secondly, realize that as an author, you have some amazing methods right at your fingertips. You can:
1. Reframe book marketing as an extension of the familiar creative writing practice. As Seth Godin says, “Good marketers tell a story.” No one knows your book better than you do, and no one cares for it as passionately. Clearly you already know how to tell a story! It is possible to make this process both creative and fun. We’ll talk.
2. Focus on what can be controlled. We have no control whatsoever over what anyone else thinks or does. Worrying about that induces a feeling of helplessness and, you guessed it, precipitates panic. We do have full control over our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. Taking responsibility for anything engenders a sense of control. For example, now I know that writing this post and getting it posted are the only things within my control. I accept that the reader’s reactions to it are not, and I just have to let that go.
Out of these two methods comes the third:
3. Have a plan of action. Then take consistent tiny steps to achieve it. Consistency, more than anything else, leads to success.
Sas Petherick: Sas is an expert on dealing with self-doubt. Her blog generally has some interesting nuggets. Her podcast, Courage and Spice, dubbed "The podcast for humans with self-doubt," explores the topic with some fascinating people, and her online course, “Your Self-Belief Map” is excellent.
Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, PhD, is a classic. Dr. Jeffers has some excellent techniques for pushing through the fear and moving forward.