So you’ve written your book, you’ve hired your editor and formatter, you’ve decided that you really do want to put this piece out into the world, and now you’re finally ready to hit publish.
And You. Are. Nervous. It’s hard to sleep, focus, sit still. You are so proud of yourself for getting this far and so grateful for all the support that’s gotten you here. But you’re also about to leave the safety of your carefully chosen feedback bubble, exposing you to the rest of the world’s opinions.
Okay, if you’re already panicking here, let’s take a breath. And I mean literally close your eyes for a moment and take a big one in and out before you move to the next sentence.
Hi! Welcome back. This post is all about how to navigate the exposure and vulnerability that comes with publication.
A lot of us, myself included, have a habit of comparing ourselves to people who have decades more experience than we do. It’s as if the moment we enter the big-kid pool, we forget that it’s our first time doing this.
The beautiful thing about self-publishing—if that’s your jam—is that you don’t have to wait for some imaginary seal of approval from a panel of strangers (who were never going to be your target audience anyway) to start a dialogue between you and your readers.
You get to share your writing and be in process at the same time. In the larger timeline of your life as a writer, this is just one moment in a long and ongoing series of projects. If there’s something you feel you could have done differently in this book, make a note and work on that skill in the next one.
Publishable doesn’t mean perfect. There will be things you love and things you’re still working on. But at some point, the tweaking has to stop, and you have to accept your story for where it is.
You can be ready to publish and still have a holistic, nuanced critique of your book. What’s important is that you get clear on what you think. You’re about to be flooded with the reviews and opinions of people you’ve never met, and based on pure probability, your work won’t be for everyone. What you don’t want to do is take every reader’s opinion as gospel.
Try this exercise to help you stay grounded in your own critique:
None of these critiques should be confused for judgment. Whatever you’re working on is neutral. It’s a learning experience. There is no winning, losing, passing, or failing. It’s all, now and forever, rehearsal.
Print that baby out, PDF it, whatever you need to do to make the document uneditable.
If at any point down the line, you feel overwhelmed with criticism, open up this document and remind yourself what you think.
Can our opinions and critiques change? Of course they can. But to the best of your ability, try and accept the writer who wrote that document, who was brave enough to share their story, knowing it wasn’t perfect.
When you invite the world into your home, keep your community close. Surround yourself with people who have been through this process with you. Prioritize your least judgmental friends, the ones who hold you up when you’re down, who give you space to be imperfect.
Let them know you might be a little extra vulnerable for the next few weeks or months. If you’re comfortable, ask them to be extra generous with their compliments for a while. If they’ve got something nice to say, say iiiit! Just don’t forget to give those friends something back for being the most awesome people in your life.
Lastly, as you stand on the edge of that diving board, remember to breathe, feed yourself, drink a glass of water every once in a while, and sleep when you can.
You’re doing something incredibly brave. Take care of yourself as you do it.
I'm a fiction book editor and writing coach. If you like my stories, I want to hear yours!
I help authors develop and polish their writing, so it's reading exactly the way it's meant to.
The world deserves to hear your story. Let's get it right.
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