As I outlined this blog post about the pain points of publishing, I kept saying, “Oh, this is a big one.” When, in fact, they are all possible momentum stoppers for many authors. Publishing a book can be a rewarding but challenging process, and aspiring authors often encounter various pain points along the way. Here are some common challenges.

Writing Process

Many aspiring authors struggle with finding time, motivation, and discipline to complete their manuscripts. The writing process itself can be mentally and emotionally demanding. And then there is writer’s block. Writer’s block can stop writers in their tracks. It can be caused by a lack of inspiration, fear of failure, or uncertainty about the story’s direction.

Establish a consistent writing routine and schedule it on your calendar. Put a lockbox around your time so it can’t be taken for any reason but an emergency. Dig deep into discovering why you are writing in the first place as a way to pull you through the project. Set realistic goals for your word count each week and overall timeline to complete a chapter or the manuscript. And seek inspiration from other authors. Consider joining writing groups or workshops for support and feedback. You need to write alone, but you don’t need to be alone in the process.

Editing and Revisions

Editing is a crucial step in the publishing process, and it can be a painstaking task. Authors may find it challenging to review and revise their own work objectively, and the process can be time-consuming. For most writers, it isn’t nearly as rewarding as writing the first draft and certainly not as much fun as dreaming up the idea in the first place.

Try to be comfortable with the idea that you’ll review your manuscript several (okay, many) times. When you do a pass through the manuscript, focus on different aspects of the writing. You can make the first pass to clean up the plot, the second for character development, and another for dialogue, for example. Once you’ve completed self-edits, hire a professional editor to review your manuscript objectively. Take the time to revise and refine your work based on feedback. Consider using beta readers for additional perspectives.

Finding a Literary Agent or Publisher

Securing a literary agent or traditional publisher can be a big hurdle. The submission process is highly competitive, and rejection is common. Authors may need to persist and develop a thick skin to handle rejection. As big publishing houses struggle to remain solvent, they look for known talent to keep sales high.

To increase your chances, research and carefully target literary agents or publishers who align with your genre and style. Craft a compelling query letter and be prepared for rejection, understanding that persistence is key. And, no matter if you are choosing a traditional or self-publishing route, create a book marketing plan to build your author platform to demonstrate your ability to connect with your readers and sell more books. Get your book marketing checklist to put you on the best path.

Self-Publishing Challenges

For obvious reasons, I’m a proponent of self-publishing. It comes with its own set of hurdles—finding a reputable self-publishing company and understanding the self-publishing process contribute to the anxiety writers feel as they walk into this whole new world. There is so much to learn if you embark on the journey yourself. There’s still a learning curve to know what one publishing company offers over another and what will make a difference in your publishing experience.

Fortunately, you don’t have to look far to find experts to walk you down the path to becoming published. Whether you do it all yourself, piecemeal it together with various freelancers, or find a publishing company and coach to guide you through the whole process, there are so many more people and companies who can help make it a lot easier than ever.

Marketing and Promotion

Regardless of the publishing route, most authors struggle with marketing and promoting their books effectively. Because most authors don’t have a background in business, building an author platform and creating a book marketing strategy to guide it can be overwhelming. Some of the gurus made it big in the early days of self-publishing, while others write multiple books a year in popular genres. If that’s not you, you may have a harder time finding the marketing advice that fits your style and serves your goals, available time, and budget.

The key for any author is to start early, ideally three to six months before your targeted publication date. Doing so allows you the time to set up your social media sites, website, and email list and develop a marketing plan. Starting early also allows time to build an audience and excitement for the book’s release. You’ll have space to build a launch team and get reviews before your book comes out to promote it more easily once it does. Writing more than one book, especially in a series or about similar topics, can propel sales for each of the other books. Perhaps the most important key to success as an author is to devote time to learning about marketing your book and/or investing in author coaching to move you further along your path more quickly.

Financial Investment

Publishing a book, whether through traditional or self-publishing, often involves financial investment. Costs can include professional editing, cover design, marketing, and other services. Authors may find it challenging to manage these expenses. The bigger your goals for book sales or growing your author business, the more important it is to invest in high-quality publishing services, even if you can handle some of the publishing details yourself. For those who don’t understand the publishing process and all its nuances, spending money on publishing is a must.

Consider how to budget for publishing costs over time. Starting early can help. Some writers take on another shift or a second job or some freelance work to save for publishing. Bartering for services is another possible route to explore. Some authors find success using crowdfunding services, like Kickstarter, to raise funds and find readers for their books. Although I’m not a big proponent of going into debt to fund your project, some authors have made their dreams happen by getting a loan or using credit to fund publishing. Although the costs might seem a little or a lot out of reach, the joy you get from publishing a book is priceless and can change the trajectory of your life. While I’m not suggesting that one book is the key to fame and fortune, the pride of accomplishment can only lead to a different view of yourself and your future.

Time Management

Writing a book takes time, and balancing writing with other commitments can be a big pain point. Additionally, the publishing process itself requires a substantial time investment. “Someday” is an all too common refrain for some writers. Someday, I’ll write it. Someday, I’ll publish it. Someday, I’ll market. Without focus, someday may take too long or, sadly, never at all.

Understanding your blocks can reveal solutions for solving them. When you understand why you want to write it and envision yourself accomplishing it, you unlock a powerful motivator for finishing writing and unblocking the things that stand in your way. With your purpose in mind, create a realistic timeline for the entire publishing process, including writing, editing, and marketing. And then, put writing, publishing, and marketing sessions on your calendar and guard them with all you have. Make the time non-negotiable. You’ll watch your word count soar, your book published, and your book sales rise.

Fear of Criticism

Once a book is published, authors fear criticism and negative reviews. The idea of writing and publishing a book can be idealized before you pen a single word. In your head, you can be a bestselling author with raving fans. Once your book is actually published, that bubble can burst, imposter syndrome can sabotage your efforts, and actual negative reviews can derail your enthusiasm. Learning to handle feedback, both constructive and otherwise, can be emotionally challenging.

While most have at least some reluctance about sharing their creative work, there are remedies to help mitigate its grip. First, hire a professional editor. Nothing is better to quiet your nerves than experienced eyes on your manuscript. The same is true for quality book design. When the cover looks great, you feel great. Next, develop a resilient mindset. You are able to look at your journey as a learning experience rather than a binary success or failure. Focus on constructive criticism as a growth opportunity to improve your next book. You can also seek support from fellow authors or writing communities to navigate the emotional aspects of criticism.

Distribution Challenges

Authors may face difficulties getting their books into bookstores or libraries, particularly for self-published books. Navigating the non-Amazon distribution landscape can be complex. Lack of knowledge plagues many authors about how to approach offline avenues to place books and maintain a relationship for long-term success.

For traditionally published authors, your publisher will likely optimize distribution channels online and off. For self-published authors, there are many avenues for distributing your book, starting with local independent bookstores. Read and follow each bookstore’s policy for accepting independently published books and approach each opportunity with gratitude. Have a plan to promote each local on your website and on social. The same is true for gift shops, nature centers, toy stores, or other locations that may carry your book. Look to other outlets like speaking engagements, workshops, and author visits to schools to expand your reach beyond online stores. Also, consider whether your ebook would do best to be exclusive to Amazon’s KDP Select or distributed wide to include other outlets, like Kobo, Apple Books, and other ebook retailers.

Staying Motivated

The entire process, from writing to publishing and beyond, can be a long and arduous journey. Authors may struggle to stay motivated, especially when faced with setbacks or slow progress. The longer the process, other priorities can become more urgent, or other interests can feel more exciting. The bright, shiny object syndrome can derail even the most dedicated writer.

For most writers, it’s important to set realistic and achievable goals to maintain motivation. Celebrate small victories and milestones throughout the writing and publishing process. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld developed his craft, he wrote one joke every day. He hung a big calendar on the wall and put a big red X on each day he wrote a joke. His goal was not to break the streak. Big Xs, gold stars, a night out, or a new pair of shoes can be the motivation you need to keep going. But, for many, connecting with other authors for mutual support and encouragement can be a motivating factor. Look for writing groups online, local critique groups, or even a writing partner so you don’t feel alone on your journey.

Despite these pain points of publishing, many authors find the experience of writing and publishing a book to be incredibly rewarding. Overcoming these pain points often requires persistence, a willingness to learn, and the ability to adapt to the changing landscape of the publishing industry. Focus on the joy in the process and recognize your growth as a writer and person along the way.

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