Friday, July 19, 2019

Six Things Writers Need To Stop Worrying About

Some things don't change.

When I got my start in this biz, way back in 2002, writers had to get a lit agent to get a publisher, then they did what their publisher told them to do.

That way of doing things was terrible for lots of reasons, including (but not limited to):
  • Agents missing good books.
  • Publishers missing good books.
  • Publishers owning rights forever.
  • Publishers screwing up promotion.
  • Sales numbers following you.
  • Having no control during the submission process.
  • Having no control during the publishing process.
  • Having no control after the book comes out.
The "having no control" parts actually apply to all of the above. Though writers can set goals such as "I'll query three agents by July 20th" actually getting an agent is out of our control. 

I've blogged at length about the differences between goals and dreams, but TLDR: goals are within your control, dreams are what you want but beyond your control.

While self-pubbing has allowed writers unprecedented control over how we publish and promote, there are still four things beyond our control that writers seems to get stuck on.

Here are six things writers need to stop worrying about. 


Don't get me wrong here: we need Amazon reviews. 

I do NOT recommend any paid service that says they'll get you reviews. There are too many ways that can go wrong, and too many ways Amazon can take it the wrong way.

I DO recommend making your book free to get more readers (and more reviews), and building a newsletter list where you can send books to fans to get reviews. NEVER ask for 5 star reviews. Ask for honest reviews.

But while reviews are needed to help sell books, and while getting good reviews is helpful, writers should not read their own reviews.

Someone else's opinion of you and your work is none of your business.

Keep repeating that until it sticks in your head and you start to believe it.

I have a caveat here. If you have over 50 reviews, and your book averages less than 3 stars, start reading reviews, because chances are there is something wrong with your book that people are picking up on. Read the reviews, fix the book, unpublish it, and republish it under a new title (in the description state it was previously pubbed under the original title.)

But unless your reviews overwhelmingly suck, do not read them. 


Fuck critics. Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, critique.

Anyone who gets paid to review someone else's art is a bottom feeder. Artists create. Jackasses tear down what artists create.

Are you a professional critic and don't like me saying that? Welcome to how it feels to be judged by a stranger, asshat. Now go eat a cold bag of dicks and re-evaluate your life, because you are a waste of carbon.

Don't read critics, don't kowtow to critics, don't support critics, don't send your book anywhere in hopes of being reviewed by critics.


I remember starting out, and how important the acceptance of my peers was. I wanted blurbs. I wanted to be praised. I wanted to be liked.

Unnecessary, all of it.

You should go to conventions and meet like-minded authors and have coffee-break/beer-rant conversations with them. If you find a kindred soul, you should trade manuscripts with them for critiques (they aren't critics, they are fellow artists) and attempt co-writing a few times. It's helpful, and fun, and a nice break from all of the lonely solitude of being a writer.

But it's okay if you don't make any lasting friendships, or co-write any stories, or trade manuscripts. 

It's even okay if your peers don't like you.

Other writers aren't necessary for you to succeed in this business, and their acceptance of you isn't necessary for you to feel good about yourself and your career.

Friends in this biz are great, but don't worry if you don't have any.


There's a phrase for a bunch of like-minded people who get together for the sole purpose of mutual gratification.

Circle jerk.

Awards are self-congratulatory seals of approval from peers that say nothing about the quality of the writing. Some are nepotistic. Some are fraudulent. Most are popularity contests that don't even require the voters to read your work.

The subjective opinions of a certain group of people at a certain moment in time say nothing about the value of your work. Having won an award won't do much (or anything) for your career.

Do you remember who won the Pulitzer for Lit in 2008? The Nobel in 2011? The Booker last year?

Neither does anyone else. 

Winning an award feels nice for five minutes. Losing an award feels shitty for a few days. Neither makes your book any better or worse.

Put awards out of your head. They don't mean anything.


Don't enter contests.

I say this having judged contests, having held contests, and having submitted to contests (I actually just entered the Kindle Storyteller UK contest, because I pubbed a book at that time and it only costs a keyword to enter, which took all of 30 seconds, and because there may be some readers looking to read entries, which can't hurt sales.)

Paying to enter a contest is a waste of money and hope. No one cares if you win, and losing feels bad.

Don't do it, unless it requires zero effort and money. And if you do enter a contest like Kindle Storyteller, forget it as soon as you enter; you won't win.


Once upon a time, every author I knew hoped to hit the NYT bestseller list. Me included.

Then I figured out how the NYT list worked and realized how stupid it was.

Once upon a time, you sold a lot of ebooks appearing on the Amazon bestseller lists. Discoverability and visibility had a direct connection to more sales. I no longer believe that's the case.

So stop worrying about getting on any kind of list. It's beyond your control anyway.

Instead, focus on finding the sweet spot between ebook price and sales. 

So ends this rant. If you agree or disagree with any of these, I read and respond to all comments.