Positive Writer

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The Only Way to Know Whether People Will Want Your Book

From Bryan: This is a guest post by Dana Sitara freelance blogger and indie author of “A Writer’s Bucket List: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket.” She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path at DIYWriting.

During the two months between the completion and launch of my latest book, A Writer’s Bucket List, I would lie awake at night fretting about the book and all the little steps that go into self-publishing… 

Creative Commons by Jurvetson

What did I forget to put on the website? 

What should I say in the announcement emails? 

What will Launch Day look like? 

Is my sales goal way too high or way too low? 

Will this thing succeed? Can it? 

Am I a complete fraud? 

Am I a good enough writer? 

Sure, I’ve gotten positive feedback from some people — people I really respect as writers, not just a few friends who don’t know what they’re talking about.

But have I gotten enough? 

What about all the people who have read this thing and said nothing? Are they saying nothing because they only have negative feedback? Did they stop reading after page one, overwhelmed with boredom or in a fit of laughter over how ridiculously bad it is? 

Is this thing ready to go out into the world? 

It never is. It never, never is completely ready to go out into the world. That’s the comfort you get when working with a third party in traditional publishing: Someone else tells you when it’s ready. And that must feel so good. Self-publishers have to dig inside ourselves and listen to our inner critic, find validation from within. 

Where the heck are we supposed to find that

I confess: I’ve put out work that wasn’t ready before, because I was eager, and I was green.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do that with this one. It’s been in the works for almost a year, from conception to writing to editing to designing to marketing to release. I forced myself to wait, to take every step carefully and thoughtfully. I involved other people — I paid other people. I needed their eyes; mine stopped working long ago. Your eyes can only assess your own project for so long before they go completely crooked and can’t tell artistic genius from finger-paints anymore.

I did it right. I brought in editors, beta readers, and experts. I received feedback at a bunch of points on the path, made adjustments, and have gotten positive feedback from those writers I respect.

To be honest, I know it’s a good book. I’m…

proud of it.

But can it sell? 

What if I’m the only one who likes it? 

Will anybody really look at my pitch and think, Yeah, I’ll press ‘BUY’

Is it going to be some gigantic flop? 

They don’t know me. They don’t know if I’m good enough or smart enough or have any kind of ability to string words together — and nobody likes to pay any money for anything anymore, so who am I to take their money for my swill? 

None of it is ever guaranteed, is it? My first two self-published books fell into the gigantic majority of books that sell less than 100 copies in their lifetime. And I’m okay with that. They deserved to sell that little, because they were amateurish. They were practice. They were education. 

But this one? It deserves more. It’s better. It’s targeted. It’s helpful. It took a lot of time and a lot of work. 

But what if it still sells less than 100 books?! 

…That’s what kept me up at night. I tried to cover it all with the anticipation, plans, and excitement that were also swirling around my mind. 

But I was so, SO scared. 

You can never know if you’ve hit the right notes. Publishing comes with too many variables. You can read as many tips and warnings as you’d like. You can bring in all the experts, spend all the money, double-triple-quadruple check the spelling, formatting, design, and layout. 

None of that will let you know whether your book will be a success. 

The only way to know whether people will want your book is to publish it and offer it to them. 

Good luck.

Are you ready to publish and offer your writing? Feel a little anxious? Share with us in the comments.

Dana Sitar

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • BubblesDeux

    “The only way to know whether people will want your book is to publish it and offer it to them.”

    I love the simple honesty in this way of thinking! I’m wishing Dana much (deserved) success on her launch! And it’s nice to come visit your blog, Bryan!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Dee Dee. It’s a great blog, isn’t it? Happy to be part of Bryan’s positive message to writers 🙂

  • Lorna_Faith

    Great Posts:-) Thanks Bryan for having Dana guest post. Just the reminder I needed to hear today. I’m just finishing up the last edits for my 1st historical romantic suspense book…and I’ve been worried about all the things you’ve mentioned ;(  Even though I’ve been working with a professional editor(and she’s helped me write a much better book:), I’m still not sure if other people will like it 🙂 I’m doing what I know to do…so I’ll go with your last statement ` I just need to publish it and offer it to people, then I’ll have an idea how many people want it.’  So true 🙂  thanks for being so real and honest Dana …very helpful!

    • Thanks, Lorna! It felt good to share 🙂 Kudos on finding faith in yourself and deciding to publish — best wishes!

  • Harvey L. Gardner

    I agree, nothing is ever “finished.”  I always remember what Picasso said when asked how he knew when something are finished.  He said, “It’s never finished.  I just decide to quit.”   This is a great post.  Sure you haven’t read my mind?

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Bryan, another great post! Dana took the words out of my mind! That’s what I have been thinking these past couple of months as I go over and over and over every word I have written. But I can no longer keep it back…have to let it go.  If it touches even a few hearts, it will be just fine. It seems Lorna and Harvey also feel the same. Blessings to all!

    • Indeed, Katina, that’s how I felt when I published my first book.

      • I’m told it the feeling never completely goes away, no matter how many books you successfully publish… Good luck to us all 😉

  • Very good, but how does one know, if he can only offer it to so few?  We cannot parade about these discussion boards screaming buy my book.  I do not have a large circle, just a large desire and need to write.  I will say, I plan to offer my novel through my blog, and I will offer mention on a contribution page to those who offer an idea to potentially improve future events of the story with their comments.  It should be fun, and really, it was the idea of AnnMarie, not mine own.

    I have more.

    • If you have a small network, consider offering the book free, at least to start. That’s a great way to let people have it risk-free, and you can solicit (or will likely get unsolicited) feedback from them. If they like it, they’ll spread the word, and that will enlarge your circle.

      Including your community in the creation of the book is a great idea, too! If your audience knows their feedback will make a difference, they’ll be invested in the book — and, again, more likely to share it and help grow your circle.

  • Great post. I totally agree, sharing our art is a risk worth taking. I’m just about to finish the first draft of my book and am excited to share it with the world. Thanks for this post! 

    • Thanks for reading, Dan 🙂 Congrats on the first draft! Best wishes with the final product.

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  • Liz

    Thank you, Bryan, for hosting this site and bringing informative perspectives to light. I thought Dana did a great job with exploring the issues faced by writers, myself definately included. Kudos!

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  • Katina

    Greetings from Greece!
    Life has been demanding my attention these past months… I miss everyone.
    This is a great post, Bryan. Funny I should read it now that I am going through my own doubts as I am waiting to hear from the publishers. Yet, no matter how many times I postponed submitting, How many readers I engaged, and how many changes I made, just like Dana said, who can guarantee that people will buy it.
    Touching even a few souls is an accomplishment good enough for me.
    Still, haven ‘t gotten to your last book…one of these days.
    All best to you Bryan!
    Dana, great success to you too Dana!

  • Christa Sterken

    Bryan, thanks for giving us a peek inside your mind during the process. Did you learn the whole process here from one source or piece it together, the “what to do”s on your own?

  • Interesting post, thank you 🙂 I self published a children’s novel for 8-12 year old’s a few years ago, with the sole purpose to encourage children who are being bullied to tell someone. As a shy person I have found the marketing and publicising, so hard. It’s put me off from trying again with another. I just don’t have the necessary skills for self publishing.

  • Julie

    Thank you for easing my stress level tonight! I am self publishing my first novel and I feel like I am walking on a very obscure and twisted path.

  • HeiressR

    Thanks! I got a lesson to stay positive! I’m in the point where I asked myself if I could finish my novel and publish it. The journey just started.

  • Kate

    Thank you for this blog & your thoughts. I’m currently in the process of self-publishing my manuscript, which is a fictional novel. I’ve had over 20 test readers from different demographics tell me that it needs to be published – but still that disgusting little voice in your head never ceases to ridicule you & tell you that you aren’t good enough, your book is garbage & you are wasting your time. I’m looking at almost two years since I wrote the first word on my manuscript but it is finally coming to fruition. I do fear I will fail but before you can fail or succeed, you have to – at least – TRY!

    I, for one, would like to thank you for putting yourself out there & also your work. I will definitely be buying your book.

    Thank you!

  • o0TheGal0o

    Oh my! ^^^^ Sounds just like all the little voices going off, one after the other, inside my head! I swear! Thank you so much!