My book Write without Crushing Your Soul started with a very open-ended question while chatting with a group of Christian writers:
What surprised you about book publishing?
I kept my unfiltered response to myself, but I knew what I should have said:
It hurt like hell and crushed my soul over and over and over again.
To my surprise, a colleague who has published several well-received books with large publishers commented:
“I wasn’t prepared for how much publishing would hurt.”
His honest, vulnerable answer gave the rest of us permission to let out a kind of collective sigh of relief and weigh in with our own failures, disappointments, and struggles. We all had stories of pain and disappointment. Several expressed a fear that aspects of the publishing process were toxic for their souls.
No one was planning to give up on their publishing careers or putting an end to the writing they do for an audience. We were all committed to our work for the long term. However, we didn’t realize how unsustainable publishing has become for so many.
The pain and the challenges that face many writers today can wear you down if you don’t have sustainable practices and a pace that enables you to stick with it for the long term.
This is why I started working on How to Write without Crushing Your Soul.
- Disappointments will come in book publishing
- Sales will usually be disappointing.
- Some reviews will be “meh.”
- The influential people you care about won’t care about your book.
- The promotions you plan may flop.
- The stuff that you considered brilliant will be largely ignored.
And it gets more challenging if you work with a commercial publisher:
- If you’ve never been a fan of social media, you’ll be expected to jump into it with both feet.
- If you’ve never thought about how to sell books, you need to become an expert of sorts.
- If you’ve never launched a book before, prepare yourself for a time-consuming, emotional roller coaster ride.
- If you’ve never hosted a book event before, prepare yourself for either tough questions or an empty room.
I’ve been on just about every side of publishing. I’ve released books that succeeded and books that flopped. I’ve released books that were well-received by colleagues and books that hardly turned heads. I’ve heard from publishers that my email list and social media followers are ideal, and I’ve heard that I have no business publishing books.
Despite all of these ups and downs, I still persist in book publishing and know so many other writers who take on all of these same risks because there is something holy and freeing about the work.
Writers are creating something intensely personal and sharing it with the world in the hope that it will help their readers. It can be crushing to see that work go unread.
For those who persist to discover what their audiences need and how to reach them, it can be immensely fulfilling to see that work connect with readers.
How do we preserve our souls while still actively engaging in this important work?
We’ll find our own answers in two places: our mindsets and our practices.
For your mindset, begin here:
Writing cannot, in any way, shape, or form, become the source of your identity. Only God can give that to you.
A bad day, week, month, or year as a writer does not, in any way, diminish God’s love for you.
Writing is a calling to serve your audience.
The moment writing becomes a means of personal validation, you’ve handed over immense power to other people—power they don’t even want.
When “God so loved the world…” stops being enough for you, you’ll set off on a never-ending, diversion that will leave you restless and completely devoid of peace.
Writing from this place will be miserable, and it will be especially hard to bless others because the goal of writing is personal validation, not serving others.
Secondly, focusing your practices can also go a long way in saving your soul.
You can find plenty of posts sharing 50 ways to promote your book or 20 ways to grow your online platform, but most of us just need the two or three most effective ways to promote your book or writing.
Most of the writers I know who have enjoyed significant success have invested in just a few tools for connecting with readers, and everything else grows as a result. For instance, some popular bloggers I know focus on writing great posts and then hosting related conversations on their Facebook pages. I’ve personally chosen to publish short eBooks that I give away for free and then write personal email newsletters bi-weekly to those readers.
There are lots of different ways to reach readers. You can focus on developing Instagram, a podcast, Periscope videos, a weekly email newsletter, Thunderclap campaigns, or a blog that serves a niche of readers. When you’re releasing a book, don’t overlook advertising options such as Facebook ads or eBook discount sites—most of these are affordable or have lower cost options. Like I mentioned before, there are at least 50 ways to reach more readers with your writing.
Only you can tell what lines up the best with your personal talents, calling, and soul care.
Finding readers can be exhausting, so it’s best to develop the most sustainable ways that won’t eat away at your creative time, family time, and spiritual renewal.
You can’t win at everything. You can’t do it all. You’ll never be done.
I’m not a publicist by trade. I’m an author, but as more of the publicity work rests on authors, I’ve been forced to look long and hard for sustainable publicity practices for my writing work.
Perhaps the most important rule is that we need boundaries. We have to test out a few practices and then invest in those that land in the sweet spot between what works and what’s sustainable for us.
A certain level of struggle and pain will be inevitable for writers. There’s no getting past that. When I talk to new writers and aspiring authors, I’m always quick to mention that writing for an audience will always bring some level of pain and struggle. It will be especially difficult for book publishing.
That isn’t to say it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done or that some authors have had an easier time at it than others.
My hope and my prayer for the readers of Write without Crushing Your Soul is that they’ll be prepared at the outset for the challenges and hardships coming their way as they set out on their writing careers.
I want my readers to be empowered to make the best possible decisions for their souls, their relationships, and their work.
I want my readers to be as prepared as possible for what awaits them so that they can fulfill their calling to write while keeping their souls healthy for the long term.
Today’s post was adapted from my new book, Write without Crushing Your Soul: Sustainable Publishing and Freelancing.