Hope for Weary and Discouraged Writers

Copy of Write without Crushing Your Soul LARGER

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.

The eBook version is on sale for just $3.99:

Kindle | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Print


The Unintended Consequence of Posting that I Won’t Review Books on My Blog


People are still sending me books to review.

I tried to warn authors and publicists that I wouldn’t be able to review their books on my blog and wrote a 3,000-word post with all kinds of ideas for getting book reviews. The overall number of requests has dropped, but they continue all the same.

As I tried to sort this out, I realized that there are some really interesting aspects of book publicity worth considering here. I’ll begin with the most obvious, at least to me, and move to the some deeper issues that may be difficult to see with clarity.


Publicists and Authors Didn’t See the Post

OK, I wrote a post about not reviewing books on my blog, but that doesn’t mean everyone saw it. I don’t assume every person requesting a review disregarded my post.

I need to do a better job of making that post visible on my site. It’s not serving the purpose I intended if I’m not helping more visitors find it. It’s really easy to neglect the internal functionality of my website. Heck, I don’t think my latest release was even listed on the “My Books” page a month after it released! I guess I should get on that in May.

Lesson learned!


Hope Springs Eternal for Some Authors

While some haven’t seen the post, I have also received requests from authors who begin their emails with something like this:

“I saw your post about not being able to read books or review them on your blog, and I don’t expect you to read my book, but I still want to send it to you…”

I applaud this optimism and determination, misguided though it may be. Hey, if you love your book, you should want everyone to read it. It’s just troubling to me that some authors believe in their books SO MUCH that they’re willing to waste a copy of it, let alone wasting their time sending emails to people who have publicly stated that they won’t do what’s being asked of them.

I’ve been there. I’ve taken long shots before. I don’t sit here in judgment, even if I was a bit miffed at first.

Too many authors are so focused on getting bloggers to do what they, the authors, want that they miss out on what a blogger could do for them. For instance, a regular reader of my newsletter dropped me a note asking for my feedback on a project. I was more than happy to spend five minutes offering my opinion. In fact, a simple ask like that means I could suggest other people who may read the book or places where he could find publicity. The sky’s the limit for potential networking at that point.

There is a world of difference between a five-minute favor and a potential three-hour slog through a PDF file.

I want every author to be filled with optimism and enthusiasm for their projects, but I also don’t want them to waste their contacts with fellow authors and bloggers. Sometimes shooting a bit low, especially if the person being asked doesn’t know you, can bring in the best return for your time.


Stop Relying on Other People to Make Your Book Successful

Besides the dogged optimism of authors, I think this trend of asking bloggers for reviews sometimes speaks to a deeper struggle that I personally spent years sorting out. Too many up and coming authors rely on other people for their success.

Mind you, the right person really can make or break your career. I’ve seen it happen to people with little to no credentials trump those with credentials simply because the right person opens some doors. However, this is rare, and the vast majority of us can’t reach more readers by tagging along with someone else’s success. We have to build our readers gradually, one person at a time each day rather than praying for a windfall from the right blogger or celebrity.

I spent far too much time coveting the support of celebrity authors or social media bumps from people with bigger platforms, hoping and praying that they would respond to my pleas via email for help. Even when I did land a great endorsement from a leading and trusted voice or a windfall of social media shares, that didn’t necessarily compensate for the limited connections I had with readers at the start of my publishing career.

This is one of those cases where a lot of misinformation about social media and endorsements converge with a few case studies of the extreme exceptions that become the norm for far too many. I completely overestimated the impact of endorsements, blog posts, and social media shares from influential people when it came to selling my books, especially when my books were only on sale for 30% off.

I won’t say that social media, blog posts, or endorsements can’t help your book. They can, especially if you’re offering a $.99 promotion. However, the context and specific situation matters a lot. One of my friends wrote a children’s book that helps kids not be afraid of the dark and he got a share from an extremely popular Twitter user who is a household name for many. That gave his book a huge lift (although I’m quick to say he had a massive network of his own to begin with!), but how many of us have a book with such a wide, instantly recognizable appeal or a reliable contact with a celebrity who is deeply invested in our work? Not many!

For the majority of us, we can certainly promote books through our blogs, social media, or endorsements from trusted authorities in our fields, but the real movement I’ve seen with my books has come by making longer lasting connections with readers who subscribe to my blog or my email newsletter. These are the people who are interacting with me on a regular basis and who will be most invested in my books when they release.

While there’s nothing wrong with using guest posts on other blogs to promote a book when it releases—hey, I’ve done it and will continue to do it—you may see a better long term investment in your time if you use blog posts to grow your blog or newsletter subscribers, keeping in touch with them, and then tell them about your next book when it releases.

Do you see the difference there? Too many authors have the promotion work backwards. We think of promotion as this thing we do to reach readers after the book is done, but it actually works a lot better if you build those connections before you even write the book. Then, when the book releases, you can ask your network of readers to buy your book and to share it on social media.

This could only be me and it may not last forever, but I have noticed a significant difference in the response to my newsletter vs. my social media posts: the former receives way more attention. Publicist Tim Grahl notes that it’s hard to dodge an email, but there are any number of reasons why a follower on social media with miss a post or a tweet.

I couldn’t have taken my first steps in publishing without other authors offering advice, support, and connections. I’m committed to doing the same for others. To that end, the most important piece of advice I can offer is to build your own network of readers. I assure you, it’s far more rewarding to interact with your own group of readers and celebrate a new book with them. The alternative is an author who spends release week begging bloggers and other authors to help promote a book. Yes, sometimes authors and bloggers will help out, but this is a small part of book publicity, not the center piece of it.

When one of my friends releases a new book, I’m one of the first people to offer a guest post slot or interview on my blog, but I also know that these posts usually receive the lowest amount of traffic on my blog.

I’ve worked on both sides of this as a blogger and an author, and it really does work to slowly but surely build your own audience and share your publishing journey with them. Best yet, once you have a better idea of who will be reading your books, you’re going to write better books that address the interests and concerns of your readers.

Perhaps the best thing that can happen to most authors is a firm “no” from a few bloggers. Blog publicity is an extremely hit or miss way to go about promoting a book. The sooner you try something else, the better.

Check out Tim Grahl’s Your First 1,000 Copies for a bit more insight into how a change in book publicity could look for you. Really, this book will help you make the most of your book promotion, far beyond what most publicists can offer. Then again, Grahl’s book also means you now have a ton of work to do.



Book Lovers

How to Market a Book with Integrity: A Christian Author’s Struggle


My friend Charity Singleton Craig is guest posting today about the lessons she and co-author Ann Kroeker learned as they released their latest book On Being a Writer. In particular, she shares how they tried to make the marketing process less miserable—even fun at times. If Ann and Charity can’t make book marketing fun, I don’t know who can!


I’ve never been part of a publishing industry that comes knocking on writers’ doors with large advance checks and the opportunity to just be our introverted selves and write. Never once has someone told me, “You just focus on the words; someone else will worry about the sales.” In fact, conventional wisdom tells us just the opposite. Make sure the writing is decent, but your marketing strategy and platform need to be excellent.

And you’d think that would be fine by me since in addition to being a writer, I also provide marketing services to clients. I have no problem giving them the tools they need to explain their services and connect with potential customers.

When it comes to selling myself, though—which is really what an author needs to do if she plans to write more than one book—the whole business seems a little slimy. I don’t know any writers who think or feel any differently, but if participating in a sales strategy is a necessary part of the writing life, then I needed to get okay with it. And fast.

As my co-author, Ann Kroeker, and I wrote and released our recent book, On Being a Writer, five key elements emerged that have allowed me to sell books without losing my soul.

1. Permission to be myself.

From very early on as we brainstormed ways to spread the word about our book, our publisher, L.L. Barkat, encouraged both Ann and me to choose marketing activities that would allow us to be ourselves. Organizing a big launch team? That didn’t feel like “us.” So instead, we contacted a few individuals privately to help with specific tasks. We also hosted small in-person, launch parties so our friends could come and buy books and celebrate with us. We don’t all have the same gifts and skills—the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of that extensively in his letters to them. In the same way, we can’t all approach book selling the same. That’s not to say that I should never operate outside of my comfort zone. But finding marketing methods that fit best with my personality and desires will ultimately serve the book, the readers, and myself best.


2. Focus on relationships.

When readers become a platform and friends become a strategy, it’s easy to forget that these are people I am building relationships with. Focusing only on what others can do for me is not only a self-centered sales technique, it misses completely the way the Bible says we should love people. Though Scripture is certainly more than a relationship manual, it provides many guidelines for how we as writers should be interacting with readers, publishers, fellow writers, and more. Here are just a few: James warns against favoritism or giving preference to those who are influential or wealthy. Paul exhorts us away from selfish ambition, thinking only of our interests, toward looking out for the interest of others. Peter reminds us that love should be sincere. And Jesus tells us to give straight answers, to let our yes be yes and our no be no.


3. Let each project motivate me.

In On Being a Writer, Ann makes a strong point about what should motivate us to promote our books or other writing projects. It’s advice she actually got from the publisher of one of her earlier books. “Something compelled you to write this message and share it with a broader audience. Right?” her publisher asked. “Could you see speaking [or other promotional efforts] as another avenue to share that same message?” Later in the chapter Ann talks about going on the road to promote that earlier project: “Each time, I kept that idea in mind: the message matters, and I want to get it to the people who need to hear it.” If you just want to write for your own self-discovery or private reflection, keep a journal. But if you have a message or a story or a strategy you want to share with others, publish a book, and then let that message guide you toward telling people about it.


4. Remembering that I am creative.

Not only do we each have unique, God-given gifts, we also are made in His image as creators. Just as we bring all of that creativity to the work of writing books, we can employ it in selling books, too. Don’t use just the strategies everyone else is using because “that’s the way we do things around here.” Try new things. Take creative risks. Let your personality, your relationships, your book itself guide you in new and interesting ways to spread the word. For Ann and me, that came in the form of an early release of our book, a surprise even to us as authors! Without telling us, our publisher released our book several weeks early. Sales were happening, friends were gathering, and Ann and I were nearly the last ones to know! That creative launch gave our early sales a boost, and we had nothing to do with it!


5. Finally, have fun.

After the hilarity of that early release, suddenly Ann and I had a lot of work to do to get the word out beyond our immediate circles. We ratcheted up the intensity, and rather than enjoying the conversations and being thankful for our bit of success, our strategy turned serious. For several weeks, I didn’t have much fun. People would ask how the launch was going, and I’d smile and say, “Great!” But secretly I was wondering whether I really was cut out for the writing life. After a break from the book over the holidays, I came back to our efforts realizing that it was just the intense, serious version of the writing life that isn’t for me. But by injecting a little fun into our marketing campaigns, I can still be focused without nearly as much stress.

Author Neil Gaiman tells the story of some advice he received from best-selling horror writer Stephen King fairly early in his career. When King observed Gaiman’s early success, he told him simply: “This is really great. You should enjoy it.” The thing is, Gaiman wasn’t enjoying it. And he didn’t for a while.

“Best advice I got that I ignored,” Gaiman said. “Instead I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn’t writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn’t stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I’d enjoyed it more.”

Being part of a sales strategy is now a reality for writers. But it doesn’t have to suck the life out of you in the process. How do you keep your soul while selling books?

Learn more about On Being a Writer: Ten Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


About Today’s Guest Blogger

Charity-Craig-authorCharity Singleton Craig is a writer, bringing words to life through essays, stories, blog posts, and books. She is the coauthor of On Being a Writer (T.S. Poetry Press, October 2014), and she has contributed essays to three books, including Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self. She is regularly published at various venues, including The Curator, where she is a staff writer; The High Callingwhere she is a content and copy editor; and TweetSpeak Poetrywhere she is a contributing writer. She lives with her husband and three step-sons in central Indiana. You can find her online at charitysingletoncraig.com, on Twitter @charityscraig, and on Facebook


One last note from Ed:

By the way, my latest eBook, Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together (due out March 11th), is available for pre-order at the steep discount of $.99 on Kindle.

Click the cover image below to place your order before the price goes up!

15_02_13_PrayWriteGrow copy