Updated: Jan 9
After I signed my first publishing contract a couple of decades ago, I went through several phases of fear. I was afraid that no one would like my book, or that no one would show up for my book signings. But I needn’t have been afraid, the book was successful, and on the night of the signing there was a line out the bookstore door— mostly friends and family, but they count, too. Bestseller Book Scare While I was working on my second book, a “friend” told me that if my first book wasn’t a bestseller, I’d never be able to publish another one. Fear struck again. But my agent sold my second book, and then my third book, each time within a few weeks of me submitting proposals. So I’ve learned not to always take unsolicited assertions, opinions, or advice seriously. Social Media Panic A few years ago, when the book publishing business underwent a drastic metamorphosis, authors were suddenly required to do much of their own promotion, mostly via social media. It had been so easy to walk into a bookstore for a scheduled signing, sit behind a table, and wait for customers to come to me. In those good old days, the publishers arranged most of the signings and radio interviews and sought out reviewers. All I had to do was send out postcards, make a few phone calls, and wait for checks to come in the mail. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads were not yet gleams in their creators’ eyes. Blog Heebie-jeebies Post publishing metamorphosis, I read an article that said if I wanted to continue to succeed in the book-writing business, I would have to connect with social media
outlets and write a blog. I was afraid I couldn’t learn this new trick; afraid I wouldn’t have enough topics to blog about; afraid I would do it wrong and look like a fool. All these fears materialized, but I grew a thicker skin and persevered. There’s always something new around each social media corner, so I’m still learning, but I don’t scream and pull at my hair anymore when I make a mistake, since I know I’m not alone in these endeavors. Public Speaking Jitters As my books continued to be published in the traditional way, book signings aside, I realized I had to find other ways to get out and publicly sell my books. This meant speaking engagements. Until that point, the only public speaking I’d done was to seventh graders. But I learned to speak in public to adults and I was thrilled when my audiences actually listened to me. In 2012, when my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, was released, I scheduled presentations at Audubon chapters, community organizations, libraries, wildlife refuges, and bird groups. About sixty people were present at the first event. I was terrified. My gig as guest speaker occurred at the tail end of the meeting, and my presentation went on too long. A few folks fell asleep and several left. But I sold some books and received a lot of compliments. I tweaked and shortened my presentation, and the next time it was easier. Since then, comments on my public presentations have become blushingly wonderful and several organizations have scheduled repeat performances. I’m a regular presenter at my local library. I love doing it. Are the fears all gone? No, and they never will be. Something new always turns up to make me shiver. After I signed with a new publishing company, some of my old fear resurfaced. Will they like me? Will they be easy to work with? Will my books sell? Will I have time to work on my other writing projects? One thing I’ve learned about experiencing new fears in this business is that they don’t seem to last long. So, fear not, and just keep writing.
By Kathleen Kaska