The Only Way to Know Whether People Will Want to Read Your Book

This post was originally published at Positive Writer. Author Bryan Hutchinson created Positive Writer for fellow writers who are stuck in doubt, uncertain of their abilities, and yet, have an overwhelming desire to create work that matters.

IMG_0129.JPGThis fall, I’m looking back at the bloggers who have been generous enough over the past few years to invite me into their communities and support my work as I’ve grown. Thanks for the encouragement when we need it, Bryan!

During the two months between the completion and launch of my ebook 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…

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 was 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.

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