Why Publishing Fiction is Frightening but Worth the Scare

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My debut novel, Murder Audit, is launching today, almost two years after I started the first draft. Although I’m really excited about it, I’ve been reluctant to announce the release. While finalizing the files for publishing, I realized I could have published the novel a lot sooner than I did, but I was struck by fear.

While my beta readers were perusing Murder Audit, I felt like maybe I should start querying agents and publishers. I self-published my non-fiction book Keep More Money, and I wanted to see what traditional publishing was like. Ha! Easier said than done! Eight months and 40 queries later, my patience grew thin. I decided it was time to self publish. I started formatting the book and getting it ready.

All the while I was looking for a publisher or agent to accompany me on my writing journey, I was asked why I didn’t just self publish. I started questioning this myself. I know traditionally published authors are expected to market themselves, so that wasn’t the reason.

I thought it would be really nice not to have to deal with the expenses and tech issues that come with cover design, formatting, and distribution. This didn’t quite make sense to me either. I’ve always been someone who is willing to learn how to do something and find someone that can help me if I get stuck.

An advance would be nice. How spectacular would it be to focus on writing my next novel and know my bills were covered? But the information on advances is all over the map and as an unknown author, I knew the chances of receiving a nice stack of cash for my first novel were pretty slim.

Once I made the decision that I wanted my book to launch on October 31, two months after deciding to self publish again, it became very clear why I had been stalling and using the excuse that I was looking for an agent.

It hit me right in the gut! I was afraid!

Publishing fiction is frightening but it's worth it to get your message out there. Stories change lives and people need to read your story.

The real reason I wanted an agent was that I was really scared to put this book out there. I thought if I found someone who believed in my book as much as I did, I would have confirmation that it was a story worth publishing.

My beta readers had some great feedback for me and not one single one told me the story sucked. It was actually the opposite—they liked it! Two out of four of them are related to me and the other two I consider friends, so I told myself they were too nice to tell me the story was horrible.

Here’s the thing I realized about self-publishing fiction compared to non-fiction.

It’s up to me to validate my work.

Even if I had found an agent, it would still be up to me to produce the best quality product possible; to take all the steps necessary to improve the story and the writing every time I sit down at my computer. That’s a bit dangerous when you’re a perfectionist.

I know the book is never going to be perfect and I’ll probably find a typo every time I read it, but I went through the process of making sure I did everything I could to make the book the best possible product I could produce at this point in time. I used beta readers, a professional editor, advance readers, and a proofreader. It’s time to accept that perfect doesn’t exist, face my fears of rejection and criticism, and get the book out there.

Stories can be deeply personal.

When I wrote Keep More Money, I knew the information I was sharing was important. I know business owners need the information in that book to find a good accountant they can trust. Do people need to read my story just as much? It’s just a story—something I made up, carried out by characters I created.

Stories can change lives too.

So, I took the focus off my egocentric self for a moment and thought about all the novels I’ve read. They weren’t just stories to me. The words in those books had the power to entertain, comfort, shock, and thrill me. The words had power. Words have power.

That doesn’t mean I’m not scared anymore. Fear is human, exciting even, but writing fiction is rewarding to me in such a totally different way than writing non-fiction, that it makes the fear worth it. I can shout to the world that I’M A NOVELIST and I couldn’t do that last month.

Now, I’m still querying publishers and agents. I’m curious and I still want to know what the experience of traditional publishing is like, but I know that I can publish my books any time I want thanks to self-publishing.

So, if you’re scared to take that first step towards writing your novel, try and do it anyway and let me know in the comments what that first step will be. Who knows where it will lead you.