I’ve always loved to read and to write and this truth has led to many questions asked of me over the years. I would say that in the last two – three years I’ve received questions mostly from young people about publishing a book for the first time. This makes sense considering I taught and tutored children of all ages (to include Young Adults) for years. In fact, teaching is one of those things I’ve done on the side in addition to writing.
Usually, I am shocked by a few things that make me question whether they should go through with it. Of course, these discussions are always difficult because I don’t want to be discouraging but there are reasons to consider not publishing a book or at least not making a career of it. I will try my best to outline the ones that most stick out to me:
You’re Not a Reader
I know we’ve been over this a million times, however, I am constantly running into young people who want to write books but they are not readers. Part of why I am always talking about my love for reading is because it’s been a constant thread in my life even before I started writing. My siblings used to joke that I’d discovered a cure for AIDS. It was their way of saying I was “smart”. I don’t think I was smart (still don’t) I just loved to read.
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a result, my vocabulary grew as it was difficult to advance my reading (or understand what I was reading) when I didn’t know the definitions of words. So, I would carry a dictionary around and every time I didn’t know the meaning of a word I would write it down and look it up. After I’d mastered ten or twenty words I would practice using them in my poetry. It’s only natural that these same words became part of my natural way of speaking.
Of course, I was teased for sounding too “proper” but it didn’t stop me from obsessing over words. I’m not saying I knew anything. The point I’m making is that I did this kind of stuff for fun. It was natural for me and part of who I am. It wasn’t homework and it wasn’t forced upon me. Reading lots of books was something I always carried with me. Me and books, we have a history and we were tight long before Kindle made reading cool.
“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it.”
–Edward P. Morgan
Thus, it has helped me to understand how to write. If you want to write and publish a book but you don’t have a love affair or history of reading it’s going to make the process difficult as you won’t have a working knowledge of the foundation of a book. When I say “a love affair with reading”, I’m not saying you read every now and again. I’m not saying like once a week or once a month. That’s not the kind of history with reading I’m talking about. I’m also not talking about just reading the kinds of books that you like to read.
“As busy as I am, I still take the time to read. To get and stay successful, you should always be learning and growing.”
– Steve Harvey
One can enjoy reading but readers read beyond the joy of it. They read not just for enjoyment but to study, to research, to analyze, to understand what works, and what doesn’t. To notice structure, language, detail. Readers aren’t strictly one type of book, judging not one word in the genre it’s dressed in. One of the many things I enjoy about reviewing books is reading material spanning a wide range of subject matter. Having access to books I probably would not have known about.
“Constant reading pull you into a place (a mindset, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page.”
– Stephen King
If you want to write a book you must be willing to read for pleasure as well as for the knowledge you need to understand more about what you’re writing. When I say, you must read, I mean every day, widely and passionately.
You Don’t Know What Self-Publishing Actually Is
If you really want to publish a book, do your research. It’s not like you have to know everything but it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what book publishing is all about and decide if it’s something you’re ready for. Learning is a constant process just as growth is. There’s so much I don’t know and that I am still learning even after I’ve published eight books. That’s because learning is an ongoing process. By hanging around those who are knowledgeable, reading and researching I am learning something new every day.
No one decides to be a doctor without expecting to become educated to do so. This is how Self-Publishing got its stigma’s in the first place, because random people (those who never wanted to write and had no care for reading) suddenly decided they wanted to try and write a book (Of course those stigmas are quickly fading thanks to Indie Authors who have stepped up to the plate to offer the kind of value the field needs). All I am saying is to do your research and familiarize yourself with the steps. If you don’t know what POD is short for or what an ISBN Number is then you are not ready to publish a book.
You’re Not Passionate About Writing or Books
This may sound funny but there are a lot of people who have not decided what it is they really want to do in life. They want to write a book just because everyone is doing it right now or it’s perceived as easy to do but they have no real passion for it. They like to write, sure, but they aren’t skilled at it. In short, it’s just not them. Sometimes you can miss your calling because you don’t understand your worth or what it is you were put here to do. I can only speak for myself when I say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’m not talking about writing being something that developed over time and I just thought, “OK, this is cool, I think I’ll publish a book”. No, I’ve always wanted to write and publish fiction (and a memoir but that’s another chapter in which I have not yet embarked). This road is hard and paved in criticism. If writing a book is something you just want to “try” I can think of a lot of easier things to do. Maybe publishing a book is just not for you. I say this because when you embrace those things you’ve always been passionate about, it empowers the whole experience.
You’re Not Comfortable Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Probably the most important is knowing who you are. Not just from the perspective of nationhood but who you are internal. If you’re not comfortable doing something different, if you think it makes you look like a sell out because you have to network with people outside your circle, attend events that aren’t related to your personal beliefs, or write in a way that reaches beyond the people you know then maybe you aren’t ready to publish a book on a broad scale. Maybe you’re better off publishing something specifically for mom and dad or for your friends.
Anyone can publish a book but if you are talking about branching out and elevating you should be real with yourself. Are you that kind of person? Or are you better off writing and publishing books for those in your immediate circle? If so, that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that but you must be able to define this for yourself. Don’t force yourself to do what you were not naturally built for. It’s unfair to you and to readers. We must keep in mind that we all have different gifts and talents to use to help to reach people on different levels. You can like to do something but don’t force yourself to make it a part of your life just to say you did it. I like to sing but I am not going to go and record an album. What if that’s not the way you were supposed to contribute to the world? What if you were given something different? If I spend my time singing when I’m supposed to be writing, then I’ve missed my calling.
Your Self-Esteem is Low
I know. It’s hard language and yes, I just added this one. I added it however for good reason. After reading Kristen Lamb’s post on 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do, I had to put this in here. Here’s the thing: If you don’t believe in your abilities, why should I? It’s seriously annoying when writers complain about how their work isn’t good enough. I always attempt to stay positive but the truth is that if you don’t think you can do it no one can help you. Maybe self-esteem building and writer confidence are classes someone can teach because it’s needed. Every day there’s an Indie Author caving to the negative talk and the overwhelming backlash of doing this and don’t do that. It can be frustrating (as we all get frustrated) but Independent Publishing is not for the weak knees, the faint of heart, or the mentally unstable.
The truth is that everyone does not like you, someone thinks you are naïve and your idea is dumb and even more people will tell you about it to your face. They’ll wave their college degrees and years of expertise in your face and laugh at your new Self-Published book. Ignore them for the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It’s always the people who you doubt, who you look down upon, and who you underestimate that succeeds and you can put that on your heart (if you have one).
Self-Publishing is an amazing experience and there’s no better time to Self-Publish a book than right now at this very moment. I will always be encouraging and motivating to those who are courageous enough to slap on their thick skins and step on out there. I am only advising because I know how challenging this road is, that you make sure this is what you are meant to do.
Check Out Other PBS Posts on Self-Publishing:
The Laying Bricks Series (Building Strong Foundations)
Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release spring, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peek of chapters and the pending book cover release for this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.