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Self-Publishing: Handling Stress

For me, my role of being a self-publishing author stands out as challenging because I wear all hats. My job includes the following jobs: creative director, chief word pounder, head researcher, president of marketing, diligent financial officer, gregarious PR guru, and more. All of this leads to unreasonable pressure. So, I thought that we should talk about self-publishing stresses and a few tricks I use to deal with them.

Self-Publishing: Handling Stress

Managing pressure is not only important for maintaining overall well-being. It's also crucial for achieving success, both personally and professionally. I learned this the hard way as a professor and entrepreneur in the days before I earned a harsh set of lessons in the field of chronic illness. As solopreneurs, we face countless stressors in addition to the typical range of relationships, day jobs, school, health, the commute, balancing the bank account, and local or foreign affairs. It all adds up.


Authors, like other artists, struggle with the creative process because it can be fickle. Sometimes the muse visits us. Other times…not so much. Then you add self-promotion, marketing, and the ever-changing landscape of the publishing industry to the mix. Dealing with setbacks, handling criticism, and keeping momentum can crush the strongest of us.  That’s why I work hard to manage their impact on the quality of your work and your life.



ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET

We authors usually write a manuscript for us. We revise our work the first couple of times to tell the story how we want it. If you're an iterative author like me, you'll pound away at the next thousand edits for your readers. By publishing your work, you express a desire to provide others with a product, your artwork. You might not think of it as a product, but it is. You offer something. Other people invest their money and/or time because they want it.


All the things: As I said at the beginning, I do all the things a founder of a company would do. Trust me. I've run companies before. You are responsible for the success of your art. Accepting this mindset rather than resisting helps me reduce my stress.

Realistic Expectations: Setting my goals too high brings on unnecessary stress. I know I shouldn't feel inadequate because I fall short of Stephen King's level of stardom. In fact, I wouldn't want to be famous because that would come with its own stress. Setting decent expectations for my time/responsibilities/and budget takes work.


Hint: I have a long to-do list and pull three achievable items from it as my list for the day. If I don't manage those three things, it's okay. If succeed on all three, then wonderful. Yay me. If I consistently complete more than three, it means I'm pushing too hard. Remember, I'm chronically ill and have limited energy to put toward anything.


Growth Mindset: A growth mindset is a belief and attitude that we can adopt to emphasize the idea that our abilities and talents develop and improve over time. Adopting the concept of growth means you're in one place now, and that's okay. You'll get better, so keep at it.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Telling yourself something enough to believe it is a powerful thing. It doesn't work for many people. It didn't come naturally to me. Over the last five years, I've been honing my CBT from skepticism to optimism, and it now helps.



MANAGE YOUR TIME

Writing is one aspect of being a self-publishing author. Allocating time to writing, editing, formatting, and marketing my books is central to my sanity. Overworking myself and ignoring my time management may have contributed to my burnout and current health problems. Here are a few things that help(ed) me.


Time Blocking: Lack of time is a major stressor for me. I add one to three calendar events to every day. These come from my long-term to-do list and can take anywhere from five minutes to two hours each. If I fail to put them on my calendar, they won't get done. Not getting them done will stress me out.

Hint: I also set alarms to start them. This adds extra motivation to follow what my calendar says.

Setting Deadlines: This might help some people. It only adds stress to my life. I can't push myself too hard if I'm running up against a deadline. I mentally and physically crash when I try to meet deadlines.

Batching Tasks: Some authors prefer to group similar tasks together and complete them in a single dedicated time block. For example, change a character’s name in separate chapter files in the same go. So, I subscribe to the slow and steady method of work.

Prioritizing Tasks: With limited functional time each day, I need to focus on the most important or time-pressing tasks. My top priorities change daily. If I haven't re-evaluated my publishing needs for a while, it reduces my stress to put it at the top of my to-do list. Sticking to the same priorities means a nagging feeling will grow unchecked until it gets out of hand.

Pomodoro Technique: Using a tested workflow like this technique helps some people with working sprints longer than one hour. I vaguely follow a practice similar to the standard, which is:

  1. Choose a task.

  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.

  3. Work only on that task.

  4. Take a 5-minute break to recharge.

  5. Repeat 4 times.

  6. Take a 30-minute break.


Three Tasks: I already mentioned this, but it is so helpful to me that it's worth mentioning again. I write three easy author-ish tasks on a Post-It each day. For example, they could be 1) write four sentences, 2) check my ad responses on Facebook, and 3) edit two paragraphs. Crossing these off lowers my stress level.

Procrastination: In most aspects of life, I don't procrastinate. In some...I'm a massive putter-offer. Ignoring my problems only slows me down and messes up my motivation, which leads to more procrastination. Letting time slip adds to the stress because I feel like a failure or have a need to catch up. For me, sticking to the techniques above shortcircuits my inclination to delay. Split daunting tasks into small, achievable tasks. Prioritize. Calendar dedicated times.

Distractions: This is an obvious one. I can be meticulous about some things and a complete slob about others. The pile on my writing desk constantly distracts me unless it's clear. Other distractions can pull me out of the headspace I need in order to accomplish anything (including writing this post). Digital, physical, mental, and emotional clutter add to my stress because they make everything harder. The following eight steps help me a bunch:

  1. Leave my phone in another room

  2. Turn off my internet

  3. Turn off social media

  4. Close unnecessary browser tabs

  5. Clear my desk

  6. Tie myself to my chair (Just kidding).

  7. Listen to white noise or music.

  8. Face the wall.



SOCIAL MEDIA

Building a network of online readers, advocates, and professionals is stressful for many of us, particularly in the beginning. We feel like insignificant peons in a world of giants (imposter syndrome). Let’s talk about a few pressure-relieving techniques:


Openness: Decide on what you are willing to share, and what you won’t. Never feel pressured to reveal aspects of your life that you're comfortable with. (I don’t share my personal email, birthday, or pics of my family).

Slow Down: I remind myself that I don’t need to be an overnight online celebrity. To remain healthy, go about growing your following the right way, slow and steady. I wrote here about finding my peeps on Twitter.

Block Trolls: Never respond to a troll. Just block them. This means no politics, no religion, no hot-button topics (unless that's your genre or business, in which case, sorry).

Blogs/Newsletters: Fewer people read blogs or newsletters than respond to your social posts. My online friends and fans spend time with my blog, so putting longer thoughts on the keyboard is still important for me as an author. Note, if you miss a month, that’s totally normal. It’s better to provide good content than lots of junk. I hope I'm providing something useful.

Comparisons: Most people reveal their wins more than blunders. This biases us to see everyone as more successful than we could ever be. Remember, we’re all struggling together, some in one way and others in another. These comparisons can lead to unreasonable expectations, which pile the manure on top of the stress pile.



MARKETING

This is where many of us fall down. We lack the skills and natural aptitude for packaging our words and striking a positive cord with people who would like to read our literary works. You are not alone. Being authentically you and true to your values is the key. I posted about self-promoting in a healthy way, and will share a few of those concepts here. I hope they help.

Sharing: Getting over the fear of revealing your bookish feelings, opinions, and especially content can be scary. Start small. Respond to good questions with short answers either online or in a blog (that's how I ended up writing this series). Build up from there.

Blurbs: Coming up with a book blurb stresses out most of us. We can write five thousand words, but boiling a story into two hundred eighty letters is a nightmare. Here are a few tips that might help

  1. Write an outline your book after it's written.

  2. Jot down two points per chapter.

  3. Turn each point into one sentence.

  4. Remove the second half of the outline (No spoilers).

  5. Remove sentences with secondary characters.

  6. Exchange this gangly monstrosity of a blurb with another author.

  7. Cut each other's words down (it's easier this way).

  8. Repeat with another author.


Book Covers: If you aren’t a graphic designer, don’t worry. There are low-cost options out there covered, so don't stress about it.

Advertising: There is no silver bullet here, so an ever-changing target can be beyond frustrating. You'll read blogs about how it's so easy and "here's the formulate." Don't believe them. I wrote one. A few weeks later the algorithms changed and I was left eating my words. So, if you don't find success, remember that you are one of the many.

Budget: Stick to what you can afford. Going above your means is a surefire way to dig yourself into a downward tunnel of stress. You’ll have to compromise. Here are some thoughts on self-publishing costs. (Dang! I can't believe how long this self-publishing series has been.)



SELF-CARE

If you don’t follow a healthy plan, your self-publishing career may end in burnout, which comes with many problems. Trust me, you don't want your burnout to come with a side-helping of severe sickness.


Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to resilience, productivity, and happiness, all of which can help you cope with the emotional toll of wearing so many hats. Find a blog, podcast, or book on how to improve your sleep. I listen to soothing music and maintain a rigid schedule to maintain my chronic fatigue.

Life Hack: This is gonna sound crazy, but...I wear tape over my mouth and sleep better because I nose-breathe (and snore less).

Burnout: Fatigue and inability to motivate yourself defeats the purpose of pushing yourself hard. If you don’t monitor your stress level, you may be jeopardizing your well-being.

Fun: If you don’t enjoy being a self-publishing author, you probably shouldn’t be one. It rarely leads to an income comparable to a part-time job. Cut back on the aspects that add pressure and focus on the aspects that you enjoy.

Kindness: Look around at other authors, either online or in person. Most of us don’t reach as many readers as we’d like. Those other authors are still awesome and deserve respect. Guess what? You do too. Try to treat yourself with the same kindness that you afford them.

Exercise: A healthy body can help with a healthy mind. But don’t stress over it if physical health is outside your grasp. (I’m chronically ill, and exercise is sometimes limited to what I can do on a couch.)

Journaling: This doesn't help me at all, but some people swear by it. Writing down what you did on a daily basis could help some people realize what they achieved. After 90 days of accomplishments, look back on it to see how much progress you're making. Note: don’t let the pressure of adding to a journal every day overwhelm you or it will be another form of stress.

Friends: This is a hard one for me. I only have so many hours and even less energy, so I try to put it toward my family. But, mentally, I need to chat with friends. They raise my spirits. Humans, whether we’re introverts or not, usually crave at least a little interaction, whether online, over the phone, or in person.

Hint: Put it on your calendar. Also, put a reminder in your calendar to schedule another get-together.

Meditation: I was skeptical about this one until other self-care techniques fell short of helping with happiness. It took a long while for me to overcome my bias against it. I’m glad I stuck to it. 



WRAPPING UP

Almost all of the pressure we feel as self-publishing authors comes from the expectations we place on ourselves. If your ambitions are too lofty on all aspects of being an author and publisher, then slow down, lower your sights to what you can manage, and drop a few tasks that weigh you down too much. You may find that you can reach friendly readers by implementing a few new habits. Remember that you are worthy of a healthy life.



FAQ

Q. Why is stress management important for self-publishing authors?

A. Stress management is crucial for maintaining our well-being, creativity, and productivity amidst the pressures of writing, publishing, and marketing our books.


Q. What are common sources of stress for self-publishing authors?

A. Common stressors include unreasonable deadlines, marketing challenges, fluctuating sales, negative reviews, managing multiple tasks simultaneously, and balancing writing with other responsibilities.


Q. How can I reduce stress while managing many tasks?

A. Utilize techniques such as time blocking and breaking down big goals into manageable tasks to prioritize and organize your workload.


Q. What strategies can I use to cope with the stress of marketing my book?

A. Focus on activities that you enjoy and align with your strengths, outsource tasks when feasible, set realistic goals, and celebrate small wins.


Q. How can I handle the stress of receiving negative reviews or criticism of my work?

A. Practice self-compassion, remind yourself that negative feedback is a natural part of the creative process, focus on constructive criticism, and seek support from fellow authors or trusted friends.


Q. What role does self-care play in stress management for self-publishing authors?

A. Self-care is essential for reducing burnout and maintaining overall well-being. Prioritize activities such as exercise, meditation, adequate sleep, and spending time with loved ones.


Q. How can I manage the stress of financial uncertainty as a self-publishing author?

A. Create a budget and stick to it. When we have hard boundaries, we don’t need to fret over options outside our means. I discuss this here.


Q. What strategies can I use to prevent burnout while pursuing my goals?

A. Set boundaries around work hours. Take regular breaks to rest and recharge. Listen to your body and mind's signals to prevent burnout.


Q. How can I stay motivated and resilient in the face of setbacks and challenges in publishing author?

A. Cultivate a growth/entrepreneurial mindset. Focus on the aspects of writing and publishing you can control. Seek inspiration from fellow authors or mentors. Celebrate progress and achievements along the way.


Q. Where can I find additional support and resources for managing stress as a self-publishing author?

A. Connect with writing communities. Join author support groups or forums. Attend writing conferences or workshops. Books, podcasts, and online courses can help you with valuable insights and techniques tailored to the stress of being an entrepreneur.


 

As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.



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Thanks Jesse. Lots of good nuggets of wisdom here. I appreciate you.

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