The end of the first month of the new year is upon us, and in Minnesota, that means waiting for February and March to go away so we can start enjoying some milder temperatures. I don’t mind these months so much, especially working from home now, and since I replaced my little Neon two years ago, the winters and the snow aren’t that stressful.
But we can also feel time slipping away, and New Year’s resolutions, for some, are a faint memory. Sometimes we can let these go, but sometimes the passing months just means more time we don’t have to get what we wanted to get done.
I’m starting a new pen name this year, and with it comes pressure to put everything I’ve learned in the past five years toward good, marketable books, while building a readership that will keep coming back for as long as I want to publish. That’s a weighty burden I’ve placed on myself, and to say I struggle would be an understatement. It would be nice if I could find a happy medium between building a readership without losing the joy of writing. I get bogged down with the writing, the editing, the covers, promotions, the newsletter, and sometimes it just makes me want to close out of everything and turn on a movie. Of course, watching Endgame over and over again won’t get me what I want either, but mentally running through everything I can do and should do is stressful all on its own.
How can you combat analysis paralysis in the coming months? Here’s what I plan to do:
Make a list. This can be a huge list of everything you want to accomplish this year, or what you want to get done in a monthly or weekly timeline. A huge master list of what you want to get done in the remaining eleven months of the year might be more stressful than helpful, but giving yourself an overall view of the things you want to accomplish can actually be motivating.
Then chunk it down even further. I know what I want to get done in the next 11 months: release my duet, release a standalone. Write a Christmas novel for this year’s release if I have time and can think of a good story. Edit my 6-book series, format them, and do their covers. Get a proofer to proof the proofs. Get them set up to release in 2023. All of that sounds exhausting, and perhaps, when I’m having a bad day, impossible. Yesterday I was off because I wasn’t feeling well and I was tired, and thinking about tackling my series brought me to tears. That was analysis paralysis at its finest, with some Imposter Syndrome thrown in for good measure. (Is my series good? Is it worth the time to package and publish?) What can I do to make all that easier to swallow? Take it slow. My duet is with a beta. There’s nothing I can with it until he’s done. I can’t format it because there could be changes I need to make and it would be easier to do that in the Word document. I can’t do the covers (not the full one, anyway) because I don’t have the formatted interior files. I have the blurbs written. All I can do is be patient and work on something else, so I’m tackling the first book in my series. The Christmas novel will be a bonus if I have time to write it, and if I don’t, I’m not going to worry about it. Christmas comes every year, and I can write one for 2023.
Don’t worry about what other people are doing. The first the year is terrible with authors tweeting and posting about their New Year goals. Some of the number of books authors say they are going to release is staggering, and you have to keep in mind that you can only do what your life allows you to do. The authors putting up the big numbers do this for a living. They write eight hours a day, or close to it, anyway. They have a system and have managed their obligations so they can write a book in two weeks. If that isn’t you, you can’t worry about it. Analyzing what other authors are doing is a sure way of making yourself feel terrible. Even my schedule might make you wonder how in the world I have time for it all. All I’ve done is write for the past two years, and that was a mistake on its own, but it’s helpful I have books completed–the hard part is already done. Now it’s making time for the busywork and pushing them out there. I’m only releasing three books this year which is a low number by romance genre standards, but I don’t want to be known for putting out ten books a year. You teach your readers what to expect from you, and three books a year is a good number. Not the best, as four books a year keeps you relevant in Amazon’s algorithms, but three books a year is doable for me, and if I can do four, that year will be a bonus. Even if could write full time, I would never be capable of releasing a book a month, and it’s not something I ever want to do.
Control your FOMO. My fear of missing out is over the moon, but if you can’t control the fear of all the things you might be missing out on, you’ll never get anything done. There will always be a marketing webinar to watch, a group to join, a Clubhouse room to listen to, a new podcast episode to consume, and if you can’t focus on what needs to be done when it needs to be done, you won’t get anything accomplished. For the meantime, I’ve stopped listening to marketing podcasts, and the only thing I do regularly now is listen to my Level Up Romance Marketing Monday hour on Clubhouse. That is also a networking opportunity for me as well as listening to some great information, and I don’t work Mondays, so it fits into my schedule. Because here’s the thing: If you don’t have good books to publish, nothing else matters. I know what I need to do in terms of marketing: make sure my covers are to market, make sure my blurbs are good, make sure the stories are what people want to read. If you don’t have those things figured out, no amount of marketing is going to help you sell books anyway. I know now to run Amazon ads without losing money. I have a newsletter signup opportunity ready for my back matter along with a reader magnet. I have all the bits and pieces ready to go, and the only thing I have left now is to see if my stories resonate with readers. So think of what you need to do with where you are at the time. Are you working on your first book? Craft and feedback might be more important to you than learning how to run Amazon ads. Can you not afford a book cover? Learning how to your own might be what you need to focus on right now. Narrow your focus on what you need for the place in your writing career you are at, and a weight will drop off your shoulders. I promise.
I had a crappy day yesterday and was doubting my abilities to put out good books. I’m still feeling a lot alone in this endeavor–so many of my friends have dropped out of the writing community since I met them five years ago, or we’ve drifted apart for other reasons. I was feeling overwhelmed with all I wanted to get done this year, and when you feel like you don’t have help, community, or support, a long list can seem quite daunting. A list can put things in perspective, and while I might feel alone, I’m not. I have a great community on Twitter, and I’m doing my best to cultivate relationships with my romance authors on Facebook. Everyone feels inadequate somehow, like they aren’t enough to make it in this business, but you’re not alone in thinking this. Lack of sales can do it, burnout can do it, too. We’re all struggling, but I hope knowing that you’re not alone can jolt you out of your own analysis paralysis and you have a productive 2022.
Until next time!