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How to Conquer Your Fear of Screwing Up the Book You Want to Write, Part 2

conquerfear2 copy(This is the second in a series. Check out Part 1 here.)

So, let me guess.

You’re reading this because you want to write your book, but you are paralyzed with the fear that you’ll screw it up.

As one radio psychologist often said to her callers, “Somebody has to tell you and it might as well be me.”


. . . the first draft of your book, that is.

Come on. Do you really think Stephen King rolls out a compelling novel from beginning to end in one fell swoop? Every word in place, every scene painted in vivid colors?

Grow up! Of course not.

To conquer your fear of screwing up the book you want to write, you must be willing to do the exact thing you fear: screw up.

As soon as you’re willing to be imperfect and turn out the inevitable first shitty draft, you’ll be on your way.

It’s not your fault that you’re stuck by this “perfection affliction.” If you’re like most of us, you were raised by well-meaning adults who prodded you to ponder, plan and hesitate to take action until everything was in place.

This strategy may have a good use in some cases, but when it comes to writing your book it’s not only a detriment, it’s a dream killer.

In the first part of this series I urged you to conquer your fear of screwing up your book by forgetting about being original.  Now  I’m asking you to do something else.

Give up on perfection

1. Be willing to write consistently without any expectation that it’ll be great.

Published writers who make a living from their work create a schedule and stick to it.  Some have a daily word count goal, others have a time goal. Whatever the case, they turn out the writing knowing that it’s not in finished form.

Like a furniture maker who starts knows that there will be much cutting, assembling and glueing before the finishing stage, so must you see your book as a project that will be rough first and refined and polished later.

2. Be willing to look foolish and fail in front of the world.

Olympic athletes don’t set out to fail. They spend years of physical and mental preparation, training for that one day. On competition day, they get one jump, one dive, or one toss on a worldwide stage where they emerge victorious or fall short of winning the coveted awards or breaking a record.

To live a creative life we must first lose the fear of being wrong. ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce

Even after your book is finished and polished to its best, you will receive mixed reviews of it.

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected over 130 times as Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield were cautioned that a self-help book like theirs couldn’t sell.
  • Stephen King’s high school teacher admonished him for wasting his talent on the horror genre.
  • Seth Godin, author and marketing guru, recently shared that a high school teacher wrote in his yearbook that he would never amount to anything.

3. Embrace your imperfection

Fred Astaire, regarded as the greatest musical dancer of all time, received the following comment from a studio executive after a screen test early in this career: “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

Although Astaire was known for relentless practice in an effort to perfect his performances, when asked about his style he said if you make the same mistake enough times it becomes your style.

Perfection is a mind set that masks insecurity and blinds you to the wonder and awe that emerges from the early efforts at writing your book.  If you insist that your prose be perfect right out the gate, you set the bar so high that you rob yourself of the necessary steps that strengthen your writing skills.

Striving for perfection is very different from insisting on it.  When you embrace your imperfection, you accept your humanness.

When Alexander Pope wrote “To err is human; to forgive, divine” he was urging us to forgive others. I ask you to also forgive yourself for your imperfections.

Draw comfort from the fact that the biggest part of writing a book is the rewriting. When you, your editor, copyeditor and proofreader all take their turns at massaging your manuscript, your finished book will be superior to its rough draft, but never perfect.

Take comfort from Ernest Hemingway’s words

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Have you been blocked by the quest for perfection? How did you get past it?

If you’re ready to conquer your fear of screwing up the book you want to write, let me be your companion on your writing  journey. Tackle the biggest hurdle to writing your book: getting started.

Start now while it’s on your mind with my e-course, Rockin’ My Book. In this affordable 4-week course you receive in your emailbox one lesson per week for four weeks with instructions, homework and encouragement. Feel the joy of being a published author. Enroll in this on-demand course.
The course starts as soon as you register.

How to Conquer Your Fear of Screwing Up the Book You Want to Write, Part I

conquerfear copy

When you start to write your book, you will feel some fear. Guaranteed.

We all do. It goes with the writing process.

You worry about adding to the trite prose that already clutters the market, and becoming the victim of searing criticism in the process.

All this worry paralyzes you, rendering you too scared to get started or get past the inevitable writer’s block.

You may even engage in the fruitless task of editing as you write. This is like running on a treadmill. You’re burning energy but not really going anywhere.

We will cover some of the ways to conquer this fear in this series.  (See Part 2 here.)

Before we start. . .

Consider writing a nonfiction book

  • They are easier to write.
  • They are easier to sell.
  • Customers are already looking for the solutions in your nonfiction book.
  • You are already an expert in something that could become a nonfiction book (more on that later.)

Don’t let me discourage you from writing your novel if that’s your passion and goal right now. It’s just that fiction takes most authors longer to create and without established credibility, harder to sell.

Good news: you don’t have to choose. You can write both nonfiction and fiction, as more and more authors are doing.

Now that I’ve pushed you to write nonfiction, let’s talk about the first way to conquer that gripping fear that you’ll screw up your book.

Forget about being original

It’s unlikely that you can write on a topic no one has covered in some way, especially in nonfiction. Even if you did, you have no guarantee that anyone would want to read it.

Instead think about how you can write a new twist on a topic that you and other people are interested in.

The most popular nonfiction topics are

  • dieting/weight loss
  • relationships
  • self-help/personal growth/happiness
  • money/finances
  • dating/sex
  • healthy cooking
  • spiritual/inspiration
  • career/leadership
  • parenting

Find a way to tell us something new or in a different way on one of these topics, and you’ll have the potential to write a bestseller.

Let me give you an example.

A quick search on Amazon indicates that as of the day I’m writing this post the category of dieting/weight loss has 11,487 books, 2,135 Kindle books and over 160 products that are tagged “dieting.”

In spite of this mountain of dieting advice/tips/products, someone is creating another book on dieting right now.  If this upcoming author (maybe you) can tell us a healthy way we can eat what we want, skip exercise and keep our ideal weight, her book will be bestseller overnight.

Put a new twist on favorite topics

When you see new books emerge that give solutions in a new way, you may think, “I could have done that!” You’re right. You could have. You just have to turn your thinking cap at a different angle like these authors did.

  • True stories of inspiration, love and courage are not new. But when Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen compiled stories like these, they enjoyed impressive sales of Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • Advice about parenting and pregnancy has been around for many decades. When my kids were born, Dr. Spock was the go-to parenting expert who turned childrearing advice on its head.When the mother-daughters team of Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff and Sandee Hathaway wrote What to Expect When You’re Expecting, their book gave us a fascinating new guide to pregnancy and created a phenomenal self-publishing success story (since the first one of what became a serious was self-published.)
  • From the beginning of history people have sought answers from God. When a former Oregon radio talk show host Neale Walsch wrote the responses he was hearing, Conversations with God won him a 7-figure advance from Putnam-Berkley.

    Repurpose your own content

    You must not plagiarize anyone, even yourself. But there’s nothing wrong with breathing new life into your already-produced content, especially your blog.

    Before it was a trend, for example, I gathered the posts from my blog, Color Your Life Happy, and wove them together with results of happiness research, ancient wisdom and added activities and cartoons. The result was my book, Color Your Life Happy: Create Success, Abundance and Inner Joy You Deserve available in print and Kindle versions.

    This is a popular approach, and one I recommend in an e-course I created to help you get over your fear of screwing up your book so you can get started.

If you’re ready to conquer your fear of writing your book, I’m ready to hold your hand in my 4-week e-course, Rockin’ My Book. It’s an on-demand course, meaning you start when you register. Because it’s an e-course you complete it at your convenience. What makes it stand out from many e-courses is that you will get feedback from me when complete the suggested tasks.

I’d love to have you learn about Rockin’ My Book here and then tell me what you’ve done to conquer your fear of writing your book (or even blog posts, articles, etc.) in the comments.


It Takes a Village to Self-Publish a Book to Avoid Losing Your Shirt or Your Mind

If you want to self-publish a book without losing your shirt or your mind, you need help.

Self-publishing is not a solo act.

Yes, you may write your rough draft alone in your room or closet for months with only quick breaks to refuel your stomach and sleep.

But to publish a book that stands any chance of being read, much less being profitable, you need to gather others who can help you with the less-glamorous, but essential parts of getting your book to market.

It takes a village to publish a book to avoid losing your shirt or your mind. ←Click to tweet

Who must be in your village and what is the role of each?

1. You

You must be an eager participant not just in the writing, but in the marketing of your book.

There is no “set-it-and-forget-it” in book marketing.  ←Click to tweet

No publicist, agent or company will care about your book more than you do.  Think of yourself as the contractor and the other folks in your village as subcontractors. You will select them and oversee the work they do for you.

2. Publishing coach or accountability partner

A coach or accountability partner plays an important role. You know that you could get your book written without any prodding, but if you’re like most humans you accomplish more when you have someone nudging you along.

You could build muscles and lose weight on your own too. Chances are, however, that you won’t stick to any fitness plan if you don’t have someone tracking and encouraging you on.

A publishing coach serves an even more important function when you are self-publishing.  She will help you evaluate your options in selecting the other members of your village so you aren’t scammed into overpaying for services or being lured into worthless package deals from  unscrupulous companies.

3. Editor

Did you let out a loud sigh of relief when you finished your rough draft? Perhaps you thought the hard part was over. Depending on who to you talk to, that may be true.

But I pity the fool who publishes a book without having a professional editor go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Without a skilled editor, your book will be screaming “amateur” and will become the victim of ruthless reviews on Amazon and other online retailers. Today’s readers are not very patient with books that are riddled with errors or sound like 5th grade compositions.

Once the editor returns your manuscript you still have work to do, refining and polishing.

James Michener was not kidding when he said,
“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

4. Proofreader

While the editor was digging into content, ensuring flow, structure and consistency of style, the proofreader is looking for mistakes in spelling and grammar that can mar, alter or skew your meaning.

Proofreaders know that they can’t count on spell checkers, so they use many other means.

5. Book cover designer

Since the cover is the first thing prospective buyers see, it plays an important role. The front cover captures attention, and if it garners enough curiosity the reader goes to the back cover where the details convince the reader to plunk down his credit card.

Even though ebooks typically show only a front cover, it is nonetheless important.

Consult your coach,  fellow authors and colleagues to help you find book cover designers who can work with you to create the cover that best represents your book.

6. Interior book/layout designer

Self-publishing a book can be easy, but self-publishing a “professional” book requires skill. Chances are you don’t have all the skills required. That’s why I urge you to gather the experts you need to have in your village.

Up until this stage you may have been working with your manuscript in Microsoft Word.  When getting it properly formatting, Microsoft Word is no longer your friend.

No matter how well polished your manuscript is, you can fall into a big pothole if it is not laid out properly.  While some of the Print on Demand companies may give you instructions on doing this yourself, it’s still possible to make amateur mistakes that will diminish all the work you’ve done up to this point

 7. Printer, Fulfillment and Distribution

Once your book has received the blessings of the first six folks in your village, you’re ready to share it with the world.

Your coach or anyone of the other experts can be helpful in selecting the company that will print your book. Print on demand companies often have an option for getting your book into the hands of buyers. While you may enjoy selling your book at book signings and book release parties, chances are you don’t want to tackle the task of shipping every copy purchased online from popular retailers.

8. Marketing department

Most self-published authors have little experience with marketing.


A word of caution:

Beware of companies selling packages that include all of these services in one. They are too often motivated more by profits than by helping you get a professional book.

For newcomers to publishing, gathering your village will seem like a daunting task. You can count on your coach and groups of self-publishers and independent publishers to steer you toward the ethical and affordable experts. Local, national, and online groups are dedicated to helping you succeed with your book writing, publishing and marketing goals. A few of them are


If you’re ready to gather your village or learn more about starting your book, I’ll be happy to be your traveling companion. Here are your coaching options.




10 Top Tips and Other Great Ideas for Creating Your Audio Book

When you began writing your book, you probably visualized it in print , but did you know there is a ready audience for other formats, especially audio books?  Not only is there growing demand for audio books, but limited availability of them.

In a recent post, Joanna Penn, at The Creative Penn, featured a guest blogger, Brendan Foley, author of  The 5 States of Success: Create Meaningful Success in Your Career, Business & Life, who shared his experiences in creating an audio book. After reading Brendan’s tips examine the extra information Joanna shares.  You can read the full post here.

When I left a comment on Brendan’s blog post regarding my own experiences with trying to create an audio book, he generously expanded on the tips he had already given in the article. I’ve put my comment and Brendan’s response below.


Thanks for sharing the steps and tips to creating an audio version of your book. When I set out to create an audio version of just a 34 page ebook, I discovered what a monumental task it is.

First mistake: I didn’t create a script. After all, how hard could it be to read my own nonfiction work?
Second mistake: I found myself wanting to reword what was on the page as I thought of better ways to express the text.
Third mistake: I tried to record the whole ebook in one sitting. Exhausting.

I haven’t finished that recording yet, but with the tips and sources offered in this post I’m encouraged to return to creating my audio book.

As for turning my 213 pg print book into audio, I’m very definitely investigating the services who have proper studios and know what they’re doing.


Brendan July 16, 2012 at 2:22 am

Hi Flora,

Yes when you start to look at audio you begin to see how different it is as a medium. I can so empathize with your mistakes above, but they are worthwhile in pointing you in the right direction. To build on your learnings I would say;

Mistake 1 – No Script; rewrite your piece or mark up your text. By this I mean use a color coded system and series of symbols to show where natural pauses are, words that need emphasis, changes in tone and links where sentences should flow into each other.

Mistake 2 – Edit as you go. Here is where you really benefit from a director or sound engineer. We often take things for granted or assume our readers know what we are talking about. Having another person there when recording allows you to be challenged as to your flow or meaning and then you can do a live edit. Also when using a sound engineer there are two ways to edit as you go; ‘rock n roll’ or ‘fluff n repeat’. So ‘rock n roll’ is where you make a mistake and the sound editor drops you in at the point of the mistake and then you continue on, ‘fluff n repeat’ is repeat the entire paragraph until it is right. I used ‘rock n roll’ when I recorded because it saves time and edits if they need to be made can be added to the script quickly. see http://loreleiking.blogspot.ie/2011/04/its-only-rock-n-roll.html

Mistake 3 – Time and energy. This is the one that really got me. I speak for a living as a motivator, coach and trainer. I am fit and healthy. I thought this would be a walk in the park… I was amazed at the level of concentration and effort required. So here is what I would do;
1. Warm up physically by walking as you will be sitting for some time.
2. Warm up your voice signing HIGH, Middle, low.
3. Drink LOTS of water as your vocal cords can dry out quickly, it also stops you sounding ‘lippy’.
4. Read for no more than 40min periods then break, stretch out and relax your brain.
5. BREATH. Your voice is created on your out breath so find a way to breath deeply to give you a good length of phrase. (Roger Love the US voice coach has some good techniques in his book).

I hope that this helps and best of luck with your audio endeavors!

Yours in ‘meaningful’ success,



If you are ready, I’d love to be your travelling companion to make your writing journey a fun trip with a soft landing. Once you’ve completed your manuscript, you can convert it to many profitable formats. Begin with the 7-Step Roadmap to Publishing Success at http://www.abookin90days.com

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