If you choose the path of independent publishing, you’ll quickly learn that you have a lot of responsibilities. You’ll need to write your book, manage the editing, cover design, and formatting, and handle the publishing and marketing. While you can (and should!) hire professional help, in the end, you’re the one who makes the big decisions. This pressure alone can make you feel like you have to be a super human to make it as an author.
The good news? There are thousands of books, podcasts, blogs, and other resources ready to help you in your journey. The bad news? Each one exalts a different method of writing, publishing, and/or marketing – and new tactics emerge almost daily.
As this information flies at you from all sides and other authors skyrocket to success (seemingly overnight!), you’ll feel like you’re missing something, some crucial key to your success. So, you latch onto those new tactics. Yes! Signing up for a new social media site will boost my exposure. Yes! Paying for this new ad service will increase my sales. Yes! Selling my soul to a crossroads demon will make me a best-selling author for 50 years!
Okay, that last one might be an exaggeration (everyone knows crossroads demons only give you 10 years), but you get my point. All this chasing and hustling and worrying has a name: Fear of Missing Out (aka FOMO). And the best news? Once you know its name, you can define and defeat it.
What is FOMO?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
Applied specifically to independent authors, it’s what I described above. Anxiety that you’re missing out on a new marketing tactic, writing technique, book convention, etc. that – if you did participate in it – would be the key to your success.
How Can I Overcome FOMO?
If you’re still with me, I assume you don’t want to live in constant fear of missing out. Or, you at least want to learn how to know when you’re really missing something and when you’re wasting your time. As I always say, you’re the only one who can answer that question for yourself … but I’ll do my best to help guide you.
Know Your Why
This is my favorite lesson from the gang at Sterling & Stone (one of the top indie publishing outfits). Essentially, you need to know what your goal is for your author career. Is it to replace your full-time income? Is it to win a literary prize? Different goals require different paths.
Personally, I want to earn enough money from my book sales to become a full-time author. So, whenever I sense FOMO creeping in, I take a step back and evaluate the tactic from that goal. Will signing up for a Snapchat account help me gain readers and sell books? Maybe. But wouldn’t the time it takes to sign up, build a following, research how to effectively use the platform, and actually use it, be better spent writing more books, utilizing proven advertising methods, and connecting with readers via my email list and familiar platforms? Absolutely!
Think Like a Business
If you’re in independent publishing to make a career, then you’re an entrepreneur. Think like one!
Whenever you participate in a business activity, you’re investing resources: time, money, energy, etc. Before you jump onto the latest craze, ask yourself: what is my investment? And what is my logical return on investment?
For example, let’s say I find a book review service. I pay them to reach out to book reviewers on my behalf. How much does that cost? How many reviews can I expect in return? Who are these reviewers, will they like my book, and do they write quality reviews? How many reviews do I need to actually impact my book sales? What is the “cost per review” then?
It’s not a perfect science, and with the qualitative nature of our field, the answers might be unclear. But the more precise you can be, the more intelligently and effectively you’ll use your resources.
Take an Outside Perspective
When we see what other indie authors are doing, it’s easy to evaluate their decisions in a logical manner. We can look at someone else’s Twitter timeline and say, “They should spend less time tweeting about their book and more time editing it.” While I’m not advocating you scour your feeds looking for authors to criticize, I encourage you to take note when those thoughts strike you. When they do, you’re probably basing that person’s actions on your own goals.
Consider the last tactic you tried and imagine that this “misguided” author was the one doing it. Would you judge them? Would you list “more important” tasks they could complete? Or would you admire their hustle and business savvy? That should tell you everything you need to know.
Find a Mentor
My indie author mentor is Joanna Penn. No, I don’t know her personally. However, her career path aligns with my personal goals. Therefore, whenever I learn of a new tactic that worked for her, I know it’s worth considering for me.
Focusing on one author helps narrow your options, and if they meet your definition of success, it gives you one (of infinite) paths to take. Which author could you follow?
Do What’s Really Important
It all comes back to the first point: knowing your own writing and publishing goals. Define your goals, research the best way to achieve them, and then do it. Focus on the broader strategies (not the new tactics and get-rich-quick tricks that pop up) and you’ll get there.
You’ll feel better, too. Earlier this year, I spent a lot of time feeling overwhelmed. So many authors have been touting new services and courses and tactics, and it gave me a serious case of FOMO. This month, I’ve focused almost exclusively on writing my next book, which right now, should be my No. 1 priority. And you know what? I haven’t felt FOMO once, because I know that I’m actively doing the most important thing for my author business.
When is FOMO Justified?
Here’s the BIG secret: most of the time, you’re not missing out on anything. There will always be a new social media craze, snazzy marketing service, or revolutionary writing technique to adopt. If you spend your time, money, and energy chasing them all, you’ll never get anything productive done.
That being said, sometimes your FOMO will be justified. In those rare cases, the shiny new button will be something that aligns with your goals, makes good business sense, works for other authors with similar goals, and doesn’t leave you with the nagging sensation that you’ve wasted resources or the guilt that you’ve ignored what’s really important. If you stick to those tenants, you’ll know something valuable when you see it.
Use your best judgment. Be honest about your goals and how your actions serve them. And, as the latest catchphrase insists: work smarter, not harder.
Do that, over and over, day-in and day-out, and you’ll make it. The only thing you’ll miss? All the time you wasted worrying about or chasing all the crap that never mattered in the first place.