Overwhelmed by the Thought of Selling Your Writing? Help is Here

If you’re a writer who gets overwhelmed when you think of marketing and selling your writing, you’re not alone! Not wanting to promote my writing is why I hesitate to pursue a literary agent and get my books published.

Here’s how a fellow writer describes it:

“The thought of all the details I must be sure to cover in this hypertechno age of social media in order to sell my work wholly overwhelms me and paralyzes me,” says X. on 5 Ways to Overcome Fear of Success for Writers. “I write. I have two books published. However, the amount of time and energy to market books in this climate sucks the life out of me.”

I always feature a book in my Quips and Tips articles because I love reading, think books are one of the best ways to learn stuff, and like to promote authors. Oh yeah, and I like to learn commissions from Amazon!

In this case, I have two types of books to suggest: one on tapping into your creative, artistic, free self – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. On Twitter, published author MeiLin Miranda says, “It’s terrific – it got me out of a bad writing slump last year.”

And, I recommend a book on learning how to use social media to efficiently sell your writing – The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue.

After all, you don’t want to give up on your goal of writing books just because you don’t know how to sell them, right?

Tips for Writers Overwhelmed at the Thought of Promoting and Selling

The writer who I referred to as “X” above actually called herself “year and a half late for this blog” on my article.

But she’s wrong! She’s not too late – I’m just as tuned in to my old articles as I am to my new (if not more so). It is never, ever too late, my friend, for anything. Most things, anyway.

Now, for a few thoughts on selling your writing…

Figure out what’s holding you back

One reason I recommend The Artist’s Way is because I’m currently on Chapter 3. I’m reading it with a group of artists who want to be more creative and free – and it’s changing how I think about writing, blogging, and my career. It’s both practical and inspirational.

Cameron’s book can help you figure out why you resist selling your writing, and help you flow through it.

For example, X says, ““I wish I knew exactly what I fear. I think it has a lot to do with my inner life needing calm and quiet and a very slow pace – like a prayerful monk.”

It sounds like she may be an introvert who feels drained and exhausted at the thought of aggressively or even assertively marketing and promoting her books. Me too! So, I don’t sell my writing. I list my ebooks in my sidebars and sometimes feature them in my articles, but otherwise couldn’t be bothered.

“Perhaps another issue is the ‘comparing mind’ of knowing my stories are good,” she says. “I write great sentences, I have had fabulous feedback from readers…but I don’t feel like I’m good enough, compelling enough… I want to be a better writer – that is what I work on.”

Maybe there’s not one single reason X is overwhelmed at the thought of selling her writing…and maybe she doesn’t need to figure out every single obstacle. Maybe she just needs to do Morning Pages, as recommended by Julia Cameron, and get all the fears, insecurities, and self-doubts on paper. Once she gets all the dreck out, she’ll be free to focus on what really matters: writing.

Also – learning how to promote books without feeling overwhelmed can’t hurt. And, learn what writers do when they get stuck!

Learn to write for the sake of writing

“Even now I’m rambling on because I’m sure no one is reading this anyway since it’s a year and a half old,” she says. “I was compelled to write, am compelled to write…but otherwise I retreat to my garden.”

Me too! Except for the garden part. I write my Quips and Tips articles and rarely get feedback from readers. I know my articles are read because I see my traffic stats, but hardly anyone comments or asks a question.

Writing is lonely work. Even published authors don’t always know the impact of their books…and there’s no guarantee that a bestselling author’s new book will be read. It’s just the nature of the beast.

How do writers get around this? They train themselves to write for the sake of writing. Not to be read, not to become a bestselling author, and not to get lots of praise and thanks from readers. Writers write because they love it – they’re compelled to write, like X is.

Fellow scribes, make everything you write the best it can be – even your comments on an old blog post. You never know how people will respond and even use it! 🙂

Take marketing, promoting, selling your writing one step at a time

“Part of what I fear is getting a ball rolling into marketing and attempting to do all the social media engagement and not being able to follow through because ten months out of the year I am 100% teaching a very heavy load,” she says. “I have nothing for writing, let alone marketing.”

Instead of looking at the big picture and getting overwhelmed at the thought of marketing/promoting/selling your writing, take a long, deep breath. Seriously – right now, take a deep breath. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Now it’s time let go of all the angst and insecurity and whirlpool of writerly crap that holds you back, and get down to the boring stuff. The practical action plan. Maybe now is not the time to write books because you have no time to market and sell them. Or, maybe you need to scale down on the teaching and commit more time to writing and selling your books.

Maybe you can’t do it all.

Fellow scribes, do you have any tips for overwhelmed writers?

X asks you this:

“On the outside chance someone has some kind of simple, step by step, hand-holding, practical things to do to chip away at getting across this chasm, I welcome your thoughts. If anyone knows of an agent looking for a novelist who prefers to stay out of his/her way in the process of marketing and public relations, and would love to work with someone who is interesting, low key, talented, creatively energetic and who will love to go to book signings, speaking engagements, and all that but can’t do it herself, please please let me know!”

Here are a couple articles on selling your writing:

Comments and tips welcome below the stuff that pays the bills…

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16 thoughts on “Overwhelmed by the Thought of Selling Your Writing? Help is Here”

  1. Great read. I love writing and get to do it everyday as a job. But I am not sure if I want it to be published. I’m happy sharing my writing with blog readers and friends but cant see myself publishing a book. It’s too much pressure and I don’t think I will be able to handle any negative feedback. I’m happy to just blog.

  2. Sean R. Nicholson

    Love the post!

    I have more than 10 books under my belt and the thought of going through the commercial publishing process again gives me tummy troubles. Writing is definitely not easy and getting something published is 10x harder than putting the words down. I took a break just to write for myself and get back to just writing for fun. If I could share one piece of advice from my experience it would be to take time and write for YOU, even if it’s a personal blog or a journal. Putting words on paper that no one else gets to edit is cathartic 🙂

    Great post and comments!


  3. I get overwhelmed when I think about all of the steps involved in ‘selling and marketing’ my writing. I take a deep breath and do one thing at a time. This helps me to stay centered and focused. I don’t freak out as much.

  4. My Aunt used to be a old time author who used typewriter. Gone are the days as people are using social media to promote their work. Even my kids are encouraged by school to write journal online 🙂

  5. I love writing. It makes me turn on that kind of person that I am not. Even I have started my blog in order to have the opportunity more people to read my articles and give me some critics about them.I do not have the courage to publish, but one day…

  6. I love writing so much but I am not sure if I want it to be published. But I am sharing it to my friends though. Maybe I am just afraid of rejections that is why I am not trying any of it. I am just happy that through blogging now I am able to share it with people and also earn from it.

  7. Writing should be done by the heart and with passion, and I guess if the writer do that just for money, it won’t be that successful, I guess. If I want my book or article to be published, I use blogging sites, like WordPress and bloggers, than any social media because it looks more professional, but I do use Twitter and Facebook to advertise what I wrote.

  8. I found your article insightful, and feel that it doesn’t only apply to writers, but to anyone who gets stumped when they are trying to accomplish something they are passionate about. There is a saying that my husband tells me whenever I have writer’s block or feel overwhelmed by some task “How do you eat an elephant?” The reply is “One bite at a time.” It demonstrates that most anything is possible, but breaking it down into manageable steps and goals can help one focus their energies better. I now want to read The Artist’s Way based on your recommendation! Thanks for the excellent writing advice.

  9. A close friend of mine wrote a book a few years back, hired a publicist and did some interviews but still his book has not really taken off. I have given him some tips and places to promote it online and it seems to help a bit. His book is Memoir of life and time as a runaway. His hopes for the book are to help parents and even the runaway see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    I enjoy your insight.

  10. I think you shouldn’t worry about marketing if your book is still on the way. You can start a blog and all while working on your drafts, but worrying about something that might never happen is useless. Enjoy the process of writing instead! Otherwise, it looks like an excuse – I won’t write coz I won’t have time to market if I’m ever to be published. You don’t know what will be in your life in a year or two. Things change. Enjoy the present.

  11. Web Marketing Soup

    I have read “The Zen of Social Media Marketing” and I can attest that is a very good and informative read.

    Social media in my opinion is often very underutilized in modern marketing campaigns and that’s simply because a lot of marketers don’t “get it.” It’s not about the hard sell anymore, it’s about engaging your readers/customers and becoming “one of them” and then adding value/benefit to their lives by delivering them what they need.

    Companies are require to be more accountable and honest but this is a great benefit to the consumer. A lot has changed and will continue to, it will be interesting to see how much of a role social media will continue to play.

  12. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments, Alex!

    I totally agree that if you make your marketing efforts fun, you’ll be much more successful. I don’t use Facebook as a marketing tool because it doesn’t seem natural to me. FB is for my friends and family, not my work. But Google Plus, I use to promote my blogs.

    I really enjoy Twitter, but not really to sell my writing. I Tweet because I like finding and sharing quips and tips 🙂

    Half an hour a day isn’t too long to devote to sharing your writing and making connections. And if you’re having fun, it’s not long enough!


  13. I truly believe that, if a writer writes simply and solely because he or she loves to write, then the act of writing has served its purpose.
    Anything and everything beyond that is gravy.
    If being published is your goal, then that is a different job altogether. In fact, it really doesn’t have much to do with writing at all, especially in today’s changing literary world.
    So for the writer who wishes to be a passive marketer in an overstuffed and evolving business, I would suggest doing your own passive marketing in the form of social media and blogging. It’s not writing OR marketing; it’s both. But blog and Tweet for fun. Learn as you go and give it time. To the resistant mind, social media is incredibly overwhelming. But devote a half hour a day to setting up a blog, writing a quick post, posting some previous work/excerpt, tweeting, setting up a Facebook page. After a year, when a year will have passed regardless of how much ‘work’ you have done, you will find that you have a solid beginning of an online marketing presence.
    And once that happens, communicating to others – friends, clients, agents, publishers, forums, etc. – is infinitely easier when you can simply say, “Check out my blog at…” or “Follow me on Twitter.”
    Potential readers/buyers/supporters of your work will have a ‘product’ that you created to actually ‘hold in their hands and try on.’ It won’t be just you trying to adlib a line that adequately describes what you’ve done.
    All the while, focus on your writing, and enjoy your creative genius. Play around with your blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and get to know people. Build relationships and have fun with it. You’ll be amazed at the people you meet and the opportunities that present themselves through the friend of a friend of a friend.

  14. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Penumbra Publishing ~ thanks for your insights into publishing, selling books, and promotions. I like your tip of going where the readers are, and interacting with them. Finding the right readers is the crux to successfully selling your writing AND successful blogging. In fact, finding the right audience/customers/clients is the key to success in ANY endeavor or business! And let’s face it, writing is a business.

    Jen ~ that just proves there’s a niche for every writer. Books about pie don’t surprise me…it seems like there’s been a book written about everything under the sun 🙂 I’m glad your friend’s books have motivated you to keep writing.

    Fellow scribes, let’s shake off those feelings of being overwhelmed, and focus on creativity and fulfilling our dreams of being the writer we’ve always wanted to be.

    I’ve been wondering if X, the writer who inspired this post because she was overwhelmed at the thought of selling her writing, has been here? I’m curious what she thinks of all this…

  15. Just found out a friend had finished her second book, books about pie! Never knew she was a writer and never knew people were interested in books about pie. Makes me feel like it make make it with my writing.

  16. Hiring a promotion company to promote your book is no guarantee that your money will be well spent or go one cent toward your goal – getting readers to notice and buy your book. Why? Because many promotion companies are self-starter companies created by people looking for a way to make money. They have a plan … and the goal of that plan is to make you think paying someone else to do what you can do yourself is actually a smart way to spend your money. Here’s what they’ll say. “For X-amount of dollars, we will write a news release about your book and send it out to 50 newspapers around the country. We will create a book video trailer and upload it to YouTube and 25 other video sites. We will write a review for your book and post it on Amazon where your book is listed. We will do an author interview and post it on our site for five days. We will host a 30-minute podio broadcast and make it available to our subscribers. We will … blah blah blah blah blah.” What none of these promotion companies will ever say is, “We will find you readers who want to buy your book.” You can do that yourself. The way you do that is to go where the readers are and find creative ways to interact with them without seeming to be there solely to peddle your book. A large publisher with lots of promotion experience is back to square-one in this new bookselling environment where Amazon’s digital sales platform is eating everyone’s lunch. The trick is to find the right readers looking for what your book offers.