Challenge,  publishing

Fear and Publishing

Did Not Expect Some Comments…

On the Great Publishing Challenge. It seems that writing and doing challenges on writing is popular, but not so much publishing. In fact, I got a number of comments about the fear involved.

And I know for a fact that the fear comes from myths. And the fear of what might happen if you did it wrong.

Well, you will do it wrong. I sure did when we started into indie publishing. I spent nine months putting up over 200 titles as fast as I could. I worked at it day and night. Mostly short stories, a few collections, some nonfiction, and a bunch of Kris’s novels and novellas.

I used Powerpoint for the covers, we did the best proofing ourselves that we could do, and we sucked at writing sales copy.

A year after I started that we hired Allyson and started WMG Publishing Inc. Her first task was to look at what I had done. After she spent a few days looking over the inventory at that point, her first comment was about how bad the covers were (most were, I’m afraid) and how we needed copyediting and better sales copy.

Shows how much courage she had to say that to me, huh? But I agreed with her. I knew that when I did the covers and sales copy, they didn’t have to be right, they had to be up.

I still think there are five or six of those original 200 books up in their original form because we either haven’t gotten to them yet, noticed them yet, or they are selling and you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

But thankfully I didn’t have the attitude I have been hearing in letters and sideways comments about this publishing challenge. If I had been afraid of doing something wrong, or of the learning curve, we would not be where we are today with over a thousand titles up.

And thankfully, I was past most of the myths. I had seen so many horrid covers over the years come out of traditional publishing, I knew I could do better and I did. Not much in some cases, but no one came and shot me because I had produced and published a few bad covers. Honestly, no one but Allyson even noticed.

And I had no fear of failing at all. Or people judging my work. I flat didn’t care and still don’t. So all the myths that swirl around that went right by me.

Two people reported to me today, plus another in the comments section yesterday, that they had mentioned the challenge on different sites and got the response that all books should be rewritten and have developmental editors and hired covers and all that would be expensive and take time.

In case you don’t see the connection, those excuses are fear of failing, and thus those writers who believe that will fail. Critical voice and stupidity always work well hand-in-hand to stop a career if the writer lets it.

So a couple things about the challenge.

— You can start at any time, but you must publish one book per month. Not six things and then nothing. One per month minimum. And one person signed up now isn’t starting until May.

The point for that rule is to help you schedule your publishing program around your writing.

— No one will be judging you on your covers or your sales copy besides readers buying your book or not buying it.

— The $600 fee is a no-lose fee. If something happens and you can’t get a book published in one month, you get the $600 in credit toward any workshop you want. And you can buy back into the challenge if you want (not with the credit) and keep going, start over.

— Having a minimum of twelve books (collection, novella, novel, or omnibus) for sale by this time in 2020 will be making you money and a complete win.

— The only way to follow my publishing thirty-six books fun is be on the Publishing Challenge. You can follow my writing over the year by being on the Novel Challenge. Even if you miss, you can still follow me for the entire year, no issue.

But what I keep pointing out more and more is the fact that if you succeed at this challenge, get past the learning curves, have the courage to put your work out for readers, not only will you get a lifetime subscription of your choice, but far, far more importantly, you will have at least twelve new IPs licensed and working for you, making you money from around the world.

And at least twelve new IP that will last for 70 years past your death.

But even if you don’t jump into any of the challenges as we go into this new decade, don’t let fear be the reason.

5 days until the new decade. Have courage in these upcoming years. And have fun.


  • Vera Soroka

    Publishing has been always a number one fail for me. I have a lot of projects that I could be publishing but for some reason they sit there. I think part of my problem is organization. I’m hoping this year to get better at that. Some people use calendars or planners. I tried a planner last year and failed. Going to try it again this year but think in smaller junks and tasks and try not to overwhelm myself.
    I have a lot of short stories and flash fiction I could publish but I see that as something that would not sale so I guess that is why I don’t bother with it. Even some of my short novels, I view the same way but for the novels I should have them out. Have to try a little harder this coming new decade.

    • dwsmith

      Vera, that is all critical voice stopping you. You have no way of knowing and are the worst judge of your own work. We all are. Only way to know for sure is beat back the critical voice and put it out. And your comment proves my point of this blog. But I know you can fix it. Now time to do it.

    • J.A. Marlow

      Please, get them all out there. For short novels, they sell better than my longer novels. Don’t sell them short! (Forgive the pun)

      Seriously, a reader can’t read a story, no matter the length, if they aren’t out there. You are hurting yourself not getting all of them out.

  • James Palmer

    Great thoughts as always, Dean. I also enjoyed your recent interview on Six Figure Authors.
    Speaking of covers, I have a friend who makes a good full time living writing space opera and military sci-fi, and his covers are terrible. He makes them himself, and they are really bad. Your old PowerPoint covers were a thousand times better than his. But his titles are selling. Go figure.

    • dwsmith

      He has the courage to put them out there and his stories clearly hold readers. Quality, which many of us forget, is in the eye of the beholder. I will often walk past of piece of art hanging somewhere and shake my head. A six-year-old could have painted it. My attitude (which is wrong) is that if I could paint it, it isn’t art.

      So on covers my opinion about a good cover might be different from yours and clearly different from the friend you are talking about. Subjective, no right way, only the way that works. I find myself having a very hard time with remembering that when it comes to covers. (grin)

      • Jason M

        I remember reading about a military adventure author who purposefully makes bad covers — low quality, poor composition, etc — because his readership thinks they look good. Basically, he figured out that his readers have bad taste, and he profited from it.

        My ex-wife once worked as an assistant buyer at the corporate owner of TJMaxx. One day, her boss told her: “Look, you have good taste. Don’t buy anything you like for this company. It won’t sell. Buy ugly stuff. Trust me, you’ll see.” So my ex bought a line of cheap faux alligator purses lined with purple fur. They sold out nationwide in exactly one week.

  • Brandy Woldstad

    Great points, Dean. I’ll add a newbie perspective on what I learned about publishing fears this last year.

    As a beginner determined to build a writing career in 2019, I embraced the attitude that every dollar I spend on publishing my books is equivalent to spending money on a college class on how to be a writer. The main difference is that by taking the chance to publish my work (learning by doing), I could get paid. College classes never paid me to play and experiment.

    I still struggle with the usual freak out when I have another book to publish, but each book is a signpost among many to come stating, “This is the best I can do at this time.”

    • dwsmith

      Exactly, Brandy. And remember to keep in perspective as much as possible that each book, each learning opportunity, will last for a very long time and keep earning for you. So not only does the learning help, but the book itself keeps on paying.

  • Lorri Moulton

    Dean, I have changed my covers SO many times. Like everything else, it’s a learning curve. It takes time to learn what works (and what doesn’t) and time is one thing I have. I’m glad I haven’t paid for advertising because it’s given me the freedom to fail. How else are we going to learn?

    I appreciate everything you and Kris do to help those of us still figuring all this out. I love self-publishing! Happy New Year and I wish you all the best in 2020.

  • Alexandria Blaelock

    I started 2019 pretty much afraid of everything when it comes to writing, so I’m thinking what’s one more thing on top of that? Wrote a lot since then, and I don’t think it’s just my confidence that’s increased.

    So, I’m stocktaking, and working out what needs to be finished. Plus the skills I need to learn and routines I need to develop to make this challenge work, and I hope to join you later.

  • Murees Dupé

    I enjoy it when you write posts like these. I learn so much from your wisdom. Fear is still a problem when publishing, but having read one of your previous posts, I stopped rewriting my 2nd book for probably the 50th time, hired a copy editor, and getting ready to publish. I think its just that fear that someone, even another writer, will rip my published book apart. Or that I shame all my fellow indie’s by putting out a book others might find amateurish, or bad quality. But I’m going ahead with publishing it anyway.

    • dwsmith

      Wow, great progress, Marees. Well done. Now get that book out and forget it and have fun writing the next one.

  • Michael Kingswood

    FWIW, I won’t be doing the Publishing Challenge with you. But from lack of free cash flow at the moment, not from fear. I fully intend to actually do what your challenge says (just tallied it up and I’ve got 45 unpublished short stories to get out in 2020. Plus 3 planned novels to finish/write (finally). Ought to be more than enough to git ‘r done. But, alas, that $600 ain’t on hand at the moment.

    Oh well. Maybe join up later.

    I’ll have fun watching you and the others from the metaphorical sidelines, though. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Never, in a million years, would I think you were afraid of anything. Not with the things you have done in your past. Never would cross my mind with you. (grin)

    • Kate Pavelle

      Right-o on the cash flow end. I wasn’t going to do it, but finally I caved and signed up on the theory that
      1. if I feel this much resistance to the concept, I need it more than I’m willing to admit
      2. the $$ will come back in reduced Las Vegas workshop fees
      3. I have enough short fiction inventory to coast if I need to… so I don’t have ANY excuses on that count
      4. I can do covers. Not fast and not as well as others, but they’ll do for now.

      See, now I can’t afford to fail 😉

      • dwsmith

        Kate, yup, great way to look at it, but look at the upside. No money out of your pocket because no matter what, it pays for something you were going to do. Second, it gets books up and out for people to read instead of letting them hang around on your computer. And that will bring in more money, a lot more money over time. And will get you past the resistance of publishing your work. So all wins, all the way.

  • Lyn

    Would the multi-author fiction anthologies I build qualify for this challenge? Or do the collections have to be only of my own work?

    • dwsmith

      Actually, Lyn, they would qualify, at least the ones you do. Just as in a large challenge I would count Pulphouse. What you do, and what I do with Pulphouse takes about ten times the work than just simply putting together an anthology of our own work. Maybe twenty times the work. So yes, it would qualify for me. Plus I really like the professional level books you produce.

  • Edmund de Wight

    Indie writers should really adopt the adage used by the scientific community: “Publish or perish”.
    We have to overcome our fears and get something out there. You can’t become a surprise hit if you have nothing on the market. You also don’t learn to improve if nothing is published to show you which of your books are selling.