How to Beat 7 Common Self-Publishing Fears

image of walt whitman, self-publisher

Maybe you’ve watched other bloggers launch their ebooks, and you want to do the same — but something’s holding you back.

You probably already know the benefits of publishing an ebook …

  • Establishing yourself as an expert author
  • Finally making real money from your blog
  • Creating a low-priced product to draw new customers in

You keep telling yourself that you will write an ebook someday … just not yet. And it’s almost certainly the case that one of the seven common fears in this article is holding you back.

Staying stuck isn’t any fun, so let’s get right to it …

Fear #1: I’m not ready

This is the biggest worry I hear from bloggers: I’m not ready.

All too often, the bloggers saying this are more than ready.

They’ve been blogging for six months, or a year, or longer.

Or they’re subject matter experts.

Or they’ve been writing for years or even decades.

Even if the longest thing you’ve written so far is a blog post, you probably are ready (or at least a lot closer to ready than you think).

Tip: Pick a date when you will begin your ebook, however unready you feel. Put it in your calendar.

Fear #2: I don’t know what to write about

This fear comes in two forms:

  • I have no ideas at all
  • I have so many ideas, I don’t know which to pick

The best way forward is to ask your audience.

Give them a list of your potential ideas and ask them to vote on their favorites. Even better, ask them what they’re struggling with, using open-ended questions.

Tip: Though open-ended questions are always best, you can use SurveyMonkey to run a multiple choice survey — it’s free at the basic level, and quick and simple for your audience to use.

Fear #3: Nobody will buy it

No writer wants to pour weeks of work into an ebook … only to find that sales are zero (or as close as makes no difference).

I can’t guarantee that your readers will buy your ebook. But if you’ve written what they want to read (see #2) instead of what you think they want, they’re very likely to snap it up.

You don’t have to sell hundreds of copies during your launch, either. Ebooks never go off: they can stay on a virtual shelf for months or years, bringing in regular income.

Tip: Don’t spend months and months on your ebook. Write something short, and aim to complete it within a couple of months — or try the 30 Day ebook plan here.

Fear #4: It won’t be good enough

Perhaps you’re worried you don’t know enough. Perhaps you think your writing isn’t up to scratch. This fear is one that pretty much every first-time ebook writer suffers. (And plenty of umpteenth-time writers still find it hard to beat.)

Remember, your ebook doesn’t have to be the last word on your subject.

In fact, it’s much better (for you and your audience) to write an ebook that tackles one single topic — not one that aims to be the only ebook they’ll ever need.

Also, you don’t have to go it alone.

Maybe there are a couple of chapters in your plan that fall outside of your personal experience. You can research those, interview an expert, or even ask someone else to contribute text for them.

Tip: Ask fellow writers, or some members of your audience, to act as “beta-readers.” Get them to comment on your draft, and use their comments and suggestions to improve it.

Fear #5: I don’t understand the technology

If you’ve only just got to grips with WordPress, the thought of mastering the technology behind ebooks might put you off starting.

The great news is that ebooks are relatively easy to produce.

If you’re going to sell your ebook through your own blog, you can simply make a .pdf file that readers can view on their computer. (And you can hire a designer to make it look great.)

If you want to get your ebook into major online stores, like Amazon, there are a few extra steps to take — but these are by no means insurmountable.

Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is straightforward to use, and Smashwords will help you format your ebook for distribution to other online stores.

Tip: There are plenty of individuals, plus companies like BookBaby, that can take your ebook manuscript and format it for you. Shop around and ask for recommendations.

Fear #6: I don’t have a big list

Yes, an email list is a powerful way to sell products … but you don’t need to build a huge list before you can create your first ebook.

Even if your list only has a few dozen members — or if you don’t have a list at all — you can publish an ebook.

You can use other techniques, like guest posting, to get the word out there, and build up your list over time. After all, if you write the ebook first, you’ll have something for new members to buy.

Tip: Use a free chapter or two from your ebook as a sign-up incentive for your email list. This not only gives them a reason to join your list, it also helps nudge them towards buying.

Fear #7: I hate the idea of marketing

Some people are natural marketers: confident, charismatic, and with an instinctive grasp of what benefits will entice their audience.

Others — probably most of us! — find marketing uncomfortable at first.

Marketing may not come naturally to you, but you’re perfectly capable of it. Marketing your ebook simply means letting people know what it can do for them.

Some of your audience will decide not to buy, of course: perhaps they don’t need that particular book, or they don’t feel they have time to use it right now.

Others, though, will be delighted that you’re produced exactly what they need.

Tip: Focus on your audience in your marketing. Instead of trying to write about how great your ebook is, write about how it can help them.

If one of these fears has been holding you back, decide today how you’re going to move forward.

Drop a comment below to tell us your plans.

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Reader Comments (75)

  1. says

    The biggest tip I can give, based on my experience, is to first write your table of contents. That is to say, write down all the topics you want to cover. Then think about it for a few days. I spent two weeks working on my chapter/topic lists. It also helped me see how to organize the book.

    Once you start writing chapters, use the same method…out the chapter into topics….then subtopics. The result is you have an organized book AND you don’t feel you have to write a BOOK as you feel you are writing PARAGRAPHS.

    My ebook is over 330 pages (in a normal professional font size). The outlining process made writing easy.

    • says

      Chris, fantastic tip. I think getting a strong chapter list in place is a very good place to start — and like you say, the more you can break down the writing process, the easier it becomes.

  2. says

    After I finished writing the text of a short ebook, I joined a Facebook group dedicated to talking about self publishing generally, and ebooks specifically. I had no fear whatsoever related to technology until joining that group. After all, I’m relatively smart, usually adapt to new technologies pretty quickly, had no trouble setting up my own web site…I figured with the step-by-step instructions available on both CreateSpace and KDP, it was within the realm of possibility. Then I started reading other people’s questions. As helpful as a community can be, it can also really increase your level of fear and paranoia!

    I’m staying away from self publishing groups and forums until the dang book is published!

    • says

      I know what you mean, Dava … sometimes it’s definitely best just to proceed on your own and not let other people’s (often slightly bizarre!) worries trip you up. CreateSpace and KDP are both straightforward to use, and they let you preview your book / ebook to make sure that everything’s okay.

  3. says

    What trips me up is choosing one project to focus on at a time. I have many ideas for fiction, YA, middle grade, and non-fiction books, but I must choose one and finish it. Perhaps, I’ll meditate on it. :)

    • says

      Good luck, Amandah! I’d suggest that (unless you have a strong inclination towards one book), you either opt for the project that’s nearest finished (if any!) or the one that’s going to be quickest to write — that way, you can get something finished fairly fast, and move on to the next.

  4. says

    Hi Ali,
    I have question for you.

    I’m author of popular website on a topic with more than 30k email subscribers. I just want to know which platform should I use to publish my eBook. Should I make it available through my website with e-junkie or should I publish on Amazon kindle? Are there any benefits or drawbacks of these services?


    • says

      Vijay, great question (and congratulations on the popularity of your site and mailing list).

      The answer depends on what you’re hoping for with your ebook.

      If you publish on Amazon, you’ll want to keep the price low (probably $6.99 or less) and you might choose to use this as a way to broaden your audience, rather than a way to make significant amounts of money straight away.

      If you publish on your website with e-junkie, that gives you more control over price — e.g. if you want to produce a specialised e-book that you’re pricing at $15, $20, or more. If you’ve got an audience keen for the information you’ll provide, this can be a great way to make some solid income — and this is the route I took myself with my Blogger’s Guide ebooks.

      Amazon takes a 30% cut on books priced $2.99 – $9.99, and a 70% cut on books outside that range. E-junkie charges a flat fee (currently $5/month at the lowest level). Obviously, Amazon has many benefits, though — like being the biggest bookstore in the world!

      Ultimately, the decision is up to you and depends on your goals for the book. Whatever you go with, best of luck!

    • says

      That’s so true! Fear is what holds a lot of us back from either writing or advancing into an unknown field of work. For me its taking that first step.. fear of the unknown.

  5. says

    I’ve been considering an e-book for some time now on how to deal with the single people in your life. Being a single person, this resonates strongly with me, but I’m not sure that it would be a strong enough topic to ask people to pay to read it. Especially since there are numerous “what not to say to your single friend” type blog posts out there. How do you figure out if your idea is worth the time and effort to pursue?

    • says

      Trick one, Donya. If I’m not sure about whether a topic will sell, I ask my readers in a survey about what they’d like to read, and if I’m unsure on pricing, I’ll also ask what they’d pay!

      My gut feeling is that I’m not sure that non-single people necessarily would think of buying a book designed to help them deal with single people (though they might well read a blog post) … maybe there’s a different angle you can take? e.g. would single people be more motivated to buy a book about how to put up with non-single friends who always say the wrong thing..??

  6. says

    Great post! Full of encouragement, and actually has me considering an ebook in the next year (AFTER I’m well into the reinventing of my blog!)
    It’s very inspiring to hear these expected boundaries torn down!

  7. says

    Thanks Ali! I contacted someone today about self-publishing my children’s book. It probably needs a few more edits. My middle grade book is a work in progress. I’m also a screenwriter, but there’s no self-publishing option for that. Although that could be a good business.

    • says

      If you can afford to hire an editor, I’d definitely recommend that — I did so with my self-published novel, and it made an amazing difference (despite the novel having already been through four drafts and extensive workshopping on my MA creative writing course!) Best of luck with the book. :-)

  8. says

    Great article, Ali, I’m sure it will help lots of folks get over their fears and get their books onto the market. Another fear I’ve often run across when talking to authors is that they will make some boneheaded mistake that will be obvious to everyone else but them. One thing that’s great about ebooks is that they are very easy to update if you do discover an error, unlike printed books. A good strategy is to make sure you have at least one person who knows how books are supposed to be put together as a beta reader so you can catch errors before they make it into your final version. The books we have to publish are too important to allow our fears to keep them from being published, and articles like this one will help make that a reality for more authors.

    • says

      Thanks so much, Joel … and what a great additional fear. I think a lot of us have this secret worry that we’re about to expose ourselves as idiots in front of the whole world — I know I’ve felt like that at times!

      It definitely helped me to get my ebooks out there when I reminded myself that it would only take a few minutes to update them, if I did discover any problems. I’m a firm fan of both beta readers and paid editors; it’s very hard to catch every little mistake (or clumsy sentence, or confusing explanation) with just one pair of eyes.

  9. says

    Ali, Thank your for a great useful article. It reflects my sentinments exactly. It’s passion and action that replace the fears people have. I love the way you bloggers get visibility and make more income than the average authors. From my point of view as a book coach for 25 years, I’ve seen great books come from my clients who write and publish them to brand themselves, bring business customers and also to sell books,

    My specality is to show how to put chapters together ( from 5-7), engage readers with quesions and show readers how to get answers to their concerns or problems in a particular niche. This book of around 25 or so pages works great as a free reward for people who opt-in to your site, where you sell your, your services and your products. The big advantage is that you can format this eBook into PDF for your site and Kindle for a bigger audience. Love that!

    Just like you, I’m learning from bloggers that I can guest post and reach completely new audiences I missed with my target market of mainly consultants, coaches, speakers and solo professiionals. JOn Morrow gave me the tip to expand to personal growth audiences, marketers, and severall more. This opened my eyes to biggger possibilities. Thanks again!

    • says

      Thanks, Judy — and I absolutely agree that a short ebook makes a wonderful freebie for building an audience. (I have a bunch of super-short ebooks for my email newsletter subscribers, and this has made a huge difference to my opt-in rate — plus I get a lot of lovely “thank you”s!)

      Best of luck with reaching new audiences — guest posting is one of my favourite ways to do that (as you might have guessed from the existence of this very post ;-)). Jon Morrow definitely knows his stuff and is well worth learning from.

  10. says

    I’ve been considering creating an ebook for a long time now. (Yes, I’m one of those people you’re writing about). Now, I’m even more inspired to start creating!!

    My main concern is organization and time management, especially since I just started fresh with a new site. But, I plan to create an editorial calendar and hope to then write the ebook as an extension of my blog posts/content.

    • says

      Best of luck, Jennifer! I think an editorial calendar is a great approach. The more you can break down the writing process, the easier it’ll be.

  11. says

    Hi Ali,
    Your fantastic article came just in time for me! Although I do have zillion question marks about my first e-book, I followed your advise and added “Write my e-book “item in my calendar after 2 weeks from today.
    Oct. 11th will be a glorious day in history :)
    Until then, I decided to spend one hour per day learning the ropes and will start by reading through the links in your article. In fact, I will kick off the day working on my masterpiece in the making.
    Thank you so much for simplifying the process. I will keep you posted on my progress and you will be the first to know when my eBook gets published. Thanks again. Wish me luck :)

    • says

      There is a lot to learn Heba, just make sure that you do dedicate time, even if it’s only 30 min, to writing regularly once you get started. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit or the easier it will get.. It’s very easy to get side tracked on the learning part-trust me, I know!

        • says

          Thanks Heba, so glad this was good timing — and very best of luck with making a start on your ebook!

          I completely agree with Cheryl’s advice — if you can devote a bit of time each day to the writing, you’ll make great progress. When it comes to learning, I find it’s often helpful to look for articles on a specific issue I’m addressing, as I come to it (e.g. writing an introduction, editing an ebook) rather than trying to read everything before starting … otherwise there’s just way too much out there!

          • says

            Awesome tips, Ali. Thanks for sharing :) I actually decided to start writing short articles online on daily basis to get the juices flowing and balance that with the learning process. Today, I have no idea what my eBook will be about but by Oct.11, I will! Wish me luck :)

          • says

            Heba, I think the comments are so nested that I can’t reply directly to yours — but best of luck! And good on you building a daily writing practice. :-)

  12. says

    This is great man! I’m just planning to make my ebook. And you give me the tips, the steps and the 30 day plan for nothing. Great. Many thanks. The only thing I have to do is do it. See you in about 30 days.

    • says

      Thanks, Jonathan. For many writers, the scales are very much balanced at the moment … and having experienced both self-publication and traditional publication, I’d say there are pros and cons of each, and that ultimately it depends on your own goals plus the type of book you want to write. Whatever path you go for, good luck!

  13. says

    Thanks Ali for giving me confidence on how to launch on my ebook. I just loved the read; very informative, educative and encouraging. Keep up the great job, I look forward into sharing your next shout out!

  14. says

    After this read; I just comprehended that I am facing my profession from a different viewpoint. I mean who couldn’t. I like the way you hit the nail on the head. Good info!

    • says

      Stella, a free ebook could be a great way to attract more traffic — and it doesn’t need to be a big or complicated project to work on. Many of my free ebooks are about 3,500 – 4,000 words (around the length of five average blog posts) and I’ve had great feedback on them.

      If you do go for an ebook, best of luck!

  15. says

    Ooh, this hit a nerve. Any advice for those of us who can’t decide on which novel to publish first? I keep changing my mind for all the reasons you listed, deciding to publish “this one instead,” and change my mind again.

    • says

      Hmm, tricky one! If you really can’t decide, I’d say flip a coin (or similar) — publishing any of them will be a better decision than publishing none.

      (I have to confess, though, that I’ve never been in the enviable position of having more than one potential novel to publish!)

      • says

        As enviable as it sounds, it’s kind of enabled me to stay scared and unpublished. Having only one baby to focus on might force me to just do it already, darn it. 😉

        I think the coin you mentioned was flipped for me last night. I was winding down, getting ready for bed, when BAM! Some words hit me and I had to write. They’re additions to a second draft that I finished in February, so I’m now working on the third draft. I think the universe decided enough was enough and made my decision for me.

        • says

          Hurrah and good luck! Hope the re-drafting goes brilliantly … and best of luck getting the book out there onto the virtual shelves. :-)

  16. says

    Hi Ali,

    Those are definitely reasons we all use to hold us back, in fact for just about anything in life, we can always come up with reasons for NOT doing something.

    For me personally, I’ve found that if I think of reasons WHY I should do something and not of reasons why I SHOULDN’T do something, for example, my shortcomings, dislikes, etc., it helps me to put aside my fears.

    Liz :-)

    • says

      Liz, that’s a wonderful point about focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. There will always be reasons to hesitate … but there are often plenty of very good reasons to carry on straight ahead. :-)

  17. says

    Hey Ali, There were lots of fears holding me back, but I’ve decided to move forward and started writing my first ever E-book last week. It’s 40% complete till now, will try to complete it in less time.

    Thanks for this article

  18. says

    That’s so true. I loved the point “I don’t know what to write about”. That’s my biggest fear. But I have overcome it by writing some of successful posts.

  19. says

    I have several half-written books on my laptop, I remember joining a writing forum a few years ago and being lambasted for daring to ask for advice on self-publishing as it was considered a joke and not something a ‘real’ author would ever contemplate doing.

    That was back when I cared about what people thought, self-publishing is a route I fully intend to pursue when I can get off my lazy butt and finish the books. 😛

    • says

      It’s such a shame that self-publishing’s had that kind of stigma — thankfully, it’s changing rapidly now (though good on you for not letting other people’s opinions stop you!) :-)

  20. yetin says

    The article provides amazing insight into the fears and the resolutions most writers need. Thanks a lot for this wonderful post!!

    PS: The fourth line from bottom needs some correction.
    Others, though, will be delighted that you’re produced exactly what they need. (you’re needs to be replaced with you’ve)

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