- What’s a ‘bad’ book?
- How negativity bias plays a role
- Valuing the decision to publish a bad book, over not publishing it at all
- Giving yourself permission to be a beginner
- The story shared in this episode: my journey of publishing a bad story
“It’s okay to write a bad book. It’s okay to publish a bad book. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Give yourself permission to improve and congratulate yourself as you do get better. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t focus on all the negative things about your book or story. Focus on the positive – you finished a story or a book! That’s amazing. Be proud of yourself.”
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[00:00:00] In this episode, I’ll share why it’s okay to write a bad book and share my experience doing the same. If this sounds like something you’d like to hear more about, please keep listening.
[00:00:10] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer’s Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer’s soul doesn’t need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host M. Khan, and let’s move forward together.
[00:00:35] Hello and welcome! Today, I’m going to be talking about a somewhat sensitive subject, which is bad books. Now, first, let’s talk a little bit about what a bad book actually is, what’s the definition. Now for a lot of us, we define our own work as bad because we just don’t think it’s good enough, or we think it’s just not ready for publication. Or maybe we’ve gotten feedback that editors or agents or even beta readers or other people who have read our books don’t like them. But the word “bad” is a very subjective term. People define bad books different ways.
[00:01:15] Something I’ve talked about in past episodes is negativity bias, and negativity bias is when your brain wants to focus on the negative. There’s science behind this. It will choose to focus on the negative over the positive. So you really have to force your brain to focus on positive things in your life sometimes. So part of why you might think your book is bad is because of the role negativity bias is playing on your mind. Your mind is basically playing tricks on you.
[00:01:45] Now, sometimes when we get that feedback that a book is bad, it becomes really disheartening. And they can really make us less productive in our writing because we want to write better. We want to be better writers. Or even if you’re another type of creator, say you’re a photographer or a filmmaker, those first pictures you take or those first videos you shoot are going to be bad. I mean, if you want to see bad videos, just look at the first few on my YouTube channel, but that’s kind of the point.
[00:02:15] We all start as beginners. You can’t start as someone who’s advanced and who knows how to write and knows how to do everything. So for me, writing a bad book was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it actually wasn’t a full book. It was a series of short stories that were the first things I really wrote back in 2013. When I first started writing, I had ideas for a few different kinds of stories I wanted to write, and writing a full book just felt daunting to me. Now there are some very popular authors out there. I think George R.R. Martin might be one of them who say that if you’re first starting out writing, writing short stories can be a good way to start. Now, I did not hear this from him, I’d just personally decided to start with the short story myself. But how you write a short story is very different from how you write a novel. I didn’t realize that at the time because I was just a beginner, but I wrote these series of short stories and I thought, you know what? I’m just going to self-publish these because I don’t know if I can find an agent or an editor. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find someone who wants to publish these, so let me just try publishing them myself.
[00:03:23] And because I had a zero budget, I did my book covers myself. I did, you know, the formatting and everything myself. I used a tool called Smashwords at that time to upload and to kind of disseminate…so Smashwords is what’s called an aggregator, which means you can upload there and they will disseminate your book to different e-book retailers like Kobo and Apple and Google, places like that. I don’t use them anymore and I can talk about that in a future episode if anyone’s interested. But at that time, it was handy for me because I didn’t want to deal with having accounts at different retailers and uploading everything, you know, multiple times. I do do that now, but at that time in 2013/2014, actually, when I started uploading, I didn’t want to deal with that. So I uploaded my books and even though I got – they were just short stories, so I wasn’t pricing them, you know, very expensive, I think they were only 99 cents, but they were out there. I had hit publish on those stories. And before I’d published, you know, I’d written them, I had revised – I’d given them to a friend of mine to read who is also a writer. She was and I think still is a freelance writer, but she was not writing fiction. She was actually a travel writer. But as a favor to me, she did read them because they were only about five to ten thousand words each. So even though she was a slow reader, it was something that she said she could do to help me out. And she really liked the stories.
[00:04:52] But one of the problems was that she is not an editor and what I really needed was an editor for those stories to tell me how – I could go back and read them now and their is just, there’s so many things that just need tightening up and things that need changing and just random plot points that come out of left field that should just not be there at all. So I can look back now and laugh at that. But at the time, you know, when those first reviews started coming in and they were just awful, awful, awful, you just think, oh, no, I failed. I finally, you know, I’d wanted to write. I just got over my fear of writing to write and publish for the first time. And now. Here I am. And wow, it sucks. It’s a fucking awful story and nobody likes it. Okay, what do we do now? But honestly, that was one of the best experiences I had. Looking back on it now, it was such a fantastic learning experience for me for a variety of reasons.
[00:05:53] So one reason why it was such a great experience for me is because it taught me to value the decision over not publishing at all. And this isn’t something that I’d realized until actually recently when I heard Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s the CEO of VaynerMedia, he’s on social media @garyvee, and he talks a lot about marketing and about business, and I found a lot of advice very useful. And he talks about valuing a decision over the decision itself, So often. Well, avoid making a decision at all, because we want it to be the absolutely right decision. We want everything to be absolutely perfect before we start doing something. But that’s not how life always works. When you have to make a decision right away, you make it and then you move forward. Then with things like publishing our first book or our first story, we can delay and delay and delay and say, wow, that book is not good enough or, you know, I’m not good enough or this book cover is not good enough. I need to wait until everything is perfect, but nothing in life is ever going to be perfect. So understanding that I had to value the decision to publish a book, even if it was a bad book or even if it wasn’t, you know, 110 percent where I wanted it to be was still better than not publishing it at all.
[00:07:15] I always think of this analogy when I’m thinking about decision making: an assignment in school that you turn in that gets a B, is still better than an an assignment you don’t turn in at all that gets an F. Think about that. Finishing an assignment, even if it’s not perfect, will still get you a good grade. But if you don’t finish anything at all, you’re going to get an F. So value the decision over perfection, over making sure everything is perfect before you make a decision because things will never be perfect.
[00:07:48] One other thing I learned through that experience is just how much there is to learn about writing and publishing and self-publishing. So I mentioned that I made my covers myself and wow, they were super, super bad. They were just not at all what was relevant to the genre. They weren’t appealing. They were basically photos I had taken myself of kind of landscapes and used those as the basis for the cover. But the you know, the pixels were off, and really it was such a great learning experience for me to realize that I not only – it wasn’t that I couldn’t make my own book covers, it was that I needed to get better at them, too. So I actually redid the stories a little bit. I redid all the covers. I learned how to do kind of just a really basic cover that still looked good for the genre. I did research about what covers similar stories had. You know, you can do that just by going on Amazon and looking at the different, you know, book covers there. And book covers are so cyclical, so they’ll change over time for different genres. But I found what worked. I figured out a way to make a similar book cover. I did invest a little bit, obviously, in getting good stock images to use on those covers and then came out so much better. And I was so proud of myself for learning how to do that.
[00:09:11] Now, back in those days, you know, authors got a lot of shit if they did their own book covers. But honestly, for me, I could not pay 500 bucks to someone just for a book cover. And honestly, I liked having control over the file itself. I invested in Photoshop. I invested in book covers. I did all of these things because there weren’t tools like Canva or other marketing tools that could help you make a book cover for a little bit less than, say, Photoshop at that time. But I learned and I’m still making my own book covers and I’m 5, 6 years in and it’s still great and I’m still learning and I’m still getting better.
[00:09:47] I feel like with every book and I also feel that that is true for my writing. I have had readers, they’ve reached out and actually contacted me and said, I like each book you put out, not just because of the stories, but because your writing gets better with each one and some people might think, well, you should probably be offended by that but I wasn’t actually, because it’s true. My writing is getting better now.
[00:10:09] Some people might hear that and think, well, that means that your writing is it can sustain your tone isn’t consistent. Well, I don’t think that’s true. When you first start writing, you don’t know who you are when you first start publishing. You don’t maybe don’t know who you are. It’s kind of like you’re a teenager, or you’re in your early 20s so you’re still trying to figure out where you fit into this world and what kind of mark you really want to make. So I feel like the general tone and the vibe of my books has still stayed pretty consistent. Just the writing has gotten a lot deeper. I’m showing more instead of telling, which is a writer term to show the emotions on the page, not to just say the emotions on the page. So don’t say Character X was angry. What does that look like? Show the anger in the expressions that that person has in their face, the way they’re holding their body, the way they’re acting in the scene.
[00:11:02] So I learned so much from that first bad experience. So those books are not out there anymore. These were all published under my pen name. And so I did take them down eventually. But it was such a great experience for me. And I’m actually so proud that took the initiative. I made the decision to publish and when it wasn’t working right, I just went back and redid it. Now, a lot of us don’t want to go back and redo things because of the time that gets wasted doing that. But honestly, that’s all the learning experience.
[00:11:30] So it’s okay to write a bad book. It’s okay to have a bad cover because those are things you can change. Those are things you can make better, and you can make it better with the next book or you can go back and re-edit that first book. But don’t just keep going back to re-edit and re-edit and re-edit. Make that decision when that book is actually done and then stick to it.
[00:11:52] It’s okay to write a bad book. It’s okay to publish a bad book. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Give yourself permission to improve and congratulate yourself as you do get better. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t focus on all the negative things about your book or story. Focus on the positive. You’ve finished a story or a book! That’s amazing. Be proud of yourself.
[00:12:17] Now I want to hear from you. Have you written or published a “bad” book? How do you feel about that experience? Now head to the blog or join our community on Facebook to let me know. The links are in the show notes. I’d also be very grateful if you could leave a review for this podcast wherever you like to listen. Thank you.
[00:12:35] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you. One: access to my growing library of free resources for authors; and Two: you’ll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge “How to Write Faster in 14 Days” where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.
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