Overcoming the Overwhelm of Self-Publishing

Checklists are ineffective against overwhelm if your tasks are not in the right order. You end up having to re-do parts you thought you had already crossed off the list.

A typical day when I was researching how to self-publish my book looked like this—I sat down at my computer, logged into the latest webinar, and furiously took notes on every gem and insight into the process.

What should I do next? I have my manuscript, so should I hire an editor? Maybe I should send it around to a few friends first. They can send me feedback, and then I’ll find an editor. Yeah, an editor can wait.

Wait, how much will an editor charge me? Do they charge by the hour or by the word? Should I have fewer words? Maybe I can trim the manuscript down a bit…should I?

The process was fuzzy, at best. I kinda-sorta knew what came next but I didn’t know where to focus my energy, and I wasn’t 100% confident I was heading in the right direction.

I worked at max capacity while my kids were at school and then again for hours every night after they went to bed. I wanted to be sure that I got as much done in the time I had available. It was hard work, but it was fun.

My husband noticed a change in my energy. He had seen me working late on other projects—not related to self-publishing—and knew something was different. “I’m so happy to see you like this. Your face lights up when you talk about your book.”

I didn’t mind the long hours because I was spending them doing what I wanted to do. I was learning new skills and figuring out how to create a book that I would enjoy reading.

After four months of intense work, I finally made it to the interior formatting stage—the part where you make the text look all pretty and every chapter title starts at the same height on the page.

I nearly gave up at that point.

Every tiny change I made to the manuscript affected the rest of the text. It seemed like I would get one chapter finalized but then the rest of my manuscript went all wonkadoo on me (yes, that’s totally a word when you are typesetting).

Two steps forward, one step back. The. Entire. Time.

I spent a solid four days editing the interior of my manuscript because the process went something like this:

– Quadruple check everything
– Everything looks good
– Upload file to Createspace
– Review on Createspace’s previewer
– Find one mistake on page 187
– Make the revision in Word
– Re-PDF everything
– Re-upload to Createspace’s previewer
– Review again…
– Find a mistake on page 223
– Revise in Word
– Repeat for days until I was ready to tear out my hair.

Maybe you can’t see the problem, yet. I knew that I didn’t.

After hours and hours of repeating these steps, I realized that even though I technically knew what I was doing—I knew how to correct my errors—I was doing the right steps in the wrong order.

There is a reason why interior typesetters can charge so much for their services. There is a definite method to the madness, and if you don’t know it, you’ll go crazy with frustration.

Despite being annoyed with myself for not figuring it out sooner, I felt like was in too deep to hire an expert now.

I had already invested so much time and energy into this task, why should I pay someone else hundreds of dollars to tweak my only-slightly-imperfect manuscript? 

Looking back on it, I should’ve saved my sanity and asked for help from someone who knew what they were doing.

Here are some ways you can combat overwhelm when it comes to managing your self-publishing journey:

Move your internal deadlines

Things are going to take you a bit longer than you expect, especially if you are doing things on your own.

Nobody but you will know if you miss your internal deadlines or not and adjusting the timeline will relieve a bit of pressure. Move things back a few days if you are feeling stressed.

***Want to know how long it took me to self-publish my books? Click here to read more.***

Change your environment

Go for a walk, get out of the house, or work somewhere new—maybe a cafe, library, or somewhere else to work on your book.

After months of working at home in my kitchen, I needed a break from my current environment. I needed to talk with someone in person and see them face to face. I needed to not think about all of the things I still had left on my to-do list.

Realize that it’s never too late to ask for help

I’m going to admit it—my ego wouldn’t let me ask for help. I was determined to do it by myself, and I made the conscious decision to continue plodding along with my obstacle-laden path instead of seeking the help of an expert earlier in the process.

Had I asked someone, maybe it wouldn’t have been as expensive as I thought? I’ll never know, but I do know that in the future, I’ll outsource any task that will take me days to accomplish if someone else can do it in only a few hours.

Learn from your mistakes but also forgive

I don’t regret taking on the monstrous task of interior typesetting myself because I ended up developing a new skill. It’s great to learn new skills, and now I know how to create a book that looks and feels exactly how I want.

That said, I should’ve been more forgiving of myself. The majority (okay, all) of my stress was coming from the high standards I was imposing on myself.

When it’s your name on the book, you want to put out your best work, and that might mean giving yourself extra time and forgiveness to correct whatever mistakes you make along the way.

Remember, this is your dream, your initiative, and your book. Be the best kind of boss for yourself. Self-publishers have to take on the work of an entire publishing house. That’s a lot of work. A bit of kindness will go a long way and self-care will keep your energy stable enough to see you through to the end.

Realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint

If you’re motivated enough to train for a marathon, you know that it’s a step-wise process. You don’t lace up your sneakers and head off on a 26-mile run on your first outing.

Similarly, self-publishing is accomplished step-wise and is best when you keep your head down. Stay focused on only one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed by ALL of the things you think you have to do.

Don’t try to multitask and keep to tackling one challenge at a time.

Break each step down into achievable goals each day based on the amount of time you have available. If you only have two hours today to work on your book, then do two full hours of work on your book without distractions or excuses.

My to-do list is based on what is most important AND most urgent for me to work on and it has helped keep me focused. If you want access to my free productivity webinar, click here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do everything right the first time around?

Instead of struggling and wondering if you are heading in the right direction, I can provide even more help with the self-publishing process.

I have created a blueprint to guide you through each step of the self-publishing process.

Students have said this course helped them go from feeling overwhelmed about what to do next to confident about the self-publishing process.

It is never too late to save yourself stress, time, and ultimately, money from making costly mistakes heading in the wrong direction.

Click here to learn more about the course.

"One finishes the e-course feeling keen and confident to self-publish. The Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing is a well-designed course that I highly recommend!"
Laura M.
If you want to self-publish your book: get into this program NOW. It’s worth every penny. It saves you time, money, a lot of hassle and a headache or two trying to figure it all out by yourself."
Brigitte van Tuijl
Writer and Coach, brigittevantuijl.com