Indie Authors: Imposter Syndrome or Genuine Article
Updated: Jun 23
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I never knew it existed until I felt it. Waking up in the middle of the night doubting whether what I wrote in my manuscript before bed was any good. The voice in the back of my head measuring my inadequate words as inferior to other authors. And then, hopping onto social media only to read posts by the wonderful writing community about querying, landing an agent, or getting a book deal. So, I stare in the mirror and wonder who this person is staring back at me. It’s hard to feel like the Genuine Article when you doubt yourself.
You may struggling with Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Simply put, it’s the feelings of inadequacy, especially in the face of your peers. And, no matter how much success you gain, the question remains, “When are they going to find out I’m a fraud?”
5 Ways to Help Overcome Imposter Syndrome
There’s No One Right Way to Get Published
There’s this perception by some in the writing world that you aren’t really a writer if you don’t go the traditional route. In today’s day and age, nothing is further from the truth. Don’t believe me? There are bunches of successful authors out there that have published books independently. According to publishersweekly.com, “the total number of print and e-books that were self-published in 2018 was 1.68 million,” which is up from 1.19 million the year before. It's obvious the market is definitely there for independent authors. I’ve been published for a few years now. I’ve researched the different paths to self publishing. I'm amazed at the amount of people who are experts in this field.
Reading through posts on social media, I’ve seen many authors struggling with querying and submissions who get nothing published because they are waiting on the approval of a few. They spend years waiting to be accepted. Meanwhile, independent authors like myself are announcing the release of their next book. The stigma that you aren’t an author if you don’t go the traditional route is malarky. The process for traditional publishing is set up like a three-ring circus riddled with flaming hoops.
Want to talk about feeling like an imposter? Try reading a post about yet another rejection is painful. Don’t get me wrong, those who have spent years waiting for the approval of a few on a manuscript they spent years working on is truly a feat! But, if your goal is to become published, then there are other ways.
I’ve known authors who have actually walked away from publishing deals because they have no control over their product. It’s your work. Why shouldn’t you have complete oversight?
Define YOUR success
How do you define success? Becoming a best-selling author? Or perhaps it’s just getting your novel published? How about winning a literary award? Whatever it may be, you are the conductor of your success train. What your goal is today will probably be different in the future. It was for me.
For A Ghost in the Attic, I just wanted to get it published, but the path for traditional publishing presented such a daunting task. I’ve never been good at jumping through other people’s hoops. I poured myself into self-publishing and got it done.
When I published Feasters: An Apocalyptic Tale a year later, my goals changed. Aside from doing a better job publishing, I sought ways to see how my book measured up. I teamed up with Book Award Pro and found literary contests tailored for my book. CEO and Founder Hannah Jacobson sums thoughts of Imposter Syndome perfectly, "When you are sharing your most heartfelt writing with the world, it's all too easy to let self-doubt creep in and control your thoughts. But that fear will hold you back and limit the success of your work. You've put so much heart into your book, it's important to believe in yourself and give your work every opportunity to shine." I was so motivated by this vision, I entered several contests. Guess what? Feasters won two awards! Nothing adds legitimacy against Imposter Syndrome than being able to achieve this.
Ask yourself, “What are my goals and how can I achieve them?” Having a plan in mind will help overcome Imposter Syndrome.
Turn off your inner critic
What is the inner critic? He’s not necessarily a bad guy, but sometimes he’s that voice of doubt you hear in the back of your head? No? He’s likely the one questioning what I’m saying right now. Yup, that’s him! To critique is one thing, but to believe in the lies it tells is another.
Self doubt riddled my path to publication. I’ve been very open about the conversation I had with my creative writing professor my freshman year in college. After turning in a story I was proud of, she told me I should, “choose a career that didn’t involve writing words.” I’m sure my story was a mess, but her words stuck with me for a long time. I wrote A Ghost in the Attic several years later, but my professor’s words activated my inner critic, who told me I wasn’t good enough. As a result, it sat in a box for nearly twenty years.
To tame your inner critic, ask yourself what lies is it forcing you to believe? That only authors who land agents are true authors? Beat your inner critic down with a stick and stand up for yourself.
Surround yourself with a great supporting cast
Every talented team is never truly about one player. Michael Jordan would not have achieved all those World Championship rings without Scottie Pippen and the rest of the Chicago Bulls during their dominant years. Writers need to surround themselves with a supporting cast. Now when I say supporting cast, I don’t mean a bunch of “Yes” people. I’m talking about people that will be honest with you. If something sucks, you can trust them to say that.
A supporting cast can be all sorts of people. For example, after trying out several editors, my manuscript found its way into a former student’s hands. She asked if she could look it over. Knowing that she was a stellar student who probably was smarter than me, I said sure. She tore into my manuscript better than the editors I hired. So, when it was time to edit Feasters, I paid her to do it. Family is another great place to find a supporting cast, as long as you are certain about their honesty. Perhaps, the most surprising place I found people who act as a supporting cast was on social media. Twitter and Instagram have a wonderful group of authors that are always willing to help whether it’s editing, marketing, or knowing where to find excellent services. Most are really great about treating an indie author just like any other author.
Sometimes Imposter Syndrome keeps us from reaching out for help. Every author, especially those that are independent, needs to lean on a crew of people to help.
Keep learning and deliver a terrific product
The best way to silence Imposter Syndrome is to turn out a terrifically polished product. Sure, it's easier said than done. Look, turning out a polished product is hard work and even then, it still may fall short of perfection. Despite all the work I put in for A Ghost in the Attic, it still had its issues. Still, my effort paid off because I’ve received terrific reviews, and elementary students from all over the country have sent me letters expressing their appreciation. So, regardless of its imperfections, my effort to produce a solid book paid off. I learned from my mistakes. Feasters is a far superior book in style, editing, and completion. And my next one will be better. What else could you expect from yourself but one hundred percent effort to learn from mistakes and get better each time?
Once you become more experienced, you will deliver a terrific product that will be greatly received and silence that Imposter in your head telling you you aren’t good enough. Genuine Articles get better with each book. Keep learning and promise yourself each book will be better than the last.
You are the Genuine Article. Doubt is always going to creep in. Sales will hit highs and lows. You will receive crappy reviews. That voice that tells you you are an imposter will seep its way in. It’s natural. But educate yourself on how to silence it. This post is a start, but there are plenty of articles that address this issue. You’ve got this! Turn that doubt into motivation. See you in the pages of your next book!
If this blog post resonated with you, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s talk.