Over the years in publishing I’ve noticed a pattern among authors I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else. I call it LMP or Last Minute Panic. An intelligent, cooperative, friendly author we’ve worked with for months will suddenly take a crazy turn when the book is almost ready for publication. She (it’s almost always a woman) finds something wrong with the book—an item that MUST be changed or the entire project will fail. This is usually something we agreed on previously, such as the book cover, the font, or the photographs. And it’s almost always a change that readers would never notice.
We try to be compliant because we love our authors. But an author can’t be satisfied in the throes of LMP. Nothing is good enough. We fix one problem and she finds another one. The cover designer and formatter are both ready to quit. I point out to the author, in a nice way, that she’s nervous about launching her book and is channeling that energy into compulsive nitpicking. She either ignores me or blows up.
When I recently published my own book (Dialogue for Writers), I observed myself for this type of behavior. And there it was—
- The book cover I selected seemed cheap and dumb. Other books had better covers.
- I hated the introduction and wished I could write it over.
- I needed more endorsements.
- The book was too short. I needed to add another chapter.
- And so on . . .
I had to stop this kind of thinking before it consumed me and turned into the dreaded Failure to Launch.
Do you suffer from LMJ?
If you’re getting ready to publish a book, either on your own or with a publisher, it’s important to recognize these symptoms for what they are—your psyche worrying about the big step you’re about to take. Why is this so scary?
- You’re putting yourself out there.
- Someone is bound to criticize you and the book. That will hurt.
- Even worse—perhaps no one will notice the book.
- There may be some hidden flaw you overlooked.
- Everything you’ve done seems totally stupid.
Author Neil Gaimen offered a wonderful pep talk for writers in the NaNoWriMo project:
“You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it, it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.
Welcome to the club.”
Neal Gaimen’s club is a wonderful group to join, though populated by angst-driven authors. When you publish a book you’re joining a group of writers who finish their work and then have the guts to bring it into the world. Let go of your book and be proud of yourself!
The solution to LMJ is simple and elegant: Write another book. Channel all that nervous energy and self-doubt into your next project. Let go of your finished book, let it be published, and watch it gently float away from you into the world. You are a writer, so keep on writing.
Publish your book and be proud!
Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.
She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.
A new review of Dialogue for Writers
This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.