This year I relaunched Philocalist.co.uk. A fancy new look was long overdue and I wanted to transition from fashion and beauty content to mental health and self care content. A few months later I had an amazing burst of creative inspiration that spawned The Self Care Manifesto.
And things went downhill from there really.
Whilst the initial reaction was really exciting, I wan’t prepared for the internal pressure I’d put on myself. You see, the problem with writing self help content is that you put yourself on a pedestal. You might not know it now, but it creeps up on you the more people start listening in.
I’d hazard a guess that anyone reading this who wants to write a self help book themselves probably thinks they’re mentally tough enough to handle it. Maybe you think this is the sort of thing that happens to other people, or you’ve mastered the art of keeping your anxieties at bay. If so, amazing work – please teach me! However, I’d say you can never be too sure until you’ve experienced it yourself.
Here’s everything I experienced and a few things for you to consider…
Step one: Questioning what makes you an authority.
After publishing, I struggled with keeping up appearances. Suddenly there was a cloud of guilt that followed me on down days. We all have those days where we feel low, but in a post-Self Care Manifesto world I constantly question how on earth I can advise anyone when I’m still struggling myself.
There’s a constant battle of authenticity. Do I share my mental health battle to seem relatable and show that people aren’t alone – or – do I stick to the positives and discuss how wonderful the power of self care is?
Then follows the inevitable moment when I ask myself ‘When did I even become one of those people who question and strategise what they post online?’ It’s almost as if I’m trying to brand my own emotions to ensure they fall in line with the message of my book. That’s not authentic at all.
I can’t censor myself just in case one of my readers finds my dark thoughts contradictory. That’s just the nature of mental health. We have ups and downs.
Alas, every time I want to post something personal I feel the need to ask myself ‘Does this fall in line with the message of the book’?
Step two: Struggling with consistency.
One of my biggest personal challenges has always been consistency. I have a burst of productivity and creativity and then I’m struck down with an energy zap. I lose heart on old content and stop promoting because it ‘feels old’.
You can’t do this with a book. You can’t go back and change things. You need to love the end product and you have to love it so much that you ram it down someone’s throat at every opportunity. People don’t like to admit this because they love to romantise the idea of writing a book without the stress of marketing it afterwards. That’s not how it works.
The phrase ‘build it and they will come’ is bullshit. You’re going to build it, hype up the launch, and whack a huge neon sign on the door saying ‘Hey! This is my book and it’s MINT!’.
But keeping up the consistency of reminding friends, family, strangers that you’ve created something that they’ll love is harder than you think. You get swept away with other projects and feel as if it’s been too long since you last mentioned the book. The pressure piles on to self-promote. It starts to feel like a ‘big deal’. Anxiety sets in. Maybe you’ll bring it up tomorrow instead…
Step three: Comparing yourself to giants.
I tell everyone I know not to compare themselves to anyone or anything. Yet here I am, besmirching my own advice. I constantly look at established book writers like Chidera Eggerue and Emma Gannon. Two women who constantly speak with authority and push their work forward through public speaking, podcasts, interviews, guest posts etc.
The best way to fuel your book marketing is generally to look at how everyone else gets their book out there. In doing so, it’s easy to start feeling as if you’re not doing enough or that you’ll never get the same opportunities. It’s hard to escape the comparison.
Step four: Accepting you can’t help everyone.
I wrote my book about the practise of self care. The beauty of this is that self care isn’t a one size fits all method. People can pick and choose what works for them, meaning they can try a variety of different things instead of just deciding to throw in the towel if they don’t seem immediate change.
However, there will always be people who want a miracle or instant results. The truth is a self help book, life coach, counsellor or even a religious practitioner is only ever going to give you the empowerment and tools to help yourself. It’s the reader who needs to put in the hard work and whilst I believe no one is beyond help – there are people out there who do not want to do their part.
For example, I’m constantly told by friends and family that they don’t have time for self care – yet you can sit them down, complete a timesheet, find them 3 extra hours in a day, pay for them to try something new and they STILL won’t help themselves out.
When writing a self help book, you have to accept that people aren’t your project. You can’t fix people. You give them the tools and that’s that.
Step five: Continuing regardless.
As part of my book marketing I set up a Self Care Reminder newsletter that I send out weekly. I once had to take a 3 week break due to travelling and a minor operation. It felt truly soul crushing. I had hyped up my newsletter as if it was the best thing since slice bread and then I had to abandon it for almost a month. I felt as if I was going back on my word and letting people down.
But you have to shake off the guilt and carry on.
My first newsletter back after the break was a heartfelt note explaining my absence and included extra content that I curated for my readers to make up for lost time. It had a great click through rate and I even received replies from total strangers. Admitting when you’ve been a bit rubbish with your audience is hard to do, because you almost think doing so will draw attention to your absence. However, part of the self-help publishing process means facing your own demons – such fun!
I’m sharing this in solidarity with other writers because I know for a fact I’m not the only one who suffers with this post-publish identity crisis. If you’re working on your own book, good luck. Hopefully the fact you’re aware of the potential ‘self help writer side effects’, you’ll know how to nip them in the bud before they wreck your book marketing.
I’d love to hear from fellow writers in the comment section, have you ever felt this way?