Why Underestimating How Good You Are as a Writer is Usually Much Better than Overestimating How Good You Are as a Writer

The biggest roadblock to Success for most authors is not that they are missing some ‘secret’ or some ‘strategy’. It is that they think they are way better at the core 3 skills than they actually are

The 3 Core Skills are

  1. Knowing What to Write
  2. Being Able to Write Very Well
  3. Being Able to Market Very Well

Let’s look at what happens if an author does not accurately assess their skill level, starting with an overall assessment. Then we will dive into the 3 Core Skills

What Happens if an Author Underestimates How Good They Are

If an author underestimates how good they are, they usually do one of the following

  1. [Extreme Cases] Give up being a writer. This is obviously a bad thing if they were actually a very good writer
  2. [Quite Common] Go through a period of soul searching. Of whether they really want to be a writer. Of how much effort they are willing to put in. Of getting clarity about what they really want
  3. [Quite Common] Work harder on becoming a better writer
  4. [Somewhat Common] Become discouraged and start looking for shortcuts and/or an Easy button
  5. [Somewhat Common] Take up a writing course or some other form of formal writing education (college, correspondence course, night school, community college)
  6. [Quite Common] Try to find a support group or a source of support. Some one to learn on. Some group that will help them improve
  7. [Fairly Common] Start off on a new book – hoping that starting from scratch will produce a better book

Apart from the 1st and 4th options, the other options are all good things. They will generally lead to the Author becoming a better Author

1st is very bad if the author is actually a very good writer

4th is bad because it is almost always a waste of time

In general, underestimating how good of an author you are, is not always a bad thing. It will, in most cases, help you become a better writer

What Happens if an Author Overestimates How Good They Are

If an author overestimates how good they are, it usually leads to one of the following

  1. [Quite Common] Frustration and an inability to understand why book sales do not match the author’s perception of their skill level
  2. [Quite Common] The Author becomes complacent and stops working on his/her skills
  3. [Somewhat Common] Finding an extrinsic reason, and assuming there is something outside of what the author controls, which is at fault for sales that do not match the author’s assumed ability level. Since extrinsic reasons are almost never the reason for an author’s struggles, it means the Author will never be able to find the real areas to improve in, and will forever be stuck
  4. [Somewhat Common] A massive flame out and author quits after thinking that ‘the system is rigged’. Not realizing that it is the Author who is not yet good enough to succeed
  5. [Quite Common] Ego going a bit out of control and causing problems for the Author
  6. [Somewhat Common] Producing Books that are quite unpolished and not ready for sale. In some cases, an author thinks so highly of his/her abilities that he/she starts to publish books that are not even properly polished

Sadly, there is not really any upside to believing you are better than what you really are. You will nearly always hurt your prospects if you overestimate your abilities

What Happens if an Author Underestimates How Good They Are at Knowing What to Write (AKA Picking the right market)

If an Author underestimates how good they are, at figuring out the right market to write for, they will usually do one or more of the following

  1. Hold off on writing their book
  2. Think more about what possible markets they could write for
  3. Do a lot of research on how much money authors in their potential markets are making, and how big those markets are, and how competitive
  4. Search around for more niches and markets they might not have thought of
  5. Start thinking more about the markets they are considering and whether those markets actually exist

While the author will lose time, the upside is that the author will almost always do a lot more due diligence and their chances of writing for a market which exists, and is a good market, will go up a lot

Underestimating how good you are at Picking the Right Market – is actually not a bad thing at all

For most authors – it might be a very very good thing to underestimate how good they are at choosing What to Write

A very small number of authors will overdo it and achieve Supreme Mastery in finding good markets. This is one of the best things that can happen to an author – because if you pick the right market, half the battle is already won

What Happens if an Author Overestimates How Good They Are at Knowing What to Write (AKA Picking the Right Market)

This is one of the most dangerous things to overestimate

  1. If you think you are better at finding a good market than you really are, you might pick the wrong market to write in
  2. Then you spend 2 to 4 years writing a book and polishing and perfecting it
  3. Then you spend 6 months to a year, and lots of money and energy, promoting the book

Only to find out that there is no market for your book

Of course, as you overestimate your ability to pick the right market, you will not realize ‘There is no Market for This Book’. Instead you will waste another 1 to 3 years trying different marketing techniques and re-doing the book

You end up wasting 3.5 to 8 years of your life, writing a book for which there is absolutely no market

You absolutely cannot and should not waste 3.5 to 8 years of your life

You must safeguard against this at all costs

  1. If you overestimate your writing ability, reviews and a lack of sales will allow you to course correct. The lesson and the correction take less than a year
  2. If you spend on the wrong marketing channels, you will lose money, and will learn to be more careful with your spending. Again, it will not cost you very much time
  3. However, if you pick the wrong market, you may very well lose 3.5 to 8 years of your life. That is time you can never get back

Firstly, money and books can be replaced. You can earn more money and you can write more books. You can never create more time

Secondly, most of us have only a hundred years to love. You absolutely can not afford to waste 3.5 to 8 years of your life working on a book which does not have a market. You might have only half a dozen to a dozen such time stretches left

What Happens if an Author Underestimates How Well They Write

Authors who underestimate their writing abilities

  1. Will often waste time by not releasing their books even when they are ready
  2. Will usually work even more on their writing skills and keep getting better and better
  3. Will sometimes create artificial restrictions and rules, even when they are not needed. Example: I will launch my book after I’ve done 3 re-writes and after 3 edits are done
  4. ¬†Will often struggle and search for some ‘sign’ that they can go out into the world
  5. Will keep improving their writing skills

The biggest cost is time. The biggest upside is that these authors become better and better writers

A small fraction of these authors become supremely talented writers – a very big upside

What Happens if an Author Overestimates How Well They Write

Authors who overestimate their writing abilities

  1. In most cases will suffer the pain of seeing sales far less than what they think their abilities should entitle them to
  2. In some cases will have their books sink because the readers write bad reviews and the books can not recover
  3. In nearly all cases will get feedback that they are not as good as they think they are. At that point, it is up to the author to realize they need to improve, or keep pretending they are better than they actually are
  4. A few will drop out completely
  5. Some will be stuck in forever confusion where they keep wondering what is missing, even though the answer is at the tip of their pen

This can be an exceedingly difficult experience for an author

Best to face reality head on and not get defensive

What Happens if an Author Underestimates How Well They Can Market

There can be a good side. There can be a bad side

The Good Side is

  1. If you approach the Science and Art of Marketing with the requisite respect and humility, it will reward you greatly. There is a lot you can learn
  2. The more thought and preparation you put into your marketing, the better the results
  3. You don’t rush in and use up all your budget
  4. As you prepare your marketing strategy and learn about book marketing, hopefully you keep improving and polishing your book/books
  5. The more you read about marketing, the better your other skills will become. Becoming good at marketing has a very direct impact on being able to understand what market to write for. It also has an indirect impact on the quality of your book – as you start looking at your book as a PRODUCT you are Marketing and Selling

The Bad Side is

  1. Author starts thinking they need to hire an expensive ‘expert’
  2. Author gives $10,000 or $20,000 or their entire marketing budget to this ‘expert’ or service
  3. Authors sees hardly any returns because nearly all the companies and experts that charge very high amounts, do not generate significant sales

Remember, the only marketing that really works is marketing which starts small, proves itself, and then scales up

If a marketing channel works then there is always an option to start small ($10 to $100 range), and then gradually scale up. Any marketing service asking for a lot right from the start, without any proof that it works, is unlikely to work

What Happens if an Author Overestimates How Well They Can Market

This happens surprisingly often. While it is not like overestimating your ability to find the right market, and will not cost you 3.5 to 8 years of your life, it will still cost you a lot of your monetary resources. It will usually also cost you 6 to 12 months of time

Here is what happens if an Author overestimates their marketing abilities

  1. They burn all their money on things that don’t work
  2. In some cases, they burn all their money on marketing a book that is not polished enough to sell well
  3. They have no idea on what works and what doesn’t – even after spending all/most of their resources. Failure is not bad if you learn from it. If you market when you are not ready, then you don’t learn much at all
  4. They usually waste 80% to 100% of their monetary budget
  5. They usually waste 6 to 12 months of their time
  6. They develop a ‘nothing works, all marketing sucks’ attitude. That makes it difficult to master marketing
  7. They become very wary of doing marketing in the future. As they have this reference point of wasting money and getting nothing except pain in return, they wrongly start thinking ‘marketing for books doesn’t work’

The vast majority of authors who flame out or quit or cannot succeed, will fail because they underestimated how difficult marketing is, and overestimated their abilities

So, it is imperative to only be confident in marketing to the actual level of your abilities. If you underestimate your marketing abilities, not much is lost. If you overestimate your marketing abilities you open up a world of hurt


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