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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

FOSO: Fear of Selling Out


Back in April, I wrote an article about authors experiencing a fear of success. Here’s another common fear that can hold you back: fear of selling out.


Many writers are isolationist by nature. It’s important to be different and to distinguish yourself from the others, staying true to your inner voice and not cheapening your ideas or books for an audience who could never understand the brilliance of the original.


You can’t be common. You can’t be one of those cheap or formulaic writers everyone loves to hate. In fact, you might rather never sell a single copy of your book than lower yourself to those standards (though, let’s face it: you really want to sell).


Sooner or later you run into a quandary where you’ll feel pressured to either write something different that will sell or accept that the audience for your book might be smaller than you had hoped. If this is the spot you’re at, here are a few things to keep in mind:


1. You don’t need to write in super mainstream genres to have a huge audience, even if you’re just starting out.


Actually, mainstream genres are hard to start in because of all the better-known writers who are overcrowding the market. If you look in the niche corners where your own interests lie, you might find a genre where readers are desperate for something new and all too happy to give you a chance.


2. Doing some keyword research in advance can help you know how to better target a story so that it finds the audience better.

You want to do your keyword research as soon as you can—ideally before you’ve even settled on a concept for your book. Not everyone can do that, but if you want a way to put your best foot forward and optimize your chances, see what’s on the market and what readers are looking for.

Keywords are how readers find books, and Amazon (with its helpful auto-fill suggestions) makes this research extremely easy. Even if you think you have good keywords for your book, spend some time playing around to learn it better.

3. Focus on crafting a quality book. And on developing quality writing.


If your writing isn’t there yet, you can write other books to practice and hone your skills. These can be more “to market” than your original WIP but give you a space to practice writing and publishing.


This is a good strategy if you’re drawn to more intense genres like epic fantasy or historical sagas. These genres require research, accuracy, and worldbuilding that will take time to complete. This doesn’t mean you can’t establish yourself—but if you start by writing fantasy short stories or historical romance novellas, you can focus on the quality of your craft and become a better writer while you do the research and worldbuilding for bigger projects.


There’s no magic answer that will help everyone get on the path to authenticity, but hopefully some of the thoughts above helped you get a better idea of where to aim in the future with your books.


The book market is large and constantly shifting—you might not be a good fit for the first place you look, but there’s likely a market for the kind of books that you enjoy writing.

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