What is the Number One Obstacle Holding Authors Back from Achieving Success? — Themselves!

by Karen Jonson

Authors Face Struggles from All Sides — From Rejection to Slow Book Sales. But Their Worst Enemy Might Just Be Themselves.

Editor’s Note: This is a second interview with Hannah Hempenstall on this blog. You can find the first interview with her here. (This is also the second blog post on the issue of authors being held back by fear.)

Fear crossed out

Are you letting fear hold you back from your dream of being a successful author?

Hannah Hempenstall was coaching an author in Australia when he stated that he did not want to market his books in his own country.

His rational? “Australia is too small. I don’t think they’ll understand me here. I’d rather go straight to the U.S. where the marketplace is larger.”

“His statement was a red flag,” said Hannah. “Why would this author want to ignore his own country with a population of 21 million people?

“Clearly, he had an emotional block — and it was my job, as his coach, to help him realize that and identify it.

“When I questioned him further, I discovered that he had a fear of rejection, which created a preference for him to distance himself from his closest potential readers.”

The phenomenon of authors being held back by emotional blocks is not uncommon, says Hannah. Every author she has coached has had to face and overcome inner fears of some kind.

In a question and answer blog post published last year on this blog about how authors need to become businesspeople, Hannah stated, “I think fear is at the root of every first-time author’s journey. Generally, they are scared that nobody will read their books and that their writing is not good enough.”

This blog post is a follow up to that interview with her. Here I asked her to delve more into the phenomenon of the emotional blocks that hold authors back from success.

I think this is a critical issue that every author should face — especially if they are not yet achieving the success in book sales they hoped for.

Q. How do emotional issues block authors from success?

Hanna: When we hold conflicting beliefs, our reality will appear to be telling us the opposite of what we know to be true. For example, an author may believe they can write a great book that many people will buy and read, but if they also hold a negative belief that, for example, it’s not okay to be rich, or that making lots of money means they will lose their close friends, these beliefs can override any vision of success they may have. Basically, authors have a fear of how success might change the comfortable status quo of their lives.

Q. What are some of the emotional issues that block authors from achieving success?

Hanna: Emotional blocks are any issues that get in the way of success. A few big ones are:

  • Having conflicting beliefs around wealth, such as having a desire to make money, but feeling guilty if they do.
  • Having a “work hard” ethic that doesn’t allow them to make money through creative pursuits.
  • Having a deep-seated fear that people will reject their work and at the same time a need for external approval.

Q. When you consult with authors, what cues do you listen for to determine how they are emotionally blocked?

Hanna: Exclusion is one of the key indicators that an author isn’t comfortable with their book, as in the case of the Australian author. If an author has a strong discrimination for a particular group, it is usually people closest to them, which suggests a fear of being exposed or judged.

The clues to their issues usually reveal themselves when we brainstorm about marketing their books, because that’s when the thought of exposing themselves to the marketplace stirs up their inner fears about exposure, rejection, and failure. The writing experience is a solitary process where fears can be put aside. Once you get into marketing the public arena it’s whole another story.

Q. How do you lead authors to a place that helps them unblock their fears?

Hanna: The ability to unblock fears depends on how ready the author is to face change. I start by acknowledging that I can see the gifts in their book (many of the authors I coach are self-help authors). This creates a safe space for them to explore their feelings. When I hear an author’s fears coming to the surface, I help them look at their fears as objectively as possible. As with any coaching, I don’t tell them what they should be thinking. I just open up the conversation and observe whether they come to the conclusion themselves. If they do, it’s a good sign.

For example, another author I worked with required a big breakthrough, as she was dismissing a section of her audience, which I believed was coming from fear. The author is writing a book on intuition, yet was adamant that she was different from any tarot reader or psychic medium. She didn’t want to be associated with them.

Whenever really strong emotions come up it’s an easy cue that something deeper is being triggered. We had a session that went very deep and cleared some personal fears the author had of being rejected for being intuitive. After that session, the author was able to approach her work with a more welcoming feeling. After releasing some of her own judgments, she was then much more free flowing with her writing.

Q. How pervasive and important is this issue in the book publishing arena?

Hanna: The reason I take this approach now is because I’ve found that every single author I coach has fears and blocks holding them back, regardless of how successful they were prior to launch and regardless of their existing success. From my experience, I think that nearly every self-published author is held back from success by his or her emotional blocks.

Actually, I believe the issues I’m seeing in authors are common to every human being. I certainly have them. It just so happens that I’m working with authors because I believe in the power of books and want them to succeed.

Q. How important is coaching to the process of breaking through emotional blocks?

Hanna: If an author has written a great book and is struggling to sell it, there are two things I believe are probably happening. Firstly, they need a better marketing strategy. Secondly, they need to identify exactly what fears are holding them back. Coaching with someone who understands the process, alongside a good marketing campaign, can set authors on the path to success. They just need to be ready to make that leap of faith.

Hannah Hempenstall offers self-published authors the follow services: editorial assessments, structural editing, proofreading, building character profiles (fiction), and mentoring. You can reach Hannah at hannah.hempenstall@gmail.com.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard Alan July 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I consider myself fearless, unless one measures it by aggressiveness versus gentleness. Naturally, we’re all afraid of something, and the search for that drives some of my stories. If I find it frightening, my chances are good that I have a horror story.

What I find blocking me is TIME. Writing multiple projects for various platforms and connections, editing and critiquing for myself and others, cover art (etc.), multiple writer’s & marketing groups, and basic social media all make up my 28 hour days. Then I have to add in sleep, and family affection and activities which equates to becoming a dragon tyrant.

I get on top of things, see the sunshine, and drop back into the darkness of the machine city. As a multi-tasking author & writer with the best of intentions, time management still falls to ruin over and over again. Rather than the joy I draw from all these activities, I find pressure, and deadlines. It’s all like a comet that speeds through space alone and unseen until it comes near earth. We applaud it, but rarely think of the distance it has traveled for its moment of fame.

In our business, time management is a ruthless taskmaster.


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