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  • Kathryn R. Biel

I Don't Belong Here

I'd never heard of imposter syndrome until I started writing. Even for the first few years of my career, I didn't know it had a name. It wasn't until I was attending my first major writers' conference in 2015, a full two years after I'd published, that I first heard of it. And while I was virtually crippled by it at this conference, it was another author-- a big name-- who talked about feeling like no matter how much success she'd achieved, she still felt like someone was going to call her out any moment for being a fraud. The feeling is real, and it can be paralyzing.

As an indie-published author, this feeling can be magnified. I didn't have an agent sign me. I don't have a publisher who read my manuscript and said, "YES. THIS is a good book and deserves to be out in the world." There is no gatekeeper, a fact long since bandied about by those in the traditional publishing community. The common defense of this is, "Anyone can publish a book." I've heard it before. I'm sure I'll hear it again. More often than not, it's another author who says it to me. Sometimes, it's someone starting out and in search of that validation. But when it's a traditionally published author, it smarts. Okay, it makes me stabby-ragey.

It feeds the imposter syndrome. It plays on every single insecurity I have.

But after eight years in this business, I've learned a lot. One of those things is that even the most successful authors have the same insecurities. Frankly, I've decided it's a good thing. I don't want to read a book by someone who is so confident that they no longer work to improve. To refine. To accept critique and comment. I don't want to be like that. I cringe when I read my earlier works, still loving the stories but knowing how far my writing skills have come.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a writer just starting out. He admits that he's looking for the validation that an agent and a traditional publishing deal will give him. His book is out in ebook form, but he's not feeling that it's real yet. We discussed the business aspect of it, and I told him why I made the decision to be an indie author. Working as my own publisher with my own imprint, I'm able to control what I write, when I write it, when I publish it, the pricing, the sales channels, the promotions, the covers, the blurbs, and the subject matter. I have 100% control over my work. I pay for multiple rounds of editing, as that's the one thing I cannot do myself. I've learned formatting and the craft of writing. I've learned about ads on Amazon and Facebook and try desperately to navigate the algorithms that make these websites work for a business. This new author asked me, "But without an agent to validate you, how do you know your work is any good?"

The answer is simple: the readers who keep returning. The emails. Social media follows. The reviews. I have several books that have reviews in the three digits. My lowest-rated book has an overall rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars. That's what tells me that I'm worth it. I know there's room for improvement-- there will always be room, but when I read the overwhelmingly positive reviews, I start to feel a little less like an imposter and a little more like I belong here. Most readers don't know and/or care who publishes a book. They just want a compelling read. They want a cover that makes them stop and look. A blurb that makes them want to one-click to read more. A story that keeps them up past their bedtime. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how that gets to the readers; only that it does.

Seven years ago today, I hit my first major sales milestone, which I shared on my Facebook author page:

And then I received some responses.

I think that says all I need to hear. I'm right where I belong.


USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning author Kathryn R. Biel wants to help you find your funny with stories of resilient women. Click here to receive a FREE bonus scene from the bestselling book, Once in a Lifetime, as well as to stay up to date about new releases and sales.

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