Are you afraid to succeed?
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
I’ve been thinking lately how often we choose not to succeed, despite our seemingly unending efforts to succeed. What’s with that?
I’m not just thinking about individuals but also about institutions.
Take publishers, for example. Here are two instances in which I’ve seen publishers make choices not to succeed.
One of my clients wrote a series of gift books that was a perfect fit for hospital gift stores. The publisher obliged this vision by creating lovely interior and exterior designs for each book.
My client, being the sort to take the initiative, located the gift shop buyer for a hospital system with large hospitals throughout her state. The gift shops sold significant amounts of product–and agreed to buy a hefty number of my client’s books. All the publisher needed to do was to call the buyer, take the order, and send the books.
But guess what? No sales rep at the publisher ever placed the call. Not because they were too busy, not because they didn’t want the sales, but because, best as I can tell, they were afraid to succeed. After all, what if those gift shops outstripped the publisher’s ability to meet demand? What if the shops placed a large order but then couldn’t sell the books to customers, and the publisher was hit with returns? What if…what if…
In another “please don’t ask me to succeed” instance, I announced on Publishers Marketplace, an online site where industry professionals let others in the industry know about certain sales, a nonfiction book about a woman working in a third-world country to eradicate a disease that debilitates and kills thousands of women every year. After the sales announcement, I received an email from a vice president at one of the big five publishers in New York who wondered if she might make an arrangement in which her publisher co-produced the book and thereby increased its distribution. When I asked her why she would want to do so, she replied that she had read an article in The New York Times about the disease and had longed to do something to help eradicate it. She saw this as a win-win situation for everyone.
But when I approached the modest publisher who had made the offer to publish the project, they responded politely but never could find a spot on the calendar to agree to a conversation with the vice president. Imagine the in-house conversations: What if the other publisher muscles us out of the picture? What if we look like amateurs to that publisher? What if this is so out of our league that we make wrong decisions? What if…what if…
Lest we get too carried away thinking how sad to see publishers self-limit themselves, I have to ask if I would avoid success if might be able to represent a project that had the potential to be really big, like #1 New York Times best-seller? Would I manage to be sure I didn’t end up with that project and all the complex issues associated with it? What if I envisioned a way to serve my clients, a way that could increase everyone’s financial gain but had significant risk attached to it? Would I explore that potential game-changer? What if…what if…
And what about you as a writer? What would you do if you thought up a book idea that was so great you got all jittery just thinking about it? Would you self-sabotage that book’s success? If you had an opportunity to appear on several national major morning talk shows, would you talk yourself out of it? What about speaking before a stadium full of people? And, on a more day-to-day scale, dare you ask for that big endorsement or for some famous person to write a foreword for your book? Or to set aside the manuscript you’ve labored over for years and jump into a new writing venture because it could be big?
What scares you about your writing career?
How do you decide if you should give something a try, even if it really scares you?
Do you tend to see possibilities in a new venture or what could go wrong?
Are you afraid to succeed in your writing career? Click to tweet.
Ways we sabotage success in publishing. Click to tweet.