A member of my writers’ group asked me this question:

Hello, I just self-published a novel. It’s not doing so well… About 150 people have bought it nationwide but I want MORE people to know my book. No one really know who I am. I’ve always wanted to be an author but now it’s getting really stressful… I cannot afford to market my book but I have posted blogs, posted my book on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter but still haven’t had any luck in making a lot of sales. What can I do to get known?  — T.H.

Here’s my answer:


Dear T.H.,


Can I tell you a secret? This is a secret I’ve learned the hard way. And here it is, for free:


All your heart’s desires eventually come true.


This is neither a motivational slogan nor wishful thinking. It is a fact, as factual as tomorrow’s sunrise. Read it again, slowly.


There are two important parts in this sentence, “heart’s desires” and “eventually”. I’ll explain.


Your heart’s desires are those you carry in your bones. It makes you feel joyful and free just to think about them. They are the desires you would do anything for, out of your own will. They are not the kind of wants you’re coerced into by survival pressure, or take on board because it makes your ego feel safe and powerful. For example, if you survey a panel of billionaires, many of them would tell you that the action of making money brings them genuine joy, while for most people, becoming rich and famous is just means to some other end.


Pursuing your heart’s desires is the most efficient route towards fulfillment and success. When you’re truly willing to move heaven and earth for something, heaven and earth are willing to move for you. Your heart is an amazing prophet. When your pursuit is aligned with your most promising future, it lets you know by generating the feelings of joy and freedom. And when you go off on a tangent chasing some dead end, your heart lets you know, too, by feeling stressed and miserable.


So here’s the question to ask yourself: is becoming a known author a true desire for you? And when you feel “it’s getting really stressful”, ask yourself where the stress came from. Is the desire to become an author where the pressure is? Or is it the notion that you have to prove yourself by marketing your books and selling them quickly? Are you publicizing your book on social media out of a heart’s desire to connect with and benefit your readers (e.g. because you know in your heart of hearts that this book will lighten their life, entertain their mind, make them happier and wiser), or are you doing it because some marketing guru tells you to? If the marketing effort makes you feel constricted and small, save your energy. A path of misery will not lead you to success.


Let’s say becoming a successful author is really what you want. Then I’m happy to tell you that it will happen…eventually. But most people don’t like “eventually”. It doesn’t tell them exactly when. It may be a long time. And the ego loves instant gratification more than Romeo loved Juliet. For many aspiring writers/artists/entrepreneurs, even if you tell them, “Put your head down and work on your crafts/skills/business acumen, in 30 years you are guaranteed to become the success you wanted to be”, they wouldn’t listen. They’d choose to waste their energy fretting over setbacks and rejections, doubting their own talents, and taking every day they spend in anonymity and poverty as a personal insult. The ego feels more in control that way. The ego would rather sit in a pity pool of bitterness, repeating a narrative of its unappreciated genius and lack of resources, than accepting the fact that maybe its work needs more work.


If your heart is truly in the creative business, prepare for the long haul. Prepare yourself and your lifestyle for the next 10, 20, 30 years. What made you think that while most new authors struggle for years to create something publishable, your first book should just be a smashing best-seller? It takes time to hone your craft. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to live a full life so that you have something worth saying to that audience. If they don’t like your first book, how about the next one? How about the one after? Go back to work, and pat yourself on the back for every little progress. As long as you don’t stop taking actions towards your dream, and provided that you don’t wear yourself out with own-inflicted stress and doubt, rest assured that…


All your heart’s desires eventually come true.


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