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This is Your Permission to NOT Publish

by Kellyn Roth |
August 31, 2019

Dear young writer,

I don’t know where you are in your writing journey. But I know so many writers like you who put their all into their craft. You care about writing, so naturally you want to make a career out if it.

Is it any wonder you want to be published?

But should you? Perhaps you should just … not publish.

We all want to publish.

Being a published author is the “it” thing, after all. A lot of people dream of writing a novel, and a small percentage of those people write one, and an even smaller percentage of those people work toward publishing.

Before, there was nothing wrong with that. But nowadays self-publishing is becoming a more and more valid option.

Problem with that is … self-publishing is easy. Well, at least it’s sort of easy.

The process of getting your book up on Amazon (and other sellers) is fairly simple. You just upload your manuscript, throw together a cover on Paint, and call it good. And then anyone can buy your book.

But they won’t. Not unless you put effort into it. And you’re proving everyone right about self-publishing … and you’re lessening your chances of being taken seriously in the future … and you’re making a huge mess to clean up later.

Self-publishing means self-policing.

With self-publishing, you have to be the gatekeeper yourself. (It’s the real “self” in “self-publishing.”) And it’s not easy to use restraint when all you want to do is be a published author.

Anyone can publish … same as anyone can become a doctor or lawyer. But with self-publishing, there is no medical school and there is no bar exam. You have to create the standards.

The thing is, you will regret publishing before you’re ready. I sure did. I know many other authors who did.

Your worth as a writer depends on …

Publishing? I think not!

It does not depend on how many books you publish or how much money you make. Neither does it depend on what every single reader in the world thinks of your stories. And it certainly does not depend on how speedily you progress from one stage of your writing career to the next.

Your worth as a writer is a variable you can determine, but in general, if you work hard and keep at it, you’ll be an amazing writer in no time.

(Some of my writer myths debunked might help you with this one, too!)

But when will you be ready to publish?

You should not publish before you have …

  • Written more than one book.

This is important because your first book isn’t gonna be amazing. You need to write for a number of years before you’re ready to publish no matter how much raw talent you have!

Consider not publishing at this point to be your college classes. You’re not ready to be a brain surgeon yet.

This doesn’t mean you can’t publish your first book. Just put it aside after you’re done and come back to it when you have more experience. I know a number of authors who have done this to success (Roseanna M. White comes to mind), and it’s the best way to go.

Don’t delay writing your book because you’re inexperienced. You need to write to become experienced! But know that once you finish the first draft or the fifteenth draft, you don’t have to be done. The story, the characters, your world will be there when you’re ready for it again.

  • Researched the market and trends.

You need to know the market before you publish. (Check out this post for some more guidance.) If you don’t, you’re going to get lost in the void that is Amazon in a hurry.

  • At least begin developing a platform.

This could be an email list (recommended!), a blog, social media, etc. But basically, you need an audience before you can publish. People who will support you and perhaps even buy your books! This will give you a solid base to build your launch off of.

  • Hired a professional editor and cover designer.

This is an important step many writers miss. Every young author needs professionals for these two services at a minimum. Otherwise, you just shouldn’t publish. Save up your money

All this said …

I can’t make you do anything. In the end, you are the gatekeeper, and it’s your job to decide when you’re ready. But I hope these words of warning, from one flopped early-published author to another, will help you decide when you’re ready …

And perhaps keep you from making the same mistakes I did!

A story of someone who did not not publish:

Moi! I DID publish … back in 2016 … with a book that wasn’t edited, didn’t have a professional cover design, was super immature, and in general wasn’t ready to be out there.

I’m still paying for my mistakes. I’m still picking up the mess. And yes, I can do it … but it’s taking me so much time. Imagine if I’d waited and could be moving forward now instead of going back to fix my messes!

Imagine if I’d started out with a solid platform. If I’d figured out the market. If I’d targeted the correct readership from the beginning.

No one was there to tell me NOT to … but I’m here to tell YOU that you SHOULDN’T. If I could tell a young writer anything, it would be WAIT.

There’s so much time. No need to rush. Just take your time, learn to write, figure out your market, and then publish.

I know you’ll make more of a success out of it.

You won’t risk the discouragement monsters coming to steal your love for the craft.

Just be patient. I promise it’ll be better.

But even if you did mess up and publish early (like me!), you’ll still make it. If you keep working at it. If you don’t let the mistakes of the past keep you down.

Still, wouldn’t it be better to NOT have started wrong?


~Kellyn Roth~


What do you think? Do you agree with me about waiting? What’s something you did a while back that you later regretted? Have you ever felt a pressure to publish?


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14 Responses

  1. This is really wonderful to read, Kellyn! It can be so hard, what with the pressures and the process, not to just jump in the deep end – and so it’s great to be reminded that it’s best to take time to make your passions great. Thank you for this post! <3

  2. Ooh, this was good!! I have three books that never saw the light of day, although I printed two of them. My adopted grandparents are authors and when they offered to start selling my fourth book that was what got me started in the indie world. I’ve learned a lot in the year since then, and I’m definitely glad those early books weren’t my debut novel–although there’s one of them I plan on eventually revisiting… ?

  3. Thanks for the reminder to be patient. 🙂 I’ve wanted to publish now for the past several years but up till now I haven’t even had time, and now that I have time I really want to but nothing wants to work for me. XD I’ve had trouble focusing, trouble getting what’s in my head down, and just in general suddenly lacked the energy to do what I really want to do. Maybe it’s cause I’m trying to rush and pressure myself (+ some fam and friends keep asking when one of my stories will be done) to meet a goal when there really is no rush and I just need to take everything one step at a time.

    1. For sure! It’s very hard with all the pressure from inside and from outside to publish. It’s just a matter of remembering that it’s better to wait ten years to publish than to put out a low-quality book which may reflect badly on you as an author, discourage you further, etc. 🙂

  4. My biggest regret as an author (so far) has been publishing my book too soon. I wish I would’ve given it more time before releasing it to the world. Thanks for this post!

    1. Yep, mine, too!! It’s not easy by any means. The good news is that that’s not the end – you can always sharpen it up or give it a break and then come back stronger and better than ever!

  5. I definitely agree with this! I published my first book about six months after I wrote it, so that tells you how much editing went into it. 😛 Now I wish I didn’t have to say that was my first book. Kell’s right, y’all; there’s no shame in waiting to publish! Your first book should be one you’ll still be proud of a few years down the road.

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