Overcoming imposter syndrome to become a bestselling author

Amanda Campbell
15 December 2020
Article uploaded by
Emily Ronan

Imposter syndrome can be a common setback for writers. Faber alumni Amanda Campbell reveals how an online writing community gave her the confidence to write her debut novel Leave Well Alone (under AJ Campbell) which became an Amazon bestseller in 2020.

Writing a Novel online course

8 June 2022
  • Master the key skills needed to finish your novel
  • Diagnose problems in your chapters – and learn how to fix them
  • Prepare a submission package for agents

Finding my feet
In February 2017 I signed up for Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel: the first 15,000 words online course with tutor Julia Crouch while suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.

I’d even been hesitant to apply and kept checking for a rejection email! Who did I think I was, fooling myself to believe that I was capable of writing a novel, let alone a bestseller? But what I did have was an unquestionable belief in my story idea and oodles of enthusiasm and determination.

I love reading and have dabbled with words over the years in the form of journaling and writing stories, but nothing I would have dared share. Before the Faber courses, I’d had no formal training. I thought myself a fraud, so an online course seemed perfect – hiding behind a computer screen was reassuring.

Julia didn’t allow us to hide for long. In the first session, she separated us into small groups to present our novel ideas via Skype. Oh no, I thought. I’ll have to face people. That wasn’t in the plan! I was so nervous. But this was when I met my two writing buddies, Bridget Guzek and Charlotte Valentine, who went on to become good friends.

The course was excellent. I still refer to the notes today. I learnt about story structure and arcs, plot and character development, setting, writing style, points of view, research and so much more. Supportive writers from across the globe provided regular peer reviews which were insightful and reassuring. Most of all, the course gave me the confidence to write my story.

As the weeks turned into months, I realised that I could do this.

Who did I think I was, fooling myself to believe that I was capable of writing a novel, let alone a bestseller?

AJ Campbell

After the course
When the course ended, I undertook some mentoring with Julia. Dubbed the queen of domestic noir, she proved the ideal tutor to help me develop my domestic thriller.

It then took another year of hard graft, while working the day job, to complete a presentable manuscript.

In June 2019, I attended the Winchester Writers’ Festival, having submitted a synopsis and the first three chapters of my manuscript to four literary agents beforehand. During the festival, between workshops and presentations, I attended one-to-one sessions with each of these agents. The high of the weekend was hearing the opening words from the third agent: “I love it. My first thought was this is someone who really knows how to write.” Things didn’t work out with that agent, but the experience rewarded me with the confidence to takes things to the next level.

I found a brilliant editor, Louise Walters, who, over the following six months, helped me restructure what I had, to tell the story I wanted to tell. During this time, I also looked into self-publishing.

Then, in December 2019, I decided that 2020 would be the year that I would see my debut novel in reader’s hands. 

I decided that 2020 would be the year that I would see my debut novel in reader’s hands. In July 2020, under the Code Grey Publishing imprint, I self-published Leave Well Alone.

AJ Campbell

Getting published
In July 2020, under the Code Grey Publishing imprint, I self-published Leave Well Alone. Given the pandemic, this was the best decision I could have made.

It’s been tough. Because of lockdown and schools closing, my kids spent almost six months at home during 2020, and I had to learn the skills to homeschool in addition to working part-time and building a publishing business.

This year involved countless five o’clock starts and midnight finishes with many hair-pulling and stomach-turning moments, but it has proved such an empowering and rewarding experience. I know I have only skimmed the surface and have a long way to go.

Still, I have learnt so much about publishing, from editing to cover design, typesetting to printing, graphic design and digital marketing, sales and advertising. People have been so helpful, and I was blown away with how supportive The Faber Alumni were, helping me with feedback, tips and advice as I trekked along the rocky terrain of self-publishing.

On August 1st, 2020, I launched my debut novel Leave Well Alone, via an online launch party. Four months later – the day after I sent the first draft of book two, Don’t Come Looking, to my editor – Leave Well Alone became an Amazon bestseller!

Amanda Campbell

After graduating as an alumna of the Faber Academy's Writing a Novel course, AJ Campbell published her debut novel Leave Well Alone in July 2020 which became an Amazon bestseller. Readers lucky enough to have received a pre-release copy, described it as ‘a gripping story with a killer twist’. 

AJ draws inspiration from many facets of everyday life and especially how challenging events impact us all in different ways. The human mind and how different people react to each other, and interact in society, fascinate her.  

Until the birth of her twins in 2005, which radically changed her life, AJ was an accountant for several investment banks in London. One of her twins was born with severe disabilities, as a result of which she had to give up work to care for him. It was during this incredibly challenging (and rewarding) time that AJ began to draw on her love of the written word, partly for day-to-day inspiration and partly for her own mental health. 

AJ is a firm believer in daily exercise for mental health and loves walking in the fields with her cocker spaniel, Max. She lives on the Essex / Hertfordshire border with her husband and three sons.

Writing a Novel online course

Begins: 8 June 2022