What are you afraid of?


I’ve been thinking about fear a lot lately, so this observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson resonated with me.

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person: “Always do what you are afraid to do.”

Does it strike a chord with you?

When you think about the book you’re working on, what are you afraid of? What is keeping you from taking action that could propel you forward?

Maybe it’s fear of failure.

You might be afraid of how people will react to your writing once your book is “out there.”

Or, maybe you’re afraid of becoming a huge success. Writing a New York Times best-seller would be pretty amazing. The prospect could be intimidating, too, because it could really, really change your life.

But, you tell me: Focusing on your book rather than on other areas of your life, what are you afraid of?

Please take a moment to tell me in a comment below. Your answer could help guide the content I share here.

Thank you!

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Good question, Mrs. Beckworth. I’m not sure that the root is fear of success, but rather fear of more disappointment. This is a tough business, as any writer knows, full of rejection. Even for those of us who have enjoyed many successes, the “no thanks” pile is often far thicker than the “yes.” While we know that publishers do not devote the time or resources to promoting their books effectively, that writers are expected to do much of their own advertisement, we wonder if it is worth the effort. How many books will we sell for the hours devoted to social media posts and other promotional ploys? Would the time be better spent crafting another tale? I’m at that crossroad. My most recent book has been out a year and my efforts have seen no sizable impact. Clearly, I’m not a promoter; I’m a writer. And I’m happiest writing.

    1. I hear ya, Meesus Hertz. Accumulating a body of related work is also a smart marketing strategy. When somebody reads, and loves, one of your books, they look for more written by you. Feed their hunger. And P.S., can you ask your publisher to send me a review copy? I think there are a few tangible things I can do to support it, but need to see it. Possible?

      Mrs. Beckworth

  2. Dear Sandra,

    I write poetry on online dating, desire, and gay male sex. I’m afraid that my homoerotic poems may alienate potential readers.
    I’m afraid of being misunderstood.
    I’m afraid of being pigeonholed.

    But I also know that I’m writing for my target audience. I’ve gotten feedback from them and they like what I write.
    They are what keep me going along with a passion for good writing.

    Sincerely yours,

    Kent Neal

    1. Thank you, Kent. Getting positive feedback from your target audience is HUGE. Hang on to that.


  3. I am afraid I am on the wrong path. I guess this is more about my writing business than specifically about my book, but I am afraid that I am putting all this energy in and I will get to a certain point and realize that I am nowhere near where I thought I should be because I got a fundamental piece of the puzzle wrong. I am going through that with my blog right now, and I think the frustration of realizing I made the wrong call there has me second-guessing my writing.

    1. Thanks, Heidi. I often (okay — ALWAYS) have that fear of making a mistake. I counter that with education — I go find someone who’s done it to teach me.

      Nothing is irrevocable except death, right?


  4. Fear is a road block to success of any kind. By making yourself take that FIRST step to begin is the first rung on the ladder of any success. Be positive in your efforts. If you never start, you will never attain your goal.

  5. Sandra,

    Interesting question. I have wanted to write since childhood and I finally started writing in 2010. I have made numerous mistakes which are great for learning but which have left me unable to provide for my family. I have tried a few times to apply for jobs but have not been successful. I have written 13 children’s books and one YA Fantasy novel. Five children’s books have been published and another seven are ready to be published but I don’t have the money to pay for the illustrations to get them published. Everything I try seems to always be the wrong decision and I am fast losing hope. It’s been almost 6 years since I resigned from my job. I have started writing another two novels but they have been standing still for a long time now as I cannot comfortably focus on writing anymore without an income. I have plans for a publishing and book retail business but it needs capital and that all takes time. Time which I feel I no longer have. I have now started to look for jobs again today.

    I am not looking for sympathy but simply being practical. It is not about fear for me anymore I believe. It is about simply being practical and doing what needs to be done to make money for my family so we can live. The books can come later if there is time. Unfortunately that’s not what I want but for the sake of my family it is for the best. Dreams will have to wait I guess.

    Thanks and regards


    1. Thanks, Francois. So you are afraid of not having money to pay the bills? It sounds like you’re doing what you have to — and that will help eliminate that fear. You can always write on the side, right? It’s what so many authors do. I hope things work out. I know it isn’t easy, and I appreciate that you shared your fear with us.


  6. It is not that I am terrified. I am more apprehensive. I want to start a blog but know you need to have followers to make a difference. I want to self-publish but don’t know how to go about getting the book in front of people. I’m really afraid that all the work will just sit there and no one will know about it.

    1. Thanks, Charlotte — looks like you’ve got anxiety or fear around a few things. Learning how to blog in a way that generates an audience could help, right? And learning how to build your author platform so you have an audience waiting for that book will help, too. As I noted in another comment above, I’ve found that when I want to do something new but I’m afraid of making a mistake that will have a big impact, I first spend time learning from people who know how to do it. Doing that has given me a lot more confidence when I’m taking on a new challenge. (Deep breathing helps, too!)

      I SO understand that idea that you will go to all of this trouble and nobody will know about it. It’s a lot of work, so you want to feel that you’ll be rewarded at the end. There’s no magic formula, but there are certain things that are necessary — writing a good book that readers will recommend to friends, packaging it so it looks like a traditionally published book, knowing who is most likely to love it and also knowing how to get the book title in front of them, etc.

      Thanks for commenting!


  7. I am in the process of publishing my novel and I am afraid of failing–people won’t like my book and think I don’t have enough talent to do this. I am also afraid of the reactions of the people I know: very few people know about my concern of sex trafficking. I want to give these horrors more exposure, but people might think this is weird.

    My husband and I are hoping that selling the book might help us generate a little more income and I don’t want to let him down.

    When you write a book, you are exposing your inner thoughts and it is your creation. I have to learn not to take criticism too personally.

    1. Idelle, you are so right — when you write and publish a book, it can really feel like you’re sticking your neck out. (And that’s not a good feeling.) Regarding “talent,” etc., do you belong to a writer’s group that will critique your work along the way?

      Thanks for commenting!


    1. Thanks, Roxanne. I don’t blame you. I generally recommend 2 things — first, only do events at venues that serve your book’s target audience already. In your case, that would be pet stores, animal shelters, etc. Second, put your efforts into activities that will help you reach more of the right readers/book buyers. That isn’t always an in-person event. In your case, it might be writing one article about how to help children deal with the loss of a pet and self-syndicating that article to regional parenting pubs with an author box at the end that spotlights your book. Even so, you might be able to attract a large audience to an event and sell a ton of books in one sitting. You are the best judge of that, right?

      Good luck!


  8. Yes, I agree with Sue. Fear of disappointment, of not making a big enough impact, of not getting my book bought and read by lots of people who would benefit from it or resonate with the message or enjoy it. Of doing all that work again for a tiny ripple (ok, I concede that a tiny ripple is better than no ripple at all)

    1. Thanks, Val. Writing a book IS a lot of work — and people who haven’t done that don’t really understand it.

      I appreciate the feedback — it’s very helpful.


  9. I’m afraid I’ve made so many wrong decisions in the beginning that I’ll never reach my goal of providing hope to kids who are abused or suffer from bullying. The first book in the series was published through a small publishing house, and because I didn’t fully understand the contract, the book will never appear in bookstores or libraries. Not being in libraries is huge when the incentive is to help kids, not make money. I’m going to try to donate the book to libraries at my expense and hope I can offset it with requests for the ebook where I might be able to break even.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Peggy. I know enough about you to know that you are someone who learns from her mistakes, and that’s impressive. You might end up telling that first story in a different way — but with the same important messages — in a new book and getting that one into stores and libraries after all.


  10. Simple. Fear of embarrassment. …not fear of failure. That just happens sometimes. We just fail faster and keep going until we succeed. …but embarrassment? (((shudder)))

    Personally, I try not to put myself out there TOO far unless I know my subject matter inside and out. …so the chances of embarrassment are lower. …but it still happens from time to time. On those occasions, I just curl up into a tiny ball and hide for a few days, then I yank up my boot straps, grab a shovel, and wade on through the “embarrassment poo” until I’ve done enough work to clean it up and keep going. 😉

  11. I can definitely relate to the concept that you can be fearful of both success and failure at the same time. I am for sure. What if Oprah doesn’t call? What if she does?! But I also get caught up in the fear (or apprehension) that I might choose the wrong genre or marketing process, and all my hard work will be for naught. I’m currently working on a memoir — sort of. I started a blog back in 2011 and have let it go by the wayside as I work on a related book — something I’m calling a fictionalized food memoir, so that I can take some liberties with my creativity. And I understand the concept of writing in series so that devoted readers will happily anticipate another book. But I get stuck when I stop to think it might be better in one big volume, rather than parted out in sections. And when I get stuck it means I’m not writing. Then I worry that I’m not being productive and won’t be successful. Aarrgh!! That’s when I walk away for a bit and try to find my center again!

    By the way, thank you for all your helpful emails. I may not always comment, but I’m taking it all in.

    1. Patti, so in some ways, it’s fear of not doing something the “right” way, right? In your case, it seems like it’s at least partly about writing in a way that works for you, but also assigning a label to that writing, too, so that it gets found and noticed. Again, as noted above, this is where a little education can go a long way. Is there a “fictionalized memoir” category in bookstores or on Amazon? Are you a member of the National Memoir Writers Assn and if yes, have you talked to peers about this?

      As for series, I’m thinking of full-length books, not that trick some authors are employing where they create an e-book for each chapter and force you to buy the next short book to keep reading. There’s some backlash to that approach — including one theory that it’s one reason why Amazon changed what/how it was paying writers for borrowed books.

      In any case, I love your response: Step away to get some clarity.


  12. Excellent question! My greatest fear is of my self as a writer. Although I’m a professional and well-published writer, there’s something about writing my novels that sets off the voice saying, “I’m a fraud, this is no good, no one will want to read this, my publisher will hate me for this.” Maybe it’s because a novel is a big emotional commitment? And whether it’s “good” is so subjective? I don’t have this trouble with short stories or articles or my nonfiction books.

    1. Conda, I’ve heard many nonfiction writers who have expanded into fiction say this, so maybe it helps to know you’re not alone. You say it’s a fear, but I think you’re very brave, and I admire this particular kind of bravery. Good luck to you!


      1. @Conda, you’re not alone. I felt exactly the same way. I wrote nonfiction articles and books for a long, long time and now I’m writing fiction. (I just released my ninth novel.) For me, those fears didn’t go away entirely, but it did get easier 🙂

        1. Good to know, Susan. I was a short story writer for the longest time, with an occasional article thrown in for spice. I’m on my fourth novel now, three in publication, so it should soon get easier!

  13. Thanks so much Sandra for this very timely question! I am in the process of putting my best selling erotic novel up on Kindle as an e-book. Since this is my first time submitting, I am very anxious that I won’t do it right–so I read and read and prepare, but still it’s a big deal. I guess I’m afraid that I’ll miss some important step in the launch and promo. A little like learning to ride a bike or drive a car.

    As for writing, I have no fear there and go boldly ahead.

    Thanks again to you and all the comments. It’s good to know we’re not alone.


    1. Thanks, Jeanne — fear of making a mistake can certainly stop us from taking action. In this case, if you do something wrong, you can fix it, right? Good luck with the process!


  14. It is never fear that stops me, Sue. As a retired single woman living on a fixed income, what prevents me from moving forward is money. I have had one book self-published and the cost was mind boggling! Of course, being a novice at that time, I paid whatever fees were asked of me and it left me in financial stress! So, it is not fear, but rather finances that keep me from going forward. Unfortunately, I have two completed manuscripts and have been offered three deals with companies that would cost me anywhere from $1,500 to $4,900, which I am not willing to pay. It’s a touch world out there for writers!

    1. Thanks, Mary. Money is an issue for many — as is fear of not having enough (or earning enough through book sales) to pay the publishing bills.


  15. My fear and frustration is time, or the lack of. I work a full time job approximately 50-55 or more hours a week. I have signed up for several author training programs. It seems daily I receive 5-10 emails from the various programs. Because I am a bit OCD, it is frustrating when I get behind and then find more than 30-40 emails I need to read and catch up on. Then there is the time I need to devote to the actual writing, the book proposal, marketing ideas, etc. I always feel behind. Once the book is out, how to find the time to do all required to market and promote the book. AAaahh!

    1. Tammy, what a typical story. Fear of not having enough time, right? Because self-publishing is now an affordable option, there are a lot more authors out there trying to crank out a book in their free time — and there’s never enough, it seems.

      Thank you for commenting!


  16. Hi Sandra. My fear is that of being forgotten, of authoring work that was mediocre and/or went unseen. I get a lot of nonfiction work published, but my fictional efforts so far have either gone nowhere after publication, or remain unpublished and lacking attention from agents or publishers.

    I’d like to have some legacy of doing good work that inspired feeling and thought. So, I’m not afraid of working on my writing (my third novel is almost finished), but of the silence that follows.

    1. Thank you, Tom. I suspect that you will leave the legacy you want to leave, whether it’s linked to your fiction or not. But I know what you’re saying. It’s harder to find that audience for fiction, which can be frustrating.

      Thank you for sharing — it helps me to know this, and I’m sure your comment will resonate with others who read it.


  17. To be honest reading the above it seems we all have a common thread and the only way to solve this is to ride the wave. I don’t know what to add other than the fear that all this hard work taking so much energy could have been spent on something easier is the beat of my drum. I too have to earn a living and have time constraints but I can’t not do this either.

    1. Barbara, I love that you know that you “can’t not do this.” Good for you.

      Thank you!


  18. I think that as creative people we face not just a single fear but a cascading series. Collect them all!

    The fears begin before we even type a word or scribble on our notepad:

    Will I find an idea that hasn’t been done (better) a million times before?

    Will I be able to identify the heart of this idea and turn it into a compelling story?

    How can this story possibly sustain a full novel?

    I’ve never written a novel before, am I fooling myself to think I can do it?

    Will I ever get to the end of this interminable burden?

    Will my editor slash it to pieces?

    Will anybody buy it?

    What will reviewers say about it?

    How can I sell more copies?

    Do I have to keep promoting it forever?

    How can I possibly start a sequel before I know that someone actually likes my first story?

    They say they like me but do they really?

    Okay, I sold a million copies of that series but can I possibly write a different series or am I just a one trick pony?

    1. Thank you, Michael. A thought…if you see these as questions, rather than fears, your list is a lot less intimidating.

      Nice to hear from you!


  19. Hello Sandra; a really pertinent question.
    Fear had no place in my case; rather I was so motivated to write and publish my book because I felt I had something most unusual to tell. Frankly though, my hopes were too “hopeful”, believing the whole wide world would know about my unfathomable experience, overlooking the fact that this same “width” will backfire. Truly, I paid much for publishing and marketing for my book, and I have not been rewarded as I hope for; perhaps it needs more time! I know one important obstacle for my book sales is its price; it is a huge book-commensurate with my odyssey, and of very good quality paper. Other obstacles for any writer, is a trend in subsequent generations, not to read; life is too speedy and little space is there for a book.
    Yet, because I am not primarily a writer, and have a stable career, any worries would not stop me from pursuing this new work further; I discovered I had a talent at it, perhaps, and I am planning to write more books in my field- medicine.

    1. Thank you, Maria. I’ll respectfully disagree with the comment about subsequent generations not reading. That’s a common misperception. I don’t know who started that nasty rumor.


  20. Hi Sandra
    It will only cheer me up if i am wrong about the new generation, as to the trend about reading. At least it will give me more hope that some day my book will find its way.
    Maria Jasmine Freeman

  21. I’m a retired scientist with many publications but now just write kids books covering bedtime stories I nightly told my kids and grand-kids as well as their friends. They loved them and at age 70 wrote them up for my granddaughters – their request. 11 were originally accepted by a publisher who said he would bring but 1 a terms or at book meetings When after 5 years (now 9 years ago) I self-published them. I could easily write many more, say one per week. Its costly because now I’ve had to get an illustrator, but I’ve enjoyed the experience and certainly have no fear about getting them published – fear is not in my vocabulary. see http://www.leonardnourse.com

  22. I am not really afraid but annoyed. I have two books ready to send out in a series and I cannot find my information for the Microsoft Office program to do spell and grammar check before sending one out. But I do have to say I wonder if I will have enough for advertising and all the other things I need to do. I am starting the character sheets for book 3 now so I would say my fear is nominal but I do also wonder what people will say about the sexy erotic paranormal genre I am writing for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *