Once you decide to write your book and become an author, you’ll have to learn to deal with all the fears that come with it.

You’re not alone. All authors start where you are now.

We start insecure, unsure, and afraid. We start with fear, and sometimes even terror, gripping us.

And sadly, for some authors, these fears stop them from ever writing their book at all.

I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years, and the fears I’m about to detail are the same ones I’ve had to deal with in the past (and still deal with on a day to day basis).

This blog post will detail the common author fears, explain how they are destructive to books, and provide some insight into how you can reframe those fears to help you.

You may not have every one of the seven I list below, but chances are you will deal with at least four at some point in the process.

Fear: “I don’t have a book in me.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“I’m afraid there is no book in me.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have anything to say.”
“What right do I have to be an author?”
“Who am I to write a book?”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book

It’s very common for an author, especially a new author, to be afraid that they don’t have the knowledge in them to write a book.

For most people, this is a version of what’s referred to as Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is when someone—even a very accomplished person with many credentials—believes they don’t actually know what everyone thinks they know. They believe their ideas are either wrong or invalid, or that everyone already knows what they know. People with Imposter Syndrome have this idea in their heads that everyone else has it figured out, but they are the imposter.

In the most extreme cases, Imposter Syndrome is when authors feel that their book will expose them as frauds or fakers. 

Example of an Author With This Fear:

We worked with a consultant, Jonathan Dison, on his book, The Consulting Economy. He was a management consultant who had his own consulting firm that was doing very well. Hundreds of people he’d worked with throughout the years had asked him to write a book, one that would detail the method he used to help them transition from corporate employee to independent consultant.

Despite all these people asking him for the book, he put it off because he thought he was not enough of an expert to write a book. Even though he literally made the life-changing transition himself, and had coached hundreds of people through it—at some level he didn’t believe he actually knew anything.

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

This fear is beneficial when it forces you to really think about the value you’re providing to the reader and focus your book on that.

I can’t tell you how many times Jonathan said, “Tucker, I have no idea what I’m doing.”

I would then walk him through how he helped people transition from corporate employee to independent consultant. I had him explain his process to me and tell me about the people he’d helped, and have him tell me what they told him about his advice (always gushing praise).

Then he’d admit, “OK, yeah, I guess I do know something.”

This fear can benefit you if you use it to think only about your potential reader.

Why would they find the book valuable? What do they get out of it? How will the knowledge in the book change their life?

Even if you believe you’re an imposter, you can still recognize someone else would value what you know. Then, you can write the book only for them (which will make it a better book).

That’s what’s so great about this fear—it’s usually easy to understand if it’s based in reality. Just ask yourself: are people coming to you and asking you for, or paying you for, your knowledge?

If so, then you clearly have a book in you, as long as the book is just you sharing that knowledge with people. You can overcome your Imposter Syndrome by focusing on that fact alone.

Fear: “I’m afraid my book isn’t original enough.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“I’m afraid everyone has already said all of this.”
“I don’t think I have anything new to say.”
“Everything I have to say is stuff everyone already knows.”
“How will my book be any different from other books on this topic?”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book:

The funny thing with Jonathan Dison (from the example above) is that once he admitted that he knew something he’d say, “But this is obvious—no one needs to be told this!”

This is a common feeling among new authors. And it’s almost always wrong.

Many authors have the idea that a valid book must have a new insight that no one has ever considered.

That’s ridiculous. Very few books are profoundly original—and the few that are tend not to be that valuable (because they are too esoteric).

A book is valuable if the knowledge within it is accessible and usable to the audience.

If you can write a book on a deeply covered topic, providing a unique perspective that sheds new light on the subject and helps your audience understand something they were missing, that is very valuable.

Even if you feel you don’t have a brand new perspective on the subject, if you have a unique voice and perspective around key concepts, tailored for your audience, you will help them see old concepts in a way that finally clicks for them.

No reader cares if the idea is new or old. They only care if it’s useful to them.

Example of an Author With This Fear:

My favorite example of this is Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold.

How many business books are there on meetings? According to Amazon, there are 50,000.

Surely if there was one book that did not need to be written, it was this one, right?  

That’s what Cameron thought at first. He was wrong.

We walked through what he knew and helped him realize that though his methodology for meetings had no single insight that was truly original, the way that he combined all his insights and presented a complete plan for how to run a meeting was deeply useful to everyone he coached and taught.

With 99 reviews and 40,000 copies sold, it’s obvious that his take is engaging with people in a way that none of the other books on meetings have.

That’s why Meetings Suck has done so well—because it explained a lot of old ideas in a way that no one else had before.

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

This fear is useful because it will force you to clearly define your audience and the value that you are providing to them.

This is a key aspect of the Scribe Method. We have our Authors look deeply at who derives value from their knowledge, which helps the Author define their audience. Once they know their audience, they can then think, “What did I teach those people that they found valuable to their lives?”

And your fear has led you to define both your audience and the value you provide them.

Fear: “I’m afraid my book won’t be good enough.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“I’m afraid my book won’t be perfect.”
“I’m afraid I put too much in.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t put in enough.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to forget everything I want to say.”
“I’m afraid of leaving things out.”
“I’ll be embarrassed if people criticize my book.”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book:

This is almost always perfectionism. How is perfectionism related to fear?

As the author dives into the book, they become obsessed with every detail. They fret over every word, every punctuation mark, and every phrasing.

This is not about trying to make the book as good as possible. Excessive obsession with every detail—beyond the point of reason—is a way of masking a fear that the book is not good enough. Authors will get stuck in one of the perfectionism rabbit holes so they can avoid publishing the book.

Books can get stuck here in various ways:

  1. The author will try to put everything they know into the book, and this causes the book to bloat and become unmanageable.
  2. The author won’t stick to a subject and will jump around to different ideas.
  3. The author’s perfectionism becomes an excuse to delay or avoid actually working on the book.
  4. The author edits and adds in never-ending cycles, spinning in circles and never actually finishing the book.

Example of an Author With This Fear:

Deb Gabor is a great example of this. Deb is a brilliant brand strategist. She’s worked with companies like Dell, NBC, and Microsoft on their branding strategy, and she wrote a book called Branding Is Sex about how companies can use branding in new and innovative ways.

She started the book confident in her knowledge and the value of the book to her readers. But as she moved further into the writing process, insecurity took hold. She wondered if anyone would find it valuable, and to compensate, she put more and more information into it.

As a result the book, without any conscious intent, become far too big and unwieldy—because she was trying to put everything she knew into the book instead of just focusing on what her audience valued and wanted to know. In order to compensate for her insecurity, she turned to perfectionism, and it almost ruined her book.

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

Thankfully, Deb is smart and self-aware, and once we walked her through what she was doing, she recognized it and was able to get her book re-focused and sharply defined.

That’s the good thing about this fear: it forces you to define both your audience’s needs very specifically and how your book meets them. By using this fear productively, you force yourself to focus exclusively on the audience and what they want—and stop thinking about yourself and how you look. This enables you to write a better book, one that gives the audience what they are looking for and thus gets you what you want.

Another thing we explained to Deb is the saying that “art is never done, it’s only abandoned.” The point is that being perfect is literally impossible. All you can do is the very best job you can right now, and then put it out to help your audience, and you’re done.

Fear: “I’m afraid no one will care about my book.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“What if no one reads it?”
“What if there is no audience?”
“What if my book doesn’t impact anyone?”
“What if this is a waste of my time and effort?”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book:

This is a pretty simple fear, and it generally comes up in people who are trying to find a way to avoid other deeper fears (like the “looking stupid fear,” covered below).

Usually, this fear manifests by an author convincing themselves that no one will care about their book.

Paradoxically, this is almost always suffered by the authors who have the books that are most impactful on others (the authors who should worry about this, almost never do—such is life, right?).

Example of an Author With This Fear:

Dr. Douglas Brackmann grew up with ADHD and was told his whole life that he has a disability. He refused to see it that way. He spent his life seeking to understand where ADHD comes from (it’s actually genetic and serves an adaptive purpose) and how to utilize the energy and focus the condition creates to improve his life.

He solved this issue in his life, and then started training the highest performers—entrepreneurs, CEOs, pro athletes, inventors, and Navy SEALs—to learn how to perform even better using the techniques he had to learn to compensate for his ADHD.

But when it came time to write a book, he wasn’t sure anyone would care.

Think about that for a second: he was already training some of the highest performers in the world, but he still wasn’t sure that anyone would care about his book?

This sort of thing happens because when an author knows their subject so well, they often think it’s obvious or easy, so they discount that knowledge. They forget that the exact people they are writing for do not have this knowledge—and are often desperate for it.

In Dr. Brackmann’s case, this happened. Look at the Amazon Reviews for his book, Driven:

“I could not put this book down…it was as if it was written directly to me…answering questions that I had held in my mind for over 4 decades.

Now that I’ve realized more of “what” I am…I have been more fulfilled, felt more joy over the same activities I was doing a month ago. My business, my family, my health are all improved…and most importantly…my SOUL finally feels like I’ve found my place!

I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, marketers, and high achieving clients from all walks of life…and this book has instantly been put onto the top recommendations I have when starting out with them.”

“The tools that Dr. Brackmann gave me, all of which you will find in his book, allowed me to find inner peace and happiness and realize my true potential…I could recognize my soul again, lift myself up and design the life I had always dreamed of. Dr. Brackmann helped me understand how my mind worked and helped me harness the Driven characteristics I had so that in less than 1 year I could build a 7 figure business with no outside help, find the girl of my dreams, and pursue a life of mastery in many different areas. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has a desire to find more peace while fulfilling their potential.”

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

This fear can turn into motivation if you use it right. If you’re afraid no one will care, then find someone in real life who does care about what you have to say, teach them what you know, and then look at the transformation in their life.

If you can see that, see the impact it makes on them, then it should be much easier to finish your book, because it’s no longer about you—it’s about them and the other people like them.

Fear: “I’m afraid my book will upset people.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“I’m afraid this book is going to make someone mad.”
“I’m afraid of being judged.”
“Will my friend be mad if I tell her story in my book?”
“I don’t want my book to upset my current clients.”
“I can’t say these things about people.”
“What if my friends read it and hate it?”
“What if I sound bitchy?”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book:

This fear is a major book killer. The fear of judgment is crippling to many authors, and prevents them from either writing their book, or from writing the book that they really want to write.

Here’s the simple fact about books: if no one at all disagrees with what you are saying, then you aren’t saying anything worth going in a book.

A book should make new claims, or reframe old information, or take a position that stands in opposition to conventional wisdom, or teach something new or different or contrary.

That’s the entire point of a book—to help people find a new way to think about something or do something.

Let me say it again: It’s impossible to write a good book without taking some kind of risk.

Example of an Author With This Fear:

Shannon Miles is a great example of this. Shannon wrote The Third Option, a book that explains how women do not have to choose between a career and a family, that they can actually create a life that gives them both.

There are many women who will claim that a woman’s career should come first, and many others who will say family must come first. Shannon took the position that neither is true, that you can have both—which is upsetting to both sides.

Because Shannon knew that she was going to be heavily criticized and attacked from both sides, she hesitated about whether to write her book at all. Once she made the decision to move forward, she still found herself censoring her views and holding back.

Eventually Shannon got past this worry. With the help of her Scribe, she focused not on herself, but on her reader, and realized that by withholding her views or stories, she was not serving them, she was failing them—and betraying herself.  

As a result, she wrote a book that has been extraordinarily well-received. She did get some negative feedback of course, but it was overwhelmed by all the positive response and thanks from women who felt like she understood and spoke to them in a way no one else had.

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

First off, it’s OK to admit you feel bad when people say bad things about you. Even if what they say is wrong and unfair, and even if they are straight up lying about you—that still hurts.

It’s OK to admit it, and it’s OK to feel all the terrible feelings that come with that. The human brain is designed such that it interprets social violence almost exactly the same as physical violence. It hurts when people attack you, and I will never tell you to block it out and pretend it doesn’t bother you. That doesn’t work.

But, if this is a fear you are facing, you have the option to see it as a gift.

If people will criticize your position, that can force you to examine it from all angles and make sure your arguments are rock solid.

Also, opposition also helps you find and galvanize your own audience of people, like Shannon did. If there are loud and angry people on only one side of a debate, it probably means the other side simply does not have a spokesperson. Your book puts you in that role.

Also, use this fear to make sure you are being fair to people and other arguments. It’s okay to be conscious about the words you use and how they impact people. This does not mean you water down your position—in fact, your argument is strengthened when it is considerate of alternate viewpoints.

Finally, remember the iconic quote about this by Steven Pressfield:

“Making a judgment, taking a stand and then acting against an injustice or acting to support excellence is the stuff of the everyman hero. If you are an aspiring artist and you wish to avoid ‘judgments,’ you’ll find that you have nothing to say.”
—Steven Pressfield

Fear: “I’m afraid my book will make me look stupid.”

Alternate Expressions of This Fear:

“I’m afraid I’m going to look stupid.”
“What if I get all one-star reviews?”
“What if everyone who reads it, hates it?”
“What will people think if there’s a typo?”
“I’m afraid something will be wrong with my book, and I’ll look stupid to everyone I know.”

How This Fear Will Impact Your Book:

The biggest unspoken fear that I believe (virtually) every author has is that they will embarrass themselves. I saved this for last because almost every fear above boils down to this one.

This fear is actually not irrational. For many professionals, writing a bad book is actually worse than writing no book at all.

This is because, for someone with a certain level of status, a bad book will hurt their career.

For others, it goes even further. The book is very attached to their identity. They see the book as an extension of themselves, and they are worried that the book isn’t well-received, then it means they will personally look bad. No one wants to look flawed to their peers, especially something as personal as a book.

This fear can get so bad, it literally people will forgo the tens of thousands of dollars they pay us to help them write a book—all because they’re afraid to hit the final “publish my book” button.

I’m not exaggerating at all. We have authors who will work for months, do all the difficult editing and revisions, go through the entire publishing process, and then, when there is literally nothing left to do besides give the final approval, will completely ghost on us.

They can’t face their fear that the book isn’t good, so they avoid even talking about it.

Example of an Author With This Fear:

Every author we’ve ever worked with—without exception—has had some version of this fear (and I’ve had this fear as well).

Joey Coleman is my favorite example. He even wrote about his fear in his book, Never Lose a Customer Again:

“But not long after that, I started to doubt myself and I began to question my decision to write a book.

Did I really have a good enough message that could carry an entire book?

Would the readers find as much value in the eight-phase process as my clients had over the last twenty years?

Would I be able to explain all the nuances of the framework properly in three hundred pages?

Was I going to make myself look stupid?

As these thoughts of fear, doubt, and uncertainty flooded my mind, I grew distant. I started rescheduling planned phone calls with the team, pushing them off for both real and fabricated reasons alike. I used any excuse I could think of that would allow me to delay the next step in the process.

This went on for several months until one night when my cell phone rang unexpectedly. The caller ID indicated it was Tucker’s cellphone, and a quick mental scan of my calendar let me know this was an unexpected call. I decided to answer anyway.

Tucker got me to open up, admit that I was having feelings of remorse and regret, and assured me that the emotions I was feeling were natural for any author. He told me a story about how he felt the same way when he released his first major book, which ironically enough went on to be a New York Times bestseller, selling more than a million copies worldwide since its release.

Tucker helped me see that I did indeed have a book in me and that he believed it would be valuable to many people. He persuaded me to trust the process, come back into the fold, and continue the work. That is how powerful buyer’s remorse is.

Even though I deeply understood the perils of the cognitive dissonance that marks this feeling, even though I teach this to companies, I could not separate myself from these emotions when I was in that position.

Oops—I’m human too.”

How to Use This Fear to Help You:

Remember how I told you that fear is not in and of itself a bad thing? If you allow the fear to focus you and become motivation to focus and work hard, then it can help you. It can be fuel. It can help ensure you do everything necessary to create the best book possible.