Oxygen Mask, Aisle 2: The Fear of Putting Yourself Out There

I help guide others through the maze of self-publishing. I edit manuscripts, walk them through the processes of ISBN purchases, book cover design, book distribution listings, marketing, etc.  I’m pretty good at it. One day, I asked myself how I could help others realize their dreams effectively, when I haven’t realized my own? So here I am, about to put my work out there to be praised, ridiculed, ignored, etc. via self-publishing.

Excuse me while I hyperventilate.

I’m a pretty private person, so the thought of putting something as personal as stories that I’ve created, out into the world, is terrifying. I’m like Erykah Badu: “Now keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my s**t.” Those are my children, and I don’t want anyone to talk ugly about my children. But therein lies the rub: if no one talks about it, then the books don’t sell, and I don’t get better as a writer.

Raegan Mathis of Untitled 1975 said it best in a recent blog post:

Sometimes, whether we want to or not, we have to lay ourselves bare and just put it all on the table.  

No one comes together with another person with empty pockets or bags.  It doesn’t happen. Unless we’re speaking of babies.  No matter how we come together – as friends or as lovers, everything needs to be put on the table.  At one time or another. 

Some things have to be laid out sooner than others.  Other things, they can wait.  Sometimes, we don’t have a choice but to lay it all out or lose. 

This isn’t cards.  We don’t need to hide our hands.  We lay them down and bring our hands together to form one hand.  Love is about bringing it all together.  

It’s like preparing a dinner with what you have.  My father is an expert at seeing things in the fridge and making a meal when no one can see how it all comes together.  Ever had a wonderfully unexpected dinner that wasn’t planned, wasn’t from a recipe but was from what you had left over? Putting everything on the table reminds me of those dinners.  

Sometimes we won’t lay it out because we think someone won’t like what we have.  But what if you learn they have some of the same things you do? What if they have the missing pieces you need to make your life better?

Meet people where they are, with what they have. “


This passage was a boost to my spirits. I will meet people where they are (as readers) with what they have (a discerning eye and search for resonance). To do that, and to do it now, I have to do it on my own terms.

I have my own misgivings about mainstream publishing (coming to a future post near you!), which is why I’m taking the indie route. It’s a risk: I’m coming out of pocket for pretty much everything: cover design, promotions, etc., in the hopes that I will reap it all back in the end. Go big or go home, right?

Yet I stay awake at night, thinking of the gamble. I am middle-class and single. I don’t have the luxury of having a spouse or significant other to fall back on, should this writing thing go left. I don’t have a trust fund to cushion my fall. Getting a “real job” would be an exercise in futility (see above comment re: laid off or fired), even if I could find a spot that wasn’t scared of having to pay me for my considerable experience and education, or afraid that I’d take some manager’s spot someday, or didn’t make me want to slit my wrists for having to sit behind a desk for eight hours a day.

What if my work doesn’t catch on? Am as good a writer as I think I am (and as others claim I am)? Where do I find decent help for navigating social media waters? Do I need to blog every day? Do I need to post to my Facebook page every day? What about Twitter? Instagram? Do I need a Pinterest account? Can my editor fit my project into her schedule in time for ___ release date? PR…I need someone to massage my image. Where? Oh Gawd, I need a book cover photo–who? Dang it–I have to write a blurb for the back cover. Do I want to release a hardcover edition for Christmas? How do I move the plot along in my book? Maybe I should work on ___ book/story instead. To include an excerpt from the upcoming book, or not to include? Should I post short stories online? If I do, will someone copy it and pass it off as their own? Is there a plugin to prevent that? Great, now I have heartburn on top of insomnia. I think I need another pillow. Maybe a banana.  Or a peanut butter sandwich. But I do have those granola bars…

It’s like having fifty browser windows open in my head, all at the same time.

Then it all circles back to perception. One of my greatest fears is ending up on the free book list on Amazon , which is the digital equivalent of the bargain bin.  While there are occasional gems on there, a lot of the books offered aren’t that great, for whatever reason. Not to mention the content of my books. In my romance-oriented books, as well as some of the mainstream fare, I have sex scenes. I was embarrassed to see the movie Monster’s Ball with my mother; knowing that she (and/or my grandmother) will read those scenes is a bit disconcerting…but not enough for me to omit them. 😀

Finally, I am not looking forward to the barrages of questions from friends and acquaintances, regarding characters in my books. As any fiction author knows, the assumptions that the characters are based on real-life people are automatic:

Person A: You didn’t have to make me so [insert negative attribute] in your book.

Author: What are you talking about?

Person A: Your character, ______.  That was me, right?

Author: No, it wasn’t. I made him/her up.

Person A:  Uh huh, whatever. I know it was me. You didn’t have to write me like that, though.

Author: *sigh*

That whole “any resemblance to characters living or dead, is completely coincidental” caveat on the copyright page of fiction books is nothing more than legal protection. Very few actually believe it, especially since writing is much less expensive than therapy. But that will be my story, and I’m sticking to it.

This is going to be a wild ride, so the only thing I can do right now is strap in and hold on…and see who’s going to ride shotgun.

Thanks for stopping by.