If you’re an author like me, who struggles with social anxiety, it can be incredibly difficult to do your job. Firstly, letting your book out into the world, knowing it will be read by the masses, is utterly terrifying. However, it’s ten times worse when you know that as an author you need to market your book. Not just online, in the safety of your home, but out in the real world, too.
Here is a guide on how to better deal with the on-the-road author experience as you market your book whilst being socially anxious.
Dealing with Crowds
If you are a popular author, which we hope you are, then you will have to deal with crowds of people who demand something from you. They’ve read your book and can’t wait to meet you. Great, right? But your social anxiety grows and taps your shoulder, saying, “No, this isn’t ok…”
We must silence that thought. Easier said than done, I know, but it is possible.
Whenever I know that I will be sitting with or speaking to a crowd of people, I go through a few steps:
- I ask myself why attending the event is important to me.
- I write the answers down.
- I write down the benefits or exciting things that will come from the event (traveling to a new place, meeting fans, making new friends, building confidence etc.)
- I take a deep breath, say yes to attending, and plan the day so that I’m prepared.
There’s no avoiding the crowds at marketing events for your book. Instead, you have to accept the situation and remember to carve out some alone time during the event. Go for a break outside or pop into the bathroom for some space when you need it.
Dealing with Questions and Interviews
Authors are always questioned about their books. It’s just natural. As cool and fun and humbling as this is, for those of us with social anxiety, it can also be very difficult. You suddenly forget that you even wrote the book, and you begin questioning your ability to give the right answers.
Before, during, and even after the event, remind yourself that you are this amazing person who wrote a book that people care to ask questions about. Remind yourself of your ability to give the right answers, because it is your book, and no one knows it better than you do.
What to do when you’re being questioned:
- Listen carefully to each question without thinking about anything else.
- Take a moment; take a breath.
- Think of the answer and give it as best you can, thinking it out slowly and carefully.
- Remember that stuttering, pausing, breathing, “erms,” and “can you repeat that?” are all totally OK!
*Pro tip: Before the event, do some practice questions with friends and family. Record your answers for reference. Watch other interviews with authors, too, to get an idea of what you will be asked and how to answer appropriately.
Dealing with Marketing Events
Then there are the advertising or marketing events that come along with being an author in this modern age. You need to market yourself in order to get sales; publishing companies don’t do it all for you. Fantastic authors like Tomi Adeyemi are brilliant at marketing themselves and exuding confidence. Her energy is infectious, and that can lead to sales, fans, and social media followers.
Being socially anxious doesn’t mean that you lack confidence or that you’re not charismatic and likable. It simply means that you get anxious, and your personality is pushed aside by these horrid, controlling feelings of doubt and danger. Then, this is amplified when trying to describe your book or persuade people to buy it, which is what is needed at marketing events. *Sigh*
What to do when marketing your book at events:
- Prepare yourself before speaking: make a list of exciting things about your book, your process, and yourself.
- Remember that you can steer the conversation in a new direction if and when needed.
- Watch other author interviews or talks, and try to channel their energy.
- Practice at home with a friend beforehand; get help from someone that you trust to be honest enough with you to say if you sound boring, unsure, monotonous etc.
- Shout out about yourself and your book(s) online, so that you get used to doing so and will be better equipped to do so in person at big events.
- If you’re comfortable doing so, you could even say, “Hi everyone, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little anxious today!” People are generally good and understanding; remember that.
- Remind yourself that the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become.
Dealing with Criticism
Have you ever seen authors being criticized out of nowhere during interviews or when discussing their work online? Have you also seen the badass authors who are able to take a bad comment or ill-informed critique and twist it so effortlessly that it makes you grin in awe?
Being socially anxious means we will have very few of those moments. With social anxiety, when questioned or criticized, your defense mechanisms creep up, your body feels like it’s on fire, and you just want to cry, or run, or throw up. It’s a normal feeling for us, and you needn’t be ashamed of it.
What can you do to deal with criticism?
- Take a breath (yes, breathing is always a good idea).
- Ask yourself if there are any real grounds for the comment or criticism you’ve received; if not, you can dismiss it.
- Always, always, remain calm (or at least don’t allow yourself to be angry with the critic).
- Remind yourself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and their opinion is neither fact nor a true reflection of you and your work.
- Remind yourself that the person probably doesn’t mean to offend or attack you, and that there’s such a thing as positive criticism.
- Answer the criticism if you feel like you have a calm, collected, informed answer. Otherwise, thank them for their feedback and move on.
*Pro tip: Do not get into arguments with people who criticize you or your work! It only makes you look bad if you stoop down to their level when they’re being nasty.
Dealing with Travel
Many sufferers of social anxiety have trouble with travel, regardless of its destination or purpose. Travel involves a lot of dealing with the unknown, being out of control, and conversing with new people. So naturally, it can be a horrible experience for us.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve been on many planes whilst anxious. I got on a plane to South Africa whilst shaking and crying. The best piece of advice that I can give you about traveling to author events when you’re anxious is to be brave. It’s OK to be scared (and noticeably so), but tell yourself that you want this, then get on the plane, train, bus, or car anyway.
What to do when you’re anxious while traveling:
- Take your sleeping pills or motion sickness pills ahead of time.
- Use anxiety relief drops like Bach Rescue Remedy as often as needed.
- Make sure that you are as comfortable as possible when traveling (comfy clothes, pillow, blanket, snacks, audio entertainment, etc.)
- Try to eat when you can, because in moments of high anxiety, eating can become impossible. So, when you feel less anxious, eat.
- When possible, ensure that someone that you’re traveling with knows about your anxiety and can provide you with conversation as distraction or comfort when panicking.
- Remember all the exciting parts of traveling/touring as an author. When feeling anxious, turn your focus to those things instead.
Authors, Don't Let Social Anxiety Stop You!
As an author with social anxiety, you will have moments before interviews, trips, and talks when you will want to cancel. Your stomach will churn, your heart will race, and your pits will sweat, all at the thought of simply being around people.
If nothing else, my best advice is to accept these feelings, not to allow yourself to be ashamed or controlled by them, and just mindfully breathe your way through it. You can do this.