Sheer Anxiety

Hi Manuscript Workers,

A few weeks ago, I posted a poll on Twitter. I wanted to know what was getting in the way of academics writing their book proposals, and here’s how 136 people responded:

According to the (admittedly not necessarily random or scientific) poll results, 13.2% of people don’t know how to write a proposal, 11.0% aren’t sure when they should be writing it, 32.4% don’t have time to write it, and a full 43.4% (the largest share) said that sheer anxiety is preventing them from writing their book proposal.

This was an interesting result to me, and perhaps it’s not too surprising. I’m well aware of a number of anxieties that get kicked up through the process of writing and pitching a book (because I’ve experienced them myself and helped my clients work through them too), but I’m curious whether there are reasons for other people’s anxiety that I’m not yet fully aware of.

So I’d like to hear from you, as a reader of this newsletter. What is it about writing a book proposal that makes you anxious, do you think? Is it possible to pinpoint specific aspects that are presenting the biggest blocks for you? Even if you think the source of your anxiety might sound ridiculous to someone else, I’d still love to hear about it. If it’s preventing you from meeting your publishing goals, it’s real and it’s legitimate, and I’d like to try to help. And there are probably a lot of other people out there who share the same concerns.

You can reply to this email or write me directly at It doesn’t need to be a formal message with a greeting or anything. You can literally just write down what’s making you anxious and send it off. I may share some of the responses I receive in a future newsletter, but I will of course remove any identifying information before sharing! I think it may help everyone to see how common their own fears and worries are.

I’m going to tackle a few of the anxieties I’m already aware of in my next publishing workshop, coming up on Friday, September 24th. Whereas my previous workshop in August was about the nuts and bolts of writing an academic book proposal, this one is about all the intangible aspects of pitching and submitting that tend to be the most urgent concerns for prospective authors. When to approach editors, how to submit to multiple publishers, whether seeking an advance contract is a good idea, how to not sound like you’re trying to pitch an unrevised dissertation — these are all topics that I’ll be covering and taking questions about. There are registration options for every budget, so I hope to see a bunch of you there!

Register here