My Scariest Moment in Publishing? All of Them

If Ryan Gosling was giving out private lap dances in this house, I still would not go in there.

I don’t go to haunted houses. It’s been my husband Fred’s life mission for the past nine years to get me to go to one and every year I refuse for two reasons: I don’t like being anxious or out of control.

It’s weird, then, that I chose a profession where I am constantly both of those things. Being a newbie author is fraught with anxiety — and a lot of what happens in completely out of your hands. So it’s challenging for me to choose the scariest moment I’ve had in this journey so far.

Was it during the writing process of the book, where I wondered on a daily basis if anything I was putting to paper was actually any good? Was it when I queried agents and knew strangers would be reading — and judging — my work for the first time? Was it when I turned in my first set of edits and was afraid I had ruined it and my editor would decide not to publish the book after all? Was it when my computer crashed while working on my edits and I was convinced for 10 minutes that I had lost a full chapter of new material? Was it when advanced copies went out into the world and I anxiously awaited that first review, terrified that it would be a big thumbs down?

Yes, these are all things that have kept me up at night— and they are thoughts that are as terrifying as any scary movie I’ve seen (except maybe Hostel. That Achilles-heel-cutting scene —WTF? If you haven’t seen it, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE.). They also may be a sign that I’m neurotic— which I’ve come to realize is a prerequisite in this field.

And I know the terror isn’t over. There’s the launch and wondering how the general public will respond, and my first real book signing where I have to stand in front of strangers and pretend like I’m good at public speaking — and oh, the little matter of selling my next book, which I’m constantly afraid isn’t up to par with the first.

So, why do I do it? Why do I put myself through it? Well, much like going through a haunted house, it’s for the payoff at the end. That feeling of accomplishment that you walked past zombies and headless ghost-people and men eating bats (I guess? I don’t know what happens in haunted houses), and made it out alive, is totally worth it.

I hope.

Author: Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at

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