Social anxiety

A question that’s bugging me

Are the only people who want to read a story in which one of the characters suffers from social anxiety those who have the disorder themselves?


Why did this come up now? Well, yesterday Nicola Morgan posted an excellent piece about why selling books, and not just publishing them, is important. In the comments, I agreed, mentioning that for me selling a lot of books would be a big step towards my goal of raising awareness of social anxiety. Nicola responded:

tbh, you will probably raise awareness more by your blogging and other work. After all, the book would be read mostly by people with the condition already.

One response to that, which I didn’t make clear in my comment, is this: I think that even if I sold a lot of books that had nothing to do with social anxiety, becoming known would help towards that goal.

But what if I did publish a story that involves social anxiety in some form? Would that be of interest only to people who have experienced it? Why?

There are novels about people with asperger’s, depression and other mental health issues. The people who read them haven’t necessarily experienced these things and don’t necessarily know someone who has. Why not social anxiety?

That voice in my head, the one who would like me to give up, says this: In real life, other people don’t want to know those with social anxiety. They see them as boring, stuck up, stupid, weird. So obviously they don’t want to read books about them.

But a story can show they’re not boring or stuck-up or stupid or weird. (Well, maybe they are weird.) A novel can look inside a character’s head at the thoughts locked inside. Couldn’t that be interesting to anyone? Does a reader need to know the sort of thoughts that might be there? Does a reader need to have encountered the sort of  incidents the character might experience in order to want to buy the book?

Do you need to have it to read it?


And that, in a way, brings me to Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which I just read. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Edit: Do read Nicola’s clarifying comment.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

4 replies on “A question that’s bugging me”

Hi Miriam
Am in huge haste so excuse brevity. No, you’ve misunderstood a little. It’s about the marketing and *getting the book to the audience*. And note that I used the word “mostly”. yes, the first and foremost target audience of a book about most conditions are those affected by the condition, including those who are related to or firends with the person with the condition. In no way does that mean, and I never said, that no one else would be interested – of course that’s not the case. However, in terms of the market, those who have no connection to the condition are much harder to reach. Much harder. So the book has to work incredibly well as a piece of general-interest writing, as a beautifully-written book that will acheive word-of-mouth recognition, in order for it to reach those not connected to the condition. Publishers and marketing people have to work with the core (easier-to-reach) market and that’s what we talk about when we talk about target readership.

Excuse all typos – no time to check!

Yeah, both sides make sense. I would have to say, as long as the writing is good, I’d be interested in reading more about a character who has a psychological condition that I *don’t* share a tendency to myself. After all, that’s one of the great things about writing, getting a chance to look at the world through somebody else’s eyes, and try to understand a different way of thinking.

If you get a chance, check out a fellow writer’s zombie story and help me make him wear an embarrassing shirt next year! Details are here:

No, I don’t think so… I have read books about aspergers, alzeimers and tourettes and don’t have any of these! As long as its well written, it doesn’t matter. There are other levels on which you can identify with a character and its interesting to get inside the head of these to get a different perspective on the condition. There’s also a lot to be said for word of mouth marketing, IMHO. I’m no expert though…..

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