What People Fear

The 7 Landmarks of What People Fear

Part 1: Why Not Successful | Part 2: Emotion Words | Part 3 of Sales Copywriting for Books: Fear

One of the most important components of sales copywriting for non-fiction authors is to understand your readers' fears and describe those fears in your writing. Doing so paves the way for the potential reader to connect your solution as the method for moving beyond the thing they are so afraid of. When you write sales copy to sell your book (book description, back cover copy, Introduction, blog posts) you can identify your audience's fear using one or more of seven possible fear landmarks, including:

  1. What the fear is at this point in their lives, today.
  2. What started the fear and how long ago that was.
  3. Why that fear has not been dealt with by now.
  4. How that fear is different today.
  5. How that fear has impacted them today and how much opportunity they've lost by letting that fear guide their choices.
  6. Why they are fearful of the future if this issue is not dealt with.
  7. What options have been tried and what is available to them now to overcome this fear.

To better identify the fears of your potential readers, you need to first understand what kind of fear people have in general. You may have heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. But, I'm going to extend those descriptions in this post to something that is more book sales based and in-tune with people wanting to find solutions to their challenges, problems and fears.

Categories of What People Fear

Healthline suggests there are infinite amount of scenarios that produce unlimited combinations of fear. They categorize all fears into five main groups. When writing sales copy to sell books, however, we believe there are a few more categories of fear that need to be organized a bit differently as follows.

Fear of Poor Health

"You can't do anything about anything if you're dead!" The first person I heard say that was one of our authors, Dana Morgan-Barnes, author of the book Health and Wellness Journey. Not much more can be said about being alive. If you don't have that, you have nothing.

Beyond simply staying alive, fear of ill health gets divided into many sub-sections, such as, to name a few:

  • Fear of injury.
  • Fear of mobility.
  • Fear of not being able to make quick and accurate decisions caused by lack of sleep, medications, age or illness, for example.
  • Fear of mental health challenges due to stress or continued failure.
  • Fear of lack of time left to accomplish things due to age disease growing worse.

Tip: Acknowledge in your copywriting, book descriptions, book introductions, conclusions that leaving your book unread is a potential health risk to would-be readers.

Fear of Money

"Money isn't everything." We've all heard the saying. But, let's be realistic. To generalize most people in society today, money is the only thing. Sad but true. People think about money more than they think about sex. Isn't that a shame! And, after people grow too old to act upon their sexual urges, they become even more worried about their money situation in their retirement and aging years.

People experience fear about getting too much money too. I could start another sub-head and call it fear of growth, such as:

  • Fear of one's business growing too fast and having to suddenly deal with dozens or hundreds of employees to keep up with the workload.
  • Fear of winning the lottery and being hounded by family, attorneys, and charities for your money.
  • Fear of making so much money that your stature elevates you into a new tax bracket, which brings about many other pressures you're not equipped to take on.

Tip: Book topic trends come and go. But, the one topic that is truly evergreen is "making money" so that people are less afraid of being without it. Just about any non-fiction book should have an angle that leads to the reader making more money.

Fear of Debt and Poverty

I'm lumping these two together because they both work together like twins. Get into too much debt that you can't recover and you will be on your way to poverty. If you fail to bring in enough income, you will be in poverty and debt will find you.

Tip: Addressing the debt and poverty fear in your writing requires a different approach than supplying your solution for a reader to make more money. Debt and poverty fears are offset by providing money-back guarantees and other assurances such as telephone and email support.

Fear of Physical Harm

In today's divided culture, there are more ways to experience physical harm than most of us would imagine just a few years ago.

We used to think car accidents, skiing injuries, or falling off the roof of our house were main physical dangers. Now, we have to be careful of eating at the correct restaurants where we won't cross paths with the opposing political side. We attend movies, church, plays or arena events and have been taught to scope out the nearest exit in case of a terrorist attack.

Tip: Many people live in a constant state of fear of physical injury. You can use those fears in your copywriting to describe likeness of your situation to those fears people can understand. For example, use metaphors ("I was at the end of my rope") or similes ("I was at such a low point, like someone had just punched me in the gut.)

Fear of Loss of Stature

One of the byproducts of fear of money, debt and poverty, is loss of stature. When a person loses a job or one's business takes a negative turn, embarrassment can be consuming.

In 1990, I was laid off from a corporate job on the same day as 200 others throughout the company. If you didn't have any children in your family, you got the axe. That was their criteria.

Having a sudden loss of cash flow and wondering what job was on the horizon for me was one thing. But, it wasn't nearly as debilitating as the embarrassment I felt that I was thrown out with the trash from a job I enjoyed and exceeded my boss' performance expectations.

Tip: Realize in your copywriting the real fear people have when their stature is on the chopping block. It's usually not about the position they held or how much money they made...but what other people will think now that they are not in the position once held.

Fear of Famine

With no money, no job, and the possibility of physical limitation, primary needs come into play like the need for food and water. You never really know true want until you're forced to go an extended period of days without food and drink.

Tip: Unless you're writing about something as life-preserving as disaster recovery, you will probably only use the fear of famine when using metaphors and similes in your copywriting.

Fear of Surprise

You've heard the saying, "I don't like surprises." The reason people do not like surprises is because they are afraid of sudden change.

Tip: Use fear of surprise in your copywriting when you're trying to sell an ongoing maintenance or insurance program. Another good use of fear of surprise is when your sales copy is attempting to create urgency. "If I described your situation, I suggest you get this book NOW or unexpected surprises will be coming your way for sure," for example.

Fear of Theft (identity or material)

We work hard to acquire things. One of our greatest fears is to have possessions taken away. Material things are not all that's at stake during theft. Thieves can steal your identity, which sometimes begins with stealing a physical item like a wallet or credit card. When theft occurs, anger is the usual result.

Tip: Illustrate the emotions of anger in your copywriting when your product or service can protect people from loss.

Fear of Loss of People in Our Lives

One of the greatest motivating fears is potential loss of someone we love.

Tip: If your book is about child safety, you would want to include sales copy presenting the anguish a parent goes through when their child is kidnapped, for example. If your book is about choosing an adult care community for an aging parent, you would use the fear of loss to include how important it is to have 24-hour nurses on-location.

Fear of Illness of a Family Member

An offshoot of Loss of People in Our Lives, illness of a family member is another cause of fear. Talk to anyone who's experienced a complete sacrifice of their own priorities to be at a loved one's bedside for a few months or years and you will hear stories of heroic patience, love and stamina.

Tip: One of the greatest components of copywriting includes understanding and sympathy. Demonstrate through your words how understanding you are the complex emotions present during a family member's illness.

Fear of Change of schedule

You might be starting to see how one of these fears connects to the next. Change of schedule falls right in line with that progression. If you do experience any or all of the fears outlined above, your daily schedule is sure to change. We humans hate when outside factors force our routines to change. You can use that to your best advantage in book copywriting.

Tip: Assure your reading audience that incorporating your method described in the book provides a solution that can be implemented while the rest of their life continues.

Fear of Change of Lifestyle

If you are forced (or choose) to change your daily schedule, a good chance exists for your entire lifestyle to change eventually. If such a change is not desired, change of lifestyle is a negative result. However, one of the greatest techniques in copywriting is to paint a verbal picture of what life will be like with a positive change of lifestyle as a result of the buyer purchasing your book, course, product, service.

Tip: Paint a positive picture of what lifestyle a person can have if they buy your product.

Fear of Discomfort

Short of a change of schedule and far behind a change in lifestyle is the fear of discomfort. Think of poison ivy. If you get it, it itches sometimes for days! How annoying! What a discomfort! Will poison ivy change your daily schedule? Maybe for the short term until those blotches disappear from your face. But, after a week or so, you'll be back to normal in most cases. Still, when people see poison ivy while on a hike, it's a funny to watch them freak out a bit and move to the other side of the path so they don't contract poison ivy! Why? Because they are afraid of the potential discomfort that might be experienced if they touch it.

Tip: Talk to peoples' discomforts in your copywriting words.

Fear of Having No Purpose

I touched on this one earlier in the fear of death and poverty sub-head, but it's worth covering it as its own item. If you lose your job, or close your business, quit college, or even end a marriage, you could suddenly find yourself feeling like you have no purpose to get up in the morning. This is a big fear people have. A cousin of fear of no purpose is the fear of being a burden to people you love. The strong father figure, for example, who suddenly has a stroke and is limited to being bedridden for the rest of his life.

Tip: Part of copywriting to offset peoples' fears of having no purpose is to paint a picture of the opposite. "Read this book and find purpose in your life again!"

Fear of Loss of Data

A more recent fear to add to the list of fears we have in 2019 is a fear of data loss. Think of all of those family pictures and videos you've stored carefully on your external hard drive. What happens when a power surge hits your home and knocks out your external hard drive? You guessed it. No more family pictures and video. And, your friends will say "I told ya so," as they say again how you should have sent computer backups to the cloud.

Tip: Assure people in your copywriting that if they buy, and a natural disaster occurs, they will still be able to get the files they purchased because you have taken appropriate precautions for them.

Fear of Chaos

This one is a little out of the box. I call it the fear of chaos. This fear can range from your daughter's room being so messy that you call it chaos to battling in the streets to survive. Chaos covers a lot of ground.

Tip: Describe in your sales copywriting what life will be like for the reader if they do not buy your book right this very moment.

Fear of Being Singled Out for Physical or Emotional Attack

The last fear I'd like to suggest is one where you are singled out. A 6th grader can be singled out by a group of bullies just as easily as a mommy blogger can be targeted for stressing her Christian views to her subscriber audience. But, a parent or aunt/uncle can be just as insulting by telling you whatever you try will never work.

Tip: Give your readers ammunition so when they implement your suggested method, you can help them be reassured that they will not need to tolerate being singled out and give in to ridicule.

Fear of Uncertainty

Just like fear of poor health kicked-off this list, fear of uncertainty is a good one to use to sum up all of the other fears. Every fear leads to fear of what might happen in the future. How bad will things get anyway if our fears go unchallenged and unregulated? Some people thrive on uncertainty because it adds to their adventure into the unknown. Most people prefer events in their lives to be predicted. This desire for prediction, avoidance of fear, and especially acquiring solutions to their fears is what fuels the need for hope.

Tip: Use your words to sell hope for a brighter future; a path to possible certainty.

What to do Next with These Categories of Fear

One, some, or all of these definitions of fear can impact your potential readers' decision to buy your book. Sales copywriting is a science of knowing in advance what your potential buyers are thinking when they read your sales copy and counteracting those fears with your solution. Use these fears to walk your potential buyer through the steps of realizing you have all of your bases covered and that it's safe to buy your product. Here is a short list of steps for you to consider when writing sales copy for your book using these fear categories:

  1. Create a full list of 15 or more one-liners to describe the fears people have before they decide to even start looking for your book.
  2. For each one-liner, write a one-liner sentence to describe how your solution described in the book counteracts each fear.
  3. Build your benefits list from your positive one-liners.

One of the most important components of any written sales piece is the list of benefits. Creating your benefits list from emotions stemming from fear will demonstrate to your readers just how in tune you are with their fears and situations. Sharing in this mutual understanding of fears related to the topic is your first step toward earning the readers' trust. And, trust is what inspires people the most to take the next step to buy.

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