Exposing one's writing to the world is more terrifying than all the chainsaw massacre movies put together. Emily Dickinson said it: "How can you print a piece of your soul?" And yet, there is a compulsion in those of us who write to share that writing with others. We are tentative at first, but we can't resist handing that "piece of soul" to another person, hoping that he or she will say, "This is good." Often we're even okay with "This isn't too bad."
My first time story: I shared my novel with someone, handing it over with anticipation and dread. Fortunately, she said exactly what I needed to hear: "It's as good as anything I've read in the genre." Wow. "Thank you" isn't enough for a reader like that. You'd like to buy her the luxury car of her choice.
Another reader told me she sat in the same chair all one day because she didn't want to stop reading my manuscript. Wow again. These are the things that keep you going when the letters addressed to "Dear Author" keep showing up in the mailbox.
Putting your work out there is a little easier once you get a contract. If someone doesn't like your work, it's still a fact that someone else did, enough to invest in it. That's one reason I never considered self-pub. I needed to know my work impressed someone besides myself.
Once published, some authors become so confident that they're almost (maybe really) annoying. I don't feel that way. In fact when someone says, "I can't wait to buy your book," I'm still likely to say, "I really don't think it's your type of story." I know, I have to stop that. Honesty isn't the best policy in sales, but for me, confidence comes with a healthy does of realization that not everyone likes every author. It's enough for me to recall the image of that reader who couldn't get out of her chair until she found out how my story ended.