Writing the Book is the Easy Part for Introverts
Once the book is written, the dreaded job of promoting it begins.
Posted January 11, 2011
Writing seems a perfect career for introverts, since it entails many hours alone in a quiet room. That's the fun part of the job. Easy, even. But once your book is published, the real work starts: Getting people to buy it.
The days of publishers spending big bucks on book promotion are long gone. Today, after you manage to sell the book to a publisher, you then have to sell it to readers. So people who have chosen the solitary life of the writer are forced not just to step into the spotlight, but to chase it down. Heck, you have to get your own spotlight, point it at yourself, and holler "LOOK AT ME!"
But an author's gotta do what an author's gotta do. What's it like? Here, from four introverted writers, is a mix of advice and fear and loathing. And yeah, this post helps them promote their books. Writers--and introverts--have to help each other out. Plus, I've read all four books and they're all great, so I'm happy to feature them here.
Ruth Pennebaker, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough--I'll tell you the fundamental difference between an introvert and an extrovert: The introvert couldn't sell anything if her life depended on it. I should know. I couldn't even sell Girl Scout cookies when I was a Brownie scout. The very thought of ringing a total stranger's doorbell, greeting him and urging him to buy something was a nightmare to me. No wonder I never became a real Girl Scout. I was already too traumatized.
Now, decades later, I've traded in my cookies for my own novel, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough. I'm now supposed to transform myself from my cringing, introverted self who spends most of her time alone, making faces at the computer - into a dazzling, relentless dynamo who will charm the world in person, in print, on radio and TV and convince them they can't live without her book.
I have a great solution: I'm thinking of hiring a stunt double who's younger and perkier and can sell, sell, sell. She'll be out, making the rounds, dazzling the universe. I'll be at home, writing. She might be able to sell anything, including Girl Scout cookies, I tell myself. But I'll bet she can't write.
Jean Fain, The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving Kindness--After spending two years in the self-imposed solitary confinement that is book writing, I fully expected to enjoy the social interaction of book promotion. Compared to writing The Self-Compassion Diet, I imagined promoting my first book would be like playing Scrabble--leisurely, pleasurable, occasionally exhilarating. I should have known better. I've helped countless clients through the bitter disillusionment that often accompanies sweet success. Not one weight-loss success lived quite as happily ever after as she'd expected. And yet, it never occurred to me that my fantasy would be so very different than reality.
The first week actually was a delightful change of pace, but, in retrospect, it wasn't much of a change. Writing press releases, coming up with story ideas, chatting on the phone, I was still in my comfort zone. When I realized that publicity requires talking on cue, smiling on camera, interacting with sizable groups... essentially acting like an extrovert, book promotion suddenly got less pleasurable, more stressful. So I hired a media coach and I'm glad I did. The training gave me greater confidence, ease and pithiness, but it didn't give me what I truly craved - the dependable comfort of my solitary confinement.
Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture--I went from monk to evangelist in one trip to the post office. I mailed in the final draft of my book, and suddenly I was no longer the solitary writer relishing hours at my desk; I had become the mingling, preaching book promoter in the spotlight of a large conference hall. So content in my introvert-soaked word just minutes earlier, I had been abruptly launched into the scary, extroverted world of "the proactive author," that half-introvert, half-extrovert dynamo who is all the buzz in the cash-strapped publishing world. Yet I resolved that I would never let fear speak or decide for me, and so when the radio stations called, I answered, and when the speaking invitations came, I gratefully accepted.
Admittedly, some of these forays into the extroverted were fun, like the few surreal times that I was "recognized" or the day I literally chased down one of my heroes in a hotel parking lot, breathing hard like a stalker, in order to get a book endorsement. Though I was of course gratified that people were interested in my work, each interview and speech made me feel a little separated from myself, almost disembodied, like someone else was doing the talking while I was watching.
Irene S. Levine, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend--There are two types of book promotion. I call the first "shameless in your face" promotion, which requires an author to put herself out there and connect with the public with talks, readings, bookstore signings. These all feel like popping in at a cocktail party and since I'm shy and introverted, this doesn't come easily. I once rented a table at a mall that was sponsoring a Girls' Night Out event--a perfect venue to sell a book about women. But I needed to seduce passers-by into stopping for a look at my book, and smiling and starting conversations is the only way to really connect with strangers. I tried, but at the end of the night, I had sold very few books and felt totally drained. I should have brought an extroverted friend to sit beside me.
I call the second kind of promotion "behind the screen." I'm much better at attracting readers through my blog and guest posts on other people's blogs. I enjoy that because I feel like I'm helping rather than selling. My book has garnered a fair amount of media attention, including print and online articles, radio, and even some TV, but I trembled at the thought of Oprah asking me to appear on her final show.
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