If you write a book, it’s natural to want to promote it, right?
As an introverted writer—who for many years misdiagnosed herself as an extrovert because she was outgoing—I can say, without a doubt: no, it’s not natural.
While it might be natural for the extroverted writer, it is anything but natural for the introverted writer when promotion means constant extension of that writer’s self into the world.
Of course, this is a serious problem. No promotion, no discovery. No discovery, no sales. No sales, no impact.
And impact is often what first drives us to write. We want to share a story or a secret that will change people’s lives, entertain them, or give them vision and hope. What a conundrum!
Hope for the introverted writer
There’s a very important distinction tucked into what I’ve said so far, and that is found in the word “when,” as in “when promotion means constant extension…”
This distinction is especially critical for the writer who wants to launch not just one book but multiple books over time. Successive launches make the long haul feel very long indeed. And they make the haul feel like just that: a constant carrying, a burden you simply can’t put down if you want your work to make its way.
Now, unless you are Harper Lee, you are probably going to launch more than one book during your career. In that case, for you, the introvert, I’m sharing six ways to keep your head above water not just for your first book, but also for the long haul.
Here’s the key: each of these ways represents mindsets and methods that mean less constant extension of the self, with an emphasis on things that feel small-scale and limited-time. And remember, just because something feels small-scale and limited-time, doesn’t mean its impact is tiny and timebound.
1. Keep the focus on others
As a new author (ten titles ago), I followed the crowd and focused primarily on my own book and my personal platform. I started a blog that took endless hours to maintain, I entered the social media scene, I spoke at large venues (some upwards of 1,300 people). I knocked myself out, and eventually felt exactly that: knocked out.
In the past few years I’ve come to recognize that my approach was anti-introvert and often anti-me. Some of that work can now be considered important dues paying, but much of it has actually become grist to consider a gentler way for introverts to launch their books.
The first launch principle is to keep the focus on others. For me, that means:
- No launch team. Launch teams are often charged with what feels like thinly veiled “look at me!” messages from the author. This can be okay if the author is good with it and the message is creative, but I’ve personally opted out on this, because it goes against my introvert grain. So, if you’re an introvert, consider skipping the launch team.
- No professional publicist. About five books ago, I hired a publicist. She came highly recommended, but ultimately I had to “sell” my work to her in ways that I now realize were not compatible with my introverted self. While she did her job in a professional and timely manner, the process was not enjoyable, and the outcomes were minimal. Bottom line: if you decide to hire a professional publicist, consider how hard you’ll have to sell your work to them and whether the two of you are really a fit.
- Hire a publicity assistant. If you have connections, and really, if you’re publishing a book, you should have already taken the time to develop some solid connections, then you might be able to hire a publicity assistant instead of a professional publicist. After all, one of the big things a publicist should offer is connections, and if you’ve got them, why pay $5,000+ for someone else’s. I’m doing this for my latest title, The Golden Dress, and I’ve chosen an assistant who loves my work and was one of the first to purchase the title—no “selling” to do here; she gets me, she gets my writing. We plan to have fun together, as she’ll be the bold one to make constant contact, and I’ll enjoy giving her a paid means to exercise her personality and skills. If the idea of making constant contact with multitudes for even a few months makes you shiver, too, go smaller and work with an assistant whose personality and camaraderie you’ll enjoy.
- Content marketing (even at someone else’s place). Writing evergreen book-related material is a great way to connect people with your title while giving them something else in the bargain. The content lives on long after you provide it, connecting more and more people with your book over time. For example, to connect people to The Golden Dress, I wrote 10 Terrific Little Red Riding Hood Tales (at Tweetspeak) and A Magical Summer Reading List (at Edutopia). While content marketing is generally understood as something you do at your own place, for the introvert it can be more satisfying to put the focus on others by writing for their sites instead. As an added benefit, you reach audiences that go beyond your own space.
- Promote someone besides yourself. This may be easier with titles where you have a partner. For instance, I have a lot more energy when it comes to promoting my collaborators like Gail Nadeau, Donna Z. Falcone, and LW Lindquist—all illustrators whose work either makes me smile or takes my breath away. Still, with a little creativity, you can find ways to promote those who inspired you to the work or who can benefit from the work. It’s not that all this promotion will result in sales, but you’ll feel happier overall, which will give you important staying power.
2. Make art (and encourage art making)
When you first wrote your book, it probably felt like you were making art (at least that’s how book-making feels to me).
If you have a little design flair, or a friend who can lend a hand, I highly recommend continuing in the spirit of art-making by creating a few fun products at a provider like Zazzle.
These products will mostly sell to your die-hard fans, but you’ll receive a small amount of extra cash while launching your book with accompaniments that will outlast the launch date. Also, you can affordably acquire some swag for yourself in a way that creates seamless conversation pieces at work or on-the-go. (I carry my A Is for Azure tote everywhere. It’s beautiful and functional, and it makes me happy.)
Additionally, do you know anyone artistic who might enjoy extending or interpreting the themes in your book? Art is energy. And art is joy. Personally, I encourage all types of artistic responses, especially ones that I don’t have the skills or vision to create myself, like these videos from my daughters (and yes, daughter-the-second will do videos for hire, if you are in need of a trailer for your book).
3. Think beyond sales
As I noted in the opening of this article, “No sales, no impact.” And, while it makes a good general point, it’s not altogether accurate. There is impact to be made by taking the approaches above: focusing on others and art-making. There is also impact to be made by simply giving your books away—and not only to achieve sales.
While a sustainable career will eventually need to rely partly on sales (unless you are professionally set due to lifestyle or other forms of support), sustainability is also about the soul, which, for many of us, means feeling a sense of purpose and impact. Giving your books away will ensure they get into the hands of at least some fans, across a base you might not otherwise reach.
Unfortunately, for the introvert, formal giveaways can feel like another round of “me-me-me.” That’s why I’ve shied from them in the past. However, with a modest budget (under $1,000), you can enlist an entity like Goodreads to do the shoutouts on your behalf (here’s what they’re doing for me).
The extra advantage of Goodreads is that you’re reaching a reading community, as opposed to a more general audience that may or may not spend their precious dollars on books.
4. Use automated services
One of the current prime directives for authors is to offer a newsletter and use it to market their books to readers. Besides adding carrying costs, this model requires a constancy that spells “overwhelm” for the introverted author. If you’re like me, this will mean you won’t do the required newsletter marketing, because, again, it feels too “me-me-me.” Eventually, you’ll end up paying dearly to carry a big list, with little return in book sales.
What’s your alternative? Try using automated services that allow you to design once, then them let roll. My services of choice, through MailChimp, are Google ads and the creation of education series. The most effective Google ads lead potential readers to your education series. Your education series will communicate multiple times with the reader, in a way that leaves you out of the constancy picture and gives them something that invites and intrigues. While this doesn’t always lead to book sales (though it certainly sells more books than non-existent newsletter marketing), it definitely creates impact, as people engage in their own creative acts in conversation with your work.
5. Stretch just a little
I like to think of a book launch as something that actually happens again and again—kind of like batting a balloon into the air then keeping it airborne with small taps over time. In fact, the author who treats the book launch like one big helium balloon marked “Buy my book now!” is almost sure to find that balloon deflated in the next canyon over, sometimes within mere months.
The problem for the introvert, yet again, is that a million taps over time leaves us feeling tapped. This is especially hard when the taps are happening via live gigs that require us to interact with crowds.
For me, that means I now forego making live appearances (though I might be really tempted to attend a golden dress ball, and wear this dreamy number, minus the prom date, should anyone wish to plan the event).
As an alternative to live appearances—with the benefit that I can immediately retreat and recover in solitude afterwards—I make time for select live audio and print interviews, like these at Joy on Paper and Shelf Awareness.
Whatever it is that tires your introverted self out, I suggest you avoid it for the most part, but do choose to stretch yourself a bit at intervals—as a way to keep the book balloon in the air. The freshness of these intermittent experiences will create a bit of power, and that power contains a vitality that can be appealing to potential readers.
6. Decompress daily
The Internet is a constant place, filled with hype and, sometimes, hopelessness. This is damaging for many people, and it’s quite likely even more problematic for introverts.
Still, the current call to authors is to engage via social media, constantly.
Since I take the long view of my writing career—and that means I’ve got to keep whole and sane—I’ve lately chosen to refrain. I’m not doing Facebook groups. I’m rarely on Twitter. And Instagram has yet to convince me of its allure (despite that I do understand how if you put yourself out there night and day, you can become a celebrity writer of sorts).
For a long time, I did play the Internet constancy game. But it wasn’t sustainable for my introverted heart and soul. I now decompress daily, removing myself from technology, by sitting outside with a cup of tea and gazing off into the green. I take the kinds of approaches presented in this post. If you’re an introverted author, you might give yourself permission to do the same.
L.L. Barkat has served as a books, parenting, and education contributor at The Huffington Post blog; is a freelance writer for Edutopia; and is the author of six books for grown-ups. She’s also the author of a magical fairy tale, The Golden Dress, and the beautiful A Is for Azure: The Alphabet in Colors. Her poetry has appeared at VQR, The Best American Poetry, and on NPR.