A Promotional Strategy for Overwhelmed Introverts

photo by Flickr's alice popkorn
photo by Flickr’s alice popkorn

One of the things I fear most with all the publishing and promotional advice zipping around the cybersphere is that some people—quiet people who have something really important or compelling to say—will look at all that is ‘required’ of them to get published or to promote their books and they will become so discouraged they never even give themselves a chance.

The thing is, I know that many quiet people have amazing stories to tell, their very quietness contributing to their heightened sense of observation, or their rich inner life feeding their understanding of human nature or providing fertile ground for some really dramatic stories—stories that may be exactly the sort I am starving for.

I’m afraid these people will take one look at the suggestion that one must have 10,000 followers on Twitter or 5,000 Facebook friends and throw up their hands in despair and assume there is no way that they can create enough noise to break through that barrier—that there is no way their stories can break through that barrier.

I reject a world where the only stories that get heard are those told by loud, flashy people or those who have a sales or entrepreneurial skill set and are willing to use it set at full volume in order to get their books in front of readers. Sometimes the very skills that allow a person to tell the stories we most need to hear are the same skills that preclude them from ever being able to do those things.

So I would like to remind all those quiet, introverted writers out there that there is not only one path to successful publication and that not all quiet people will finish last. The quiet road may be harder or take longer, but rest assured, there is a road.

A Promotional Strategy for Overwhelmed Introverts

1) Write an amazing book.

This is the absolute cornerstone of your success. Luckily, it is also the part that writers often have the most control over. Study and hone your craft. Experiment. Stretch yourself and your comfort zone. Put in your 10,000 hours or million sh!tty words, whatever it takes to write a book that says something about life or the human condition or humanity that we are all hungry to hear. Write a book that shows us the vivid world that lives inside your deceptively quiet head, or leaves us breathless with your insight. Write that book—the one that terrifies you because you will need to put so very much of your quiet self on that page. Write the book that terrifies you because you are not sure you have the writing chops to pull it off—give yourself permission to take the time to acquire those writing chops, preferably during the writing of that book.

If you write a truly amazing book, it has a much better chance of getting an enormous amount of publisher support so that they will end up doing 80% of the promotional work, things the average author simply does not have in their arsenal. So first, do that.

2) Connect one reader at a time.

If you are a quiet, introverted person, there is a good chance that the idea of going out and flagging down potential readers and pitching yourself and your work to them makes you want to curl up in a fetal position for the next five days. (No? That’s just me? Really?)

But there is also a good chance that you actually enjoy connecting with people, if  only a few at a time or one on one. In this way, the internet is your friend, allowing us authors to connect with our readers one on one, whether on FB, Twitter, Tumblr, our blogs, or simply through email. So use that ability to form meaningful connections with your readers once they have contacted you. The vast majority of fiction writers acquire their followings this way.

A good strategy to keep this manageable is to pick one thing—Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook or whatever, then do it often and do it well rather than spreading your limited social energy across several platforms. The good news is that there are simply so many platforms to choose from, you should be able to find one that fits at least somewhat comfortably with your stylistic and communication preferences.

3) Find a Way To Be Part of the Conversation—Any Conversation

As introverts, we are often quietly passionate about many things, so identify one of those things and use that to become a part of a larger, ongoing conversation. It can be totally inside your comfort zone—writing, libraries, books, literacy, education reform, folktales, ancient civilizations, the role of science fiction in modern society, any little thing that you feel the most comfortable speaking about. Notice I didn’t say comfortable, but the most comfortable. At first, set small goals for yourself. Say one thing in a forum or on Twitter a week. Think small, baby steps. Eventually you will get acclimated to the exposure and comfortable with the framework. The important thing is to give yourself enough time to get truly proficient at this. It is often easy to mistake our discomfort with the new and unfamiliar as not liking to do it, so make sure you’re not making that mistake.

4) It’s Cumulative

There are lots of successful authors who only have a modest online following, but over time, a three year career, a ten year career, it adds up. Or maybe you connect with only a few other people, but you do so in such an authentic way that they in turn become your advocates, helping to spread the word to others. Or maybe only one Really Important Person hears about your book, and hands it to someone else. Or librarians champion it, or bored housewives or kids on the school playground talk amongst themselves. You don’t have to generate or connect with every reader who will read your book. It’s the upside to chaos theory and the butterfly effect—small, seemingly insignificant actions often equal far more than merely the sum of their parts.

5) Write An Amazing Book

Can you tell I’m dead serious about this one? This should be the majority of your focus and energies. Spend maybe 10% of your time finding some sort of conversation you’d like to be a part of, then be a part of it, then spend all the rest of your time writing that amazing book.

There are lots of us who can’t wait to hear what you have to say . . .

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About Robin LaFevers

Robin LaFevers is the author of fourteen books for young readers, including the Theodosia and Nathaniel Fludd series. Her most recent book, GRAVE MERCY, is a young adult romance about assassin nuns in medieval France. A lifelong introvert, she currently lives on a blissfully quiet hill in Southern California.

Comments

    • says

      Those things still make me nervous, Natalie, and I’ve been doing them for ten years!

      So glad you found the suggest steps manageable! (And I’m thrilled you enjoyed Grave Mercy! Thank you!)
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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      • says

        Dear Robin, Thank you for your realistic and encouraging attitude. In June I self published “The Woman in the Photograph” a memoir about my 20-year search to uncover my mother’s hidden past and how it changed me. I am not an introvert, but I am also not a modern day social media kinda gal. Your suggestions for personal relationships are really opening new doors for me. I did speak at several local bookstores and a second hand dress boutique, but I also give postcards to waitresses when I have coffee, to people I meet at the gym and offer to come to local book clubs or answer questions via Skype. If the book catches someone’s interest, they do tell their friends and several people have given it to their mother’s and written me wonderful email responses.

        Every person, every handshake, every hug counts. My book is doing better on Amazon each month and in the Spring I plan to have a table at my local farmers market. It’s work but I am finding the fun too. I do miss writing but each activity has its season.

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  1. says

    Thank you for this, Robin. So much of the social media advice seems to forget that introverts have a hard time with this. I sort of fell into limiting myself just to a blog and Twitter. One of the hardest things for me on Twitter is having the “cocktail conversation” — so I’ve had to work myself slowly into it one tweet at a time.

    One other thing I’ve learned is to get away from the writers. It’s very hard having a conversation with other writers when a lot of them are simply sending link after link after link. Liberally use lists to pick people you can have conversations with. Otherwise, it becomes like a crowded part, and then I get overwhelmed.
    Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller´s last blog post ..Seriously, are meals in the military as bad as MASH portrayed them?

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    • says

      That cocktail party aspect of Twitter can be hard for me, too, so I give myself permission to use it the way *I* want to–which is definitely not like a cocktail party. I would rather have my teeth cleaned that go to one of those.

      And yes, being overly involved with the writing/publishing conversation can end up feeling like an echo chamber or a ales pitch. I haven’t made good use of lists yet, but clearly I need to do that. Thanks for the reminder.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  2. says

    “Write an amazing book.”

    Maybe it’s assumed to the point of ‘it goes without saying,’ but I’ve seen so many people skip over this point in favor of the ‘have a platform’ as #1 in the strategy of how to build a career writing fiction. Thank you for reiterating that writing a great book is and should always be your top priority in all of this.

    I’ll also add this: given the workings of the internet, it’s much easier to participate in the discussion and still shield yourself from others. In theory, that should help when it comes to getting involved.

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    • says

      I agree on both points, jeffo! I can’t tell you how many new writers approach me with a gazillion questions about how to best market their books–books they haven’t even written yet, let alone spent years honing their craft.

      And I truly believe the INTernet is an INTrovert’s best friend. :-)
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  3. says

    I spent years as a consultant using the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) in team and leadership development. One of my highest scores is Introversion. Somehow through jobs I’ve had, including consulting, teaching and running an office, I learned to move beyond my introversion. But it always helped to 1) be confident in what I was doing– be the expert (as you emphasized, write a great book) and 2) be able to plan, as much as I could, my presentation.

    Blogs and FB and Twitter can actually be great platforms for introverts– we’re safe behind the screen, we can use the backspace key if needed and think about how we want to communicate. For me, it’s that darn verbal on-the-fly stuff that does me in. Go Is!
    Julie´s last blog post ..The Christmas Wish List for Writers

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    • says

      Yes! No matter how introverted we are, we can also function well and professionally in our chosen fields.

      And it’s funny, I often spend more agonizing moments composing my 140 character tweets than I do my daily writing quota. :-)
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  4. says

    The biggest adjustment that worked for me was to stop worrying about the specific individual checklists and focus on my daily process:

    1. write
    2. promote
    3. write
    4. review

    As long as this is done daily then I know I’m moving in the right direction.

    Thoughts like feeling overwhelmed come in whenever I deviate from what I know I should be doing.

    Good post thanks for sharing.
    Jacko´s last blog post ..A Back Linking Strategy That Really Works – (RE: UAW Pt.2)

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  5. says

    Great post, Robin! Sometimes I get nervous thinking about all the “musts” and “have tos” surrounding marketing and promotion, but then I remind myself – and I’m bookmarking this post to add to my arsenal! – it all comes back to the book, to writing the best book I can. It’s like the seed all the rest of it will grow from.

    I’ve got GRAVE MERCY at the top of my TBR pile! :)
    Madeline Mora-Summonte´s last blog post ..Shifting Gears

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    • says

      Oh good! I’m so glad this helps you shut out some of the incessant noise that can become so overwhelming! That’s precisely what I was hoping it would do.

      And I hope you enjoy Grave Mercy! (Of course, I am wildy grateful for every single reader, but I also hope no one ever feels obligated to read my books because they read my posts here. This is simply a conversation I enjoy being a part of.)
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  6. says

    The gift I gave myself was to hop off the never-ending treadmill where I ran and ran and ran and ran and ran but never seemed to find the destination that was “the end” – because there is “no end” — it’s always the next thing, and forever more will be ‘the next thing’ – for I’m one of those introverts who is also very competitive, even with myself!

    The best I have to give is my words, and the rest is left up to hope and chance I guess!

    Nice post . . . thank you
    kathryn Magendie´s last blog post ..Oprah says, “Don’t Be Attached to the Outcome . . . .” AHA! What about you and your “Goals?” . . .

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  7. says

    I consider myself an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. As such, I thank you so much for this post. I do enjoy developing relationships with others through blogs and social media. I will continue to focus on writing the best book I can and building relationships a handful at a time.
    Reese Ryan´s last blog post ..The Next Big Thing: Too Good to Be True

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    • CVBrown says

      Reese, I loved your comment about being an introvert masquerading as an extrovert–I think I’m in that category, too. I’m frightened to death by social media and haven’t really ventured into that uncharted territory yet. The idea of being “less private” is the part I don’t like. I’ve never been shy about sharing my opinions socially, to the chagrin of my friends, I’m sure. But putting myself “out there” where the printed word is there for life is daunting. Anyway, nice to have found a kindred spirit. Cheers.

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  8. says

    I love this, Robin. I’d add that doing things with a group can help take the edge off. We had a group book signing last night at a local mall and having three authors there is a lot less scary than doing it all by yourself- including promoting it! And with our unique location, we got some press of it, which was nice.
    http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-17135-a-novel-idea.html
    Malena Lott´s last blog post ..Next Big Thing Part 2: Hope Floats

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    • says

      Malena, I heartily agree that group events are a godsend for introverts! Not only does it take the pressure off, but we are also free to rave about other people’s books, which is often a more comfortable place to operate from. Plus, it often carries more weight. :-)
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  9. says

    Thank you, Robin, for suggesting a balance that makes sense. I’m not an introvert, but golly I’m intimidated by the demands of social media. I’d love to connect with everyone in person, but it just isn’t possible. I hope the ripples spread from every conversation and contact.

    And yes, I agree with Malena, book signings with multiple authors are less scary and a lot more fun!!

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  10. Denise Willson says

    Just what this Friday calls for, Robin, a comfy, cozy post. The world needs all kinds. :)

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth

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  11. says

    Robin, thank you, thank you, thank you! I, too, am one of those introverts overwhelmed and exhausted by a supposed “requirement” to be extroverted in the online world. I also have struggled with social anxiety for years, which makes the whole get-out-into-the-world thing difficult. Twitter makes it a bit easier (and surprisingly fun), but it will take me a while to find my footing. Thanks for reaffirming that my quietness is not an Achilles heel but my unique way of interacting with the world… that I am on the right track. Bookmarked, indeed!
    Jillian Boston´s last blog post ..AIL Day 93: congeries

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    • says

      I wish I could convey to you just how much you are NOT alone in this. A couple of the most successful recent debuts struggle with similar issues and have been pretty open about it on their blog.

      So happy the post was able to help you reaffirm that your quietness is a source of strength rather than an anchor.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  12. says

    I agree completely that it’s all, or nearly all, about the book. Butchers sell a lot more steak than tripe. In this transition time in publishing we’re living through it’s still the quality of the book that will drive sales… as in getting recognized by an agent and promoted by a publisher. Finding an audience for an indie published work ultimately works only if the book is any good. For we introverts (the painful memory of a recent reading before a writer’s group still oozing angst) building a platform (gosh I hate that term) can be done rather anonymously I think. But in the end the path you open only means anything if the book was worth the trip. Or so I think.

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    • says

      “Butchers sell a lot more steak than tripe.”

      Ha! Love this.

      And this, this belongs on a t-shirt or coffee mug.

      “But in the end the path you open only means anything if the book was worth the trip.”
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  13. says

    Great post. Puts the whole process in prospective. I feel encouraged and affirmed by your gentleness yet forthrightness in nudging us onward. Thank you!

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  14. says

    So agree with Denise above, that this is such a great Friday comfort post. You and your career are comforting to me, Robin. I watch Grave Mercy’s ascent and know your #1 strategy point is so true. The amazing book is the all-important starting point (and GM is amazing).

    Regarding numbers 2 & 3, I can also see that these are true. Whatever platform (for lack of a better word) I’ve managed to build started right in this box I’m typing in at this very moment. Before I had 20 friends on facebook (none of them writing world related), or a Twitter profile, or a website or blog, I started reading and commenting on WU. Mine is not a very tall platform yet, but it’s built on a solid foundation of blocks cut from sturdy WU stone. Regarding numbers 4 & 5, I’m in this for the long haul. I’m too damn stubborn to quit.

    Thanks for the awesome reminders. You are such an inspiration!
    Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Sailing Through a Critique–Redirect to Christi Craig’s Writing Under Pressure

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    • says

      Thanks Vaughn, for your very kind words about Grave Mercy.

      And you are a PERFECT example of finding a place where you are comfortable and becoming an integral part of that conversation. You have forged some lasting and meaningful relationships through your work here on WU and I know you will have lots of people rooting for you when your time comes. (And it WILL come, your long haul focus and sheer determination will see to that. )
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  15. says

    What a relief! I’m not introverted, but I get a headache just thinking about all the “things” I’m not doing online in any given moment. Your suggestions are what I’ve been doing and hoping that those small genuine moments were as worthwhile as they feel to me. I hear people saying things like 5000 followers and I feel like a disaster! Thanks for the reassurance that real conversations and connections are indeed a valuable asset to a writer’s career.
    Judith Starkston´s last blog post ..Story Anthology Named One of Best Books of 2012

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    • says

      Me, too! But I know so many fiction authors who don’t have those kind of follower numbers, yet have respectable sales numbers and keep getting contracts for their next books.

      And I know so many authors who have that many followers and more, whose overall sales don’t even come close to matching their follower numbers. There just isn’t always a corollary.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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    • says

      I agree. I wonder if one of the reasons for that is that for some people, gaining followers, friending people, creating a big following, are fairly quantifiable and cut and dried and simply easier for them to wrestle with than the more nebulous aspects of improving their craft?

      There are so many blogs out there that tell you how to build huge followings by playing numbers and reciprocity games, there is a definite process to it, a process you can cross off your checklist, whereas mastering POV or taking risks in your writing is a much longer-term, more tenuously recognized accomplishment.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  16. says

    I think that writing is like anything else. If you enjoy doing it and get satisfaction from it, then you should keep at it. But, if you are doing it because you think it will be an easy way to make money, then you will have a long, hard road.

    I’m not making any money with my writing, but I’m having a blast! I look forward to the quiet times where I can sit and write my thoughts down.

    As long as I’m having fun, I’ll keep at it!
    Jim
    Jim Liston´s last blog post ..The Robot

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  17. Leila Wilson says

    Thank you Robin for this absorbing post. A post I might add that is the first one from the many I have read over the last year to really give me hope. I had become more and more overwhelmed by the mountain of advice handed out (sometimed quite conflicting advice too) about how to succeed with writing….plot, character, scene setting, editing, the various platforms…. and then of course how to publish.

    I had more or less given up the idea of ever getting anywhere further than the poetry and short stories snd lots of autobiograhical writings about many subjects. How could I, a pensioner….. ever reach any higher than this level!

    You have given me hope that I might write that book that has ever been in my heart to write. Thank you again for your wise words.

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    • says

      “You have given me hope that I might write that book that has ever been in my heart to write. Thank you again for your wise words.”

      Oh Leila, I can’t tell you how happy I am that this has helped. It is so satisfying to know that my words gave hope to exactly the sort of person I was trying to reach.

      Best of luck to you on your quiet quest.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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    • says

      “if you only shake stories out of your sleeve halfheartedly.”

      Ha! What a terrific visual. And yes, if your writing is simply the product you wish to push through your marketing machine then I can’t help but think there’s a product better out there for your needs.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  18. Leslie R. says

    “the idea of going out and flagging down potential readers and pitching yourself and your work to them makes you want to curl up in a fetal position for the next five days” – ha! No, definitely not just you.

    Thank you, as always, for a wonderful post. All of this online stuff we’re “supposed” to be doing (I must say, twitter is still something of a mystery to me) can be very overwhelming at times. Your words give me hope that even as a person who prefers small groups and lots of quiet time, I can still handle this whole book business thing.

    Now back to the writing!

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    • says

      You can! I know you can, because if *I* can do it, anyone can.

      The other thing it helps to keep in mind is that a large portion of avid readers are also introverts–so the things that speak to you will very often speak to a large number of them.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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    • says

      “The person at the other end of any communication is a person, not just a receiver for your message.”

      A resounding YES. It seems like that is so often forgotten in the quest for big followings.
      Robin´s last blog post ..Ismae’s Christmas List

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  19. says

    Another wonderful post, Robin! I love how you managed to shine a gentle and encouraging light over those seeking the quiet of dim corners. Too often this world tries to paint everyone with the same generic brush strokes when what we need is dimension and color.

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  20. says

    “Too often this world tries to paint everyone with the same generic brush strokes when what we need is dimension and color.”

    Exactly! Let’s embrace our differences and our different approaches to things because they make life more richly textured and interesting.

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  21. says

    A lovely post that gives hope and concentrates the mind on the central point – write the book. Self-promotion scares me and is the biggest thing I struggle with.

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  22. says

    What an excellent post! Great advice. I found this inspiring. So often I feel as though I’m not making a dent in building a platform. This gives me hope and motivation to keep plugging away.

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  23. says

    Thank you for such an encouraging and insightful post. I’m naturally shy, and I’m gathering courage to promote myself, but the thought of a “must-have” 10,000+ Twitter and Facebook followers and the same for Blog commenters seems over-whelming for someone who’s trying to get their first novels published AND get noticed. I totally understand the reasoning behind these ideas, but it’s sure hard to get started!

    I definitely take note of posts #1 and #5 – that’s my first aim while trying to develop the rest.

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  24. says

    Thank you from one of those quiet people. Next year I will be struggling with promoting my own books and your posting was very helpful.

    This time last year I wouldn’t have even posted a response. I think I’m climbing out of my personal pit of despair. ;)

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  25. says

    What a wonderful post to wake up to this morning. Along with thousands of other authors, I feel overwhelmed with what I’m told I “should” be doing to get myself known so people will buy my books. I’d like to crawl into a fetal position in the corner. But, I’m taking small steps as you suggested and trying to write the best books I can. Thank you SO much for validating ideas for us “introverted” entrepreneurs.
    Patti
    Patricia Yager Delagrange´s last blog post ..Interview With Author Clarissa Johal

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  26. says

    What a reassuring post. I especially appreciate #3, finding a way to be part of the conversation in a comfortable way. The road to publication is long and the only way to reach the end with as little turmoil as possible, is by staying TRUE to ourselves. From the story we choose to the way we promote the end product writers must be themselves. Thanks for the reminder, Robin.
    Jocosa Wade´s last blog post ..GOOD-BYE, MR. CHIPS by James Hilton

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  27. says

    I have always wanted to write, but didn’t until later in life when I wrote my first novel aged 44. One aspect of being an author that I wasn’t prepared for the self promotion. I have a public speaking phobia and while it isn’t quite the same thing as being introverted, the thought of doing author talks and the like fills me with terror.
    I think all of us who choose to write, are also choosing to spend a lot of time alone with our own thoughts, and that probably makes most writers introverts to some degree.
    Thanks for your advice – I am trying the internet route. Meanwhile I’ll keep looking for a good public speaking coach!
    Suzanne
    SJ Main´s last blog post ..What’s the Big Idea?

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  28. says

    Excellent post, thank you. You are a thousand times awesome, and Grave Mercy is the best YA of the year.

    Hm.. Not that I started out this way (it took time), but I actually do have over 5,000 FB friends and over 10,000 Twitter followers and am in no way loud or flashy. I think we met when I was hiding in a dark corner at a party.

    So, maybe I can speak to that juxtaposition, odd duck that I am.

    My theory is this:

    If you burrow into your most genuine and heartfelt passions, it’s so much easier to connect with all kinds of people. The Web doesn’t require witty banter or three hundred dollar shoes.

    But if you listen to your own heart, you can readily come up with something to say that is true to who you are right now.

    Most of what I share is about other people, but that’s okay. I can say, “Robin wrote this amazing post for overwhelmed introverts; why don’t you go read it?”

    It doesn’t cost me anything, and it makes me happy that I’m connecting people like me to someone who cares and understands.

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    • CVBrown says

      What a genuine, heartfelt sentiment, Cynthia. I enjoyed reading your post and you’ve given me a gentle nudge closer to coming to grips with social media and the demands placed on today’s writers.

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  29. CVBrown says

    So enjoy reading these posts. I’ve yet to venture into Facebook/Twitter world; I’ve been traditionally published, and came close to having another book accepted but–no platform. That hurt. In today’s world, it seems a good book just isn’t enough (but a sensational/racy/one, telling of a debauched life, written by an instant celebrity, is). I’m struck dumb by the numbers game in terms of followers and friends, as though we’re in some kind of contest. Is that why any of us do what we do? The New Year will be a time to cast intimidating and overwhelmed feelings aside and jump into the fray (but right now, my list of things to do to build platform is daunting!) Fingers crossed, everyone, and good luck to all.

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  30. says

    This is so me! I’ve been wanting to curl up in a fetal ball position but still try to do my social media thing day in day out, without splashing my crazy thoughts that people really don’t need to hear. ha!

    Thanks for this post. Now I can go back into my cave and scratch out my story. I’ll find a rhythm eventually.
    Jennette´s last blog post ..The Next Big Thing

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  31. says

    Thanks Robin for this encouraging post. I am also an introvert and as a writer I fear that being an introvert will create difficulties in building an audience or getting my work to be noticed. I definitely agree that writing an amazing book will ultimately determined long term success and I am glad to hear how you emphasized that. I used to think that building a platform by socializing (whether virtually or in person) was what really mattered.

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  32. says

    Robin, Great post.

    I am a stealth introvert. I push myself to do marketing etc. but really dislike it. I can market friends’ books anytime, but have a hard time with my own. I am learning to trust that if people want to publish my books, then they must be good and I can accept that gracefully. :)

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