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 . . .