The Myth of the Extrovert
April 26, 2022 § 16 Comments
But what do you do if you’re an introvert?
I’ve been asked this question a lot, when I talk about book marketing and author platform.
You’re so positive and energetic about marketing your work to agents and publishers. But what about us introverts?
Well, what about you?
What should we do differently?
Not a damn thing.
There’s a persistent idea that introverts aren’t good at social media or outreach or dealing with rejection or talking about their book in public. But extroverts, well…it must all come naturally to them!
It does not.
I do not roll out of bed every morning thinking, Now I will fulfill my life’s passion of writing press releases! Nor do I joyfully open Facebook and cry, “I can’t wait to ask people to buy my book! Again!”
In high school, I was a swimmer. I wasn’t particularly fast, but nobody else swam the 1000-meter, so I usually won. I didn’t love swimming enough to work harder, to come in at 6AM for another hour of practice, to fine-tune my best stroke. But even if I had, even if I’d aimed for an Olympic medal, it wouldn’t be because I loved swimming laps. It would be because I love victory. Swimming laps at 6AM was the price of eventual victory, and for then-me, that price was too high.
As a writer, I don’t love doing social media or writing press releases. But I’ve learned enough about doing those things that they’re reasonably satisfying to do well, and there’s parts I genuinely enjoy. Every time I do one of those things, I am paying a little price for the victory of getting my book into the world. If making that happen means showing up on social media like it’s my part-time job, and experiencing constant low-level rejection like it’s my other part-time job, then that’s what I’m going to do. Those prices are worth paying.
As an introvert—and yes, I am one!—the core parts of my platform are what I do love: teaching, speaking, blogging, and consulting one-on-one with writers either live or online.
Do I like people?
But I love teaching people. I love seeing writers’ faces light up as they understand their own stories better. I love hearing when an author gets published and I’ve been a small part of their journey. Even when my platform-building activities are tiring, or one more thing on my list that day, those activities still feel good to do. And I’ve learned that for every weekend conference or week-long retreat where I care 100% about everyone I speak to, I also need a decompression week in an AirBnB by myself.
No-one effectively promotes a book or builds a platform on “being an extrovert.” Feeling energized in a group isn’t a solid marketing strategy. Instead, define your mission. How does your book fulfill that mission? Who are the people who need your work? What activities can you engage in to get your book to those people?
Maybe that’s social media. Maybe it’s public speaking. Maybe it’s writing literary essays or pitching mass-media essays. Maybe it’s speaking to support groups, guesting on podcasts or sending email newsletters. But you’re not doing these activities because you’re an extrovert and they just come naturally. They all require time and practice to be effective, and you’re doing them because they reach your readers. If you want to publish and sell books, it’s work you need to do.
But I’m shy.
Get out there slowly and do the work a little at a time. It will get easier.
But I hate social media.
Then pick other ways to do the work.
I have kids/dogs/caretaking obligations/no money/no MFA/no good role models.
Time, money, class and connection privileges definitely impact how much you can do and how far it reaches. But you’re still going to have to do the work. Please ask for help.
I’m worried about my privacy.
Doing the work means deciding what you choose to share. Nobody’s out there with a checklist waiting for you to flash your boobs (or bare your soul) on Instagram.
I just want to be a writer. I don’t want to do the work.
Are you fabulously wealthy?
Have you recently won a major literary prize?
You’re off the hook! Your publisher is doing the work.
I just made that up to see what you’d say.
Then guess what? Do the work.
Whether it’s marketing our books, attending a party or sweeping the floor, there is nothing we “have to” do. But there are plenty of things where we prefer the advantages of doing them to the consequences of not doing them. Marketing your book is a choice. You don’t have to do the work—unless you prefer to reach the people for whom you wrote your book. You won’t be able to do it all. But choose what best supports your mission, treat it like a part-time job, and practice until you’re better and faster at doing it. And as your work puts your words in the hands of people who need them…some of it you might even come to love.
Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor.
What is this mission of which you speak? How can I find the marketing work I’ll enjoy? How does this apply to a memoirist/novelist/poet? What changes if my work is more literary or more commercial? Get the answers at the upcoming webinar, Writer Mind, Marketing Mind. May 11th, $25. Replay & transcript will be available. Click to register/see lesson plan.