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?

Not especially.

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?

No.

Have you recently won a major literary prize?

Yes.

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.

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§ 16 Responses to The Myth of the Extrovert

  • […] The Myth of the Extrovert […]

  • sherrymendelsondavidowitz says:

    Excellent points and great writing. Thank you for your succinct piece about doing the work. Sherry

  • dreliasonwriter says:

    Once again, your message is targeted and important and necessary. Thank you!

  • Okay, well, No. 1 you made me laugh out loud and No. 2—such good info! Writing whatever’s-burning-on-our-hearts is only half the battle.

    Marketing (ugh!) before and after is a necessary part of stoking the fire.
    So well said, Allison.

  • kperrymn says:

    Thanks for this. Message received: there’s a lot of work to do and there are a lot of ways to do it.

  • gopika nath says:

    Fabulous post. I relayed to so much of what you said. It’s true of everyone – regarding all professions. Well said  And, thank you for putting into words things I need to remind myself of, again and again 😅

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  • rose2852 says:

    Introvert here. All of what you say!

  • What a great post. I always hated myself growing up, because I thought there was something wrong with me. It took me a few decades, but I’ve finally accepted myself for the introvert I am, and I don’t feel guilty anymore for not wanting to go out. And yes, press releases and social media posts can be draining on the soul too. Those exact thoughts are what propelled me to give fiction a chance instead. Anyway, thanks for this, Allison!

  • OK, OK, I’m sending out the email that I’ve put off for weeks! 🙂 Thanks.

  • I was the only one who swam the long distance race in high school, too. Kind of lonely and kind of badass. I was telling the story of a major life lesson about a swim meet earlier today. Feels oddly kismet to read your analogy just now! xx

  • Di Brown says:

    Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” taught me so many things – but the most important one was in the opening pages. She talks about the way people confuse “introversion/extroversion” (a measure of ‘tolerance for simultaneous inputs’) with “shyness/gregariousness” (a measure of enjoyment in/comfort with human interactions).

    Understanding that “I need quiet spaces to recharge” (vs my husband who benefits from peopling at such times) was a totally different thing from “I enjoy the humans” (in controlled numbers, where I can hear what each is saying) was a huge and helpful distinction, especially in a country where we value the gregarious extrovert and tend to devalue every other combination of those traits.

    Being an introvert doesn’t keep me from doing anything other than “enjoying being in a place where 50 people are all trying to talk to me at once” Recognizing that helps me do the things I need to do – and plan for the ones that are harder to get through. 🙂

    Thanks for this post!

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