Last night on Facebook I posted this follow-up to a previous post I had made about my disdain for long introductions to non-fiction books:
A few of you will have seen my post a few days ago about the dreaded 15-page introduction in the book I’m reading. Well, I made it through fine. The book is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I took the 20-question test and answered 18 of the questions as an introvert would. My fellow writers will get a kick out of this quote from the book: “To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly….The authors whose books get published–once accepted as a reclusive breed–are now vetted by publicists to make sure they’re talk-show ready. (You wouldn’t be reading this book if I hadn’t convinced my publisher that I was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it”).
I concluded with: Tomorrow I may blog on “what’s an introverted writer to do?!” This is that blog.
What indeed can we introverted writers do? After all, every publisher wants to “brand” us (like cattle) and test the strength of our platform before committing to our current project. And, as an acquisitions editor myself, I do understand the reasoning. It costs a lot of money to publish a book. A lot of money that comes up front, before the book has a chance to prove that it will return the money invested in it, plus a profit.
So let’s say right at the beginning that we all agree that if we want to publish with a well-known publishing house, we recognize that one (not all, but ONE) of the considerations publishers must make is whether the book will sell enough copies to pay for itself.
For many writers (especially introverts) the next question is: So beloved publisher, what are YOU going to do to see that my book succeeds? That’s a fair question. Publishers shouldn’t publish books they don’t believe in enough to invest some marketing dollars. Of course, you can help them identify where those marketing dollars are best spent. In your proposal, hopefully you shared exactly WHO your target readers are and how they can be reached, both by you and by the publisher.
But keep in mind that publishing houses have other books to publicize besides yours. And mostly the books they choose to publicize are the new and upcoming titles. These are the front list books. And your new book will remain front list until the next wave of front list titles are ready to walk out on stage. That’s a very short time. Usually just a few months, if that. And when your book is no longer front list, it is back list. Back list titles generally only receive more marketing dollars when they’ve shown initial strength during their front list days. If they’ve performed poorly or only fair, then likely the remainder of the promotion for the life of the book is up to you Mr. or Ms. Introvert.
Like most introverts, this bothers you. It certainly bothers me. I want to write my next book, not get out there and embarrass my introverted self doing stuff that I’m not very good at and certainly not very comfortable doing.
Well, here are a few tips for us introverts to get us past that defeatist attitude:
1. Really, the advent of social media is a godsend to introverted authors. Websites, blogs, tweets, and other sorts of fun stuff can originate without you ever leaving the house. You can even promote your book in your pajamas if you want to. All this without actually having to meet another person face to face. Even radio interviews can be done from home. My bestselling book 365 WWJD is a case in point. For that book, I did more than fifty radio interviews—and every one of them was from my home. I may even have been in my pajamas for more than one of those interviews.
2. Fear keeps some introverts from trying to step out of their comfort zone. “What if I make an idiot of myself?” they ask. Well, truth be told, in one of my many radio interviews for 365 WWJD, I did make somewhat of an idiot of myself. But so what? The book has changed lives and still changes lives 75,000 copies later. Earlier this year, the book received its ninth Amazon review (eight of which are five star). The review said, “Found this book at a book store and loved it so much I ordered one for a friend. I actually do read it religiously.”
3. Having great reviews on Amazon and elsewhere is another good option. Personally, I do not ask my friends to review my books on Amazon. I love it when they do, but I think it’s somewhat misleading to ask friends to tell others what a great writer I am. It sure makes getting five-star reviews all the more rewarding, knowing that every one of them was unsolicited. But the point is to have your book reviewed widely and make yourself available for online (or radio) interviews whenever you can. Even an introvert can submit to an online interview where you can use the backspace and delete keys all you want before you send your response.
4. Let’s go back to “fear” for a moment. When I was in high school on rainy days our PE class (anyone remember PE?) played a game called Dart Ball or Slaughter Ball. It was really just Dodgeball though. We did this in the gym. The class was spit in two and each side gathered opposite each other and spent the next 45 minutes throwing those basketball-sized red rubber balls that you all remember at each other. Well, for the first three and a half years of high school, I admit I was one of the wimps (I am an introvert after all) who stayed to the rear of the pack. Shoot, I didn’t want to get hit by one of those balls. It stung! But then deep into my senior year (of course!), I discovered something: The game is a lot more fun when you play at the front of the pack! And honestly I think I got hit by the ball LESS often when I played in front. The lesson I took away from that experience was that I shouldn’t be so afraid to do something that I hang back until my “senior year.” I should get out there and find out for myself if this activity I think I’ll hate is really as awful as it seems. I believe I’ve come a long way since then in many ways. Early on in my writing career a radio interview would make me nervous. Now, I’d be willing to sign on the dotted line for my own TV show (should any producers want to offer me a contract!). Don’t let your introvertish ways rob you of something that might be right up your alley. Try it a few times first.
5. Another suggestion is to write books that have hooks that don’t require a large platform. My first two books Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men Seeking Integrity and 365 WWJD were like that. I depended on the market (Promise Keepers and people interested in the WWJD phenomenon) to gravitate toward the book….and they did.
6. My new book Power in the Promises comes out next January 1. I think it’s my best book yet and hopefully will be my bestselling. I believe in the message of the book and that helps me overcome my tendency to stay at the rear of the pack. I want people to get excited about the promises of God. And that excitement seems to trump my introvertedness. Ask yourself just how excited you are about the message of your book—whether fiction or non-fiction. If you’re not excited, how will your reader be excited? And if you ARE excited, allow your excitement to trump your introversion. Excitement is contagious. Get out there and spread yours around.
7. Also, consider that if you need help, it’s out there. There are professional publicists and businesses that will help you do what doesn’t come naturally for you. My friends at Author Media promise to “hold your hand” as you develop your platform. Look around. Ask other authors who in the profession has helped them with publicity.
8. Last and certainly not least is be a prayer warrior for your book and your writing career. Strategize through prayer. My book Magnificent Prayer has several important endorsements from people most of you know by reputation. The wonderful thing is that of those 7 or 8 key endorsements, I only sought one of them. The others all came to me unexpectedly because the person had read and love Magnificent Prayer. Wow. I’m still amazed at how God has used and is still using that book!
I hope those few suggestions will help my fellow introverts jumpstart your thinking about what you can do to have your book noticed. As some of my Facebook commenters have said, they have worked hard to overcome their introversion and have their books noticed. You can too!