November 6th, 2011
I started this post a few weeks ago, then something else came up that distracted me ("Ooooh, shiny!") and that was that.
But I thought of it again when Maggie over at Maggie Madly Writing posted "Don't Use It as a Crutch," about overcoming shyness, and that reminded me of the question of shyness as a specific problem for writers.
Now, obviously, writers sit indoors a lot by themselves, writing, and shyness isn't really a problem for that lifestyle. But then, when the book is done, it has to be promoted. This is essential if you self-publish (assuming you want to sell any copies, obviously), and from what I've read it's increasingly important even if you get picked up by a major.
This is why I paid attention a few weeks ago when I saw a very interesting series of posts on some blogs I follow, including Maggie's, on some closely-related topics:
- Maggie posted "Introverts vs. Book Marketing and Promotion,"
- Kristi Holmes posted "Doing Work You Love" (not specifically about book promotion, but about being an introvert),
- Jo Eberhardt posted "BWF: An Overview of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival," where she talked about writers standing up and reading their own work in front of a crowd.
- And there was one more post that I linked to when I started this post which has since been taken down (because the writer thought it was too personal and revealing).
BTW, I think reading in public is a particular skill, and not quite the same thing as self-promotion. I am not really comfortable promoting myself, or my writing, and this doesn't reflect insecurity about the work itself (which pleases me enormously whenever I read it). But I would be fine standing up in front of a room of people and reading from my work. I've performed on stage many times, and I've done training classes with 80-100 people, so I'd be fine with that.
BTW2, as I indicated on Maggie's blog, the fact that shyness can be overcome is important to remember for characters, too. It's easy to put our characters in boxes ("the shy one," "the cautious one," "the quiet one," etc.) and not give them a chance to surprise us. You know, the way real people do.
Anyway, I tell myself that one reason I've held back on hyping A Sane Woman is that it's old. Parts of it were written over 20 years ago, and it was finished nearly seven years ago. What I'm doing now is better. But, of course, this excuse will no longer apply when I finish the book I'm working on currently.
Fortunately, Dalya Moon just did a guest post on Bunny Ears and Bat Wings called, "How to Get Book Bloggers to Review Your Book." I've bookmarked that one, but first I have to finish the book (I'm currently 86% of the way through marking up a draft, and I've made around 200 notes, and then I have to make another floor plan, and a map, and write two epilogues...).
One way to get out of doing self-promotion is telling yourself that you don't know how to do it. Well, now I won't have that excuse anymore.
And one way to do it is to figure out what's really involved and find the things which work for you. Some people are shy in person but can be bolder on the internet. Nobody is born knowing how to write query letters, but that skill can be learned. If a particular task is too huge, break it down and do it bit by bit (which, as Dalya points out, can be good in other ways too, since you can send out a few queries, and then learn from the reactions before you send out the next batch).
But I think the main thing to remember is what Andy Warhol said (this is one of my favorite Warhol quotes):
"[I]f you say that artists take 'risks' it's insulting to the men who landed on D-Day, to stuntmen, to baby-sitters, to Evel Knievel, to stepdaughters, to coal miners, and to hitch-hikers, because they're the ones who really know what 'risks' are."