in which i talk about shyness and self-promotion

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:

  1. Maggie posted "Introverts vs. Book Marketing and Promotion,"
  2. Kristi Holmes posted "Doing Work You Love" (not specifically about book promotion, but about being an introvert),
  3. 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.
  4. 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."

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4 Responses to in which i talk about shyness and self-promotion

  1. Maggie says:

    I agree. Breaking anything into smaller pieces makes it easier, and it’s true that some people are more outgoing over the Internet than they are in person. I’m one of those people. So when it comes time to market my stuff, I suppose the Internet will be my primary medium.

    Excellent post!

  2. sonje says:

    My aversion to PR is one of the reasons I never tried to get an agent. That’s basically PR work: I’m fabulous! My book is fabulous! And you! You are fabulous too! We could be so fabulous together!

    I don’t think Bella Books does much by way of promotion, so it might be something that I end up trying my hand at. We’ll see. Not looking forward to that though. And it’s not about being shy. It’s about not wanting to go around whoring my work for crumbs of publicity.

  3. tsbazelli says:

    I’m another shy one. I need to bookmark this page for later. I have nothing to promote right now, but one day I might. The thought of it has caused me a bit of anxiety before. Thanks for the link roundup!

  4. Maggie: I am definitely thinking about promoting my next book more than I did A Sane Woman, and that will be almost entirely on the internet. I’m more and more thinking that I’ll do an ebook, too. Got to keep up with the times.

    Sonje: That’s a good point, that PR-avoidance is not necessarily shyness. I think they’re related, for a lot of people, but not the same thing. Which goes back to the point about my sucking at PR but being fine with being on stage. It’s like fear of heights and fear of flying: people who have neither often assume a connection. People who have one or the other are much clearer about the difference.

    Theresa: It always catches my interest when different bloggers I follow all seem to be thinking about the same thing (not counting things like NaNo, obviously, which everybody thinks about at the same time :-) ). I included those links here for my own future reference, too. I’ve been tempted to bookmark links about ebook conversion as well, but at this point, the processes could be very different in six months. I’ll investigate when I’m ready.

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