Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Marketing for Introverts
It's not that I'm not friendly. I bet I'd even like you. It's that I'm still recuperating after participating in a fan convention this weekend for my writing life.
Being a writer might seem like a natural job choice for an introvert. In some ways, it's an excellent fit.
Doing the work requires spending copious amounts of time alone.
The work itself is usually pretty quiet (just some keyboard clicking or pen scritching noises).
You can do the work wherever you are most comfortable.
On the other hand, if you want to make a career of writing, you can't *just* write. You have to put your work out there for others to read.
Then, there's the marketing, that second job of garnering attention for your work and being discoverable. That can be pretty painful for a introverted person, but I'm here to tell you that it can be done.
At Illogicon last weekend, I participated in a wonderful panel on this very topic with some talented introverts: Gray Rinehart, Claire Wrenwood, Patrick Dugan, and Fraser Sherman. We all agreed that you can make a career as a writer without undergoing some kind of alchemy and becoming an extrovert, and that in some ways, introverts might be especially well suited to it.
So, here are a few things to consider if you're an introvert and trying to promote yourself and your work.
1. Take it slow: A lot of people seem to think that building a writing career and support network is a sudden quick movement, like sweeping the legs in a kickboxing match.
Not even for extroverts.
Building contacts and relationships is the work of years, and luckily, it's the kind of work introverts are good at! We may not be comfortable standing behind the megaphone and calling for the attention of everyone in the room, but we're great one-on-one and when we get to know someone, we usually get to know them well. Our relationships are deep and strong and lasting.
When you are meeting new people, be reasonable in your expectations for yourself. I'm happy if I make one or two new initial contacts at any given event. I'm not trying to go home with my pockets bursting with business cards. I'm trying to make a few meaningful connections.
2. Pick your poison: There are a lot of ways to put yourself out there as a writer. You can give readings, participate in discussion panels, teach workshops or classes, hand sell books from a table or booth at an event, make videos about your work, tweet cleverly, blog, etc.
Some of these things will scare the heck out of you, and some may only make you nervous. Pick something you feel like you can do and try it. You can push yourself a little at a time, and you don't have to put yourself out there on every possible platform.
Look at events carefully, think about your comfort levels, and plan accordingly. I enjoy doing fan conventions, for example, but I tend to stick to small and medium sized ones relatively near my home base.
I take my sister with me whenever I can because it's good to have someone more outgoing with you and someone who will help you take care of yourself when you need it. Even better if that someone loves you and understands your needs and limits.
I like panel discussions because they have a clear structure and don't require me to "make the first move" like approaching someone at a booth or table does. Someone will call on me when it's my turn to talk.
I ask convention organizers not to schedule me for late night programming because it's harder for me to be entertaining and clever and "on" when I get tired.
Over time, this has gotten more comfortable for me because I've gotten to know more and more people, so often attending an event means I'll be among as many friends as strangers. I find that VERY comforting.
Though Dragon Con is the BIG con near me, I have yet to apply, because I know how stressful I would find it to navigate the halls of such a large free-for-all event. Maybe I'll get there someday, or maybe I won't. We'll see.
For now, I'm feeling good about how much more comfortable I feel with what I'm doing now.
3. Self-Care! Everyone needs self care, but introverts may need to tend to themselves a little sooner and more specifically than other folks (I wouldn't know; I've never been one of those other folks).
For me, that means being as careful as I can be with my schedule: making sure there are adequate meal breaks and quiet time, packing some good snacks.
That might mean that I skip some networking opportunities and don't go to the bar with the other writers after an event, or decide to spend time alone in my hotel room instead of sitting at my table or booth for two more hours (even if I miss a chance to sell a book that way).
If I don't give myself space to recoup my energies, I'm not going to make a good impression or make good use of those opportunities anyway.
It also means that I try to give myself decompress time after an event.
I'm writing this on Monday night and I got home from a convention on Sunday night. I had three different social invitations this evening, but I turned them all down in favor of sitting here quietly at my laptop. It was the right choice, especially since I'll have to be "on" again next weekend for the college class I'm teaching.
So there are my thoughts on how to make a go of this if you're an introvert. By the way, that panel? It was the most laid back and polite panel I've ever been on. I don't think anyone talked over someone else or interrupted even once. And we left plenty of wait time for questions from our audience. :-)