A Marketing Guide for Introverts
Yes, you have to do it. No, it’s not as scary as you think.
An introvert is a person who recharges when they are alone. Being around other people depletes their energy, being by themselves renews it.
Writing is such solitary, interior work that it tends to attract introverts. We work well alone. And if we happen to have a little bit of ambivert in us — if we like to be around other people some — well, that’s okay. We have our characters to keep us company.
But it’s very, very rare to find a writer who gets excited about the part of the business of writing that requires a more extroverted personality. You know, the part where you have to stick your nose out of your writing cave and let other humans know you’re alive.
Uh, huh. Marketing.
Ugh. Marketing. It’s hard for everyone, but for introverts? For introverts, marketing is torture.
Every now and then I come across someone for whom the stars have aligned and they’ve managed to find success (sometimes incredible success) without the need for a lot of marketing and they just kind of shrug and say Oh, marketing? I don’t like it, so I just don’t do it. I don’t think it’s necessary.
And I want to throat punch them. Metaphorically. Because I wouldn’t really throat punch anyone. I’m a pacifist.
But come on.
One percent of writers write the right thing at the right time and get it out in the right place, in front of the right people, and bam! Magic happens. They get rich and famous and they never have to market anything.
How nice for them. But counting on being one of those people is not a very good career plan.
It’s kind of like deciding you want to be an actress, so you start to hang out in soda shops, hoping to be discovered because it worked for Lana Turner.
I really wish that the people who managed to find their way onto that magical path would at least acknowledge that it probably won’t work for almost anyone else. Because it won’t.
Ninety-nine percent of writers have to learn how to market, even if they are introverts who would rather seriously consider a career in accounting than think about marketing their own work.
Here’s what you need to know about marketing.
It’s not so scary.
Marketing is just a conversation between you and your readers. If you can remember that, then you can manage your fear about it. It’s not a magic trick. It’s not a technique or a tactic or a strategy.
It’s just a conversation.
It’s you reaching out to readers who are into what you’re writing and letting them know that you’ve written a thing that they might be interested in. That’s all. And that’s not so scary.
When you post a link to social media, you aren’t bothering anyone. You’re giving other people the opportunity to read something they might enjoy. If they aren’t into it, they’ll scroll past. No harm done.
And trust me, they’ll scroll. (Same as you scroll past hundreds of links a day. Maybe thousands.)
When you run an ad, you’re reaching out to other people just like you.
You aren’t shoving your work up their noses. You aren’t being pushy or obnoxious. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do. You’re letting readers know that you’ve written something for them.
And if you do it right, you’re letting readers who have asked to be made aware know that you’ve written something. You’re not bombarding everyone in creation. You’re putting your link in front of people who follow you or who have read other things like what you’ve written or who are interested in your topic.
Deep breath. This is part of your job, and it’s okay to do it.
Readers are just people.
That’s all. They are just human beings, same as you.
And, here’s the cool part. The ones you most want to reach are probably a lot like you. If you’ve written a book, it’s probably the kind of book you like to read. And if you’d like to read it, then that means that other people like you would probably like to read it.
So all you have to do is think for a minute about how someone who has written a book like yours could reach you.
What would make you want to read your own book?
What makes you tell a friend oh, my God, you have to read this?
What makes you click a link, instead of scrolling by?
What makes you share?
The reason why marketing gets a bad rap is because so many people use it like a sledgehammer, when really, it’s more like a Post-it note. No one wants to get smashed over the head. But who doesn’t want the exact right thing stuck right where they need it?
Introverts have trouble being sledgehammers. All we want to do is go home and get in our pajamas! We don’t want to hit anyone over the head with our books or anything else.
But we can stick a little reminder in the right place. A friendly little note that says Oh, hi! I wrote this thing. I think you’re going to love it.
And sometimes the sledgehammer is easy to ignore — because we’re so used to dodging them. But those sticky notes, man. If you use them right, they’re wonderful. They make you pay attention.
Don’t be slimy.
This should be obvious, but we both know it’s not.
We know, because there are so many people out there willing to take $299 from us to teach us how to be slimy.
You don’t have to trick people into buying your book. You don’t have to slip in under the radar. You don’t need to get fake bestseller statuses or elevate your social validation or whatever.
Authenticity is addictive. It’s your best asset.
When you spend money, make it count.
The best money you can spend as a writer is on a decent email server. I like Convertkit. Start building your email list today. I’ve written a ton about email list building for writers, but you can start here.
Bryan Harris at Growth Tools (they used to be Videofruit) has a ton of amazing ideas for email list building that he offers for free. Just free. When I first started, I just took Bryan’s ideas one at a time and did the work.
It was hard. Because I’m an introvert and none of this shit is easy for me. But I did it and it worked. And it got easier.
You do not need to spend a lot of money on fancy ads or on schemes to make yourself a “bestseller” in a boxed set or hiring publicists. You do not need more than a simple website that you are probably capable of building yourself .
Hello, there. You should be blogging.
You’re a writer. Words are your currency and your most available tool.
I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but you should be blogging.
If you’re a novelist, you might get a book into your reader’s hands once a year give or take. Maybe. But with a blog, you can reach out to your readers any time you want to. Every week. Every day. Every time you have an idea.
You can be in conversation with them. And let me tell you, that’s some exciting stuff. It’s thrilling. If you give you readers a way to start following you, you’ll start to notice that some of them are hardcore. They always show up for you.
They read what you write. They always read what you write.
If you have any doubt that your introverted self needs that, let me help you put that at rest.
You need it. Everyone needs it. It’s the good stuff.
It’s why we’re here. It’s why you’re reading this article instead of happily writing in your journal or filing your short stories away on your hard drive.
It’s why you care whether or not anyone reads your work.
While we’re on the subject, please do not only blog about your own writing. No one wants to read that. It’s boring.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: How many author blogs do you read that only talk about the author’s process?
You are an interesting person. There are things you’re interested in. You’re good at things. There are things you want to be good at. Write about those things.
You’ll find your people. I promise.
Remember that marketing has nothing to do with the quality of your work.
If you find yourself saying if I was good enough, I wouldn’t need to market I want you to do something for me.
Go to a mirror and look yourself squarely in the face. Now tell yourself to stop it. Right now.
You are wrong. And I swear, this is one of those times when if everyone would just listen to me, the world would be a happier place. Because there is exactly zero correlation between the quality of your work and the necessity for marketing.
The fact that you need to market your work does not mean that you’re a shitty writer, just because you heard once that someone else doesn’t have an email list and never markets anything.
Everyone needs to market their work. The very, very few lucky souls who have somehow been able to count on luck to give them a career — we can’t recreate their success.
Hell, they can’t recreate their success.
That means that you’re normal and they’re weird.
Since you can’t predict being at the exact right place at the exact right time with the exact right piece of work — you’re going to have to count on your own ability to let people know you’ve written a thing.
If you do manage to get struck by lightning, awesome. But two things. One — since you didn’t hitch your wagon to that star, you won’t be dependent on it, so if at some point it stops dragging you along, you’ll be fine. Two — even those lucky few who don’t have to market their work would do even better if they knew how to reach out to their readers.
I mean, do you really, really want to be the writer who gets to be famous and never has to interact with the people who love them? Are you sure about that?
Because that sounds pretty lonely to me. There’s a difference between lonely and introverted.
It also sounds like the excuse we use to let ourselves off the marketing hook because marketing is hard, especially for introverts, and we don’t want to do it.
The need to market your work doesn’t make you less of a writer, because there is no correlation between the quality of your writing and the need or lack of need for marketing.
If you don’t believe me, go pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Or go pick up any National Book Award winner that’s sold less than 5000 copies.
It’s okay to focus on the parts that are easier for you.
I like blogging. I’m pretty good at Facebook. I adore my email list. Email marketing is my sweetspot. When I reach out to my email list, I feel like I’m talking to friends.
I suck at video, but I’m working at it and I’m getting better. If there are other people there, I can do it pretty well. I still haven’t mastered video when it’s just me talking into a camera. I end up sounding like a lunatic.
I can do an ad if I have to, but I’m not a great copywriter.
That’s my skillset. Yours is probably different.
And that’s okay. No one is good at everything. And no one has to be.
If you’re great at audio, then do audio. If video is your thing, figure out how to market with video. If you’re completely inexperienced, pick something and just start. It’s okay if you suck at the beginning.
Here’s a secret for you: in the beginning, no one’s paying attention anyway.
The few people who will see your early efforts at marketing won’t care if you screw up. So take a deep breath and don’t worry so much. Stick your nose out of your introverted writer’s lair and accept that you’re going to have to give some form of marketing a shot.
You’ll get better at this.
It might not seem like it now, but marketing is a skill and like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Even if the idea of marketing makes you want to hide under your covers.
Eventually you’ll understand how ads work. You’ll be a master blogger. You’ll know how to write an email to your followers without sounding like a robot. You’ll look up one day and realize that you actually like that conversation between you and your readers.
Maybe it won’t ever be your favorite thing. Maybe you’ll dream about the day when you’re rich and famous enough to pass it off to someone else. (But, when you get there, you’ll only have more marketing to do!)
But you will get better at it.
Here are a few first steps.
- Start blogging.
- Don’t blog about your own writing process. Blog about what you’re good at, about what you want to be good at, about what’s interesting about you, about what you’re interested in.
- Start a Facebook page with your author name. That way you’ll be able to boost links to your blog posts, and start building a following on Facebook as well.
- Decide on the social media outlet you like best and start interacting on it, as a writer.
- Start an email list. Right now, today. Mailchimp is free, but kind of clunky. If you want to put a little money into it, I like Convertkit.
- Send two emails a month to your list at first. Email #1: An update about you. Email #2: Something interesting that’s not about you.
- Ask your friends and family if they’d like to be on your email list. I am aware that this is scarier than marketing to strangers. Be brave.
- Add a let’s stay in touch line to your bio at the end of your blog posts. Hyperlink that to a signup form for your email list.
- When you’ve written twenty or thirty blog posts, take a look at the most popular of them and turn it (or part of it) into a PDF you can offer people in exchange for their email address.
- Take Dave Chesson’s free Amazon ads class, if you’re an indie book writer.
- Check out Growth Tools for a ton of free ideas for growing your email list.
- Be consistent. When you tell your followers you’re going to show up, show up. This is by far your best marketing tool. Your hardcore followers will show up for you, if you’re there when you say you’ll be.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation, Rebel Nation, and The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.