Introverts: Can You Sell Books Without Selling Your Soul?

Every time you talk about your book—whether it’s still a work-in-progress or is launching “everywhere books are sold”—you have an opportunity to attract a reader.

If that sounds crass, let me explain by asking a question: What’s the point of bringing a book into the world and not having anyone read it?

It’s not enough just to publish: Authors dream of moving people, changing lives, making some kind of difference in the world. We want and need readers. So it’s pretty counterproductive if we don’t commit to selling our own product, even if it may initially feel inauthentic or vulgar.

It’s okay if we’re a bit awkward or tend toward humility when we speak about our books, but our goal should always be to intrigue the person or audience we’re talking to. It’s that simple, really.

I can’t remember how many times I dismissed my own books in that self-mocking way the English have (I grew up in the U.K). God forbid someone asked me what I was working on, I’d find something humorously disparaging to say about the book or my efforts. It just felt so damn cheesy to promote myself. Even simply explaining what my book was about felt like self-aggrandizement.

By definition, introverts are uncomfortable in sales mode. But when it comes to doing publicity—radio, TV, book talks—we have to find a way to make peace with our discomfort and share our work in a way that is confident without being crass, persuasive without being pushy.

The vast majority of writers enter the world of publishing with trepidation about striking the right balance when promoting their work. But stay open minded: you may surprise yourself.  If you’re anything like me, you may discover that selling your work is not such dirty business after all, provided you approach it in a sensible and methodical manner.

  • Start early. That means even when you’re just writing the book, begin to lay the foundation for later marketing efforts. This may be as basic as avoiding being too self-deprecating, or it might mean gathering emails of anyone who seems interested in what you’re doing.
  • Before starting any marketing at all, step back and ask yourself, “Why do I write?” The goal of ‘selling lots of books’ is usually only one small piece of a large puzzle. Articulating the purpose of your writing career will help you create a campaign that suits your personality.
  • Consider which public activities give you energy and which sap your energy. Focus on where your strengths lie (but always try everything at least once—you might like it more or be better at it than you expect).
  • Ask yourself: What will it take to make me feel successful? Set yourself small, achievable goals while allowing yourself to dream big.
  • If you feel like you don’t naturally have good sales instincts, get help. Even if you don’t have the money to invest in paying a professional, ask a friend to give you a mock interview. Embarrassing, maybe; helpful, definitely. That uncle who used to write for the paper? See if he’ll read your pitches, give you feedback, brainstorm ideas with you. There’s no reason you should do have to figure it all out on your own.
  • Think more in terms of cultivating readers and engaging in conversations  (ie. give and take) than selling. This is especially true for social media.
  • Don’t try to do everything. Be game, have fun, but say no when you need to. Work smarter not harder.
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