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Book Promotion Tips for Hardcore Introverts

| Posted in Book Marketing |

17

A lot of writers are introverts. If we weren’t, we’d probably be too busy doing extrovert things to get any writing done, right? For many of us, it’s against our nature to put ourselves out there and sell our work. But we’re told that being an author is a business (if you want to make money, anyway), and that we have to learn the marketing side of things. So, what’s an introvert to do?

Well, I’m not going to tell you to change who you are. In fact, I particularly loathe books that try to teach introverts how to be more extroverted. I subscribe the George Bernard Shaw philosophy: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Thanks to the rich and widespread online world that exists today, I think you can succeed as an author without forcing yourself into uncomfortable public venues like conventions and book signings (situations that don’t historically sell many books anyway).

For example, if my sales remain steady (and I get a couple more novels out there, which is the plan), I’m about six to twelve months away from being able to quit the day job and write fantasy as a full time gig. I’m already making what would be considered a full time income in less expensive parts of the country (or world). Granted, I’m an indie ebook author, which means I earn more per book than my traditionally published peers, but I did just get started in December 2010, so I think there’s hope for anybody!

In that time, I’ve never done a book reading, gone to a convention, handed out a business card, or (shudder) pitched myself to anyone. If you like doing those things, then by all means do so. It can only help. But this post is for my hardcore introvert colleagues who cringe at such notions. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to do any of that any more.

So, how do you get the word out about your books?

Here are a few random, scattered thoughts tips:

Use social media sites intelligently

Believe it or not, introverts can get a lot of mileage out of “social” media.

Ignore the people who try to be everywhere (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, every forum, etc.), using these platforms as billboards for their stuff, sending out grating sales pitches all the time. If they’re selling books, it’s in spite of what they’re doing there rather than because of it.

So, what do you do?

1. Start a blog (if you’re like me, you’ll be most comfortable sharing your thoughts, and maybe throwing in a post or two about your books, on your own site because it’s a place people have voluntarily chosen to visit — you’re not bugging anyone in a “public” venue).

2. Pick one or two social media sites to get involved on (I’ve been on Twitter for ages — I like it since you’re forced to keep messages short so it’s not a big time sink — and I’ve recently started doing more with Facebook, since much of my target audience hangs out there).

3. Use those sites to get to know your fans (or people who, based on their profiles, might become your fans!), and also use them to promote interesting posts on your blog. People are a lot more likely to click on a link to a possibly-useful-to-them blog post than they are to click on a buy-my-book link. Then, through your blog, people can get to know your writing style and what you’re all about. (I use affiliate links to track sales that originate from my blog, and I sell more than I’d expect, given that I write about e-publishing instead of fantasy or something specifically for my target audience.)

Be generous

This isn’t necessarily an introvert or an extrovert thing, but it’s a way to promote your books without ever having to “sell” anything.

As I’ve mentioned many times, one of my first early breaks came because I turned a short story into an ebook and made it free on Smashwords, Barnes & Nobe, iTunes, etc.. I’ve also done lots of little promotions where I’ve given away 100%-off Smashwords coupons. This has resulted in lots of people going on to try my non-free ebooks.

Note, giving away freebies works especially well when they’re linked to your other books (i.e. Book 1 in a series or maybe a short story featuring characters from your first book). It’s also more useful if you have a non-free book already out and ready for people to buy. If you don’t, at least try to steer fans toward your website (and maybe an email newsletter they can sign up for, eh?). Don’t count on folks to remember your name and check back on you later. Readers read a lot, and unless they’ve read a whole series by you, it’s unlikely they’ll remember you from the dozen other authors they tried that month.

In the vein of being generous, you may want to think about pricing too. I often see new authors calculating what they have to charge and how many books they have to sell to make minimum wage or some such. (They seem to forget that most authors who make a living writing have a large body of work out there, not one or two ebooks.) Likewise, there are a lot of people fiddling with price every week, trying to figure out how much they can get away with charging without hurting sales.

I’m not going to say that’s wrong (one can argue it’s just being a good business person), but one of the benefits of the e-reader revolution is that you can make a living doing this while providing a great value to your readers too. Because of the royalty structures, it’s tough to make it selling 99-cent ebooks, but anything from $2.99 to $4.99 is still a good deal (for a full-length novel) and earns you $2+ per sale. Sell a couple of thousand books a month, and you’re making a full-time income (that sounded like a lot when I started, but the more titles you get out there, the more achievable it seems). Want to make more than that? Work on selling more.

Start a newsletter

I did a post on why authors should have newsletters, so you can check that out for more details, but essentially this is a way for you to keep in touch with your fans (especially important when you’re not the speediest writer and it can be a year or more between books) and keep your name in their minds.

It’s also something you’ll probably be comfortable doing, even if you’re an introvert. Why? As with the blog, you’re talking to people who volunteered for your newsletter (you’ll put a sign-up form on your site, and presumably it’ll be your fans who fill in the blanks), so it’s a lot easier to talk to them than random people you might meet at conventions or somewhere in the real world (again, shudder). They share your passion (your stories!), and they want to know about your books and the funny things your characters are doing.

Promote without being blatant about it

I know, I know, if you read any books about marketing, you’ll learn that you have to include a “call to action” in any newsletter or blog post you do, otherwise people won’t buy your product. Well, I don’t think that’s particularly true when it comes to fiction (do make your book covers and book sales links prominent on your site/blog), but even if it is, it’s not something we’re particularly comfortable doing as introverts. We don’t want to be pushy and bother anyone, right? I get it. Trust me.

Fortunately, you can do well with more subtle promotional techniques. If you cruise through the various posts on this blog, you’ll find a lot of articles about how to do certain things related to e-publishing and book promotion and you’ll find others about my experiences and what’s worked well for me. In the latter types of posts, I’ll always mention my own books (often with a link to the sample chapters). It makes sense because I’m using my own books and my own experiences as an example, but it’s also a sort of promotion. If someone stumbled onto my site because they wanted to know whether short stories sell better than bundled short story collections, they’ll just happen to come across a link to my novella, Flash Gold.

Sell from within your ebooks themselves

Do your ebooks stop at THE END? If so, you’re missing out on more sales. The perfect time to recommend your next book to people is…right after they finish the last one. It doesn’t need to be a hard sell either (‘cuz we introverts aren’t into that). You’re just saying, hey, if you liked this book, you might want to try my others. This reader already bought the first one, so they’re going to be much easier to “pitch” than some random reader off the street (or Twitter-o-sphere).

Here are things you can add in your afterword material:

  • A list of your other books (some high-speed e-book authors even put live links to the appropriate store’s sales page — i.e. Amazon links for Kindle ebooks)
  • An excerpt from the book that follows the one the reader just finished.
  • Your website and/or email.
  • Your social media links (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • The link to your newsletter sign-up page (and a quick note on why it would benefit readers to sign up). I just started doing this with the release of Hunted, and I’ve had as many signups in the last month as in the previous four. Kind of a “duh” moment, I know.
  • A polite request for reviews. Most people aren’t into reviewing, but if you ask, some folks who wouldn’t otherwise bother will take the time to leave one. I’ve done this since the beginning, and I know it works because I have lots of reviews from readers who hardly review anything on Amazon, but they were kind enough to leave a write-up for me.

All right, this post has moved into novella-length territory, so I’ll turn the rest over to you all…

Do you have any promotion tips for introverts?

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Comments (17)

Interesting. I’m not an introvert, but all of these are useful. I admire (and am a bit jealous) of your ability to write and edit your work so quickly. But I do appreciate it whenever I’m looking for something to read!

Thanks for commenting, Liana.

No need to be jealous of me! I can point you to some indie fantasy authors making five figures a month who seem to be able to pop out entire novels every two months… Makes me feel slow, haha.

It’s so inspiring that there are so many roads to success these days. My friend has an internet business that he can do from anywhere in the world, and it never could have existed ten or fifteen years ago. It looks like authors can do the same thing today.

Ah Lindsay, I want to hug you. I’ve ditched two pitching opportunities because I broke into rashes just thinking about it. And I see all these writers posting ‘buy my book’ links on FB, I shudder. By no means I’d be comfortable to subject my friends to that! But that’s what I’ve to do, right, in place of subjecting agents/editors to itchy pink monster… who sweats and stutters perfectly well too.

So apparently there are other ways, huh? *phew* 🙂

Hmm… another good means for introverts to market their books is to get involved in writing forums, online workshops, writing blogs and even goodreads. Be helpful and generous with reviews and comments and sharing snippets of your work, etc. Once you build that relationship with people, and your readership, it’s easier to sell your other work to them.

Provided you write fast or maybe start marketing only when you have more than one ready to sell. Something like that.

Thanks so much for writing this up and sharing with us, Lindsay. I learn so much from you.

Thanks for the tips, Lydia!

Writing fast definitely helps. The folks who make a living doing this all seem to have a whole series of novels out (or more!). I’m working on it… 😉

These tips are great Lindsay! I put a short story (that I didn’t think was brilliant or anything) on Smashwords for free and 60 people snapped it up on the first day. There was absolutely no marketing involved at all.

When going with introverted techniques peaks, it might be best to try how sales for everything else gets done: kissing a lot of ass.

Lindsay, I’ve been recommending your blog far and wide because you are the voice of reason in this new frontier. I don’t know if I qualify as a hardcore introvert, but your ideas sure make a lot of sense. Thanks for yet another great post.

OK, I totally smacked my own forehead when I read about adding a link to your newsletter in your ebooks. How did I not think of that? I’m glad you did!

Thanks for the tips 🙂

I love twitter because, ultimately, I do not like talking. I only like interjecting. Also, the golden rule seems to be to try promoting others more than you promote yourself.

Those extroverts…can’t trust ’em. They’re like broken fire hydrants but for words.

Good suggestions. 🙂 I will get to setting up a newsletter, since I’m not as speedy as you. 🙂 I’m looking forward to getting in the game. I think for genre fiction, this makes the most sense.

I pass out business cards sometimes. When I get to talking with folks up at the observatory & they get around to asking what I do. If they seem interested, I’ll hand them a card.

In addition to doing your own blogging, guest blogging can be a really good promotional technique too. It gets you out of your comfort zone a little because you have to venture out and contact other bloggers, but it can result in a lot more exposure and new connections.

Nice post! When do you think is a good time to start a newsletter? I’m concerned that I’ll have to go to the work of putting together a newsletter for three people…one of them being my mother. Do you wait until your book(s) have a fan base?

Thanks, Marie!

I actually wish I’d started one earlier on. The sooner you can start collecting email addresses the better, as those people can really help you out with their support when you’re ready to launch your next ebook (even if it’s just a short story or novella that you write in between novels).

If you don’t have many people on the list (or much news), you don’t need to write very often. I try to send out a letter once a month, but maybe once a quarter will be better for some folks.

[…] >> Book Promotion Tips for Hardcore Introverts […]

[…] is to pick a couple things and get really active in them. Lindsay Buroker offered similar advice in this post. I, myself, am very active on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter. I get involved in discussions, join […]

[…] haven’t done anything offline. I’m a hardcore introvert (I even did a blog post recently on Book Promotion Tips for Hardcore Introverts), so it’s hard for me to imagine foisting a business card on someone or trying to “pitch” my […]

This semi-introvert thanks you for the wonderful suggestions. Please keep up the good work.

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