Hope for Shrinking Violets

If you follow industry blogs you’ve probably seen advice on how to promote your book or author brand.

You get it. You also probably know social networking is critical to self-promotion these days. If you know this, and you haven’t yet jumped into the fray, could it simply be you aren’t comfortable with it?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.n

A Myers-Brigg personality study tells us half the U.S. population consists of introverts. Surprising, right?

Not really.You just don’t always notice them next to the more conspicuous extraverts. Introversion isn’t the same as being shy, though. It’s a natural preference for solitude and reflection. We live in a fast-paced, “noisy” world that expects everyone to keep up. You see the conflict.

It’s not hard to imagine a good number of writers cringe at self-promotion—not because they don’t know what to do, but because the idea is emotionally draining to them. And maybe a wee bit nauseating

While introverts may have a harder time making small talk (hmm, Twitter?) or new friends (ahem…Facebook?), they do enjoy activities with long stretches of solidarity (writing, anyone?). If it makes you nervous to comment on a blog—if you write, edit, then rewrite your Facebook or Twitter posts—if you feel like you must say something witty or nothing at all—if it seems everyone else is having a grand old time with social media but you—you might be an introvert.

You’re not alone. Heck, I’m there right now. But here’s the thing about introverts—we’re in our own heads a lot. We know if we want to succeed, we have to venture out of our comfort zone, like it or not. Fortunately, social media can work in an introvert’s favor:

  • Need time to process information? Great! Rather than being forced to think on your feet, participate in conversations at your own pace. Mull things over to your heart’s content before you engage. Just don’t get stuck there.
  • Enjoy people but prefer them in small doses? Easy! All one has to do is Google to find a number of applications that allow future scheduling of pre-written updates for sites like Twitter, rather than facing them everyday. Or, you could begin by engaging in a site you feel most comfortable with (GoodReads worked well for me), then feed your updates to Facebook or Twitter to help you appear more ‘talkative’ while remaining true to yourself.
  • Trouble making small talk or accumulating friends? Start small. ‘Like’ someone else’s post. ‘Retweet’ a relevant article. Share a link or a picture on tumblr. You don’t have to talk much to say a lot. Just be sure you’re being thoughtful about what you share—no problem for an introvert!

Remember, every move you make in the social media realm makes the next ones easier. The trick is to get moving.

Why not start now? Tell us, what’s holding you back from engaging in social media? If you’ve already passed that hurdle, what worked for you when you were getting started?

43 Replies to “Hope for Shrinking Violets”

  1. Rebecca I think you’ve been watching over my shoulder and hanging out in my head! 🙂
    Yesterday I posted my first post on Facebook. I really thought that I’m about the last person to join – but apparently not. Haven’t tried Twitter yet. Baby steps! Baby steps!

    I actually added a picture (Jody Hedlund’s new book cover) and a link to my blog to promote a contest to win a copy of her book. And, of course, hopefully it will increase traffic to my blog. I was proud of myself for figuring out what most people probably can do in their sleep by now!

    I’m not used to being the slow one in the class, but that was before computers! 🙂 I’m learning that I’m not the only one out there who is not comfortable in the social media arena. That helps a little. So does your post. Thanks.

    1. Congratulations, Sherri! That first step in the hardest. I’m so glad I could offer some small amount of help. (:

  2. I have no problem chattering away with people I meet in person or online (you know, up to a point), but self-promotion still makes me queasy. Talking about yourself is different from simply talking.

    1. Exactly… and it gets a bit much after a while. It’s like a big, sucking black hole. You throw some promo out, and it disappears into the ether. You do it again… and no visible result. *sigh*

    2. Great point, Deb. The other thing about writers is that many of us know how much there is to learn and lean toward humble…makes it hard to talk about ourselves, however necessary.

  3. I’m a confessed introvert. But I force myself to try a more extroverted approach when it comes to social media (and I’m often surprised by how much I enjoy it). But then of course, I hide away and get rejuvenated during my writing time so I can stick my neck back out there.

    As a side, I’ve never been all that great at small talk. I tend to dive right in to deep talk or talk that has the potential to actually go somewhere.

    Fun article!
    ~ Wendy

    1. Me, too, Wendy. That’s why I decided to share these thoughts—I’m surprised by how much fun it can be after getting past the initial fear! (:

  4. Yep, another introvert here. If I’ve been busy the rest of the day, I’d prefer to sit down and write and miss that party. Haven’t told my family that yet – I just go out with them. 🙂

    I guess I haven’t jumped into the social media ocean yet because I’m the sort of person who feels like she should know exactly what she’s doing. (Um. . . but I think that may be common among extroverts.) Thing is, I’ve seen a lot of “just do it” attitudes about networking, and I’m not that way. So I sit out on the sidelines telling myself I’m using the time to improve my writing.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Katherine. Learning from other people’s hits and misses isn’t a bad starting point at all!

  5. As a psychology major, I’m amused by how many people assume “introverted” and “shy” are synonyms. I get a bigger kick when I tell people I’m an introvert, and they say, “No you’re not.” I then explain that extroverts recharge their batteries by being around others, and introverts recharge by being along. And they say, “Oh…”

    Don’t get me started on the mis-use of “schizophrenic.”

  6. I’m a shrinking violet! I’m an introvert to the core, but I know as a published author, I need to connect with readers. I love social media because it allows me to stay in my jammies and connect with friends and readers via the Internet. I’m reading Kristen Lamb’s social media books right now. They’ve been a huge help in helping me understand how to approach social media.

    Thanks for saying what we introverts are thinking. By the way, I wrote a women’s fiction book called Queen of the Shrinking Violets. Hopefully I’ll be ready to submit it next year.

    Great post!

    1. I keep hearing great things about Kristen’s book—I need to get a copy sooner than later. Congratulations on your manuscript, Lisa! I’ll be watching for that one too! (:

  7. Love the underlying message Rebecca – look for balance and be okay with who you are. I find it easy at times to get caught up in all of the hype and feel like I’m never doing enough, which makes me crazy. Then a gentle reminder comes along, like your post and I relax and just take the next step in front of me. Great post!

    1. Ditto! Balance helps those of us who are not only introverts but frustrated perfectionists. I am taking heart like you, Martha. Great post, Rebecca! Thank you for the practical wisdom.

      1. Boy, Camille I never thought about it that way but you’re right. I’m an introverted perfectionist! Having to market a book gets me out of my skin and out there in the world and remembering to look for the balance keeps me from running back home like my hair’s on fire.

    2. Great comments, Martha and Camille! I wonder how many introverts are also perfectionists. Not a small number, I suspect. Talk about double the need to keep things in perspective! (:

  8. Well, how about that. I’m scheduled to post on this blog later in September. I’ve already drafted my piece, and thematically it’s similar to this one. Running on a Monday. About being an introvert in the publishing fray. I may still let it ride, but it’s nice to hear nowt that I’m not alone.

    1. I hope you do, Olivia. I had a hard time keeping this topic to 500 words and would have loved to dig in deeper. I’ll look forward to what you have to say! (:

  9. Hi Rebecca,
    Another introvert here, imagine that. But I’m a practicing extrovert. I’ve done a lot on line in the past year using Facebook with my author pen name page as well as Twitter. I downloaded Tweetdeck yesterday and have no idea how I’m supposed to use that. I’ll figure it out eventually. I find it exhausting to try and figure out how to connect everything with Tumblr, etc. How do you know when enough is enough? Should we just utilize a couple of things well instead a lot of things perhaps not so well? 🙂 Love the post.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jillian! I definitely think one of the hardest parts is balancing time and energy to get the most return on investment. It’s easy to get lost in social media. This is one of the reasons I found Rachelle’s blog parade on book promotion so helpful—we can all learn from each other.

  10. I’m an introvert, but I still enjoy interacting with people. Doing so online works well for me for the reasons you said, Rebecca. When I’m dealing with lots of people face-to-face, such as a at a conference, I have to take breaks to recharge.

    1. Oh, yes. Conferences! Exhausting, aren’t they? But, definitely worth the time spent out of the comfort zone. (:

  11. I believe what holds me back is trust. With so many Tweets, LinkedIn and Facebook friend requests from people who already have more than 2,000, I question their motive. What am I missing? I have difficulty keeping up with my own family and “real” friends? How can they have 2,000? I don’t want to spam, I want to encourage; therefore I limit my followers and responses until I feel I have something worth saying. And I don’t feel guilty.

    1. Good point, Clarice. You’re not missing anything if you think it’s not so much about a magic number as it is about the span of influence and level of engagement. That’s not to say those with large numbers aren’t engaged or influential, or that those with smaller #’s are—there are surely abundant examples of both. Here’s where I like to focus on what I can control—following people I truly want to engage with (there are some great ‘un-follow’ apps out there to help with this, by the way), and make every effort to add value when I do engage, whether with one person or a thousand.

  12. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone – that’s me. I’m not shy when I’m around people, if I’m in the mood. I find a lot of social gatherings boring because I don’t know the people and I HATE small talk. I’ve ventured into social media this past year and am really enjoying reading other people’s blogs the most. I am on FB every day for a little while and have just now started on Twitter but don’t “get it”. I’ve read Kristen Lamb’s book on blogging and still have to read WANA and belong to that Twitter group @MYWana. Small steps – because it can be a REAL time suck in which we neglect our writing which is what it’s all about anyway, right?

    1. You’re right about the time suck, Patti—it’s definitely important not to lose sight of the ‘big picture’ when engaging in all social media has to offer. Fortunately for some introverts (for me, anyway), it’s second nature to step back every so often and reevaluate. For instance, I’m making it a point to respond to as many of these comments as I can, because I know it takes a lot nerve for some people even to comment. While I hope it’s not coming across as obnoxious, I consider it time well spent today. (:

  13. I have theorized that many authors are ‘gregarious introverts.’ When we get together with other authors, we can really let our hair down, but elsewhere and with non-writers, it’s more work to break out of our shells. (This said as I’ve edited, deleted, rewritten, and considered every word of this reply.) 🙂

    1. So glad I’m not the only one who does that. (: Thanks for the great comment, Erica!

  14. What great advice! Is it weird that I’m both an introvert and an extrovert? I’m not shy or uncomfortable around lots of people. I have no problem jumping in or speaking up. However, I like being alone too. I refuel when I’m alone, listening to music, spending time in prayer, or writing. Yet I also refuel when I’m having a girls’ night with my friends. So what am I? I have no clue. 🙂 All I know is that I really liked this post, Rebecca!

    1. I think, Katie, you’re probably a pleasure to be around! (:

      You make a good point, and it does stand to reason we’re all likely a bit of both depending on circumstances and role.

      1. I’m like Katie, I think. I do have issues with panic, though, which means large crowds can freak me out. So can facebook, if I’m not careful. Of course, being alone with my own thoughts can be very overwhelming, too, hahaha. Hmm. Maybe I’m neither an extrovert OR an introvert? Ah, well….. 🙂

  15. Rebecca, Not only do I love your post (yep, another introvert chiming in!) but I love your writing voice! Thanks for the encouragement to acknowledge who we are and to start there–wherever we are, whoever we are. It’s not about saying “I’m me & I can’t do social media.” It’s more about figuring about how social media works for us.
    And look at all the introverts chiming in today!

    1. Thank you very much, Beth! I’m so glad you found the post encouraging, and I’m delighted by all the great insights in the comments. (:

  16. Yeah, I’m an introvert, too. Sitting here trying to think of something else to say, that hasn’t been said…;)
    I love being around people, but enjoy small groups compared to larger ones…and then I definitely need down time afterwards to recharge those batteries. As for posting comments, I’m getting braver…but it is still a hurdle to push “Post Comment” after I actually get something typed in.

    1. Well, I’m glad you did! Thanks very much for your comment. Hope you’ll stop back. (:

  17. Thanks, Rebecca, for your wise words and great advice. You’re right. The key is to get moving. 🙂

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