As authors, we want our books to be read. For that to happen, our audience needs to be able to find us. But don't kid yourself, that's our job, not theirs. We need to connect with potential readers, and to get them interested in what we have to say. For those of us who would rather write than promote, that can be tough. But it doesn't have to be.
I remember, years ago, being nervous before doing my first live group coaching call, but I knew the nervousness would pass, and I’d be okay. Not only did I live through it, I thought it was fun.
I wasn’t always that confident. There was a time I was extremely shy.
Been there. Done that.
And, happily, have left it far behind me.
Being a writer, I had to. Writers are required to balance the inward creative journey with outward promotional responsibilities. Before your book is even written you have to start promoting yourself and building your author’s platform. Then, once your book is published, promoting your book in 1001 different ways begins. And keeps going… and going… and going…
If shyness is what prompted you to look within and become a writer, then it’s been a great gift in your life. But if it’s now getting in the way of your fulfilling your writing dreams because it’s preventing you from stepping into the limelight of self-promotion and book marketing fully and joyfully, then it’s become a problem that you have to face, and deal with.
In my long journey from shy writer to (nearly) fearless promoter, I’ve learned some useful things about the emotional terrain in-between these two energetic opposites, and the mindset you need to have to make the journey.
Here are what I consider to be the four main attitude adjustments needed to turn shy writers into fearless promoters.
Attitude Adjustment #1
Don't force yourself to do something, when choosing to do it is more empowering
Many shy writers tell me that they have to force themselves to do promotional tasks. The only reason you would ever have to force yourself to do something is that you don’t really want to do it. Unfortunately, forcing yourself to do that thing, anyway, automatically creates resistance, which makes whatever you’re doing—in this case, promoting yourself and your book—that much harder.
If you focus, instead, on the benefits of promotion—on what you want to achieve through it, and why—you’re more likely to feel that you’re choosing to promote yourself, rather than being forced to do it, even if you’re the only one doing the forcing. Feeling forced to do something disempowers you, while making a choice to do it empowers you. The difference between these two—between feeling disempowered and empowered—becomes especially important when the results of your actions affect your livelihood.
All this may feel like nitpicking to you, but mindset matters. Depending upon your mindset, on what you believe and how you feel about whatever you’re doing, the task at hand can be easy or hard. Your mind can be open or closed. Your creativity can be flowing or stuck. And this has an impact on whether your efforts result in failure or success.
Don’t be afraid to tell the truth—that you don’t like book promotion and don’t want to do it. Just don’t get stuck there. Say instead, “I'm not thrilled with the idea of being interviewed, but I'll do it because...
- I want my book to be a success
- I want to help people transform their lives
- I want to transform my own life, and...
- I want to make a living doing what I love
Telling the truth releases resistance. And when you follow that with focusing more on what you want than on what you don’t want, promoting yourself becomes an empowering experience that flows more easily and painlessly, and has a more successful outcome.
- Why do you write?
- How do you hope your writing will help others?
- What will promoting yourself help you accomplish?
Attitude Adjustment #2
Don’t kid yourself—there’s going to be pain involved (but a lot less than you think)
When a promotion doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped or desired, it’s disappointing. When you’re being interviewed and feel vulnerable, it can be scary and uncomfortable. When the opportunity to get some major publicity falls through, it hurts.
I wish I could tell you that transforming a shy and sensitive nature into a more outgoing, confident, and resilient personality is easy and painless, and will make your life rosy, but a writer’s life is full of ups and downs. What I can tell you is that change is possible, it’s not as painful or scary as you might think, and it makes even the biggest disappointments more bearable.
Knowing that there will be difficult and painful moments, at times, actually helps you to relax into them when they arise. It’s an odd quirk of human nature that the less we resist pain, the more quickly it passes.
If you’re like most writers, you long to simply sit and write. Promotion is supposed to be your publisher’s job. But in the publishing world of today, promotion is primarily your job. And it can be a scary job, especially for shy writers, because it constantly challenges the boundaries of your comfort zone, is an entirely new set of skills to learn and master, and the 1,001 details involved can feel overwhelming.
One of my favorite fear-busting quotes is from the American spiritual teacher, Gangaji, who said, “When you run from your fears they chase you. When you face your fears they disappear.”
When you face what you fear, or dislike, about promotion it can be difficult, at first. But if you remain steady in your resolve to not only do whatever is necessary to promote yourself and your book, but to make peace with it, your fears will begin to dissolve.
It’s often hard to hold on to these two truisms in the face of something fearful, but I’m sure you’ve proved them in your life in many ways:
- When you actually do what you’re scared of or dreading, it’s not half as bad as you imagined
- Doing something that scares you, even when it’s hard, at first, gets easier the more you do it
- In what other areas of your life have you faced your fear, and discovered that it wasn't as bad as you thought it would be?
- In what ways have you overcome fears you have around writing and promotion?
Attitude Adjustment #3
Repeat after me: It gets easier over time
The more you put yourself out there, and promote yourself, the more you get used to feeling the fear, living through it, and discovering it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be.
The first time I interviewed someone, after I asked the first question I prayed that the author would take the rest of the hour to answer. Unfortunately, after only a minute or two, his words began to slow down, and I knew I had to get another question ready. As scared as I was at the beginning of that interview, by the end of it I was happily chatting away (it helped that the first person I interviewed was a friend, but that didn't stop me from being sick to my stomach at the beginning of the call).
Relaxing into my role as an interviewer didn’t lessen the horror I felt at the thought of being interviewed. What if my mind goes blank? What if I babble on like an idiot? What if I don’t know the answer? Then people began interviewing me about how authors can benefit from using Twitter. I stumbled over my words, for a while, but eventually relaxed into that, as well.
Once being interviewed had lost its fearful grip on me, I still shivered at the thought of giving my own presentations. That would be way too scary. Just me. Alone. Talking. Are you kidding me? No way! But then I did my first solo call. Yes, I rambled on, laughed nervously at times, and lost my place in a couple of spots, but people seemed to like what I had to say. Okay, so presentations aren’t that bad. But open coaching calls, without a topic, where anyone can ask me anything—TERRIFYING!
You get my drift.
It’s not simply that you loosen up about a particular promotional task, once you’ve done it for a while. At some point, you begin to trust that you’ll be able to handle whatever comes your way. And the fear you do feel when pushing past your comfort zone and doing something scary or uncomfortable is a mere fraction of what it once was.
- What scares you about promoting yourself or your book?
- What have you learned through the process of promoting yourself?
Attitude Adjustment #4
Start where you are, and you’re already half-way there
Change isn’t a race, but it is a journey. To travel from shy writer to fearless promoter begins with a simple step. It begins by saying, “Hi, my name is… and I write about…”
Start where you are, with what’s comfortable. As writing is your comfort zone, start with promotional arenas that are writing based. Get more active on Twitter and Facebook as a way of connecting with people, and send them to your blog. If you haven’t got a blog, create one. Or if you’re occasionally blogging, start blogging more regularly. And don’t forget to put an opt-in offer on your blog, of either the first chapter of your book or a “7 tips” ebook, to get people to sign up for your newsletter or email list. An opt-in offer (a gift for subscribing) will get more people to sign-up for your list than just having people sign up to get your newsletter or unspecified "updates." I experienced this with my email list because I wanted to have an opt-in gift to offer subscribers for two years before I finally mustered up the courage to create one.
Start promoting yourself with what’s most comfortable for you. There’s no need to jump straight into making videos or giving live interviews on podcasts, but you do have to make a conscious effort to get your promotional wheels rolling by taking small steps, one after another. The more you get used to putting yourself out in front of people, even in the smallest of ways, the easier it will be to gently nudge yourself into taking a step, here and there, beyond what you're comfortable with.
It doesn’t take more than a slight reaching past your comfort zone to get some momentum going toward becoming more fearless, and you never know how it’s going to help or where it’s going to lead. In early 2008, I was looking for a way to start promoting myself, and I chose Twitter. When I joined, I thought I needed to give people a reason to follow me, so I offered a daily creativity tip for writers. It made me nervous to make a daily commitment and put my own voice out there rather than just offering quotes from famous writers, but I did it. My tips were only a sentence or two each, but they changed my life.
Those tips came straight from my heart, and every day I would hear from different people about how much that day’s tip helped them, or how it was exactly what they needed to hear to move forward with their writing. My Twitter followers started recommending me (this was long before #followfriday), and even wrote blog posts about my tips, recommending that their blog readers follow me. Someone dubbed me “The Creativity Maven,” and my Twitter followers grew from hundreds to thousands.
I joined Twitter because Facebook intimated me, and its 140-character tweet limit made it seem easier and safer. Tweet by tweet, those 200 writing tips—the sole purpose of which was to grow my platform—and the response they received, catapulted my confidence and visibility to a whole new level.
You never know where the next step outside of your comfort zone is going to take you. But if you want to find out, you have to get your feet moving and take that step.
- What promotion are you already doing?
- Of your current promotional efforts, what can you do more often?
- What new promotional steps can you take, that are within your comfort zone?
- What new promotional steps can you take that will stretch you a little?