It’s a sad truth. The days of sending your book in and letting the publisher do the rest are over. Whether you are self-published, going through a small press, or have struck it big with a major publishing house, it’s still the same story. You can’t just be a writer anymore. Even if you have the backing of a major press, you are still going to have to do things on your own to market your book, like giving interviews, doing book readings, running workshops, or - gasp! - even giving a speech. And if you are self-published or going through a small press, it’s even harder.
What’s that? I think I hear someone having an anxiety attack.
I can relate. If you’re anything like me, you find simply speaking to another person to be a challenge. I have said things that I don’t even believe simply because I’m so nervous that my brain has frozen, but my mouth has not. And this is just in everyday conversation. Imagine being put on the spot, being expected to do and say all the right things or your book will die a long, lingering death because everyone thinks you’re a bonehead who couldn’t possibly put two words together.
Then there’s the whole dignity thing. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up doing things to bring attention to your book that you never dreamed of doing, like juggling rutabagas (juggling squirrels, however, is okay). Or you might find yourself saying, "Did that just come out of my mouth?" Because, of course, you don’t really believe that your romance novel will bring about world peace simply because your heroine, Charlene, learned to how to love again. This should make you feel better. Dave Barry once made armpit farting noises on a radio talk show to promote his book. You’re going to do things like that. It’s a fact of life - just more likely to be recorded forever in posterity. But you’ll live.
Being a marketing monkey doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here are some suggestions for handling this strange new world. First of all, draw your own personal line in the sand, and then don’t cross it. I say personal because there are just certain things you won’t do that someone else might. Selling your soul might rank up there for you, but others will actually gift-wrap and send it overnight express. Along this line, but on the opposite spectrum, give yourself a break. You’re human. There should be some gray areas around that line in the sand. For example, making armpit farting noises might not end up on the ‘highlight of your life’ reel, but if you do something like that, it certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of. Fart sounds are funny. End of story. My second suggestion? Be polite and courteous to others. It’s that simple. If you don’t like what salespeople do to you, don’t do it to other people. Say please and thank you. These people have lives, too. They were not put on this earth to cater to you. Third, don’t come across as desperate, even if you are. That’s a tough one. Begging is so easy to do, but it apparently turns people off. Can’t imagine why. Fourth, be yourself as best you can (unless you’re a jerk, then you’re just going to have to pretend). If you make mistakes, so be it. You can typically make up for them. If not, well, remind yourself that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and try the next one on the list. Finally, have a sense of humor about all this. If you can’t laugh at your own mistakes, why should you expect others to?
In my blog, Conquering The Shyness Within, I give some ideas on how to overcome your natural shyness. Check it out if you’re feeling anxiety about the idea of mingling with the rest of the species. These are all methods I have used myself, and still use. I’m still rather awkward in conversation with people that I don’t know, but I work at it and have gotten better (those of you who know me will say, geez, you must have been pretty bad, then).
In conclusion, there is hope, shy writers! You have to have a different mindset than they did in the days of Jane Austen, but once you adjust to the idea of marketing yourself, you’ll find that it’s not all bad. You see how easy that was? I just marketed marketing.
If all else fails, try the armpit thing. It’s actually not so bad…