If You're Shy and Retiring, You Soon May Be Retired

by Cynthia MacGregor

The time was when writers, especially poets, but novelists and others as well, were pictured as living and working in garrets (what the heck is a garret, anyhow?), in self-imposed seclusion. If not in a garret, they sequested themselves in little rooms, or in lofts, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, and the intrusion of people.

It was the perfect life for an introvert. Your words would enchant the public…without you yourself ever having to meet the people.

But in those days, all writers had to do was write.

Today, we writers must relentlessly self-promote if we want our books to sell. If you’re writing primarily for e-publishers, you can get away with much of your self-promotion being online. You don’t have to go out and meet the public face-to-face very often; most of your promo is done via computer. But you still have to put yourself out there.

Simply advertising the book won’t do. Just posting notices that such-and-such a book is available, with tantalizing teasers about the plot (or topic, for nonfiction) and info on where to buy the book won’t really cut it. You need to do that, yes, but you need to do more. You need to promote your book(s)—and yourself—as a marketable commodity. You need to try to ingratiate yourself with your public. You need to capture their attention.

One way to do this is through a blog…or should I say, “two ways”? Yes, you can have a blog of your own, and/or you can guest on other writers’ blogs (as I am doing here). And if you have a blog of your own, you will soon find that you are laying your soul bare, or at least reporting on your daily life, from quotidian and mundane matters to the exalted highs of having another book accepted (or published), the nail-biting as you await an expected royalty statement, or the great satisfaction of getting a good review or having a reader tell you how much she or he loved your book.

To make your blog interesting, you have to open up. You cannot be shy and retiring.

What’s more, if your book is in print (as opposed to being an e-book), you will not only need to do promos online, but you will help your sales if you can schedule book-signings, speeches, and other publicity events.

Wave bye-bye to that garret. Seclusion is not an option for a writer these days.

So how do you, a person who is by nature shy or at least introverted, cope with putting yourself in the spotlight?

There’s no single trick that will turn you into an insta-extrovert. But try any or all of these tips to see which ones help you:

• When speaking to a group, pick one sympathetic-looking person in the audience and direct most of your remarks to her or him. Pretend you are speaking one-on-one with that person.

• Remember that all the attendees in a group are readers, just like you, and that they are there to hear what you have to say because they want to be there with you. They care.

• When pouring your life out into an entry in your own blog, pretend you are talking to a friend, but not your best friend. Your best friend really cares about all the ins and outs of your daily life. Your other friends care about your life, but not the tiny details. Write as if you are talking to one of those friends.

• When offered a choice between writing an article as a guest blogger or answering a questionnaire, choose the article. Not only will it feel less intrusive to an introvert, if that’s what you are, but it will be of greater interest to your readers than the typical “What is your favorite color?”/”What is your favorite food” type of questions.

• Be creative. (As a writer, that should come naturally to you.) Have fun you’re your promos! When promoting a nonfiction book on a readers’ loop, don’t just write, “Author So-and-So offers 50 tips for blah-blah-blah in her new book….” Rather, ask a provocative question or make a challenging statement to get the readers’ attention. “How would you feel if your child ran away from home?” “Do you really believe the two-party system serves us best?” “We CAN communicate with our dear departed!” “You CAN teach an old dog…or gerbil…new tricks.” (Use the same technique with press releases!)

• Remember, the more you promote, the better your chances of selling more copies of your book. And, shy or not, introvert or not, you do want to get that book out there, don’t you?

~ ~ ~

Cynthia MacGregor, who has always been an extrovert, has 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books to her credit. They run the gamut from self-help to fiction, general nonfiction to cookbooks, and include a number of books for kids as well. You can visit her website at http://www.cynthiamacgregor.com/ to learn more about Cynthia and her books.

Three books she would particularly like to bring to the attention of you, as writers, are The Writer’s Guide to Paying e-Markets, You Can’t Learn to Write Just by Reading, and The Writer’s Answer Book, all of which are available from XoXo Publishing.


  1. Visit www.BlameItOnTheMuse.com the month of October and leave us a comment to be entered to win a fabulous Halloween gift basket full of books and goodies. Winner will be chosen on November 1st!"

  2. Okay, I have NO idea why that posted above.... That's for another blog, LOL. Blogger is being ornery today. If it'll let me into my account to delete the above comment, I'll do it.

    What I THOUGHT I'd posted here was something like:

    Thanks so much for being here, Cynthia. I love your suggestions for being creative with promo, especially the tip to ask a provocative question or make a challenging statement. Anything to get the reader's attention, eh?

  3. Wonderful blog, Cynthia and great tips!! I'm afraid I need to get out of my garrett and promote as you suggested above :)
    Wish you great success, my friend!!

    Daisy Dunn