Can an introvert get good at marketing?

Today I want to discuss the value of embracing your creative boundaries. And how boundaries actually make better art, and help you get better at sharing what you create. Let’s dig in…

Limits Help Art

I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, and when he discusses making the Rolling Stones’ most successful albums, he talks about how limits make the process much better from an artistic standpoint. Keith embraces two different creative limits:

  1. He’s a guitarist and songwriter. A guitar has six strings. Keith removes one of them. So here is a guy writing music for a famous rock band, which would traditionally want the biggest sound possible, and he’s removing the low E string. Which string is this? Well, in my experience, this is the string that many rock musicians rely on most. It’s a deeper sound and packs a big punch. Keith literally removes it from his guitars.
  2. In recording albums, he prefers to use an 8 track recorder. What this means is that to record a full band, each sound would have it’s own track that would then get mixed down to the song. So maybe drums on one track, lead vocal on another, etc. Nowadays, you can really just have unlimited tracks during recording. He put his preference for the 8 track limit this way: “[Using] sixteen and twenty-four tracks.. made it much more difficult to make records. The canvas becomes enormous and it becomes much harder to focus.” For Keith, less is more.

I spend so much time researching how successful writers, artists, and creators have found their version of success. What do I find time and time again? Their art took a massive leap forward when they faced creative boundaries. When they didn’t have access to seemingly essential tools. When they lost what felt like an essential ingredient to their process. When they had a ridiculous time limit. Or some other barrier that easily could have caused them to stop.

But they didn’t. They thrived. That limit was what they needed for a massive leap forward.

We All Have Boundaries

This applies to how we share as well. We all have boundaries. We all have preferences that feel like they are rules set in stone. E.G.: “Oh, I would never talk about myself on social media, that’s so gauche.” Or, “Everyone I know hates email. Sending a newsletter would only annoy people. I won’t do it.”

The one I run into most often is this: “I have a hard time sharing because I’m an introvert. Marketing just isn’t for me.”

Now, I will say this up front: every one of us is unique. Only you can determine what you are comfortable doing. I’m encouraging you to be open minded, but in the end, I respect that you have to do what feels right to you. That said, I would encourage you to embrace your boundaries. And in doing so, find a way to move towards your creative goals even with those boundaries.

I am a massive introvert. Much of my day is spent either:

  • Locked in a room by myself.
  • Locked in a house with three other people who I love dearly.

And I thrive like this. I’ve heard the introvert thing summarized like this: “introverts are depleted by social interactions, extroverts are filled up by them.” For myself, I do find that after I give a big online presentation or have a series of back to back phone calls, I need to take a nap. Yes, I’m a napper. Every day, for well more than a decade. I love naps.

But of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t like people. I love people! And I actually love connecting and having deep conversations. I mean, if you have ever met me, seen one of my workshops, or listened to my podcast, you hopefully get a sense that I love talking with people and am incredibly passionate about the connecting with writers, artists, and those who create.

It would be easy for me to say: “I’m an introvert, therefore I can’t put myself out there on Instagram.” But three thousand posts later, clearly I can. Or to say, “Do not ask me to be on video, I’m more comfortable in real-life conversations.” Yet I have recorded and shared thousands of videos over the years. And, I really like it, here’s one. I’ve made my own version of introversion work for me. I have embraced my boundaries, and in doing so, use them to ensure I can still create and share.

My boundaries are not meant to limit my life, but allow me to show up more fully to what matters most.

These limits have allowed me to show up with total presence and authenticity. You have your own version of all of this. I’m sharing my experience simply to illustrate that one can have serious preferences and still thrive in how they share and connect. My entire week is spent chatting with writers! I meet new people all the time! And I’ve developed ways to do it that feel comfortable for me.

Embracing Your Boundaries Helps You Share With Authenticity

To share with a sense of authenticity, I would encourage you to impose limits. This helps stave off a sense of feeling overwhelmed. I have this conversation with writers all the time, that in embracing how to share their writing, they are trying to master so many skills at once. It’s a lot. Take it one step at a time. Sometimes I think of it as a literacy… learning how to communicate what you create and why, learning how to write a newsletter (and how to send it), how to share on Instagram, how to send an email to a podcaster, how to ask for a book blurb, etc. The potential list of tasks for developing your platform as an author can be long.

The solution? Do less. Consider how you share as a craft that you develop. So perhaps instead of being active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a newsletter, you pick just one of those to focus on for awhile. But then, you show up all the way. You view it as a craft, not a tasks you do begrudgingly.

Or perhaps you flip how you think about social media, Instead of thinking of it as a way to gain attention for your writing, you view it as a tool to celebrate the creative work of others. So you promote other writers, you reply back to them in supportive ways, and you wake up each day considering how you can truly make a writer or reader feel seen today.

Recently I wrote about this topic in a post titled: Want to grow your platform? Do less. It’s applicable here. I also recorded a podcast version of that, so you can hear me talk about it. Then I recorded a video of that:

 

Yep, that’s me the introvert sharing via text, audio, and video. And loving it. I respect my boundaries and preferences. But when I consider how I want to spend my days — supporting writers and creators — I find ways to still create and share even with those boundaries.

As you consider your own goals in how you share what you create, I would simply encourage you to explore this for yourself.

Thanks.

-Dan

The marketing advice few writers want to hear (podcast)

I’ve asked this question to writers many many times: “Would you prefer people you know buy your book, or strangers.” Their face lights up with unquestioning certainty: “STRANGERS!” But what I often find is that to build momentum in how your creative work is shared, it starts with those you already have a connection with. Today I want to explore why.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can watch the episode here:

The marketing advice few writers want to hear

I was watching a video from a gardener the other day who has 56,000 subscribers on YouTube, and 11,200 subscribers on Instagram when she dropped a huge piece of marketing advice. She was putting out bouquets of flowers to sell at her farm stand, when she said:

“I take a picture of all my flowers, and immediately post on Facebook and Instagram. I used to post on my professional pages. Then I started posting that I was open on my personal pages, and that REALLY helped me out so much. It was that realization that the people buying my flowers are really my friends and neighbors. So getting it there on my personal pages really helps me out.”

 

This is the lesson that many writers and artists miss. Why? Well, often when we dream of developing an audience, we picture this:

STRANGERS.

I’ve asked this question to writers many many times: “Would you prefer people you know buy your book, or strangers.” Their face lights up with unquestioning certainty: “STRANGERS!”

Of course, every one of us only knows a small number of people, so we want strangers because that means there is a wider potential audience for what we write. But there are many writers I’ve spoken with who literally hide their creative work from friends and colleagues. And not because they find the subject matter to be embarrassing, or they feel it will negatively impact their job or friendships or anything. There can be a wide range of reasons:

  • They just don’t want the judgement from those they know.
  • They want to “make it” on their own, without feeling their friends and family were goaded into helping out. Or like they were calling in favors, and people were taking pity on them.
  • They don’t feel those they know will buy or like their book.
  • They don’t want to try on a new identity of “writer” to those who already know them in other roles (mother, sister, co-worker, accountant, etc.)

But what I often find is that to build momentum in how your creative work is shared, it starts with those you already have a connection with. Publishers know this. That is why if you sign with a traditional publisher, one of the first things they will do in terms of marketing is send you an “author questionnaire.” This document asks you to list out everyone who knows you. They want to know if you were in a sorority 30 years ago, what companies you worked for 15 years ago, and so on. Why do they care about every single person you know? Because that is where they will start with their marketing. They will look for opportunities within your existing network, because they know that people who already feel connected with you are more likely to purchase the book, or amplify it to others.

We all start with zero platform. My first email newsletter was sent to 9 people I worked with. I went office to office, asking permission to send it to them. Could I have dreamed that one day strangers would receive it? Sure. But I started with those who already knew me, and trusted me. I say this all the time, but your author platform is two things:

  1. Your ability to effectively communicate what you create and why
  2. Establishing a sense of trust with those you hope to reach

More than 15 years later, this newsletter does reach thousands of people. Are many of them people I have never spoken with directly? Sure. But many of them are people I know from my workshops, from social media, from a wide range of interactions and conversations. And that feels amazing.

If you don’t learn how to talk about your writing with those you already know, how will you ever know how to share it effectively with strangers?

I’ve been redoing my Key Messages, the core beliefs that drive what I create. What this has me doing is a deep dive inward about why I do the work I do. But it also has me in conversation with people, considering what language really speaks to people. I would encourage you to do that same thing. Learn how to talk about your creative work in a way that gets people to lean into those conversations, instead of turning away. One where it grows your identity as a writer or creator.

Some of your biggest and most unexpected “wins” as an author will come through your network. The distant cousin who learns of your book, and recommends it to someone he knows, who then invites you to their book club. Or the old friend who knows someone who runs a big podcast and invites you on as a guest.

Of course, over time, your work will reach strangers. But those strangers will also become acquaintances, repeating the cycle.

When they were just starting out, The Beatles dreamed of wider success. But their first audience was Paul’s dad in the other room. John and Paul were writing music in one room, and just finished creating “She Loves You.” Then, they walked into the next room and played it for Paul’s dad.

This is where sharing begins. Where we are. With what we have. With those we know. I’m not encouraging you to do anything that makes you seriously uncomfortable, but I don’t want you to overlook the value of sharing what you create with those around you. You never know the magical places it may lead.

Thanks.

-Dan

Generosity should be your platform (podcast)

Instead of just recommending a book here and there, instead of just doing a #FollowFriday on Twitter, instead of just linking to someone, what if you gushed about them? What if you celebrated them in a big way? What if you honored what they create? What if you took on the role of someone who shares with ridiculous generosity? Today I explore the power of generosity in your platform.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can watch the episode here:

Generosity should be your platform

Next week I’m teaching a class that Jane Friedman is hosting! The title: “I Hate Social Media–Now What? How to develop word-of-mouth marketing, and get the publicity you want, with or without social media.” There is a $25 fee, and it will be a fun class. I prepared a brand new presentation just for this session. Register here.

Okay, onto today’s post…

So I saw this the other day, a new video from someone I follow on YouTube:

 

That is Rick Beato. In the past few years, has quickly amassed almost 3 million subscribers, creating videos analyzing music. With his newfound fame, he’s been landing in-depth interviews with Sting, Peter Frampton, Brian May and may others. In the video above, Rick is using his platform to give attention to a musician he greatly admires, but who hasn’t amassed much of a following online.

What Rick is doing here is shining a light on someone with generosity. His 11 minute video discusses why this other musician is so good, and encourages viewers to follow that musician on Spotify, YouTube, etc.

I love this.

Of course, the value of this kind of generosity is easy to see when it’s Rick with his 3 million followers. But you have this same power. You have the power to shine a light on writers, artists, and creators who inspire you. Your platform as a writer can be infused with generosity. In many ways, amplifying others is built into social media, via the “like” and “reshare” buttons. But what Rick is doing here is next level. I challenge you to do the same. And to be honest, I’m challenging myself to do the same.

Instead of just recommending a book here and there, instead of just doing a #FollowFriday on Twitter, instead of just linking to someone, what if you gushed about them? What if you celebrated them in a big way? What if you honored what they create? What could you do that would make their week, their month, or even their year. (Yes, I lifted that from the Friends theme song.)

What if you took on the role of someone who shares with ridiculous generosity? Back in December on my podcast, I did a profile on Zibby Owens titled, “What Zibby Owens Can Teach Us About Establishing Your Platform.” When she started her podcast interviewing authors, she didn’t just do one a month or one a week. At first it was one every 4-5 days. But then quickly it was one every 3 days. Then one every single day. Seriously, go look at her archive of podcast episodes, scroll alllllllll the way back to the beginning, then just look at the dates as you move forward in the list.

This is what generosity looks like.

It’s also what building a truly astounding career looks like. Every time I look, Zibby seems to be launching some huge new venture. It’s just amazing. I don’t have a way to characterize what she is achieving beyond how she describes herself on her homepage: “Zibby Owens. Author, Podcaster, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Book-fluencer, and Mother of 4.”

Why do this? Why focus on generosity when you may be approaching the idea of developing an author platform specifically to focus people on your writing? Well, for one, it feels good. I mean, the world is a complex place, if you can create a little bit of good in the world, that is a very — VERY — welcome thing.

So much of what it means to develop a platform is to not only grow awareness with what you create, but a sense of trust with readers and those who may share about your work. What gets people’s attention? To be seen. To be recognized. To feel an authentic connection. Of course, you want that for your work. But what if you initiated? What if you modeled the behavior you hope from others?

Want others to notice you? Notice them first.

What if you:

  • Identified other writers that your ideal readers may know.
  • Were then ridiculously generous in promoting their work.
  • Used that as an excuse to make a personal connection to the writer. And maybe even the readers.

This is work. It requires you to consider what other books your ideal readers already like. So many authors struggle with this. Then, it requires you to consider a critical question: what would truly support this author? I mean, beyond a retweet. Is it to give away their book? Promote their newsletter? Get people to an upcoming event?

Empathy is key here. To consider a metric that would really matter to this author. Something that would grab their attention. Some ideas:

  • Can you promote a book from someone that has been out for a year. Can you spend a week doing it? Like, you give the week a theme, you create a virtual party, you have some friends help you out.
  • Could you bake a cake with an authors book cover on it? Or better… bake cupcakes, but decorate each one as a different character from the book. Then share that on social media, maybe send them to the author.
  • Could you send the author a letter, written with a fountain pen, just gushing about their book? Seal the letter with wax, send them a photo of their book in a prime place on your bookshelf.
  • Could you organize 20 people to show up for an author event — all in costume from the book?

Are these ideas bonkers? Yep. Would every one of them get the attention of the author. OH YES. And of course, I’m just brainstorming here, there are thousands of other ideas. My point is this: don’t do the obvious easy thing. Go overboard. For writing. For art. For readers. For supporting the things you want to see more of in this world.

Oh, and this is applicable for reaching influencers too. But you don’t have to start there. Find a writer whose book could use some love. Then, deliver it.

Thanks.

-Dan