What Feeds You?

Extroverts, or so I’ve read, will enter a large room where a party is going on, a room where they know nobody, and feel excited and energized. The prospect of meeting new people delights them. An introvert will enter the same room with a sense of dread and want nothing more than to turn around and go home.

It’s not that the introvert “just needs to try harder.” No, the introvert has a different personality type. Maybe he or she can get over the dread and just be uncomfortable and bored. Cognitive therapy will help with that. But turning an introvert into an extrovert is no more likely than turning a turtle into a dove.

I hate promotion. I hate it when other people do it, but I hate it even more when I have to do it myself. And it’s an eternal truth, carved in stone, that self-published authors must engage in vigorous self-promotion if they hope ever to sell more than a tiny dribble of books.

I do a couple of things right. I have a writing blog. (You’re lookin’ at it.) And I did hire a good cover designer for my series. But other than that … no.

I spent several hours today looking around online for how-to articles on self-promotion for authors. By the middle of the afternoon I was ready to kick a cat across the room. Fortunately for the cat, I don’t have a cat.

Instead, I took a nap. After an hour or so I got up, started messing around with some computer music ideas, ate some ice cream, and now I feel fine. Making music energizes me. It’s a positive, life-affirming activity. Self-promotion is a mood killer.

Among other things, I was trying to understand Twitter. I Facebook incessantly, but I don’t tweet. What would I tweet? Who would I follow? Who would follow me? It’s a massive black hole. But the generic advice one gets online is, self-promotion is all about social media. Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, RipTheGutsOutOfGerbils. Okay, I made up the last one.

One of the advice columns I read suggests that rather than toss  yourself blindly into self-promotion, you consider whether your motive as an author is to inform, to inspire, or to entertain. The source of this advice, someone named Orna Ross, seems to envision no other possible motivations for an author. And you’ll notice that all three of those motivations are other-centered. The author’s energy, Ross assumes, will be directed at connecting with readers.

Truth is, none of those motives describes me. I write fiction for two reasons, in some order or other: Because I enjoy putting together sentences and paragraphs, and out of a sense of loyalty to my characters. I care about my characters! Readers? Eh, who cares about them? They’re probably off skateboarding or watching TV.

Your mileage may vary. But I suspect this topic, as crudely as I’ve painted it, may be worth pondering. What energizes you? If you’re energized by connecting with readers, then you will naturally have a leg up on the process of promoting your work. Even if it’s difficult, even if there are setbacks, you’ll have a desired positive end in view.

The only reason I want to reach readers is so I can introduce them to my characters. Honestly, the characters are what I care about. I don’t want them to die in obscurity; I want them to live. But if I’m sucked down into the black hole of Twitter, blog tours, and maintaining an email list, there will be no more characters. I’ll be too busy ripping the guts out of gerbils.

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