I want to warn you up front that this is not a post about answers. I don’t have that many. It is a post about the challenges of being an introvert in a freelancing world where you must self promote or languish in the shadows.
I am an introvert. By which I mean that I get my energy from being alone with my thoughts. An extrovert is someone who gets their energy from being around other people. I’m also agoraphobic – meaning that I’m irrationally afraid of crowds. This causes a lot of difficulties for me when it comes to be being a freelance interpreter and a writer hoping to make it in the ever changing market. So for me, it not only costs me energy to connect with other people, it’s scary. I know that there are people out there who have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about (I even know some of them personally). For such people it is like nothing to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. For me it is nearly impossible.
I can, if a stranger walks up to me, engage in a conversation. So how do I convince complete strangers to walk up to me and start conversations? One way that I’ve tried is to do some of my more out there hobbies in public. I would go to coffee shops to make chain mail (the kind they used to use for armor). This did occasionally start a conversation as one of those totally out going types would wander over and ask what I was doing. Unfortunately this never produced a friendship of any length as I couldn’t be as outgoing as they expected and they couldn’t be as quiet as I needed in a friendship. It did however produce several sales of my jewelry. More recently, I was caught writing in a restaurant during a quiet period one of the waitresses quipped “what are you writing, a novel?” I was able to tell her “yes” and even direct the conversation to NaNoWriMo and even convince her that she could try writing if she wanted to. So this strategy will still work – on a small scale.
There are other ways that someone like me – if they are willing to be brave enough – to get noticed. Sitting on panels at conventions is one way. Again the scale is dependent on the size of the convention but still rather limited. The same can be said of doing readings at those same conventions – an easier gig to get than a reading at a big name book store. In these cases you set yourself up to look like an expert (and don’t kid yourself, you are). Experts get talked to.
A variation on this theme that works for me, though is probably less applicable to most, is to interpret at the conventions. Since I write Sci-fi/fantasy, I can interpret at a Sci-fi convention and get noticed by my target audience. Added benefits include not having to talk for myself and still being up at the front where everyone is looking at me. The down sides include random conversations in the grocery store that are completely out of context for me. For some reason that I don’t understand people think that because they watched me interpret for a whole hour at the opening ceremonies of that convention two years ago that I will know who they are. It doesn’t work like that. Worse than that, I have yet to figure out how to turn these random conversations into positive self promotion.
Now, with all the turmoil in the publishing world, it is more important than ever to promote yourself on-line. That means putting yourself out there to hundreds of billions of people that you don’t know and trying to convince them to read your stuff (or at least buy it). There is the standard advice – get a Facebook/Google +/Twitter account and use that to tell people about your book. Yeah, there are hazards that way. You’ve probably seen them – Twitter accounts that are set to automatically send “buy my book at [link]” six times a day and nothing else. This might produce a few sales, but more than likely it’s going to get you un-followed. Same with using your Facebook or Google + account to do the same thing and all the other millions of social networking sites out there.
Have a blog, write interesting things. Yup got that. I think it’s interesting. I can see from the stats that most of the page views are my husband checking up on it and making adjustments. There must be more to it than that. There are other blogs that I follow, some more closely than others. Some of them I think I might be the only reader and others have so many comments that I can’t keep up with them. The latter category tend to be by people who were famous before they started blogging. I’m hoping to be somewhere in the middle someday. I would like to see this blog read by more people than I actually know. To be fair, I’m sure that not all of the views I get are personal friends. I just want there to be more of them.
Have a blog, write interesting things and promote it on Facebook, Google +, Twitter, etc. Yup doing that too. Well not the Facebook part – I don’t participate in that one. The problem is, you have to have “friends” or at least “followers” in these places to make it work and that’s where I fail. Since I don’t know that many people in real life that I can actively cajole into signing up and following or circling me, I’m stuck trying to start conversations with strangers on line. You know how I said this was nearly impossible in real life way up there at the top of this post. It’s equally difficult on line. I’m not the kind of person who can just start a conversation with someone I don’t know. And when I do try I’m reminded of all the creeper stories about people hiding behind fake identities looking for your weakness so that they can swipe all your passwords or find your home address or what have you. When it’s not the creepers making me shy, it’s remembering that my writing life and my day job are not all that compatible. Things that are totally OK in fandom are frowned on in education. So I have to be careful what I say. Another layer of “ugh” to get through before I can post.
If you are reading this and are not my mother, you’ve probably figured out that I have managed to get around all these issues at least to some extent. Still, if you know of any other ways for me to get out there, please give me a tip. If you found this at all helpful, share it with your friends. If you think that I should just shut up and slink back to the shadows – keep it to yourself.
Thank you for your support.