The Persistent and Damaging Myth About Introverts and Marketing

Cartoon from Toothpaste for Dinner

I’m getting frustrated with people who say they’re bad at marketing & promotion because they’re introverts.

Maybe this argument was more valid before new technologies came along—when marketing and promotion involved more “getting out there,” networking at events and stores, or making phone calls. (God knows I hate phone calls and would be a terrible marketer if that’s what marketing was all about.)

But looking at how things work TODAY, introverts should be over the moon at how lucky we are to live in an age when we can effectively market and promote by:

  • staying at home
  • using whatever tools suit our communication style best (e-mail, IM, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • crafting and controlling messages to our own satisfaction
  • limiting interaction when needed

I’ve self-identified as an introvert since I was a child, and test as an introvert on the Myers-Briggs. I love this time-honored article about caring for the introverts in your life, and I know the horror of being told to “think faster.” Some people just don’t understand—it takes time to fully process what’s being said, sort through knee-jerk reactions, thoughts, and feelings, then carefully and thoughtfully formulate a response.

But these tendencies of introverts …

  • bad at small talk (but not necessarily shy)
  • preference for small group conversation
  • avoidance of huge social gatherings—or being drained by them

… these tendencies don’t significantly impact our ability to be effective at online marketing and promotion. In fact, when you consider that “the only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself,” you have the makings of a superlative online marketer! These days, there’s far too much BAD marketing and self-promotion (that amounts to talking, in a very uninteresting way, about oneself), and not enough GOOD marketing and self-promotion, which is about serving an audience.

Knowing your audience, reaching your audience, and engaging effectively with your audience is more about listening, understanding, curiosity, and good communication skills—not “extroversion” or “introversion.”

So, my fellow introverts, you’ll need to find a better excuse to explain why you’re bad at marketing and promotion!

Side note: Today only, 50% of Writer’s Digest (and F+W Media) online store profits are donated to Mississippi Delta Relief. Click here to visit the and shop for books, magazines, and classes that will support a great cause.

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32 thoughts on “The Persistent and Damaging Myth About Introverts and Marketing

  1. Jane Friedman

    Wonderful comments & insights from everyone. Thank you all.

    For @Karen Fisher – These days, sitting at a signing table, and just signing books (or waiting for people to approach you), is about the most outmoded method of marketing I can imagine. I’m not sure that it *ever* worked (except for bestsellers with name recognition).

    Please save yourself the anxiety — don’t do it! Far too ineffective.

  2. Jerry

    Great guidelines and encouraging words for the introvert. Being an introvert myself, I can see where different methods need to be employed in order to achieve the same results as the extrovert. But, it is possible to succeed, in spite of the common stereotype given to the introvert. We definitely have our strong points. We just need to know how to recognize them and learn how to use them. Social skills will become more natural if you are persistent at practicing them. Social media can be a great outlet to build confidence. I also found some other helpful tips for introverts at:

  3. Karen Fisher-Alaniz

    I’m not sure what I am…lol. And I really don’t like labels. Do I love the thought of getting up there and talking about my book? No. Am I anxious to sit at a rickety table for three hours signing 1.5 books per hour? No. But the most important question is the one I must ask of myself; Am I willing to step outside of what’s comfortable in order to further my career as a writer? I’m finding that the answer to that is a resounding, "Yes!" Don’t get me wrong – it’s scary. But I’m willing to take a chance…on myself.

  4. Justin

    Jane, what a wonderful article! I’ve been waiting to read something like this for years. I am an introvert. I doubt I could ever do a book signing engagement or be interviewed on television or radio. Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites—anything online I can do. Writing is how I communicate best.

  5. Piotr Kowalczyk

    I’m so thankful for this post, Jane. Internet and social media are a great chance for introverts. It’s easier to express oneself and it’s also easier to handle relations, as they are not loaded with all those distracting non verbal messages.

    However, I think most of the introverts never tasted social media. The biggest challenge is to convince them to try.

  6. D.G. Hudson

    Didn’t J.P. Sartre say, ‘Hell is other people’? As a writer he knew he needed them (other people) for readers, but IMO, he didn’t want to dilute his stories/messages for the general audience. He was probably just an existential intellectual introvert, poor guy.

    I like some of the new tools, don’t like others. I like tools that involve writing, not so much the ones that involve socializing as the main element.

    Each writer must decide how much of themselves they want to invest in support of their writing. As for all the noise we’re expected to make these days, when does it become too much? Too many voices, and few get heard.

  7. Arlene

    Love this article! I am an introvert as well — and no one, but no one, hates phone calls as much as I do. I am so happy I can now market using e-mail and social media! I am surprised at some of the things I did dare to do (walk into book stores peddling my book, have book signings, present to an audience) — but nothing is as bad as the phone!

  8. Jane Friedman

    I get you! Most of the authors I love I found by total accident, not through their own marketing efforts. But now that I love them, I sure do wish they were more active/interactive online. I would spend more money with them/on them, LOL!

    NEA — yes! That’s a post for the future, haven’t yet written about. It was a marvelous experience.

  9. Andy

    Thanks for the examples 🙂 I guess I need some more time to process how to make those chain reactions happen right for me LOL. FWIW, I think part of my hang up–and it’s probably shared by other writers, too–is that I want to give my (decidedly small) audience an experience that somehow speaks to the experiences I have had as a reader, which almost always have had some element of mystery as to how the books came to me in the first place. Marketing wasn’t part of my thought process as I grew to love reading, so now I find myself trying to understand and practice marketing in a way that stays true to myself without treading too heavily on the kinda fragile thing I’m trying to create. *rolls eyes*

    PS- You’re on an NEA grant panel?! That sounds so cool! Have you posted about it anywhere? I would love to hear more about that experience.

  10. Jane Friedman

    @Andy – I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter for a long time now (2006 and 2008, respectively). When my e-book on the future of publishing released on April 1, all of the sales happened by word of mouth on Facebook and Twitter. (Most social media mentions linked to an interview where I discussed concepts in the book, then that interview linked to the book info page.)

    Some of the people who purchased the e-book knew me, some didn’t. I still receive e-mails from strangers who heard about it because someone tweeted an interview with me or otherwise mentioned the book being available.

    I’m not quite sure how much further you need to see the process broken down, but that April 1st effort wouldn’t have been successful unless I’d been active online for a long time … a little bit of activity each day …

    Also, about 18 months after I started using Twitter — which I think by definition is a series of "small acts of marketing" — Publishers Weekly mentioned me in an article about people in publishing who were using the channel successfully. Someone at the National Endowment for the Arts read that PW article and later contacted me to serve on an NEA panel to review grants in literature. Up until that point, I’d had zero interaction or contact with the NEA. But that opportunity came as a result of spending 15 minutes a day on Twitter for a long period.

  11. Andy

    I have read and loved thousands of books, but have very rarely directly interacted with an author’s marketing effort. Especially in my formative years as a child (before the Internet).

    That’s not to say that the authors I read didn’t work hard at marketing, because most of them probably did.

    I feel a disconnect between my experience as a lover of books and my experience as an author/marketer.

    Sorry, I’m a little off topic, but I would like to see an article that explains how small acts of marketing can cause chain reactions/word of mouth that eventually leads to a stranger selecting my book to read in the same way that I select a barely known author’s book to read.

    Something to bridge the gap between my marketing efforts as an author and my experience as a reader.

  12. Stacy Green

    I completely agree, Jane. I’m not exactly shy in person, but I definitely don’t like talking about myself, and I’m not great at small talk with strangers. Social media has been a great tool for someone like me, and there’s no reason everyone can’t master it. With Twitter/FB, etc., I have no problem jumping in and being chatty. Maybe it’s the safety of hiding behind a computer screen, but I have a feeling it’s got more to do with being better able to channel my thoughts via writing rather than speaking.

  13. Steven M Moore

    Hi Jane!
    Guilty as charged. However, I echo some of the sentiments about FB and (horrors of saying something meaningful in 140 characters) Twitter. The internet allows me to hide behind the screen of my computer, but I still have trouble getting a conversation started on FB and other (more writer and reader oriented) social networking sites. I tend to be a lurker, reacting (as now) to what other people say.
    On the other hand, I have a free-wheelin’ op-ed blog on my website that is gathering more and more followers, so maybe this digital age just reflects the fact that people build-up a community of friends (e.g. readers) slowly. Maybe I just need to be more patient.
    Something missed in most of your comments so far: today’s digital publishing revolution is special because, introvert or extrovert, the writer is in control. He or she can experiment (I never thought I’d be a blogger, for example); he or she can pick the brains of smart people (I now habitually include a card with every bill I mail in, an easy technique for those not paying all their bills on-line); he or she can control where scarce marketing funds are spent (Google Ad-Words or FB ads); he or she can plan and announce their own book tours or signing visits to bookstores; etc; etc. This is a freedom that the nerd/introvert in me truly appreciates!
    Take care.

  14. Valerie

    I’m an introvert and proud (well… still working on that part a bit), but I’d never say I’m not good at marketing. In fact, my day job is all about marketing – I love strategy, understanding what makes people tick and why they make decisions. I love online connections and marketing too. But after days of schmoozing at a work conference I’m the one looking for a hole to crawl in instead of hunting down the after party.

  15. Shane

    I think it’s not how much we talk but what we are talking about actually make sense. So being an introvert is absolutely fine.Talk less but convey the message properly.

    I found your tips very useful. I like them.

  16. Rosanne Dingli

    I test differently, depending on the day, and how fruitful I feel it is. I am mood / results oriented, and find that the same results can make me feel different on different days. Still do not know what it depends on. I am quite successful at projecting an image online that is congruent with promotion: people tend to listen to what I write (!) because I am diplomatic, avoid conflict and always think before I press submit. I also edit my comments, tailoring what I say to what I think the audience might like, which is excellent for brand promotion. I see results in the sales of my books, but I can’t be doing things strongly enough because on some days I am not totally satisfied. I like public readings, but I like the definite line between me and the audience, which made me a good lecturer and teacher… but in charge rather than participatory. In short, a control freak. I just love threads like this, where everyone seems to be of one style, if not of one mind. Great.

  17. Kathryn Paterson

    Funny, on the Myers Briggs my E and I are equal, and then I’m a STRONG NFJ. So ENFJ or INFJ, depending. That said, I used to hate the concept of marketing because I wanted to be honest, and I didn’t want to do what I used to think of as "schmoozing." Then a friend pointed out that my problem was that I was thinking about the times I worked in marketing, trying to spin products I didn’t actually believe in. When he said it was okay to be myself, I started warming to the whole idea. That said, I’ve always been painfully shy, especially in person, but get me on a public forum/facebook/whatever and I go crazy! I think the internet is a boon for people like me.

  18. Bob Mayer

    The personality type from the Myers-Briggs labeled author is INFJ. The exact opposite is promoter, ESTP. I don’t think that’s an excuse not to promote well, it’s just something to be aware. The big thing you point out is that today, an author can promote from the comfort– and safety– of home via social media. While the means are there, the hard part is to get over a natural dislike of doing promotion.
    As Michael Hague asks during his workshop: I’ll do anything to succeed as a writer, just don’t me to do . . . . ?
    Whatever the answer to that question is, lies the key to success.

  19. steve shilstone

    Hi Jane. Elderly introvert here. I find it massively easier to do internet stuff for my new children’s ebook series than it was to endure bookstore readings for my baseball novel way back in the ’90s. So yes, internet easier for introverts. At least for one elderly intro who also admits to being a loon hippie lite.

  20. Tania Dakka

    Wow! Thank you, Jane, for posting the traits of an introvert! I knew I had these issues and I had an idea that I might be introverted (as opposed to anti-social), but the traits you listed are ALL me! I didn’t realize that taking time to articulate or loathing repeating myself was intorversion! Thank you for lessons learned:)

  21. MKHutchins

    I’m definitely introverted, but you’re right — there are options. I find Facebook a little overwhelming, but Twitter’s perfect. Short, non-invasive, and I get a lot of great info on it daily (like a link to this article). Thanks for making being a part of the writing community not sound scary.

  22. Janice Hardy

    I’m more extroverted, but I’m also very shy about speaking to large groups, and I hate being pushy, so I really balked at doing the more traditional marketing things. But online marketing has a more personal approach which is just perfect for me. I love to talk to folks in small groups or one on one. I can reach out and "promote" just by doing things I enjoy anyway. And there’s none of that "in the spotlight" pressure.

    Writers have so many options these days, which is great.

  23. David Rozansky

    I see this all the time when I talk (or rather, tweet) to writers about how they should market their books, so I appreciate your wisdom on this subject. It touches pretty strongly on the premise of the book I am now writing: Fishnets and Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book.

    I am starting with the assumption that most writers find self-promotion and book marketing to be distasteful and demeaning. Instead of trying to convince writers that it is otherwise, I came up with the premise that a simple marketing plan broken into a series of easy-to-follow steps takes the dread out of self-promotion, to turn it into an enjoyable habit. Then, the only challenge left is to find which marketing campaigns fit the author’s personality and abilities.

    I have focused an entire chapter on the question, Why do authors resist self-promotion. My answer is that writing is an inward-looking process, while marketing and promotion are outward-looking tasks. Introversion and extroversion. And the brain tends to resist going in both directions. That’s why a plan can be so important, as it simulates extroversion while keeping the process introverted, focused on writing and creating instead of hucksterism and hand selling.

    Thus, I am grateful for your permission to reprint this article as a sidebar in the book. I have the perfect place for it.

    And thank you again for all the writing wisdom you have shared over the years.

    Keep ’em Flying
    David A. Rozansky
    Publisher, Flying Pen Press

  24. Dan Holloway

    I’m an extrovert and my absolute passion is doing live readings, be it a quiet talk or a poetry slam. But I’m also bipolar, and during depressive episodes I could barely look another perosn in the eye. I certainly can’t leave the house. The internet is a lifeline at such times, so I completely understand what a godsend it is for introverts.

    I see no one has mentioned "1000 true fans" yet – for me that’s still the most important concept for writers to grasp, and it is just built for introverts – building lasting, deep relationships one at a time.

  25. Shirley

    I noticed the leveling personality effect of the digital age at the very beginning. When students in my English classes were asked to participate in online chat groups, the introverts were as apt to be star participants as the extroverts. I even saw more participation of introverts IN class after they had expressed themselves in writing first.

  26. Jane Friedman

    @Wendi – LOL! Hmm, extroverts seem to magnetize followers? Not sure. Perhaps the ones you know have, so far, a stronger link between how and what they communicate, what their audience wants, and the appropriateness of the channel. Not everyone’s best channel is Twitter or Facebook. Also, have the extroverts been doing it longer than you? Sometimes it’s more about how long you’ve been working it (you get better + you build up momentum). I do believe some people are more charismatic than others, but online communication methods strongly favor people who know how to write powerfully.

    @Patricia – You’ve kind of made my point for me? The best marketing/promotion activity on Twitter or Facebook isn’t about self-promotion, but about conversations and sharing and meaningful connections. I don’t think "friending" or "following," in the LONG term, impacts one’s success on social media. Your growth may be slower, but I don’t actively seek to friend/follow, and I do just fine.

  27. PatriciaW

    Granted technology offers a shield, but might introverts be less likely to self-promote via Twitter and FB messages? Might they be less likely to engage in conversations that develop relationships, and less likely to "friend" others? I can see how the technology still might favor the extrovert over the introvert. (I’m probably square in the middle but leaning toward extrovert.)

  28. Robin

    Great post and thanks for the link about caring for introverts. My hubby is an extrovert and I always know when he hasn’t had his people time. He’ll talk my ear off. We have an agreement though. I can tell him when I need a break.

  29. Wendi

    But Jaaaaane! {in my best Whinese accent} My extroverted friends seem to magnetize followers on Twitter, and have about 50,000,000 friends on Facebook. {end Whinese accent} It takes me as long to attract followers as it does for me to process my thoughts. Aren’t some people just born more charismatic than others? Or is that another myth, too? Though (as an introvert) I love that I can communicate by writing rather than by talking, it does seem that some folks have a knack for grabbing market share. What do you think?


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