In today's article, Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader shares his fears and tips for overcoming them. [Nate helps me with tech support for this website, so I'm thrilled to have him share a more personal story.]
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, putting yourself out there can be scary, but at the same time, it is also crucially important.
You need to step out of your comfort zone and go meet people where they are because waiting for them to come to you will stifle your career.
My greatest mistake as a blogger was that I gave in to my fear of meeting people. I should have been actively pursuing every opportunity for publicity, but instead, I let my self-doubt stop me from getting on conference panels, I quietly ducked interviews, and I even let my dislike of noise keep me going to parties during conferences.
I have had a successful career as a blogger, but I also know I would have been bigger and much better well-known if I had resisted my fears (actually, gut-wrenching panic would be a more accurate description).
The same is true for authors. Yes, you can have a career even though you are avoiding public events, but you will not be as successful.
You will need to overcome your fears, and here are a few actions you can take to do that.
One of the easier ways to talk yourself out of promoting yourself in public is to focus on the fact you don’t know what to say or how to introduce yourself. Toastmasters will get you across that hurdle.
This is an organization dedicated to helping its members learn to become public speakers, and not only will they help you learn the basics, they will also help you overcome stage fright and teach you how to cope with unexpected situations.
There are Toastmaster chapters all over the world, including in your neck of the woods. Visit your local chapter, and see if it is right for you.
[Note from Joanna: For tips on the practicalities and psychology of public speaking, check out my book, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.]
2. Writing Clubs
Your local writing club presents an excellent opportunity for you to get used to meeting strangers and talking about your work. Join a club and commit to attending every meeting, and if you get a chance, stand up and talk about yourself.
The clubs I belong to give every attendee a chance to introduce themselves and talk briefly about what they are writing. This is your chance to get used to standing up in front of people and being the center of attention.
And once you are comfortable talking to members of the group, you can take things to the next level by either suggesting new activities or programs for the club or even by running for office.
For example, I have committed to leading a meeting in March where I will help members rewrite their social media bios. I am also planning to run for office in one or both of my local writing clubs.
If your writing club is like mine then it will always be in need of volunteers to help run things; based on my experiences, the clubs never fill all of the officer positions. Volunteer as a candidate, and you will be voted in easily.
3. Networking Groups
Another great opportunity for you to get used to meeting strangers would be a local networking group.
These groups are intended for business people to make new contacts with other business people, and while authors don’t quite fit the mold of the typical group member, a networking group can still be a great resource for authors.
Regularly attending a group’s meetings will get you comfortable talking to strangers, and it will also give you leads on local service providers including graphic designers, printers, computer techs, and accountants.
If you want additional motivation, try this: These groups can also be a great place to conduct background research for your next book.
For example, talking to local lawyers will help you work out the details of a courtroom drama, and there are a hundred other professions that you might want to use in your next book.
A local networking group will count as its members dozens of experts in diverse fields, and all you have to do is have the guts to introduce yourself and ask them questions.
You can find business networking groups through Meetup, Facebook, your local Chamber of Commerce, or through BNI (a networking group franchise organization).
4. Conferences & Book Fairs
Once you have grown comfortable talking to people in your local groups, the next stage is to branch out and meet people at conferences and book fairs.
If you have a local book fair coming up, set a goal of introducing yourself to ten, fifteen, or twenty people, and don’t go home until you have met that goal.
Or, if you are attending a conference related to either your day job or related to your writing, commit to exchanging business cards with a certain quota of strangers. Don’t stop until you have filled your quota,
Once this no longer scares you, it’s time to volunteer at that local book fair. Staffing the help desk, or helping to set up and break down the booths, will give you many opportunities to talk to people.
Ask people what they are writing, and tell them what you are working on, and the conversation will grow from there.
The next step after volunteering at that book fair is to commit to being on a panel at a conference. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert; agree to be on a panel when someone asks you six months or a year before the conference, and then use the intervening period to learn what you need to know.
One thing I have learned is that if someone thinks I am a good fit for their panel then they’re probably right. I accepted a couple positions on marketing panels at the BookBaby conference in November 2018 even though I didn’t think I knew very much about marketing for authors. I found that as I got ready for the conference that I really did know enough to be a good panelist.
I have good news and bad news for you about venturing out into public. The bad news is that you can’t stop promoting yourself because the growth your career will start to slow down or even stall because you are no longer recruiting a new audience.
On the other hand, the good news is that this isn’t something you have to get right the first time around. Fumbling your intro at one meeting is not the end of the world because there is always another event where you can meet new people.
Keep working at it and one day you will be the expert who advises beginners how they can promote themselves. (I am not there yet, no.)
Are you planning on being more visible in your author career? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Nate Hoffelder has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns at The Digital Reader. You may have heard it mentioned on podcasts such as The Creative Penn, Wordslinger, or Sell More Books Show. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.