I’ve always tried hard to respect the privacy of my readers. I never wanted to push myself on anyone because, as a card-carrying introvert, I recognize that many of my readers are introverts who will resent any such intrusions on their lives. No one likes to be subjected to spam, paywalls, or newsletter sign ups, but introverted readers will actively flee this stuff. That’s why I’ve avoided it in my “marketing.”
We live in a world where writers have to market. Even those of us who cringe at the very thought of pushing our stuff as if it were cereal or the latest electronic gizmo. The world wants me to brand myself and I just want to barf. I’ve opted out of most of the super-invasive marketing strategies. I ditched my email newsletter. First of all, it took too much time. Second, it seemed too pushy. I don’t like spam and I know no one else does, either. Now I only have the option for users to subscribe to the blog via email. All that does is send out a notification when there’s a new post. Non-invasive. It asks nothing of the reader. Click to read the post if it appeals to you or don’t; I ask nothing of you beyond that.
But too many authors go far beyond that. I’ve visited some sites with so many pop-ups, subscription boxes, and paywalls that I sometimes fear a seizure from all the blinking and flashing going on on-screen. And if you don’t participate in all of the info-begging, you’re locked out of the site. This is not the way to gain a lot of readers.
Let’s face it. (I’m gonna throw out a major stereotype here. Yeah, I know what follows doesn’t apply to everyone but it applies to many, so let’s just go with that.) A lot of hardcore readers are introverts. (Writers too.) We don’t like dealing with people in large doses. Or small doses, come to that. We just want to read our damn books and be left alone.
Here’s how I, as an introverted reader, approach authors: If I read your book and enjoy it, that’s great. Thank you for a great story or for useful information. But the chances are high that I will not look you up on Twitter or Facebook. I might go to your website if I want to see what else you’ve written, or to see if you have an awesome blog. That’s rare, though. Your book has to have touched a very deep part of me, or you have to have such a unique voice that I want to see more from you. If I become a huge fan of yours and you come through my town on a book tour, I might come to the signing.
But that’s pretty much where my involvement ends. I will not sign up for your newsletter, I won’t email you, and I won’t seek out a correspondence on social media. There are two reasons for this: First, I have tons of other pressing things to attend to besides social media and culling yet another newsletter out of my inbox. Second, I don’t push myself on other people, particularly people who I know have other things to do besides be friendly with me.
An author, no matter how much I love their work, is not a friend of mine. (There are exceptions of friends who have gone on to become authors, but those are rare.) As a reader, all I want from a writer is a great story. That’s it. I don’t need to know what you had for breakfast, how your kids are doing with their toilet training, or to participate in your idea-generation/character-naming process. (If we’re interacting as fellow authors, that’s different. But I’m taking off my author hat here and pretending to only be a reader.)
In other words, interaction is on my terms, not yours. I will not be pushed into a relationship with you just so that you can market to me later. If for some reason I do seek you out and you push me with pop-ups, and newsletter sign-ups that chase me all over the screen, I’ll ditch you so fast your head will swim.
As an author, this is the model I’ve tried to follow in my marketing. There’s nothing on this website that demands your personal information in order to use it. I don’t DM random people on Twitter or Facebook, either, in the hope of creating a marketing opportunity. I don’t mass follow people in the hope that some of them will see the books on my profile and decide to buy them. My social media is run by me, not by spambots. You won’t find me compiling lists of online groups to spam with my book links. If you buy a book from my website, you’ll never hear from me again because I don’t mine that information for future spam opportunities. Basically, I put myself online and if you want to find me, you will. If not, that’s fine, too. I’m not going to chase you or demand that you give me something in return for your attention.
None of this means that I’m a mean person. I’m the opposite, actually. I am polite and friendly to any reader who wants to interact with me. If you email me or connect on Twitter, I’m happy to answer your questions, or engage in friendly banter. But I want it to be on your terms, not mine. I respect the fact that most readers don’t want one damn thing to do with me as a person. All they want is my work. I embrace that and it’s actually quite liberating. It frees me to be me, not some hyped up marketing maven who thinks of every relationship in terms of “What can this person do for me?”
I wish more authors (and publishers, since they’re the ones who drive a lot of authors into this “Please be my fake friend so I can sell to you,” marketing mentality) would respect all of their readers this way, and particularly their introverted readers. No one seems to understand that if you chase an introvert and push yourself upon them, they will run and never return. We just don’t have a tolerance for that kind of foolishness. And since most readers are introverts, you’re alienating your customer base with these pushy tactics. Even extroverts have a breaking point.
Yes, authors have to get their work out there, but there needs to be a balance between promotion and disrespecting your potential readers. It’s a fine line for sure, but one you have to find. If in doubt, put yourself in the position of an introverted reader and ask yourself: “Is this something I would appreciate?” If the answer is no, don’t do it.
(Photo by Lê Tân)