The shy author’s guide to book promotion

While some authors embrace book marketing and promotion with enthusiasm, many just wish it would go away.

Getting “out there” and talking about their book can be downright painful for a shy author or those who prefer to write, not talk.

Then there are those who aren’t exactly shy, but don’t like being the center of attention.

Still others are afraid they will be labeled as “shameless self-promoters.” Can you blame them? I’ve seen some who are beyond “shameless” – they’re downright undignified.

Common shy author obstacles and how to get over them

How do you overcome your personality-related reluctance to promote your book?

Here are the “I can’t do this” obstacles I see the most from shy authors along with ideas for getting around them.

Problem: Proactively promoting my book makes me feel self-conscious. I don’t like calling attention to myself.

Solution: Flip your perspective.

You’re not talking about or calling attention to yourself – you’re calling attention to your book.

You wrote that book to educate, entertain, or inform a certain audience. You won’t be able to do that if they don’t know about it. You’re doing them a favor by doing as much as you can to help them see how your book will help.

Shift the focus from yourself to the people who will benefit from reading your book. That will help you relax and maybe even enjoy that media interview.

Problem: I don’t like talking. I’d rather be writing.

Solution: Focus on the many promotional opportunities that don’t require voice-to-voice interviews or conversations:

Problem: I see what others do and it makes me uncomfortable.

Solution: Head in the opposite direction with your tactics.

For example, did you receive a book announcement e-mail message that you thought was too self-serving, overly-aggressive, or even pointless? Write yours in a way that’s classy, helpful, and informative.

Don’t like how an author friend shares a purchase link to his book on the Facebook timeline of new friends as soon as they accept his request? Set a better example. You might create a fan page for your book and share helpful information there, or start a Facebook group for your genre or topic.

Problem: I don’t know where to start.

Solution: Make time to learn.

This problem isn’t unique to introverts, but they’re more likely to use it than extroverts.

I’m a big on starting with a plan, but before you can write one, you need to know more about your options.

Begin by writing down your goals for your book. Then educate yourself about book marketing, publicity, and promotion:

This will help you decide which tactics will help you reach your goals. Next, select one tactic or tool that seems like the best fit for your skills and personality, and learn how to do it well. When you’ve mastered and implemented it, select another.

Be sure to download my free Book Marketing Plan Template, too. It walks you through the process with instructions and examples.

Problem: I don’t have time.

Solution: Apply the time you used to spend writing the book to book promotion.

You don’t have to be shy to have this problem. Still, when you’re a little more uncomfortable putting yourself “out there,” you might find it easier to use lack of time as an excuse to avoid taking action.

Try these strategies:

  • Get up an hour early two days a week.
  • Focus on the book after the kids have gone to bed.
  • Work on book promotion during your lunch break.

Make promoting a priority

It’s hard to promote a book when the related activities don’t come easily or intuitively. You’ll make progress if you focus on tactics that not only help you reach your target reader, but that are a good fit for your personality, too.

Start with one tactic — just one. You’ll soon see that doing just one thing — and doing it well — is far better than doing nothing.

Give it a try. I’m cheering you on!

How do you feel about book promotion? Do you love it, hate it, feel ambivalent? Why?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2012. It has been updated and expanded.)

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

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  1. Another winning post, Sandy!
    You understand that many authors are sometimes timid about promoting their books…and the tips you give here are so spot-on!

    Of course, if an almost published, newly published, wanna-be published or long-time published author REALLY wants some guidance, direction and hands-on help…they need to take your course!!!! It is definitely the biggest bargain out there…your personal attention was invaluable to me…it made all the difference in the world. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Vivian. You were an excellent student — you came to the online course site prepared to learn, so you did! Then you made the effort to use what you learned. That makes all the difference in the world. I’m so glad we met — and connected! — through the course.

  2. Thanks so much for this writing, you seem to know exactly how us ‘shy’ writers feel!

    The tips you have given a excellent, I’ll try to remember, its not about me, its about my book, ‘Inside Our Own Hearts’,Hence I’v promoted it via email contacts, facebook, etc. and its on Amazon as a Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-Our-Own-Hearts-ebook/dp/B007844U7K
    and also promoted on my website.

    Being a spiritual book I have also promoted ‘Inside Our Own Hearts’ within the Spiritual Churches and organizations, and also here, now. I hope you don’t mind!

    Thanks again,


    1. Thanks, Cheryl. Keep finding new tactics to use to get the word out — there’s a lot you can do while avoiding radio phone interviews or public speaking.

  3. Thank you for your comments. I read your comments and advice regularly here on Linkedin. I am not a shy person by nature but doing presentations scared me to pieces the first time and expect it will each time but it gets easier. It is different from not being shy to standing in front of a crowd of unknowns and talking-being afraid that you will forget something in one of your own chapters! But my coach, Patrick Snow told me to speak from the heart and stop trying to memorize a speech-he said “You wrote it so have fun and talk about it-three steps- (1) how and why the book happened (2) talk about the book contents-for me it was about our trip to Ireland and the country (3) how and what you did to write and publish my book. Remembering that advice helped me so much and I see some of that same advice here with you. Speaking from the heart flowed once I got past the first two sentences being sure to make eye contact with the group and holding a Q & A afterwards and for that matter, I also did so as I was speaking. Thanks Again, Rosemary Adkins-Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler

    1. That’s great advice, Rosemary. The best presentations are never read from a script. Speaking from your heart — even if you forget a point or two here and there — is a better way to truly connect with your audience. Thanks for sharing!

  4. WOW, Sandra! Found your article via LinkedIn. This is really very good, sincerely!!! It’s very comforting to know that other authors feel this way. When I remember it is not about me it helps tremendously. Just last week, I simply wanted to give some of my books to a non-profit and was asked to speak. She caught me off guard, I said yes..nervous. Your article is perfect timing for me. I will overcome the shyness by remembering it is about positively informing, educating and helping others. I write Christian, inspirational business cards in a book format. Forgive the plug as well. Am selling book, Secrets To Empowering ME! Business Cards on EBay http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1312&_nkw=secrets+to+empowering+me%21&_sacat=See-All-Categories
    It’s not about me! Thank you kindly for writing this informative article, Yes, I will be implementing all of your wonderful and positive suggestions. Blessings and many successes to you!!! Thanks, again for sharing!!!

    1. Thanks, Yvette. If you focus on sharing information you know will help your audience, you’ll do just fine — I’m sure of it. Good luck!

  5. I have come to love public speaking and the larger the crowd the better.

    I pick three people that look friendly in the crowd about 1/3 to 1/2 way back, one to my left, one to my right, and one in the centre, and I just talk to them. At that distance it appears that I am talking to the entire crowd. In a very large crowd I may add a couple of people in the back.

  6. Thank you for the advice, I’m not a shy person but certainly do not like to put myself in the spotlight. I am finding all the Internet avenues possible to promote my so to be published book. I’m hoping after the first time in front of a group it gets easier. Thanks again.

    1. It DOES get easier after the first presentation, Diane. For the first one, see if you can recruit a few friends for the audience so you’ve got friendly faces smiling at you. They can also provide feedback that will help your next program be even better.

    1. Thanks, Leonard. It sounds like what would help you the most is focusing on making sure you do what you can to share information about your book so the people you wrote it for can find it.

      Good luck!

  7. You hit the nail on the head for me. Thanks for the advice. I have no trouble speaking in front of a crowd about my book, but am shy about promoting it. Wish I had a person to do that for me. After ten years writing the non-fiction book I just want to rest.

  8. Brenda, I hear ya! We’ve all seen people who do it wrong (most of their tweets say, “Check out my book at [url]!”) and think, “I just can’t do that.” Focus, instead, on showing how helpful or entertaining your book is instead of always taking people to a purchase link (I’m not saying you do that…), and it might be easier.

    Yes, it would be nice if, 10 years later, you didn’t have to do this! So think about how you can get viral support — what information can you share from or about your book that is SO GOOD that others in your networks feel compelled to share it with THEIR networks, too?

  9. Thanks Sandra for your creative message on its not so much about you when promoting your book it is about the book.

  10. I agree that self-promotion is difficult for many writers, me included. I have found that I can promote in a group, but I’ve been very hesitant in the past to go up to people and say I’m an author and talk about my books. I’m getting much better at it, though. This time around, I decided to have business cards printed that are actually promo cards. Part of the cover of heartbeats (where the title is) is on one side, with the caption: Sizzling Suspense from Susan Rae, then my web address. The flip side has cover art from freefall with the symbol that takes you directly to my website (forgot what it’s called!) I came up with the idea after seeing so many people reading on their tablets, etc. out in public and on vacation and I really yearned to just say, “Hey, you want to try my book?”

    Since the cards promote my books, not me, I feel it gives me an opening. And because they are only the size of a business card, most people do not hesitate to take them when they are offered. Usually, they are very friendly and smiling when I ask them if they like romance or suspense novels. Today, I did something I’ve never done before: I took the cards with me to my doctor appointment and out to lunch and gave half a dozen or so of them to the receptionist, some to the waitress, and some to the business associate my husband brought along for lunch. And it was lots of fun!

    Susan Rae
    Heartbeats, MUSA Publishing 4/27/2012
    Freefall, MUSA Publishing 6/22/2012

  11. Good for you, Susan! This strategy can work for your book because there’s so much interest in romance novels.

    One thought: You’ve referred to “self promotion.” You’re not promoting your self, you’re promoting your book, so it’s “book promotion.” If you keep that in mind, it’s often easier.

    Keep the ideas coming!

  12. Those tips are indeed a great help for authors, may they be newbie or experienced, in order not to be afraid to face the crowd and hear their response. Although I’m not a book author but an ordinary bookworm, I can relate to those because I used to have stage fright when I was a kid. Perhaps authors can do some anti-stage fright techniques like warming up the body before the program or double-check the things they’ll use for the event (if they do decide on a live meet-up, of course). Thanks for the tips, Sandra!

    1. Thank you, Tyra! You’re right about preparation — whether it’s a speaking engagement or a radio interview, if you’re prepared, you’re less anxious.

  13. The problem with marketing in the modern age is that it isn’t for amateurs. Each aspect of writing for publication is a career field by itself. In order to be good at it you have to take time away from what you love, to do things you aren’t necessarily good at or enjoy. Each one of these ‘job’s require new skills and a significant amount of learning.

    Writing for publication is a team effort, but most people aren’t very good at assembling a team. Some get lucky, some grow up with a circle of friends with disparate skills and others work their butt off to accomplish it. This requires social skills, which is just another ‘job’ that requires learning an practice.

    Nothing about this is easy.

    1. You’re right, Dave. For some people, like me, developing social skills is something that I will never be able to do. I’m convinced it’s physically impossible, like throwing a 103-MPH fastball or slam-dunking a basketball. A lot of it comes down to whether or not you trust other people not to judge or be intrusive, which I don’t; whether you “like yourself” enough that you think other people will too (strike two), and/or feeling that you as a person have something, anything valid or worthwhile to contribute to society (strike three, hit the showers). I’m surprised that the OP never mentioned anything about maybe hiring a freelancer to “ghost-PR” in one’s stead, so that the other person can do all the dirty work socially and the writer can continue being a Salinger-esque hermit. Would like to see what her response is. I don’t see a problem besides cost. ROI must be good because you’re delegating the responsibility to someone who 1) isn’t an amateur and 2) doesn’t have the kind of personality that makes one become incontinent at the mere thought of even speaking one’s order to the kid at the fast-food drive-through.

      1. I didn’t include hiring a publicist or book marketer in the advice in the this post because most authors can’t afford that option. Book publicists typically charge $3,000-$5,000/month and require a multi-month commitment.

        As noted in my other response to you, you can outsource anything you can afford except media and blog interviews. It sounds like the best option for you.


  14. What if you aren’t comfortable connecting with people AT ALL? Is it acceptable to hire a PR company or a freelancer, and delegate responsibility to them? I have absolutely zero biographical information about me in public. I have no friends or family. I have not even left my house in 10 years. I would like to keep it that way, but still have at least a modicum of sales from a book, even if it’s barely enough to afford a dollar-menu cheeseburger. Why is it absolutely imperative that I be the one connecting with people, if the book is what’s most important? As long as it’s only about the book, and not about me, then what’s the harm in having someone else be “you” and, say, “ghost-promote” in your stead? I’m not in this to build relationships, as I said above. I like being a recluse and don’t want to make any “friends” or meet people either online or “away from keyboard.” Really, is there something wrong with having someone else do the dirty work for you? Can’t they just read the book without asking what “inspired” me to write it or other behind-the-scenes stuff that I don’t want to answer?

    1. You can hire someone to do everything for you except media or blog interviews, but you’d still have to communicate with and guide the person you hire.


  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I asked your title question to the universe (AKA Google) and got nothing. So I feel so encouraged by your information. And I wrote a “Tip” sheet–and was pleasantly surprised that, first I’d never heard of it–and it was easier than I thought. The instructions were actually inviting to this introvert–you made it fun! It was like finding water in the desert. Evie

    1. I’m so glad to hear it, Evelyn! That’s wonderful. Thanks for letting us know. I love writing tip sheets, so I’m glad to see you thought it was fun.


  16. Still good info even today. I have a friend who wrote a book and I’m trying to help him get started. He isn’t shy but he isn’t on any social media and he doesn’t know where to start. His book is The Iris Algorithm by L.G. VanHuen. It’s a really good techno-thriller especially for a first book.

    Hopefully with the help of this article, I can get him moving in a good direction.

  17. Sandra:
    I am just seeing this blog and you are a life saver. I have been bitten by the writing bug and I love writing, but I just need to be able to justify it by selling what I write. I put it on Amazon kindle, and since I’m out of work, I cannot afford advertising so I’m doing it the hard way.

    I am going to follow your advice and plug away.
    Benjamin Johnson, Ed.D.

    1. I’m SO glad this was helpful, Benjamin! Thanks for letting me know. It all comes down to knowing who will love your book, learning where you will find them, and getting your title in front of them there. I wish you the best of luck.


  18. This was a fantastic post. I hate self-promotion, but it is necessary. Thank you for writing such a cogent, helpful piece.

  19. I struggle with the way so much publicity advice starts from the assumption that you are fine with signing up to Facebook or Twitter, regardless of what problematic stuff there may be in their small print. (Which will take several hours if not days to read, even if you do understand it.)

    Surely there are ways for writers to raise awareness of their work that doesn’t involve entering lopsided relationships with monopolistic companies?

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