Can shy writers make a living writing books?

I saw a post written by a shy indie writer who is deathly afraid of socializing online. He's very, very shy. He wanted to know if he can make a living selling books if he's totally absent from social media of any kind, including even a website.

Here was my answer: My first job after the military was selling insurance, door-to-door basically. In person, I'm quiet when I first meet people. I've been that way all my life. Some of you who know me online might not believe that, but it's true. I'm a lurker before I'm a poster; I like to get the lay of the land before I speak up, since I don't really like the taste of shoes. I had to force myself for my insurance sales work to step outside my comfort zone and do things that made me extremely uncomfortable, like walking up to a stranger and asking her if she was having a nice day, commenting on pictures of her grandkids I saw on a mantle, discussing the weather, that kind of thing. I was only able to do that because I had someone to model after. Dewayne Keating.

The way I did it – become a different, more outgoing person – was to imagine this friend of mine, Dewayne. Dewayne was the kind of guy who could walk into a party not knowing anyone and leave as everyone's new friend. He could go up to anyone, any age, any background, and strike up a conversation. I watched him in action many times with envy in my soul. I also took mental notes. I noticed he always sized a person up real quick and then started a conversation with a question about something he thought both he and they might be interested in. He always asked open-ended questions or things that could be turned into longer conversations involving opinions.

Here was one I remember: “I'm thinking about buying a stereo. Do you guys know the best brand out there right now for a receiver? I have a small apartment.” And then after he got some answers, he said, “Why do you like that one best?” And then “Where's the best place to buy one?” and “Do you ever buy the extra warranties that come with those things?” It was magic. As soon as a person became the one giving helpful information, they lit up and got animated, happy to be talking to this stranger. A debate started in the group that gathered about stereos. When the conversation dwindled, Dewayne started another one or moved on to another group of people. He was like a conductor in a conversation symphony. He loved meeting people and was always genuinely interested in their feedback. He wasn't doing it just to BS people.

25 years after meeting Dewayne, I still can picture him working a crowd in my mind. Whenever I feel shy, I pull a Dewayne. I become him for just a few moments until that uncomfortable part passes. Once the conversation starts rolling, the scary part fades into the distance. I leave it behind in the dust, because I've found being social is fun once the fear dissipates.

It helps to have a list of conversation starters on hand: Do you live around here? Tell me about your family. Tell me about your job. What do you like to do for fun besides (whatever it is we're doing).

What does that have to do with whether a shy indie writer can live off of his writing? Well, two things:

1. You can step outside your regular self and be outgoing, just for the sake of your business. Yes, you can. You have the anonymity of the Internet and all the time you need to craft your posts, comments, etc. You are writer, and most social media is writing!

2. You can make a list of twenty topics readers like to discuss and throw them up on your social media every week or so. That will make your readers very happy and bring you the attention as a writer that you NEED in order to sell books for a living.

Can you make a living selling books while also being a recluse? Maybe. I don't know any indie writer who does that nowadays, but nothing's impossible. Do you want to increase your chances of success? Then it behooves you to treat it like a business and step outside your comfort zone.

Some inspirational quotes that always help me: Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. The universe helps those who help themselves. If you want to soar with the eagles, don't hang out with the turkeys. You miss 100% of the shots you never take. Carpe diem.

6 comments on “Can shy writers make a living writing books?

  1. I saw the same post you’re referring to but was too shy to reply. πŸ™‚

    I liked the story of your friend Dewayne, and I’m going to try his approach in my real life, where I’m a lot more shy than I am online.

    Whereas I don’t have as big a problem with chatting up someone online, I still find it difficult promoting myself. I have no problems telling an author about how great her book is or complimenting a book blogger on how much I like her blog, but I just can’t seem to turn the conversation to me or my books. I’m not complaining though because I’ve made some friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise!

    • Let me know how your experiment goes! πŸ™‚ As for turning the conversation over to your books, you don’t need to do that. Just talk about books and be intelligent and kind and eventually people will check you out and give your book a look. You can also ask for advice from people who you’d like to emulate. Then you get the benefit of their help and they will know you exist as an author. There are many generous authors out there who will give a leg up to a fellow author. I’ve done it a few times and have watched those authors eclipse me in sales and success, and I’m thrilled for them.

  2. Great answers to a question I’ve often wondered about. I’ve been horribly shy since my teen years although I’ve found myself to be a lot more social online. Like H.S. Stone I really liked Dewayne and will have to try that out too. I’ve forced myself to be more social online and the funny thing is when I am social in RL nobody ever notices that I might have felt uncomfortable or shy. One of the hardest things for me is looking people in the eyes and I try to force myself to do that whenever possible. The more control over a situation I have the more comfortable I am. Going to the store – ok, going to a party that I can’t leave when I want to – not so ok. But with a little effort I usually end up having fun, become more relaxed the longer I’m there and nobody seems to notice. At lot of people are shy at first or don’t know how to start a conversation with a stranger, so you end up fitting right in. Start small, go out with one or two friends, greet people at stores, do things that you have control over and the rest just gets easier and easier. I’m no social butterfly but I’m no longer a recluse either πŸ™‚

    • Sounds like you found a great solution. Baby steps. Every goal seems insurmountable when you look at the end from the starting line. Better to just look at it in increments. πŸ™‚ xoxo Elle

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