Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Introvert/Extrovert Continuum

First of all, here are a couple of definitions of introvert that I really like:
Wikipedia and About.com

Both Mary and I have taken the Myers Briggs test a number of times, and we both consistently score as introverts. But the thing is, there are differences in how strongly one presents as an introvert. The continuum looks something like this:

Introvert 5__4__3__2___1___I/E__1__2__3__4__5 Extrovert

A higher score on the introvert or extrovert side of the continuum indicates a strong preference, meaning you are pretty solidly in the introvert or extrovert camp. But as Mary said, that doesn’t necessarily indicate skills. For example, Mary scores highly on the introvert scale which places her firmly in the introvert camp. I, on the other hand, show only a slight preference toward introversion, scoring usually in the one or two range, which puts me fairly close to the middle.

Yet Mary is a much better public speaker than I am. By a huge margin. Even though I am closer to the extrovert scale, my throat closes up when I have to speak in public and I start to hyperventilate. Which illustrates the point she made that one’s comfort level in public speaking simply isn’t a reliable indicator.

Which is a very long way of saying that even if you show a very strong predilection for being an introvert, it does not mean you are doomed to a lifetime of never mastering the art of public speaking or being in a crowd. Skills can be acquired.

Here is one more quiz for your personal, procrastinating pleasure. This one is much less scientific than the Kiersy one, but I really liked the questions and thought they spoke to some core preferences of introverts. Although it does shoot holes in my previous scores of being almost equally introvert and extrovert, which I've never completely believed anyway. So it works for me.

You Are 10% Extrovert, 90% Introvert

You avoid people at all costs
You aren't one for social interaction
And you limit your interaction to a select few
Thank God for self checkout!

(And just when IS self checkout coming to my area, I'd like to know?!)

Lastly, I’d also like to share with you a secret weapon you may not even realize you have. Introverts may not be feel comfortable speaking in front of a group, or have vast networks of contacts, but many introverts are great at forming personal connections. We’re really good at that one-on-one stuff. And when broken down to it’s purest essence, that’s what marketing and promoting is really about, connecting with a reader or buyer. So maybe introverts don't do it en masse, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither, necessarily, is an author’s readership.

Monday, February 26, 2007

How to Tell if You're an Introvert

First off, don't trust an extrovert to tell you that you're an introvert or not. They are usually the first to point and say "wallflower," or as Elizabeth posted earlier, "anti-social." If you ask me to describe an extrovert, I might say He-Who-Won't-Stop-Talking. Especially after a long committee meeting. All of those descriptions are inadequate, judgmental, and off the mark. (And, a little snarky.) Those terms only describe some observable behaviors that don't really get to the true heartbeat of type.

Your type is innate, can be influenced, is not a box, is not an excuse, and indicates preferences, not skills. Type is a journey.

A person's comfort/discomfort level in a public setting doesn't give us enough information. Some extroverts enjoy being alone. An introvert might turn out to be a real live wire at a party! The truest and most consistent difference is in where the individual gathers their energy-- from within or from outside themselves.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the gold standard of assessment tools for type. These days, you can now take the MBTI on-line, though you'll need to pay a fee for scoring and interpretation. For free, though, you can go to
Keirsey.com and take an adapted version of type indicator. Click on Keirsey Temperament Indicator II.

Would love to hear back from you after you've taken it. Any surprises? Want to share?*

Stay tuned! Much more to come--


Mary Hershey

*If you have any questions about your results, that you don't want to discuss on-line, feel free to email me at mlhrshy@aol.com.

An Interview With Ellen Jackson

We are thrilled and honored to feature children's author,
Ellen Jackson, for our first Shrinking Violet Interview. Ellen is a wildly talented, successful, prolific, and generous writer of both fiction and non-fiction for children. She is a "confirmed" (read official) introvert, and has a wicked sense of humor. Ellen is also an esteemed recipient of the Children's Literature Grand Slam Award, given only to those with starred reviews in Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal. (All right, I just made this award up, but isn't a good idea?)

MH: Ellen, thanks for letting us take a look into your life. Let's start with your books. You have published between 50-60 children's books last count. What an amazing achievement!

EJ: CINDER EDNA is probably my best known book. Forthcoming books are THE CUPCAKE CRIME, my first early reader and a humorous mystery that incorporates information about the judicial system; ABRAHAM'S ANIMALS, a nonfiction picture book about Abraham Lincoln's relationships with animals; and THE SPACE SCIENTIST, my latest contribution to Houghton Mifflin's award-winning Scientists in the Field series, featuring Alex Filippenko, an amazing astronomer who studies supernovae and dark energy. For this last book, I went to Hawaii to watch Alex observe supernovae with the Keck telescope (which sits on the top of Mauna Kea). Tough assignment, but somebody had to do it!

MH: Do you work with an agent?

EJ: I’m not working full time with one right now, but I do have a part time agent, Kendra Marcus, with whom I sometimes work on special projects.

MH: How many years have you been writing and publishing?

EJ: My first book was published in 1981, but I’ve been writing since I was eight–poetry, a neighborhood newspaper, and a daily journal. I have a few excerpts of my childhood diary on my website (if you want to read how my brother and I used to play catch with an egg :-)

MH: How would your best friend (or spouse) complete this sentence?
"Ellen's idea of a perfect day is..."

EJ: Eggs Benedict for breakfast, a game of Frisbee with the dog on the beach, hiking in redwood country, a cozy conversation with a few friends in late afternoon, cinnamon raisin bagels and chocolate in front of a roaring fire in the evening, and snuggling with my hubby and a great book before bedtime. I guess you can tell I’m an introvert from reading that! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if I heard that one of my books had won a Caldecott too!

MH: How do you feel about the label "shy"? Does it fit for you? Or, would you describe yourself differently?

EJ: I don’t especially like the term "shy." I really am an introvert, in the Jungian sense. I like to play with ideas and stories in my head, pay attention to my intuition, and try to be as authentic a person as I can. There’s an inner resonance I’m looking for, and I need a certain amount of solitude to find it. That’s what keeps me sane and able to function in the world. It isn’t that I don’t like people–I do. And it’s not that I’m longing for a more public life and something called "shyness" is keeping me from it. It’s not like that at all.

MH: Where would you place yourself on the introversion/extroversion continuum?

EJ: I’m definitely a confirmed introvert, but I do enjoy getting together with a few friends–so I’m not an extreme introvert. But big gatherings and big parties are not my thing, although I can be in that kind of environment if it’s required. It’s just exhausting for me.

MJ: And, has that changed as you have gotten older, or stayed the same?

EJ: It’s more that I’m letting myself be the person I really am.

MH: What is your personal stand in the controversy regarding the nature of introversion? Were you born that way, or shaped by your environment?

EJ: I think a little of both. I was forced to take a speech class when I was 13, and that contributed to my reluctance to be in the spotlight for the next 20 years. But I think it’s also a deep-seated preference that’s part of my basic personality.

MH: How has being an introvert helped or hindered you in the writing business?

EJ: Well, as I mentioned above, I managed to avoid public speaking for the first half of my adult life. But then something happened that I couldn’t avoid. One of my early books got quite a bit of attention. One day, a publicist called and told me that she’d booked me on a television show at the urging of my editor. They wanted me to talk about my little picture book for–two hours! And it would be in front of a live audience. I sucked it up and said, "Oh, how wonderful!" Then promptly burst into tears when I got off the phone.

When I told my agent, she said, "Oh, don’t worry, Ellen. It’s nothing. Only about 500,000 people watch that show." Yikes! Obviously, my agent just didn’t get it (but then again most agents love the limelight). I had never done any public speaking. I guess you could say I was phobic, and now I’d have to get over it in front of half a million people.

So, I did the only thing I could. I de-conditioned myself little by little. I wrote a presentation, and arranged to give it in front of bigger and bigger audiences. First, I gave it to a friend, then a classroom of children, then a group of three classrooms with parents. By that time, I was much more relaxed. As it turned out, my television presentation was a great success and got good reviews from everyone who saw it. I even enjoyed it (as much as I could).

MH: What do you do to promote yourself and your books-- signings, school presentations, book tours, tours of your home, White House readings?

EJ: I’ve done most of those, but I have to make myself do them. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had bookstore signings, classroom readings and presentations, and I’ve even spoken at a few conferences. Picture book authors don’t often get invited on book tours. (But then I would have thought they don’t get invited to two hour television shows either.) And, so far, Laura Bush hasn’t called :-)

I do a lot of unconventional things to promote my books. For example, when my book THE SUMMER SOLSTICE came out. I searched the web for information about summer school programs all over the country. I sent individual emails to the teachers and administrators of those programs telling them about the book. It seemed to really impact sales. I also wrote to bridal salons telling them about my book HERE COME THE BRIDES, and generated quite a bit of interest that way. I went to a science fiction conference to promote my book on SETI (the scientific search for extraterrestrials), and I’ve held contests, sent out mailings to special interest groups, and put postcards advertising my book in with utility bills. To help promote my book on Abraham Lincoln, I made contact with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and had six Lincoln scholars review it. Some even volunteered to write blurbs for the book.

MH: What promotional situations are you the most comfortable in? The least?

EJ: I’ve learned some creative ways of promoting my books on the web and that’s probably the most comfortable venue for me. I still don’t like speaking in front of large groups.

MH: Have you ever felt pressured (by your editor/agent/inner demons) to take on a bigger promotional role, perhaps one you were uncomfortable with? What happened?

EJ: One of my most uncomfortable experiences came when I was promoting my book CINDER EDNA, which is a spoof on Cinderella. I was booked on a phone-in radio show in another part of the country. I discovered, once I was actually on the air, that the host wasn’t interested in talking about the book. She wanted me to give relationship advice to people and asked me a lot of questions that were downright inappropriate. I handled it with good humor though, and I think it turned out all right. One of the things that I’ve learned is that no matter how embarrassing a situation is, two weeks later no one remembers it, and life goes on.

MH: Are there any promotional mistakes that you think you might have made along the way?

EJ: Yes, I had some booksignings that were disasters because I didn’t realize the kind of preparation needed. It’s important to find a way to attract people into the bookstore through a mailing, personal contact, or newspaper advertising.

MH: How much impact do you think an author's efforts can actually have on book sales?

EJ: I think it can have a huge impact. Obviously some authors are amazing at promoting themselves and their work. But, in the end, I think word of mouth is the most important promotional tool. When my book CINDER EDNA first came out, I was new to publishing and didn’t do much in the way of promotion. The publisher didn’t do any advertising that I know of. But (to date) that book has sold hundreds of thousands of hardcover copies, mostly by word of mouth.

MH: What percentage of your time is devoted to writing/reading/research and what percentage toward promoting your work?

EJ: It would be hard to give a percentage. Right now, I have a book deadline and I’m working day and night on writing, reading, and research. I’m also polishing up a couple of other manuscripts. When I do promotion, especially if it involves big gatherings, I just do that–no writing. So it seems I go from one mode to the other.

MH: How do you 'recharge' when you've been out in public too long?

EJ: I love to walk in the botanic garden, read, do a Sudoku, go to the zoo, make scones, or hang out with a special person.

MH: If you could be any extravert in the world for a day, who would
you like to be?

EJ: I like and admire lots of extraverts. I think it would be interesting to be Nancy Pelosi.

MH: How about favorite introverts? Who would you most like to dine with?

EJ: Probably the Dalai Lama. Is he an introvert? I’d love to have lunch with Annie Dillard, and I do think she’s an introvert.

MH: Any final promotional advice that you have for other introverted writers and artists?

EJ: Try to find your own way. There are so many things you can do to get attention for your book–the more unusual and creative, the better. You don’t necessarily have to do what everyone else is doing. "You owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at." (W. H. Auden)

MH: Ellen, thanks so much! Now, about the scones you mentioned you like to make to recharge. Quite coincidentally, I love to EAT scones when I need to recharge. Can I get your address? Perhaps I could just swing by...

by Mary Hershey

Thursday, February 22, 2007

You're In Good Company...

Since introverts are estimated to be only 25 % of the general population, it’s easy to feel the odd man out. Actually, the term I prefer is “odd duck.” I don’t know, but I’m guessing that expression “He’s an odd duck,” evolved from the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Ugly Duckling, which really should be required reading for every introvert. Because the truth is, most introverts will feel like the odd duck when compared to their outgoing and socially extroverted brethren.

With that in mind, here are some famous introverts. You might be surprised to discover just who else is in your tribe.

A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)
Albert Einstein
Amy Tan (author of The Joy-Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife)
Anne Lamott
C. G. Jung, (Freudian defector, author of Psychological Types, etc.)
C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Carrie Fisher
Chevy Chase (Cornelius Crane) (Fletch)
Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers)
Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers' Neighborhood)
Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury)
Helen Keller, deaf and blind author
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Evangeline)
William Shakespeare, bard of Avon
James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small)
James Taylor, vocalist
Jamie Foxx
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
Julia Roberts, actor (Conspiracy Theory, Pretty Woman)
Katie Couric
Lance Armstrong
Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie)
Lisa Kudrow ("Phoebe" of Friends)
Marg Helgaberger
Mark Harmon
Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, martyr
Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie)
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nelson Mandela
Nicole Kidman
Oprah Winfrey
Phil Donahue
Piers Anthony, author ("Xanth" series)
Rene Descartes
Richard Gere (Pretty Woman)
Rick Moranis (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids)
Shirley Temple Black, child actor, ambassador
Sir Isaac Newton
Susan B. Anthony
Terri Gross (PBS's "Fresh Air")
Tiger Woods
Tom Brokaw, news anchor

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hello from Mary

"autist, brooder, creep, drip, egoist, egotist, lone wolf, loner, narcissist, nerd, oddball, self-observer, solitary, weirdo, wet blanket, wimp"

Yep, that’s us! At least according to Roget’s New Millenium Thesarus entry for introvert. He only forgot ‘social retard’. I’ll give him a ring on that later.

And, except for ‘autist’ and ‘self-observer’, I think I’ve been called every one of those names at some point in my life. Especially during childhood when I was busily and earnestly recording the world’s input with Mom's indelible laundry marker.

Introverts absolutely need to come into the world with an attached Owner's Manual. (I’m am SO taking this up with God when I meet Her at the pearly gates.) We don’t operate like the others humans on the planet. For one, and this is a behemoth difference, we recharge differently.

Here's a scientific experiment you can try at home. Take any extravert you know and plug them into a party, or school presentation, maybe a Rotary Club luncheon. Fifteen minutes later, you’ll be able to hear their engines humming, all interior/exterior lights begin to glow, and their fluid levels are rising happily.

Now bring in an introvert to the same gathering, and watch what happens. You’re going to have to examine them very closely, because introverts have gotten very expert at faking a positive reading in the most grueling social settings. But check their fluid levels and charge meter. They are being drained, minute by minute, slowly but surely. It doesn't mean they're unhappy, they're just on a ticking clock. Like Cinderella. Must-be-home-by-midnight.

So how do you recharge an introvert? Well, the answer to that critical question and much more 4-1-1 for introverts to come. And, we hope to hear some from you as well!



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Quick Hello

It is the ultimate irony. We writers, who are some of the shyest creatures on the planet, will toil happily in solitude for years bringing a book to fruition, and then, upon publication of said book, are required to step suddenly into the limelight. And shine.

It's got to be some cosmic joke, right?

Well, not so much. The ugly truth is, there is the expectation that you, the author, will do much to promote your book. In fact, for many publishers, this is the only promotion a first book will get. Which means the pressure is on. It can feel like the success or failure of this amazing work of art that took you ten years to birth, all rides on your ability to promote it successfully.

Panic quickly sets in. Or at least, it did for me.

Our mission here at Shrinking Violet Promotions is to help guide other introverts through this intimidating process. Or perhaps you're a shy extrovert, one whose heart starts to race and palms grow damp at the mere thought of public speaking. Either way, it is our goal to use what we've learned to help ease you through the often-intimidating, sometimes-terrifying process of promoting your first book. Because the truth is, there are many ways to build a promotional presence for yourself and your work by using your own, unique marketing strengths.

Because you do have them, in spite of what you might think.

Saturday, February 10, 2007