Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Interview with Nancy Ancowitz: Part I of II

Two months ago, I profiled Nancy Ancowitz's book in a post entitled
"Helping Those Who Talk Less Get Heard More." We thought she sounded like someone we must interview here, and we asked for a brave volunteer. Not that we are trying to shirk our duties as your hosts, but being an interview-er is great prep for becoming an interview-ee. Laura Salas ponied right up, and contacted Nancy, who was happy to come talk to us. So, without further ado, Laura, take it away!

Self-Promotion for Introverts ®

By Laura Salas, SVP Field Reporter

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communications coach in New York City. She’s an author. A playwright. A marathoner. And, most importantly, from my point of view, an introvert.

Nancy has created the Self-Promotion for Introverts™ program, which she teaches in and around NYC. For those of us not located in the Big Apple, though, she has gathered her tips and secrets and strategies and put them into book form in self-promotion for introverts [the quiet guide to getting ahead] (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

I read this book with a highlighter and pen in hand, because I constantly had to mark the passages that spoke to me or complete the exercises I was given. Normally, I ignore exercises in books, but I had a feeling these would be actually useful to me, and they were.

Now, I’m not gonna lie. There’s no magic phrase that will suddenly make promotion easy and painless for you. I knew that going in (though don’t we always secretly wish for it anyway?). And Nancy doesn’t pretend there is. But what she does believe is that there are ways we can learn to promote ourselves that aren’t as excruciating as we initially believe them to be. And throughout the book, she offers choices and suggestions. And she challenges us to take action, even if it’s itty bitty action, to start being seen and heard.

Just a few of my favorite lessons from the book:

There are specific things I can do to make networking easier. At writer conferences and events, or even just at social gatherings, I tend to scoot off to a corner and spend the evening by myself or glom onto one poor person who I then won’t release for the rest of the night. Nancy advises:
• Choose events where you’re likely to feel welcome.
• Before going to a networking event, take stock of why someone would want to talk to you.
• Do something that makes you feel grounded just before the event (e.g., write, draw, listen to a favorite song, or call a mentor)
• Scope out the most comfortable places—possibly the quietest areas—for you in the space (just not the wall!).
And the second half of that list is just as practical.

Be kind to yourself. I was doing a lot of negative self-talk without even being aware of it. The exercises forced me to articulate the most popular songs on my U-SUCK radio station and replace them with some easy on the self-esteen affirmations.

Don’t overdo it. Too many choices can be overwhelming. Get your goals down to a smaller number. This reminded me of my marketing plan for my first trade book. I did an OK job of narrowing my wish list down. But next book, I’ll use what I’ve learned and I’ll be even more focused and realistic in my marketing plan.

When thinking of your target audience, remember to focus on What’s In It For Me?—WIIFM. That’s what everyone wants to know. I incorporated this into some flyers for a book event in December. On my flyer, I spelled out what my poetry book had to offer kids, teachers, librarians, parents/grandparents, etc. A writer friend compared this to a shopping network where I guess they say things like, “This would be the perfect thank you gift for your hair stylist,” and “Wouldn’t this make a great hostess gift!” If you can tell potential buyers how your book will help them, you might sell more books.

Expand your networking circle. I’ve already come around in my thinking on networking. I used to think it was sleazy. But over the past five years, I’ve realized it’s all about connecting with like-minded people and helping each other. I still don’t consider myself good at it, though. So Nancy’s chapter on networking, with its practical tips, was really appreciated. For instance: “My general rule when it comes to networking is this: Three tries and I’m out. If you’re a prospective client and you show interest in hearing from me, it’s our mutual loss if you don’t respond to my phone messages and e-mails. You don’t get the benefit of what I have to offer, and I don’t get the benefit of working with you. Will I let it ruin my weekend when you don’t call me back? I doubt it.”

Create an elevator pitch. I enjoyed this section a lot. I always hear about elevator pitches for specific books. BUT, this book encouraged me to work on one about me. Me as a writer. For the many, many times I get asked, So what do you do? Or, What kinds of children’s books do you write? I don’t have a finished elevator pitch yet, but I’m working on it. (Hey, this marketing stuff is hard!)

Become an effective speaker. I grabbed onto the public speaking chapter like a drowning woman grabbing a life preserver. I get good feedback on my school visits and other events, but I still get very anxious about them. Having a game plan in writing and having specific strategies to work on is going to help me, I think, stay calm before my round of spring visits. And I do plan to practice in front of a mirror before then. Maybe I’ll work my way up to videotaping myself to analyze how I’m doing. Like I said, she doesn’t let us off easy in this book. We’re challenged to go out of our comfort zone, but there’s always support and encouragement behind the challenge.

There are tons of useful pieces to this book—some inspiring and some strictly useful. In fact, the book was so thorough that I had a bit of trouble coming up with questions that weren’t already answered in the book!

But in looking at my own shortcomings in the promotion arena, I managed to find a few questions to toss Nancy’s way, questions I thought might apply to some other SVP readers, too. Here are those questions plus her replies:

Laura: Like you, I'm a real over-preparer when it comes to public speaking. So how do you know when to stop?

Nancy: Stay tuned...

Oh, NO! A cliffhanger!

About our SVP Field Reporter

Laurie Purdie Salas is a Florida native, a Minnesoto transplant, and a lifelong introvert. She is the author of more than 70 kids' books, including Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School (Clarion, 2009) You can learn more about Laura at and


Results from last week's raffle: Robin, Jennifer Hubbard and I are grateful to have the opportunity to send a donation to the Haitian earthquake victims. *Rebecca Ramsey* is our winner of a $50.00 donation to the relief agency of her choice. Rebecca, will you email me and let us know your preference? Jennifer, thank you again for launching this here.

This week's raffle! Nancy Ancowitz has graciously offered a complimentary 45-min coaching session with her, and a copy of her book to be raffled off. Whoa! Leave a comment and/or be one of our SVP followers and you will be entered to win. Best of luck to you each!


Have an exceptional week, friends--


tanita✿davis said...

WOW, what a generous raffle offer, and how generous of Laura to jump in and contact this person for us.

I think The Elevator Pitch is actually the best thing I can take away from this. I tend to a.) duck head, b.) shuffle, c.) mumble when people ask me what I do, because I have had people do the "have you written anything I've ever read?" and "oh, for children?" thing too often, and I know they don't often listen all the way through what I do as a writer. Soooo. Need to get on that.

laurasalas said...

I agree, Tanita--the elevator pitch is really useful (and difficult). I swear I'm going to finish mine soon. I have a few ideas, but haven't gotten to a polished one yet.

I hate that question--Have you written anything I've ever read? The best response I heard someone recommend was, "I don't know...tell me some of your favorite kids' books from the past few years."

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Laura, thanks for a great interview. I can't wait to get Nancy's book.

And YEY for last week's raffle and your generous souls. Thank you! I'm excited to get to send Doctors Without Borders a little more help!

Sue Santillan said...

This book is now on my "To buy" list. It sounds like it is chock full of information I can use. Thanks for a great post.

Nancy Ancowitz said...

Thanks to Laura for conducting a delightful interview, including her reflections on my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®.

FYI, Violets who would like a new free peak inside the book: just came out with an excerpt titled "10 Ways Introverts Can Promote Themselves to Extroverts"

Rebecca Knight said...

Ooh, this book sounds like it may have been written for me! :)

Also, the U-SUCK radio comment cracked me up. How often do we do that? We have so much to offer as artists and all around nice people, and we should remind ourselves of that once in a while ;). Thank you for this!

Jennifer J. said...

I'd be interested in how to get into the zone sooner when presenting. You know, how you're really nervous ahead of time, but three minutes in you're flying.

I think I need to work on my elevator pitch. Sometimes when people ask me what I do, I say, "I kill trees." Yeah, not good.

Nancy Ancowitz said...


A few thoughts about getting into the zone more quickly:
1. Get your introductory remarks (and nonverbals) down cold. Script them, practice them until they're second nature and they sound natural, and videotape your practice sessions so you can see how you come across. So when you get up in front of an audience you can free yourself up to focus more on offering something special than on how all those people are perceiving you.
2. Skip the "ladies and germs" yawn inducing beginnings to speeches (you can do all the requisite thank you's later). Instead dive right in with a story, an arresting statistic, a riff on a relevant piece of news, or a thought provoking quote. Say something you're excited about from the start and then ride the wave.
3. Remember to breathe — before you go on and while you're up there. Some of my clients write "BREATHE" in big letters on the margins of their speaker's notes.
4. Take your time before you say your first word. I picture shooting a basketball during a free through. If you're off kilter or otherwise distracted, you're probably not going to score. Do whatever it takes to get yourself centered.
5. Own the space as if it's your living room and the members of your audience are your invited guests. It's your job to make your guests comfortable and to entertain them. So take the spotlight off yourself and focus instead on what you can do for your audience.
6. Imagine the beginning of your talk. Picture yourself in front of the room, where you'll stand, how you'll interact with your audience, and what will happen in a way that works for you.
7. Get the support you need to help you meet your goal for your speech -- this applies to elevator pitches too. Ask a mentor or coach to help you develop it until you're satisfied. Having a sounding board can really make a difference.

Mary Hershey said...

Nancy, this is such fabulous advice! Thank you so much for this generous reply! I love the idea of writing BREATHE in the margins, and jumping right in to the presentation and hooking everyone immediately.

We're going to have to have you come back and do a post on just this! Pretty please???


Sarah Stevenson said...

The book sounds great--thanks to Nancy and Laura for the interview, and to Nancy again for the book (which I'm clearly going to need).

The Elevator Pitch is something I need to work on, too. In particular, I need a snappy yet informative and intriguing reply for when people say "Oh, you write for young adults? Are there any vampires in your book?"

Nancy Ancowitz said...

I'm grateful for all of your thoughtful and appreciative comments.

Mary, You're asking me to write more to help more Violets? Sign me up.

jan godown annino said...

If I things were more fancy
I'd hire Nancy
But with fewer dollars
I'm glad to read the Laura & Nancy
interview tips dancy.


ps gobs of good stuff here like anticipating the mix-up in ages at events & how to compensate for too old/too young sweetie pies, who always deserve to have fun with you .
I loved the photo illustrations too as I truly feel that exasperation pain.

many thanks for this two-part treat