Monday, March 28, 2011


We're off on an introvert's retreat this weekend! Feel free to borrow the idea if you're hungering for a little peace and quiet...

We'll be back next week...fully refreshed and rejuvenated.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dispelling Ten Myths About Introverts

As most SVP readers know far too well from first hand experience, the myths about introverts abound. If you get tired of being misunderstood by friends, family, and coworkers, consider printing this list out and handing it to them next time they insist you really do want to attend that company picnic or huge party.☺

1. We are not all shy.
Shyness is actually a trait that is quite separate from being an introvert, and while some introverts are shy, there are also some very confident introverts, just as there are many shy extroverts. Shy involves being nervous or timid about social situations, or having a fear of being humiliated or in the spotlight. Introvert means that we draw our emotional and psychic energy from solitude. VERY different things.

2. We are not anti-social.
Quite the contrary! We have many close, dear friends, but we also recognize that being with people just for its own sake does nothing for us and, in fact, drains our batteries right quick. We love to connect with people, but not just mingle with hordes of people for its own sake.

3. Introversion is not a mental health issue.
In spite of the American Psychiatric Association’s current inclination to view it that way, introversion is a temperament, a way of being in the world, it is most decidedly not a mental health issue. Unfortunately, as our psychiatric profession puts more and more emphasis on medication and external behavioral therapies, and total conforming behavior, that distinction is getting lost. I think the argument could very easily be made that the drawbacks they often attribute to being an introvert come from introversion being MISUNDERSTOOD, rather than introversion itself.

4. We don’t not like people.
We DO like people! In fact, we love quite a lot of them. We just like to do it on our own terms. In fact, part of our desire to recharge is so that we may connect with those we love in a more meaningful way.

5. We do contribute to society.
Puh-lease! Artists, writers, philosophers, therapists, the sciences—all these fields are dominated by introverts. There are also introverts in just about every field you can name, from the clergy to teachers to nurses to pilots and engineers. Well, maybe not salesmen, although I bet there are some introverts out there who have had very successful sales careers. The thing is, the very thing that makes us introverts—that inward focus and desire to surf the world of ideas as if it were one giant wave is what makes our contribution to society so valuable.

6.  Introversion is not a weakness that must be overcome.
It is not something we need to be cured of, or coaxed out of, or shamed from. Just FYI, many of the traits we introverts have are (or at least were) considered virtues and the signs of a contemplative mind.  

7. We do not have intimacy issues.
In fact, introverts have some of the closest, most in depth, intimately connected relationships on the planet. Mostly because they do not look for connecting for its own sake, or collect acquaintances like baseball cards, but because when they do spend the time and energy to have a relationship, it will be a deeply meaningful one.

8.  We are not broken extroverts.
Really. We’re not. Stop trying to fix us already. Remember how years ago they used to try to ‘fix’ left handed people so that they would become right handed? Yeah, that didn’t work out so well either and created LOTS of problems.

9. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety.
Introversion is simply the need to recharge in solitude, we simply get our energy from solitude. Being around people does not make us anxious, although it can make us bored, annoyed, overwhelmed, and just plain tired. And again, a lot of social anxiety can be traced to trying to force introverts to do something that does not come naturally for them. Sort of like putting an extrovert in solitary confinement. We don’t claim they have solitude phobias, do we? (Although, come to think of it, perhaps we should.)

10. Introverts are not self-absorbed.
We are self aware, which is an entirely different thing. The thing is, when we are alone, we’re not just thinking of ourselves and our feelings, we’re thinking of you and your feelings, the human condition, society, spiritual matters, in general, pondering deep thoughts. Sometimes those include our selves and many times they emphatically do not.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Talking with Cate Tiernan

I am very excited to be able to share this guest  post by Cate Tiernan with you today. You sill see that she is most definitely One of Us, an introvert to the core. I first 'met' Cate online years ago through her incredible, gripping  YA series SWEEP. Her most recent book, IMMORTAL BELOVED, was one of my favorite reads last year, on of those terrific books that make you forget you're a writer. I love when books can do that!

 I can do blog posts. I can do blog posts out the wazoo. Need a blog post? I’m your woman.
            If, however, you for some reason need me to speak to strangers in public . . . you’ll find me under the nearest bed, trying to self-medicate with chocolate.
            I understand that this is part of who I am, part of what makes me me. This is partly why I’m a writer, working alone at home in my bathrobe, and not, say, pursuing a career in customer service, where as soon as someone was mean to me, I would cry.
            I’m a writer. To me, being a writer is basically trying to decipher yourself and others with a whole bunch of words--in the way that being a painter can be trying to decipher yourself and others with a whole bunch of paint. Or whatever your chosen medium is. But the point of the whole bunch of words is that ultimately, I’m trying to make a connection with other people.
            I know: the irony.
            But that’s what my writing is about. I’m trying to interpret the world around me (and the world inside me), and I’m trying to express that in a way that others will understand, and perhaps come to see themselves in, at least a little bit. For that reader, and for me, that’s a connection, and it means that we’re not alone: Someone understands us.
            The trick is to do all this without someone really noticing.
            People often tell me they’d like to be writers. They ask how I do it, and how they can do it too. I wish there was an answer like, You go to a certain website, and there’s a game there, and once you get to level sixty-five, boom! You’re a writer.
            But no.
            What I do is: I try to create worlds I’d like to live in. I try to create plots that are exciting, that I can live vicariously through. I create people I’d like to meet, or be, or love. Everything I see in the real world, everything I hear, everything I learn, taste, smell, feel--all of it is the raw material for my work. I take it all in and then I smush it together into a story, into characters, and I write it all down. And afterward, when I read it, I can see myself in the words. I can see my feelings and my heart and even things I keep hidden in the real world. And I put it out there in the hopes that my words will mean something to someone else--that someone else, shaped by entirely different experiences, immersed in a different real world--will somehow, as if by magick, see themselves in my writing.
            The beauty is, everyone can do this. It is within every person to be able to connect with others this way. But--you need to know and understand yourself (at least mostly). You need to be able to understand others, put yourself in their sneakers. You need to love and value yourself and your uniqueness. You need to love and value others and their uniqueness. You need to pay attention to everything around you. And when you write, understand what you’re trying to say. Understand who you’re trying to say it to.
            For me, writing is more than putting feelings on paper and showing the paper to the world, like, Here! It’s putting feelings on paper, showing the paper to the world, and saying, Do you feel this too? Does this help you understand? Can you see me? I’m trying to see you.
            In my book Immortal Beloved, the main character, Nastasya, is someone who doesn’t understand herself, and truly does not want to understand herself--the more she digs down into her feelings, the more painful stuff she finds. The story is about her determination to keep going, to wade through the memories of her horrible past and pointless future, because she realizes how crucial it is to really know herself, really understand herself. Until she does, she won’t be able to know or understand or love anyone else.
            Nastasya is a little part of me. Can you see me? I’m trying to see you.

Cate Tiernan was born and raised in New Orleans. She is also the author of Penguin Speak's vastly successful (and recently reissued) Sweep series. She currently lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and children. Her website is

Monday, March 7, 2011

What’s So Great About Those Bookscan Numbers, Anyway?

Wherein I Expose Myself as a Bit of a Numbers Nerd

Okay, so a lot of the hoopla and hysteria has died down about Amazon introducing limited Bookscan data to authors. Now that the surprise has worn off and those that were liable to be shocked and dazed have recovered, let’s talk about just how useful a tool they can be. Especially now that we’ve talked at length about the very many different ways success can be measured and achieved, these numbers shouldn’t hold terror for you.

Because yes, I always come down firmly on the side of the more information the better and knowledge is power and any permutation of such sentiments.

Plus, isn’t it better to know if the numbers aren’t great early rather than later? Because if you find out early enough, at least you can do something if you want to. [Note: This is a luxury that applies mostly to children’s and YA books. As I understand it adult books have a much shorter window to ‘make good’ and by the time you realize it’s not happening, it may be too late to do much about it. Kids books, by virtue of their sales channels and distribution patterns, usually have six to twelve months, often longer.]

Important Caveat: You are only allowed to look at and play with your sales numbers if you can be professional about it and not panic and whine to your agent or editor. If numbers make you hyperventilate or break out in welts, best to come back next week. ☺ Also? Don’t engage in any of the following activities while you are in an active, creating phase. Save it for a fallow or dormant time.

So the first thing to do is begin recording your weekly sales numbers (by book) on a spreadsheet of some sort—either computer based or plain old paper. The thing is, four weeks of data is pretty much meaningless. It is putting that data in context where we can see patterns and trends and directions. So record your weekly sales. Not only are you compiling important information, but it is also a great metaphor/microcosm for the cyclical, up and down nature of publishing that you can see with your own eyes. Your book might spike one week, then be on a downward trend for the next two, then spike back up in the fourth week.

If you have more than four books out, as I do, and you only see three titles listed in the graph then a nebulous “other” listing, you CAN find out your sales numbers by individual title. Up at the very top left corner of the screen where it says All Books, there is a little orange arrow. Click on that to reveal each individual title’s numbers. (I actually just found this out last week.)

One reason it can be so helpful to see this information real time is that, if you’re lucky, you might be able to detect a cause and effect with your marketing efforts. After a series of Skype visits, or a blog tour, or school visits you may be able to see your numbers move, which will be a good indicator of which type of activities have an impact on your sales. However, it is also important to remember that sometimes the impact a particular activity has may not show for a while, so only use this in a reinforcement type capacity—not as a means of eliminating stuff.

See if you can get your agent to finagle some sort of performance expectation from your publisher or editor so you’ll have a benchmark you know you’re shooting for. Although a good rule of thumb is the goal of earning out your advance within the first 12-18 months, that is only one, very rough, measure. There are lots of others.

For me, where the Bookscan data has the greatest value is in the geographical breakdown. With these geographical numbers, you can do a much, MUCH better job of targeting your marketing and promotional efforts and therefore achieving a much better return on your investment.

The darkest blue areas are where you have the highest concentration of sales, the medium blue the second largest, and then the light blue is the third largest. For ease of discussion I’m going to call them Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 areas respectively. If you know where your sales are strongest, you can really tailor your marketing and promotion efforts, thus saving time and money and most importantly, energy.

For example, if you were going to do a post card mailing about your newest release to indie bookstores, it would make sense to perhaps start with the Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas, with the assumption that the Tier 1 areas are already big fans and well aware of your new release. However, you could send those Tier 1 bookstores some bookmarks or thank you notes for their support. A postcard or mailing you sent to the areas where you have few or zero sales would be more along the lines of an introduction.

Or let’s say you wanted to mail out some brochures about your availability to do school visits. Clearly it makes the best sense to mail those to the geographical areas with your highest level of sales, because you will have greatest name recognition there and most likely schools and libraries will have heard about you and be excited about your work and therefore more interested in having you come visit.

The same would apply if you were trying to put together a do-it-yourself book tour. It would make sense to target those areas where your books did pretty well to begin with so the bookstores could use your name as a draw and have a better chance of bringing in an audience.

Or if you wanted to do a mailing to key public and school libraries, perhaps it would be best to focus on your second and third tier regions to build on your mid-level market penetration.

Or maybe you can see that your books do really well in urban areas, but there are certain urban areas you haven't made a dent in. Perhaps those areas could use some of your marketing energy and resources.

You get the idea...

Hopefully all this number talk hasn’t given you a bad case of hives and you can see that this data holds some great potential for us authors, if we just spend some time thinking about how best to use it, other than using it to feed our paranoia. ☺

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I want to thank everyone who weighed in with their time management suggestions last week! I will be adding them to the body of the post soon. In the meantime, I’d like to announce the winner of the book drawing is . . . Donna Gephart (aka Wild About Words). Donna, email me and I will get your signed copy of Mitali Perkins’ Bamboo People in the mail to you!