My friend Debbie teases me about the stacks of self-help books I’ve collected over the years. I admit that many of them have proved to be less than helpful, but for me finding one new book to add to my self-help library – one that changes the way I think and see myself and the world – is worth the search.
One of those finds is The Highly Sensitive Person by psychologist Elaine N. Aron. Dr. Aron defines a highly sensitive person (HSP) as someone who is more aware than others of subtleties in her environment, and also more easily overwhelmed by stimuli. (Though in this article I use the terms “HSP” and “introvert” interchangeably, in truth only about 70% of highly sensitive people are introverts; 30% are extroverts.) If you are unusually sensitive to loud noise and bright lights, for instance, or to comments overheard while touring a museum, you may be highly sensitive. (My husband turns on the dining room light so bright it looks like he’s preparing to operate rather than sit down to dinner. I don’t like light bulbs brighter than 25 watts; candles are even better.) A complex inner life is another HSP characteristic.
Being highly sensitive doesn’t necessarily mean you are more understanding or empathic than others – it simply relates to how you process stimuli. In fact when you are feeling overwhelmed, you are probably anything but kind and understanding. To find out where you fall on the highly-sensitive continuum, you can take Dr. Aron’s self-test here.
So how does marketing work for an HSP? When a friend of mine got a new computer a while back, he protested that he didn’t need the Excel spreadsheet software or the Skype app; he “just wanted to type.” I know exactly how he feels. It reminds me of a call I got from a cable TV company recently.
“How would you like 150 more cable channels?” the sales rep asked brightly.
“Actually,” I replied, “I’m looking for fewer channels.”
There was total silence on the other end of the line.
5 Marketing Tips for Writers
It may be hard for extroverts or non-HSPs to realize that some people really do want less. For me, marketing my book falls under the “I can completely do without this” category, but it is part of today’s writing and publishing world. So here are five marketing tips especially for HSPs:
1. Don’t try to out-market your non-HSP colleague
There will always be better networkers, smarter marketers, or those naturally gifted at promotion. Their ideas can inspire you (or drive you crazy). Hopefully, it’s the former, but either way don’t set yourself up for frustration and disappointment by implementing an impossibly ambitious marketing campaign. Instead …
2. Decide what you will do
It’s helpful to decide ahead of time how much and what kind of marketing you want and would enjoy doing. I love public speaking. To me it feels cozy and intimate; it’s just the two of us – me and the audience. If you don’t enjoy live interviews or public speaking, you can send out postcards, e-newsletters, or organize a blog tour, where various blogs feature your book.
3. Give yourself some “inward” time
Just because you’re in a marketing phase doesn’t mean you can’t take a little introverted vacation. Stagger your “in” and “out” times so you don’t become disheartened or discouraged with the demands of marketing. Children’s author Deborah Heiligman has a note on the wall of her office that says, “Long view, light touch.” With marketing I tend to do just the opposite – hurl myself into a promotion campaign as if there’s no tomorrow, then crash. Deb’s strategy is much more intelligent.
4. Team up with your non-HSP friend or colleague
Being highly sensitive doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of original and creative marketing ideas. In fact, as an HSP, you probably have more ideas than you have time or inclination for. So let your more stimuli-loving friend chat up editors at a conference, while you do on-line market research. The introverted-extroverted or HSP-non-HSP collaboration is an ideal partnership.
5. Slow down when you’re feeling overwhelmed
When you start to feel pressured or flustered, resist the urge to speed up. Not only will you maintain your balance (literally – I tripped and broke my foot last year hurrying to get some information while talking on the telephone) but when you slow down, you’ll actually accomplish more.
Understanding the HSP trait has helped me tremendously. For example, when my family and I moved to Florence, Italy, for a year, I spent the first scorching August days on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor of our apartment. If I hadn’t just read The Highly Sensitive Person, I might have concluded I was crazy and forced myself to hurry out and start soaking up the culture and beauty of Florence. But because of Elaine Aron’s book, I understood that I was exhausted and overwhelmed from the intense effort of preparing to leave home for a year. The floor-scrubbing phase, though short-lived, was therapeutic and even pleasurable. Physical work, done in a quiet place, “knits up the raveled sleave of care,” as Shakespeare wrote about sleep.
I’ve found over the years that for your book to do well, a little luck or magic has to kick in –
something, in other words, that is completely out of your hands. Accept this, take time to consider your marketing plan and, most importantly, enjoy the ride!
Are you an introvert or an HSP? If so, what are your marketing strategies? Please leave us a comment; we’d love to hear from you. Non-HSPs are welcome too!
Note: a version of this post was first published by womensmemoirs.com