Today is going to be a ~~feelings~~ post as much a ~~facts~~ post and we’re going to start with the fact that most people find self-promotion, which is both promoting your own work AND doing it yourself,
It is hard to talk about yourself! We are taught that to do is bragging. It calls attention to us and, let’s be honest, it is hard to be perceived these days. It leaves you open to scrutiny, judgement, and sometime even worse, silence.
There are writers out there (myself included) that do not mind it so much. It’s not painless, but it doesn’t make me want to run screaming from my keyboard. I certainly had to work to get to this point. But from conversations I’ve had with clients over the years, and from seeing it first hand from writers of all stripes, all genres, all levels of success, it’s just hard.
I wanted to explore what exactly was the most difficult or painful part for people, so I asked on Twitter, and the answers were enlightening.
You feel like you’re screaming into the void. You feel pressure to do it right but no one can tell you what right is. You bear the brunt of bad actors online without showing weakness. You have to ask people to buy something, too, which makes you feel like a shill.
Frankly, yes. These are all facts and feelings. There is little to no guidance on how to promote your book online. (More on that below.) The tools to actually measure that impact are vague, out of reach, just take too long for busy writers to figure out. Twitter is horrible but Twitter is where a lot of book promotion takes place. (Yes, yes, I know about booktok.)
On top of this, what we write is personal, even though by being published we’re choosing to share it with the world. Not every book is autobiographical, but every book contains a little bit of its author, somewhere, somehow. And may of us would just like to create in peace and have people buy it and never have to look that buyer in the eye, or, er tweet.
SO, what do you actually DO with these feelings? Here’s where the facts come in.
You have to promote your book.
I know. I’m sorry. But it’s true. And the reason is not because the publisher is slacking off and doesn’t care. It’s because often the best way to get to readers we know like the author is through the author. Because the publisher does not have magical lists of email addresses of everyone who’s ever bought a book about <your topic.> And I bet a solid chunk of you have more twitter followers than your publisher does. You are sometimes the most effective conduit to your readers.
You WANT to promote your book.
Not only because it could lead to sales which could lead to money and more books but because promoting your book is investing in yourself and your future. When you build your platform, you’re building a foundation for this book and your next and your next. Or your Patreon or your editing services or your watercolors or your kid’s Girl Scout cookie sales or whatever you might do in the future. The publisher does not own your platform. You do.
You are not a grifter.
Your book has value. IT DOES. Asking people to buy it is not some sketchy MLM pitch. You are not tricking them into spending $10 or $20 on crap. You are asking them to exchange money for a GOOD. They extract value from reading your work, even if they don’t like it! You believe in being paid for your labor, right? Don’t shy away from participating in that.
You are not annoying anyone with your tweets about your book.
Ok, I’m sure you can think of an author or two who do NOTHING but tweet BUY MY BOOK <LINK LINK LINK LINK>. You probably unfollowed them long ago. But I bet you are not that guy. I bet you don’t even tweet about your book once a week, and probably much less! Because of the ~~algorithm~~ your followers do not see every tweet you tweet. I think it’s more like on average your followers see A THIRD of your tweets. You know what that means? You can tweet THREE TIMES AS MUCH about your book and you won’t annoy anyone! If you’re worried that people will think you do nothing but tweet about your book, rest assured that they will not. I promise. Tweet more.
Your followers are there for a reason!
They want to know what you are doing! They want to know when your book comes out and what it is about! If they didn’t, they would unfollow you!!! I’m serious. The number of times I’ve heard an author say that they felt like they were tweeting non-stop about their book and someone who follows them says “oh, you have a book out?” OMG you would be surprised. Give your readers what they WANT. They WANT to know what you are up to.
If there was one BEST way to promote a book, we’d all do it and it would stop working.
I know it’s frustrating to have your publisher say Promote your book online!!! And you’re like Great! How? Many publishers have social media resources and there are a million blog posts about the best times to tweet, how often to tweet, etc etc etc. But there is no perfect ratio of what, how, and when to do it. It works differently for different people and different audiences and on different platforms. The important thing is to do it. The more you do it, the more you will figure out what works for YOU and YOUR BOOK. Doing it is more important than doing it the most perfect way.
Duh, Kate, you’re thinking. I know! But remind yourself that promoting your book is work, and treat it like part of your job. That means studying it (some), setting aside time for it, asking for help, expecting a learning curve, and no expecting immediate perfection. Crafting tweets is not that much different than crafting sentences in your manuscript. The have to be effective, succinct, artful, and more. You’re a writer, right? Approach this as part of your craft AND job. (I know some of your are dying a little inside at this last bit and I’m sorry. But it’s true. There are different kinds of writings for different venues and you can master many.)
Where the ~~feelings~~ meet the ~~facts~~ here is, I guess, acceptance. YES it is painful to self-promote. NO you will not physically disintegrate into a fine powder upon tweeting about your book. YES your readers want to hear about your work. NO you are not tweeting too much about it. YES it takes a lot of time and effort, which are two scares resources. You are not alone in these feelings. Everyone has them. You can find the will, the words, and the way to find what works for your books and yourself. I know you can. You wrote a whole book. You can do anything.
Please vaccinate yourself, and your kids, as soon as you’re able.