Self-promotion is Hard

Well, not for everyone.

I knew a writer named Edgar. Everywhere that Edgar went, he promoted Edgar. Anyone unlucky enough to get within his reach knew where he’d been to school (although the rumors were that he’d gotten his degree by mail order). He’d tell you how much money he’d made. He’d tell you how important he was.

Edgar had worked on top-secret projects. Of course, they weren’t top-secret after he knew about them. The last reference I saw to Edgar had him listed with the dubious epitaph of “Worst Writer Ever.” Ouch. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

I once heard an editor explain that the things publishers hate most about the publishing industry is…writers.

Characters like Edgar exist. They wander around writing conferences making other writers wonder why they ever wanted to be in an industry where self-promotion is critical.

In the modern writing world, self-promotion is necessary. And for those of us not like Edgar, it is much harder than writing novels. I’m not talking about individuals who are afraid to speak in public, wilting flowers who hide from the light of day. I’m talking about the average writers that I am blessed to work with on a daily basis. I’ve been stunned by how intensely hard self-promotion is for them. They’ll give every penny they have to anyone with a platform promising to do it for them.

I’m sorry, but…that doesn’t work. It’s called self-promotion, because you have to do it yourself.

From what I can tell, this has little to do with whether a writer is self-published or traditionally published. Word of mouth sells books. In other words, you have to get people talking — about your work if not about you. And the writer has to push over the chain of dominoes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-promotion of late, because I’m in that stage of my writing career. Now I’m not just telling clients how to do it, I’m doing it for myself.

What do you think of my new promo portrait? I only canceled the photo appointment once. I’d picked a great local photographer whose work I love. Then I spent three weeks in terror. I had my hair done. Twice. Nails? check. Facial? check. New clothes? 3 outfits. I arrived tense and nervous…and then Indy took over. She spent over an hour just talking to me, getting to know me and deciding how to capture me on film.

The conversation reminded me of how I talk to my web-design clients. I think it is easier for someone else to see our spirit and capture that image than it is to see it ourselves. The spirit doesn’t show well in a mirror.

Self-promotion is hard.

But we still have to do it. Even if we aren’t Edgar. Maybe especially if we aren’t Edgar.

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