Where Self-Promotion Meets Self-Preservation

Today is Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Day, and my office is closed in remembrance. I have done nothing in life to merit getting the day off in honor of all that MLK was and did. I’m grateful for the day away from the office, and I will think fondly of the man at several points today (as I hit the snooze button, for instance)—but there’s something about my getting the day off that makes me feel…uneasy. I don’t deserve this. It’s wasted on the likes of me.

(I know it’s not about me, but I would feel the same way about Veterans Day—if I got that day off work, which I don’t.)

Uneasy is also how I feel when I think about this week’s topic. Self-promotion.

Hashtag UGH.

After all the years of my career, I’m in a sales position. And the product is—myself. Can you hear my primal scream from where you sit?

Barefoot_Bunny_Parties_fashionI’m not alone, I know. Most writers, by nature, are introverts happy to sit at a computer or notebook for hours by themselves, getting those words good and written. And then, boom. They’re required to stand up from their pajama-pant-wearing lifestyle and turn into the sort of person who can speak eloquently. Out loud. To other humans, instead of the dog.

I’m lucky, I suppose, in that being around other people at conferences or other public events doesn’t make me break out into a rash (see Terry Shames’s post from yesterday). But I’m still that same introvert inside, counting the hours until I get back to my bunny slippers.

There’s also a bit of that same old self-doubt, lurking: This is wasted on me. All this effort. All these fantastic people giving me their attention and time. Why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? I don’t deserve it.

Now that’s a pretty big piece of baggage to unpack today, so let’s just ask ourselves: How do you get out there and market your book—and the real product, its author—every chance you get ANYWAY?

I wish I could give you a five-bullet-point list with action items and fool-proof, guaranteed results, but I haven’t figured all this out yet. (I’m hoping the other Debs will have better advice.) What I know is that I’d rather be myself than the salesman for myself, so that’s what I’m going to be. I’ll talk about my book when it makes sense to, because my writing is a huge part of my life, and I want to share how excited I am about it. I like talking to other writers and to readers who tear through mysteries—we have so much in common! Just try to keep me from talking about mysteries—that’s not salesmanship. That’s being an all-out nerd for this community and these books.

At the same time, my self-promotion goal is simple. I want to be the self that deserves all the generosity I’ve already experienced, the one who never has to feel uneasy about any tactics I take to sell a book—and the kind of writer readers don’t mind getting to know a little better.


Photo from http://www.apparelsearch.com

Author: Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery THE BLACK HOUR (Seventh Street Books, July 2014). She grew up in central Indiana, but now lives in Chicago with her husband and very spoiled dog.

12 Replies to “Where Self-Promotion Meets Self-Preservation”

  1. You ARE one of those writers we want to get to know better! Your humor and writing style will certainly take you far, my friend. And I think you’ve nailed the most important piece of promotion–be who you are, write good books, the rest is…well, the rest and it’s just less important.

  2. I hear you. As I scramble to finish edits on my 2nd book and gear up for the launch of VINTAGE, I am getting to a point where I really have to prioritize in order to keep my sanity. Sometimes that means getting on Twitter or updating blogs and things. And sometimes it means saying “screw it” and relaxing with my husband and watching “True Detective” on HBO. Have you seen it yet? It is sooooo good.

  3. I haven’t, because we don’t have HBO. Or cable, actually. But I’ll get my mitts on it as soon as it’s widely available. I watched two episodes of BBC’s Sherlock last night and was blissfully happy.

    1. I LOVE Sherlock! I need to watch the next couple of episodes. We don’t have cable either, oddly enough, but we do streaming on Netflix and Hulu, etc. Sounds like I need to check out True Detective, too!

  4. Thanks for your honest about the baggage you carry on this road toward publication, Lori. The stress and excitement of it all triggers a few my … uh … quirks too. It’s challenging! Plus, the notion that I should be doing more, more, MORE!

  5. LOL. I love #ugh!

    And I agree that the best thing you can do is be yourself; it’s not so much about the book as it is about being a writer people are interested in knowing and helping and sharing this experience of your book with. I for one, am happy to know you, and can’t wait to read ALL your books ahead 😉

  6. I am struggling with this these days, too. I am not even close to self-promoting a book, but I’m in a company where I’m having to promote my website. It makes me as the very real question about why I’m writing what I’m writing: Is it just to get hits for a company? (Because hey, in marketing, it is all about sales and that’s fine.) Or is it because I really believe what I have to say is useful? Yes on that second point. The truth is, you can have a brilliant mind and book, but if you don’t put it out there, it won’t benefit anyone.

    And so, as I sat in the good old library with my daughter and son on Wednesday, I scanned the memoir section and landed on Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her opening intro was written just for me! In it, she says that after the success of Eat Pray Love she wasn’t sure why she was writing this second book. What if no one liked it? She finally realized that it wasn’t about the millions of people out there who may or may not hang on every word. It was about 30 women in her life that shaped her views on marriage. With that perspective, she was able to go on. (And, subsequently of course, promote her book, though she doesn’t mention the promotion in the intro!)

    i write this because I know, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be the same person without a writer like Elizabeth Gilbert. She gave me permission to face my own fears in life. While I chose a self-discovery journey from my track home, rather than traveling through 3 countries, I found my own mama enlightenment anyway. If she didn’t promote her book, how would I have heard this message?

    She is a thinker, a change-maker, a soul shaker – that is who she is first. I would like to believe you and me and every good writer out there is that woman first. When our intentions are clear – why we write – then the promotion is secondary and we can rest easy.

    good luck!

    1. Andrea- Isn’t it funny how we sometimes find the book we need to read when we need to read it? I’ve done that a number of times, and it’s like the universe is listening to you.

      Why we write. It’s an interesting question, and one that I think I have a different answer to on different days. I wrote The Black Hour after I went back to full-time work after a few years in a graduate writing program. I borrowed the landscape of the place I was driving each day, and I used my lunch hours to write it. I think it was a way to keep that writing program alive in me, even after I’d finished it; a way to keep connected to everything I’d learned and done even while I had to spend most of my waking hours doing something else entirely. That was that book. But it’s different with the one I’m writing now. I’m not even sure I can articulate it yet. Keep writing, and keep figuring it all out. Best of luck to you, too.

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