What scares the stuffing out of Deb Erika (besides this current need to remake classic 80’s movies…)

Erika MarksWhen I started thinking about this post and what scared me about writing, I went through the list:

First there’s the fear of rejection. (Hmm. Twenty years of rejection letters later, nope. I’m okay with that one.)

Then there’s the fear of writer’s block. (No there, too. I’ve had stretches of blah and blank, but they don’t last. Like a hangover, I know the feeling will pass. And it does.)

Maybe the fear of bad reviews? (Oh, I got a doozy out of the gate from a big trade magazine and let me tell you, it broke the ice but quick. I wallowed then I moved on. The fact is—and this is the absolute truth—I am so thrilled that any one takes time out of their lives, time they could be doing a lot of other things, and reading a lot of other books, to read my book, whatever their opinion, good or bad, I want to hear it.)

What about the fear of talking in front of strangers at book club visits? (It is a well-known fact that, as well as good books, book clubs also enjoy wine, good food and good fun. These are my people. It will be like visiting with old friends. I can’t wait.)

So what does scare me about writing?


(Trust me. I just jumped. No, I’m serious. Feel my hand. Clammy, right?)

Now don’t get me wrong—I love talking about my book. Even more, I love listening to readers talk about my book. I feel grateful and fortunate, and I always will. But when it comes to marketing and sales, I freeze. It took me two weeks to get into my local B&N to ask to sign the stock. What was I waiting for?

I’ll tell you what. I felt pushy, self-absorbed.

When I post news of a generous review, I feel like that boastful kid your mother told you no one likes.

But no matter what your mother says, self-promotion is part of the job description, whether we like it or not. Whether we’d sooner have a root canal than tell a total stranger our pitch in a bookstore, the fact is that now more than ever, authors have to be their best cheering squad.

So that said, did you know that Deb Rachel’s book is releasing on December 20th???


What about you all? Do you think you’ve got what it takes to promote your book?

26 Replies to “What scares the stuffing out of Deb Erika (besides this current need to remake classic 80’s movies…)”

  1. I get this, Erika. I’ve been talking about my book coming out and here’s me promoting it, blah, blah, blah, but I have trouble doing it without attaching a joke to try to temper the sales-y feeling about it. I want to have a huge party to celebrate, but I know when the time comes, I’m going to be all shy and worried that I’m being a sleazy snake-oil salesperson (that’s where having my Mom is a real benefit – she’s NEVER been shy). BUT, on the flip-side, I want to know when my favorite writers are coming out with new books. I WANT to hear when they will be in my town or when she got a good review. This is information I need and we are so bombarded with stuff every day, that it’s hard to keep track, so I actually appreciate being told about this stuff. I don’t love the pushy stuff, but want to be informed.
    AND LITTLE GALE GUMBO is so awesome, you NEED to share it with the world!

    1. Oh thank you, Joanne–and yes, your mom is our favorite cheerleader here, so we’re thrilled to have her!

      Love the snake-oil salesmen reference–exactly. Hard NOT to feel like that sometimes. Just now I came back from the girls’ dentist appointments and as I was checking out, the lovely ladies there got wind of the book and asked about it and I STILL felt braggy talking about it…

      But as you say, we want to know when our favorite authors are coming out with books or coming to town so focusing on the flip-side helps.

  2. Boy-oh-boy, do I ever hear you on this. I understand the need for it, and I’ll do it, but I doubt I’ll ever feel totally comfortable with the “Me, Me, LOOK AT ME!” aspect of it. (Though blogging does tend to get one more used to it. *grin*)

    1. Linda, I think you and I have had the theater discussion about this too–the idea that because we have acting experience, we should automatically be more comfortable with the concept of putting ourselves out there but I don’t think that’s true.

      It’s one thing to entertain an audience as an actor, but writers are, by nature I think, more comfortable with having someone ELSE present their words. But of course, that’s changing now.

      1. Yup. When you’re acting, it isn’t really you out there. So maybe we should just get used to playing the part of “author,” huh? Pretend it’s not really us.

  3. I’m sure that would be the hardest part for me too…. or talking in front of large groups of people, that would be hard too. The only thing I can imagine is that switching my mind slightly to having the book be the product (vs. me) might make it a little easier? Maybe?

    1. Julia, that’s a wonderful distinction–and I think it is a great one to keep in my through the submission process too. It’s so easy to take rejection of our work as a rejection of us as people. How can we not? But if we make a concerted effort to see it for what it is (after all, agents and editors don’t know us personally–how could they? They are assessing our work and whether or not it is marketable for them as a business venture, not a friendship.)

      I think this is one way that dating and querying aren’t alike–let’s face it: when we get dumped by a date, it IS personal. But in writing, it’s business. Truly. Even though we put so much of who were are into our work. I think that’s the piece that makes the distinction tough.

  4. First of all, THANKS for the shout out. It’s so soon and I am SO freaking out!

    Second of all, pitching your book in bookstores? See, I have so much to learn. You mean, like, going to the buyer and explaining to her why she should order your book? Isn’t that what salespeople are for?? I feel like I should get out my traveling salesmen shoes stat.

    1. Don’t freak out!!! (But yes, it’s soon!!!! ;))

      You know, I have heard of plenty of writers say they go into bookstores and if they don’t see their book on the shelf, they might inquire with the manager and see if there’s interest.

      Anyone else ever heard of/done that?

      1. Yup — went to a bookstore and didn’t see Populazzi, so gave the manager my card and asked if they’d be interested in carrying it. The result? Right there in front of me he went to the computer and ordered 5 copies!

  5. Theater experience helps when I’m in front of people, speaking. I can do that all day. But walking into a bookstore and touting my wares is a whole other beast. I just haven’t been able to do it yet. I know some authors just waltz in and make friends like joining sororities, but I’m not that girl. I’m the tag-along friend sort. I’m the witty girl in the back. I’m the one that people talk about later as what’s her name. And I LIKE it that way. So how am I going to promote my book? Well, Erika, I thought about a Phantom mask, but reconsidered and here’s what I realized it was going to take — I’ve got to promote the way I’d tell my buddy to promote. I’m full of advise. Ask me, I’ll tell you so. And if I were telling my buddy what to do, I’d say have confidence, believe in your book, don’t sweat the small stuff, have a sense of humor, eavesdrop, sign up for everything, find friends and be supportive, join panels, have a laugh and read real loud like you’re important and Pat Conroy’s luck to know you. Then I’ll have a drink and maybe buy some groceries with my profits so I can make some GUMBO and write the next one. XOXO

    1. Oh, you sweetheart…But you know what, I think MOST of us are that girl. This brave new world of self-promotion seems to go against why so many of us became writers in the first place–because we like withdrawing in a way, we are observers by nature–it’s what we do! We observe so we can write. So now we’re told we have to fling ourselves into the front row-it’s jarring, to say the least!

  6. Yow, self-promotion. The thought of it freezes my brain! I get stage fright, so readings would be hard. I imagine wrangling myself into writers conferences as a panelist (not a speak all by myself, though — at least not to begin with), and once again, my brian freezes. Would I have anything interesting and funny to add to the discussion? I’d insist on seeing all the questions ahead of time…

    One of my weaknesses is that I’m not quick on my feet. I often feel like a deer in the headlights when I’m asked a question — my mind goes blank.

    I figure I’ll get a Xanax prescription, though. 🙂 Seriously. Better self-promoting through chemistry! I’ve also thought about doing Toastmasters — has anyone here doen this? Is it helpful?

    I like the idea of acting the part of the self-assured author. What’s the saying — fake it until you make it? How about: fake it until you feel it?

    1. Hi Lisa! You know, I think it really comes down to being warm and honest and real–we all have typos, some spoken, some written–no one says the right thing all the time, so if that expectation is removed from the equation, I think everyone enjoys themselves.

      I know I’ve been to readings that didn’t go as planned and I was so impressed at how comfortable the author was, and her comfort made the rest of US comfortable. It was so tremendous. There was a mood of lightness and ease–I strive for that.

      1. It’s so true! For me, it will come down to being comfortable with myself in my nervousness — admitting to it, joking about it, and so on. I’m always rooting for the authors I hear speak, so I’m sure when the time comes, audience members will be rooting for me.

  7. I couldn’t agree more! the thought of self-promoting scares me! Talking in front of large groups—easy. Telling people my work is good—horrifying.

    I’ve done the self-promo a couple of times on my blog recently and I just feel terrible. I’m hoping that practice makes perfect!!

    1. Missy, I know! Me too!

      As Julia said above, maybe the key is to separate what we’ve written from us as writers. We aren’t being the braggy kid no one wants to invite to their party–we’re professionals with the product of our book, a product we are proud of and excited to share.

  8. I’m constantly walking the line between book-promotion and book-uncertainty, like “You should read my book! But don’t tell me if you hate it! And I hope we can still be friends even if you think my book sucks!”

    It’s all very stressful. 🙂

  9. I’m with Molly — sometimes I feel very confident with self-promotion, other times I feel like I’m back in high school and begging for the popular kids to notice me. It’s not a comfy feeling, that’s for sure, but it’s vital. Also, publishing houses notice when you make efforts to promote the book, and it makes them more excited to work with you in the future.

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