Annals of Self-Promotion

Self-promotion! Yes! It’s required!

Once you write a book, find an agent and have your manuscript accepted for publication, you’re required to talk about it and all of your adjacent accomplishments non stop for the rest of your life. Have you read Elyssa Friedland’s hilarious piece for McSweeney’s, “Did You Know That I Have a Book Coming Out?”

One of my favorite passages reads: “Did you know that I have a book coming out? You should know because you’ve been invited to at least five different readings and six different parties celebrating my accomplishments. Wait! You’re kidding, right? Are you absolutely sure that other people don’t throw parties for themselves just for doing their jobs? That’s so strange. Are you telling me that if you finished your accounting reports on time and did all the work for which you were contractually obligated you wouldn’t have a cocktail party to celebrate?”

And, Elyssa’s sentiment rings true. When you have a book coming out, it feels like you do nothing but self-aggrandize, toot your own horn, engage in narcissistic indulgence, send out pre-order links, and compel people to come to parties to raise their glasses. Cheers to you and only you!

But here’s something else that’s true: It doesn’t seem like my friends are sick of it. Instead, it appears that they’re interested, invested, and that they want to celebrate with me, especially since I’ve just done this big publishing thing for the very first time. So, I’m going to lean into the debut self-promotion. I’m telling myself, “People want to know.” The responses to my social media posts, my newsletters, my chatter at kids’ sporting events and other gatherings seem to support this conclusion.

That said, any advice I have about self-promotion is stolen from any number of other, smarter people. Here are three tips that resonate with me:

Do what you enjoy. Hate Twitter? Head over to Bookstagram instead. Not a blogger? Just maintain your Facebook page. Not into newsletters? That’s okay, but you should probably consider collecting email addresses anyway because you own your list when the social media platform/algorithm/paywall breaks down.

Be authentic. Engage as much as you can within your comfort zone. Share yourself, your life, your reading, but not every aspect of yourself if you don’t feel like it. (Not everyone wants to write about their skinny poop, as it turns out. Or their size double-E nursing holsters. Luckily, I’m comfortable. Ahem.)

Remember that as the author, you’re going to move the needle very little. The publishing machine is vast, and you’re very small. It’s important that you introduce yourself to your local booksellers. You should probably visit the book clubs that invite you. You should say yes to review opportunities and speaking engagements. But if you’re traditionally published, most of the needle-moving is in the hands of the experts. I remember this truth as a comfort. I’m trying my best, and I’m a part of the team. But I’m not the whole team.

(p.s. Check out Elyssa Friedland’s books here! And (here comes the self-promo!) check out mine here, here, here, and here.)

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Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

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