Promote yourself…the NPR way

npr_logo1Before I left the high tech world to write novels (mostly about the high tech world, so that’s working out!), I worked for a large Fortune 500 company (yep, you probably use their software). I was a social media strategist back in the day when no one even knew what a hashtag was. I did that work for the better part of four years and it was so…much…fun! (I also learned that the meanest people online usually have their pictures of their kids in their avatar, but that’s another story).

Now I teach seminars to other authors about how to create a social media strategy for their own books. Each seminar, I start off by telling everyone there’s really only one thing they need to know about self-promotion. Be like NPR.

Here’s what I mean. A few years ago, I heard part of an interview with my nerd crush Guy Kawasaki (I got all swirly when my then to-be husband told me he played basketball with Guy at Stanford). Here’s what he said:

“I love NPR….For 48 weeks a year, you’re generating this great content. And four weeks of the year, you do telethons. The way I look at it is you are earning the right, by providing such great content, that for four weeks of the year I tolerate, in fact I even donate, because of this. So you have earned the right. You’ve enchanted me for 48 weeks a year. So for four weeks of the year, God bless you. Promote yourself to me.”

(You can hear the whole interview here: http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201107061000)

The uncomfortable truth is that writing is an art, but it’s also a profession. Part of any profession–whether you’re a plumber or an artist–is letting people know about your work. People usually don’t become writers because they are extroverts (though there are exceptions like myself and I suspect some of my sister Debs!). But even if you’re comfortable talking about to others, you’re probably not comfortable talking about how awesome your work is. Even the folks at NPR sound a little awkward when they as for pledges or a donation to fund your favorite podcast.

When you’re writing your novel, you believe in it. You have to. You spend years writing it, refining it, making it the best book you could make it. But when your book is published, you also have to believe in your readers and your potential readers. They are out there. You just have to help them find you.

So you help them by thinking about what’s going to bring value to their lives. What do they want to know? What’s important to them? What’s going to make their day brighter? When you turn the promotion spotlight away from yourself and point it in the direction of the people who love (or soon will love) your book, then you “earn” the right to a teeny tiny bit of “if you’re thinking of buying a book soon, mine’s not a bad choice.” And you know what else happens? Self-promotion gets easier. You may even start having fun.

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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