Self-Promo and Pecuniary Difficulties

I don’t hate self-promo as much as a lot of authors do.

I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s because, despite my various insecurities and anxiety issues, I’ve also always had, on the flip side, what a kind person might call self-possession, and what someone else might call a certain sort of deranged confidence. I’ve never had trouble with public speaking, for example. It doesn’t scare me in the slightest. Whether it’s speaking at a conference, teaching a class, or going out on stage, I’ve never been fussed by it.

I think it might also be because of how much marketing I’ve had to do elsewhere in life. It was part of my job at the American Shakespeare Center. I had to convince people to buy my study guides, come to teacher seminars, come to our conference. I wrote a lot of marketing copy for the Education Department, and I edited even more of it. I wrote all of the department’s promotional tweets and FB posts for several years. Even before that, though, I was a theatre kid. Theatre kids learn a lot about self-promotion. From auditions to showtime, you’re trying to sell yourself, your show, your company, and you have to manage to be both sophisticated and shameless.

So I don’t hate self-promo, in theory, or at least I’m inured to it.

What I don’t like about it?

Is how hard it is when you’re… let’s call it, “not swimming in cash”.

Some of the best options for getting your book in front of readers require money. Money to ship ARCs. Money to buy more copies of your book from your publisher. Money for Facebook and Instagram ads. Money for Goodreads giveaways. Money to get ~influencers~ to promote on your behalf. Money for a graphic design program. Money for the phone and computer used to disseminate all those pretty graphics. Money for swag — for bookmarks and postcards and totebags and specialty teas and pins and pens and T-shirts and custom candles and all the other random branded items I’ve seen authors flashing about. Money to go to conferences where you can distribute that swag and hopefully also meet other authors, industry professionals, and potential fans. Never even mind money for paying an outside publicist. Then you’re talking about real money.

Money makes the world go around.

And when you don’t have a lot of it? Self-promotion can feel a lot like entering a race on a hobbyhorse, competing against everything from real horses to bicycles to Formula One stock cars to jet planes.

That’s a generous metaphor. Other days, when I’m feeling less cheerful, it seems more like having brought a knife to a clusterbomb fight.

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Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. Cass, like you, I have no trouble with public speaking. I credit the years that I was raising money for schools while my son was a student. I would ask anyone for anything–and was surprised by how often they said yes to help schools. The success rate may not be as high with my own “asks,” but I’m still surprised by how much confidence the experience gave me. And yes…still not a rich author. I think what’s hard about it for me is the enormous amount of time and energy it takes–time I’d rather spend writing. Still, I’m glad I don’t hate it.

  2. Thanks for your post Cass. As a new writer I had to learn quickly that a big part of the job involves heavy self-promoting. And when you think you are over posting or over promoting that is when you are getting through to your audience.

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