This week we’re talking about self-promotion and boy, do I have some words to say about this.
Granted, most of them are “aaaaah!” and “please anything but” and “oh god why,” but what better way to start this week than at the absolute bottom?
I’ve mentioned my anxiety a few times on this blog already, so it should come as no surprise that self-promo and everything related to it fills me with terror. When you already have a voice in the back of your head telling you all the ways you’re less than, not worthy, bothering people and making them hate you, it is incredibly hard to talk up your book (see also: the reason I could never self-publish).
But here’s the thing: someone needs your book. You didn’t just spend the last however many years writing complete and utter garbage. You wrote this book for a reason – for entertainment, for elucidation, for understanding, for working through some shit. And I promise you, someone else needs to read this book for those same reasons. That’s why you sought publication, after all. I mean, it definitely wasn’t for the money. It’s because you saw value in what you wrote. You knew you couldn’t be the only one who needed this book.
I started writing this series around the time that We Need Diverse Books became a rallying cry. I’d just finished reading yet another extremely heterosexual fantasy and I was just. tired. But it wasn’t until WNDB blew across the internet that I realized I’d never tried to write anything like what I wanted to read, or anything that reflected myself. So I wrote an adventure fantasy that reflected me, where the girl got the girl (which became book 2, The Impossible Contract).
Between WNDB and, later, the #OwnVoices movements, I realized there were other people like me out there, who wanted fantasy that didn’t conveniently forget queer people existed. That outright celebrated them. And I knew they wanted something like what I’d written.
Since then, I’ve found dozens of amazing books that celebrated queer humans and other marginalized people – but only because their readers and authors shouted about them. And I realized: how will anybody find my books if I don’t occasionally shout?
Yes, self-promo is hard. Yes, sometimes it really sucks. Yes, it’s the last thing anyone with anxiety wants to do.
But if you don’t do it, how will the readers who need your book find it?
So here are a few small tips I’ve picked up that make this whole thing a smidge easier:
– Try Scheduled Posts, where you can schedule a tweet or a blogpost or a Facebook something or other to go out at a certain time or day that is Not Right Now and suddenly the action of promoting is a bit more distant and a lot less anxiety-producing. You can write whatever you need knowing no one will see it – not yet. Then you can be Conveniently Busy and Away from the Internet when that post/tweet/shout goes live. This is perfect for anything that feels like bragging, i.e. covers, blurbs, awesome reviews, pre-order reminders, etc.
– Learn how to hype your own books by hyping other people’s books first. Pay attention to your level of enthusiasm, the way you describe those books. Then, if the topic somehow turns to your books at some point, try to pretend those books are your friends’, and try to match the level of enthusiasm at least halfway. Smile. Show your teeth. Wait, not that much –
– Practice. No, really. Practice a short pitch (like “queer assassins save the day!” or “it’s a cozy murder mystery – with assassins!”). Practice saying the publication date. Practice your title. Practice a slightly longer pitch (…I’m still working on this one). Practice enthusiasm. Yes: I’m encouraging you to fake it till you make it. Or, pretend you’re actually talking about a friend’s book until it becomes more comfortable to talk about your own.
– It’s okay to feel weird about it. You can feel weird and still promote your book. In a month, two, it won’t matter that you felt weird, but it will matter that now two or three or four more people who were looking for just that kind of story now know where to find it.
In the end, you’re not trying to strongarm people into reading your book. This isn’t a used-car lot. Not everyone will want or enjoy your book, but someone will need it – and they need you to promote your book.