Here’s what working in publicity taught me about successful self-promotion

In my career, I’ve worked as a publicist, which means I’m accustomed to reaching out to people with cold pitches, telling them that I have something I think they’d find interesting. Sometimes, they do find whatever I’m pitching interesting and feature it on their website or talk show. Other times, I’m not so lucky.

But when I put on my author hat, it suddenly feels weird to be reaching out to people–it feels like bragging. Despite knowing how the system works, I get scared! The stakes suddenly feel higher.

Part of the reason is this: I keep calling what I’m doing “self-promotion.”

Naturally, if you think of posting photos of your book cover or talking up your launch date as SELF-PROMOTION, you’re guaranteed to be freaked out. Suddenly, not getting likes on your post doesn’t feel like a rejection of what you’ve written–it feels like a rejection of YOU.

What’s scarier? Being told that what you’ve written is a piece of garbage, or being told that YOU are a piece of garbage?

(You and your words are NEITHER, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN).

That’s why I’m rejecting the concept of self-promotion altogether. It’s not you–not your magnificent, complicated, beautiful self that you’re selling.

Do you hear me? You are not selling you.

You are selling your BOOK.

When you start to think of it that way, it becomes a lot more fun to hype the hell outta your book. You have ideas. Let people have them!

When I first started working in publicity, I remember being completely surprised at how nervous people would be to talk themselves up. I’ve always been shy — for example, I once sat quietly through a whole college semester until finally the professor called me out by yelling “you! I don’t even know your name!”

So when I became a publicist, I very naively thought that the people I was working with — big authors, journalists, thinkers, CEOs, fearless, tattooed abortion providers — these people should have nothing to worry about! How could they ever be nervous? THEY’RE BRILLIANT!

The fact is: talking about your achievements is always nerve-wracking.

Isn’t that humbling?

When I realized that, it was like an awakening. It made me realize that we’re all running around, worrying needlessly about how we look.

I want to share my book with you NOT because I want everything to be about me. Honestly, sometimes, I’m pretty boring! (though I did start rock-climbing recently, and only really UNboring people climb rocks for no practical reason…)

I want to share my book with you because I labored, for a long time, over a very particular set of ideas. I know that when I was writing the book, it felt important to me, and it felt important to other people, too. That’s why I have an agent. Why I have an editor.

So I put on my publicist hat, take myself out of the equation and say:

Hello, here’s a book. It’s full of things. Some things you might like. Other things maybe not. Who knows! Only you. Want to read it?

Great. 

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Stephanie Jimenez

Stephanie Jimenez is a former Fulbright recipient and Prep for Prep alumna. She is based in Queens, New York, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, O! the Oprah Magazine, Entropy, and more. Her debut novel, THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING, will be published in the summer of 2019 (Little A). Follow her @estefsays.

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