Essential Self-Promotion for Writers

“What?  It’s not enough that I spent three years writing this book  — now I have to promote it?”  That’s how many of us react when faced with the realities of the marketplace.

These days, it’s not “publish or perish,” it’s “promote or perish.”

Bad news for those of us who became writers so we wouldn’t have to deal with all those pesky people out there.  But there is some good news, too.  You can still plug your book even if you’re a shrinking violet.

You just need a little attitude adjustment about promotion.

Attitude Adjustment:

Self-promotion is not a dirty word.  These days, every author has to do it — even bestsellers.  Even unpublished authors.  All it takes is getting used to blowing your own horn and having a dash of self-love.

And as Oscar Wilde said, “To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Believe your work is worth promoting, and promote it for the sake of your story and your readers.  Because the truth is, if you don’t blow your own horn, nobody will.

Can you promote yourself without becoming an obnoxious jerk?

Yes.  In fact, your promotional efforts will be more successful if you just be yourself rather than your idea of a hustling salesperson — but you do have to step outside of your comfort zone to get started.  Here’s a quick overview of where to put your efforts…

Types of promotion:

1. Online — Terminally shy?  You can promote your work without leaving home. Create a website or blog and offer useful information to your readers and/or their gatekeepers (teachers, parents, and librarians).  Network via social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace.  Join a children’s literature listserve and chime in on the discussions.

And in all these avenues, don’t just promote your book.  Build relationships, exchange information, help others.  That’s the key to online success.

2. Print — Old-fashioned, but it works.  Send press releases announcing your book to local newspapers and magazines, alumni journals, and newsletters of organizations you belong to.  Send postcards (with your book cover on the front) to teachers, librarians, friends and acquaintances.

3. School Visits — You don’t have to be a performer to speak to students (but it does help).  All you need is a willingness to connect and to learn from mistakes.  Start out gradually by visiting single classrooms for free.  Develop half-hour and hour-long presentations with lots of visual and tactile aids to grab the kids’ attention.

Then, start charging as you gain confidence in the value of your presentation.  Don’t worry if you can’t charge much.  The bottom line is: Connect kids with your books.

4. Conference Visits — A whole array of conferences with alphabet-soup acronyms is out there waiting for you.  ALA (American Library Association), IRA (International Reading Association), BEA (Book Expo America), and on and on.  Some are local, some are national.  And most of these conferences are looking for authors to present useful or inspiring talks to their membership.  Ask your publisher for details.

Some Promo Tips:

• Assume a public persona.  If you find yourself feeling self-conscious, take on a “character” — a public version of yourself.  Wear colorful clothes or hats, call yourself the Bird Lady, do whatever it takes to feel comfortable and stand out.

• Don’t take yourself too seriously. Most people are too wrapped up in their own concerns to care very much about you making a fool of yourself.  So have some fun; loosen up.

• Do a little every day.  Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, the authors behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, vowed to do five promotional actions a day until their book reached #1 on the bestseller list.  You don’t have to do five things a day, but even if you do just one, it’ll help sell your book.

• Remember: It’s not about you, it’s about them.  At the end of the day, you’re writing your books for others to read and enjoy.  So when you promote the books, you’re not being entirely self-serving — you’re doing something positive for others.

With that in mind, you’ll find it easier to remember that self-promotion isn’t really a dirty word after all.

Bruce Hale is the author-illustrator of over 25 books for young readers, including the Edgar-nominated Chet Gecko Mysteries and Snoring Beauty, one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids.  He is a popular speaker and storyteller, having presented at conferences, schools and libraries across North America.  Subscribe to his free e-newsletter of writing tips at: www.brucehalewritingtips.com.  Or check out Bruce’s books at www.brucehale.com.