In August last year, Alexandra had a post titled Wanna Be a Writer? Learn to Love Promotion. In no-nonsense terms, Alex laid out the cold hard truth: In today’s publishing world, you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there or risk getting lost in the numbers game.
In the opposite corner, both Gar and I are on the record concerning our uneasiness with self-promotion. For me it smacks of begging. If the book’s good, it’ll sell itself, right? (I know, how dumb can you get?)
Something about self-promotion makes me feel like the guy who always needs to be the center of attention, making sure the limelight never strays far from where he’s standing.
But I’ve got a book out and it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable I am, I need to get off my duff and make the thing a success. The fact it’s not a novel but a book on writing changes little except points of emphasis.
As anyone with a mainstream publisher knows, if you’re not a top name, you’re not getting the love from the marketing or publicity departments. Everyone’s perfectly nice, they just don’t have the funds or the time for your book. They’ll do all they can within the confines of their virtually non-existent budget.
Which means you’re largely on your own. And it’s a very crowded marketplace.
But how to turn around that reticence, that squeamishness, that fear of becoming the yammering nitwit bellowing: Look at me!
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. I believe in the book, and wrote it with an almost passionate intensity. I need to bring that same belief and passion to making sure potential readers know about it, want it, buy it.
2. I didn’t write the book for myself, I wrote it for writers and students of writing hoping to expand and deepen their understanding and command of the craft of characterization. The book is for them. Try to find them, reach them.
3. If I ground my PR efforts in that belief, that passion, and that concern for readers who might truly benefit from the book, I’ll come from a place that balances pride with humility, and that will eliminate some of the sense that I’m being a pushy shmuck.
4. Go back and reread the book and remember all the valuable things it has to offer. Promote them. Find a way for people to hear about them so they can make up their own minds if they want the book.
I know this must sound hopelessly fundamental and obvious. I mean, after four books, you’d think I’d get this. But I still sometimes need to remind myself of these simple things. I need to get comfortable with the idea of promoting me, David Corbett, and my work.
I think most writers are prone to a profound self-doubt, salted with guarded optimism and talent and pride. Something about self-promotion begs us to deny that self-doubt. Think positive, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will, etc.
I realized I need instead to embrace my misgivings, accept the ways in which the book may fall short of what I wanted it to be, and make that acceptance part of the package, so my genuine pride in the book doesn’t get mucked up with phoniness. I know the book’s not perfect. But the perfect is the enemy of the good, and the book really is quite good.
If I don’t find a way to get comfortable with the salesmanship side of writing, the book will die a slow, steady death. And it deserves better. The students who could benefit from the book deserve better. And yes, even solitary, self-doubting me — I deserve better.
So: Please check out the book and see if it’s something you or someone you know might enjoy or benefit from. Frankly, I think if you start reading it, you’ll love it.
If you’ve read the book and have something to say, I’d love it if you’d write an Amazon review.
(BTW: In one of those scheduling things that happen from time to time here on Murderati, I’ll also be up tomorrow for my regularly scheduled post. Try not to weary of me.)
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So, Murderateros—what aspect of promotion do you find most daunting? Most annoying?
What strategy have you devised to overcome that?
Has a writer’s PR effort ever turned you off to his or her book?
Any great anecdotes about PR efforts that went arwy—whether your own or someone else’s?
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Jukebox Heroes of the Week: Who else? (With a stunning remix of the original.)