For most writers, the term inspires fear or dread.
It feels strange, doesn’t it?
You’ve been resisting it for a long time.
You’re a writer, and you want to write.
You think marketing and promotion are terms for business people, not artists.
In fact, you would have studied Communications or Business if you wanted to get into marketing.
Ready for the truth?
Your writing requires it. If you want to get anywhere, you’re gonna have to promote yourself.
There’s no way around it.
Deep down, you know this, but you keep resisting.
So why is it so hard for creatives to promote themselves–especially when they know it’s essential for success?
Let’s take a closer look.
Read on to discover why self-promotion is so terrifying for writers.
You’re Drawing Attention to Yourself
It’s easy and comfortable hiding in the background, isn’t it?
Secretly, you’re hoping someone else will recognize your talent:
- someone who will lavish you with praise,
- someone who will spread the word about your latest work,
- someone who will write glowing reviews.
And if you’re really being honest, you hope that same someone will introduce you to their inner circle of movers and shakers, to their prized business connections, to people with whom they’ve spent years (or decades) forging quality relationships.
You’re hoping they’ll do the hard work for you, so you don’t have to put yourself out there.
If you do promote yourself, people may take notice, and someone might judge you for being overconfident, self-serving, or worse–unworthy.
Get real about your product, your goals, and your shelf in the marketplace.
Think deeply about that place on that bookstore shelf:
- Where do you fit?
- What do you offer?
- What makes you unique?
And remember, your writing could inform, entertain, enlighten, and empower people–lots of people. It can’t do anything if you keep it to yourself.
Take a moment to consider the potential power of your product.
- You could change someone’s life.
- You could affect an entire generation.
- You could change the trajectory your own life with a lucrative, rewarding career.
The possibilities are endless.
Finally, realize you can always be your best self: humble, kind, conscientious. Your promotional materials can reflect these attributes.
Self promotion puts you in the driver’s seat; you can control the messages you’re sending about yourself, about your latest offering.
You Might Fail
No one likes to fail, and almost no one sets out to fail.
For most, it comes down to the fear that you won’t be able to take the hit, that you won’t survive the disappointment, the feelings of rejection.
Every step forward involves risk.
Ready for the truth?
If you’re not willing to risk failing, you’ll never be ready for success.
Success and failure represent two sides of the same coin–the byproduct of releasing your work into the marketplace.
It’s important to remember that failure often precedes success:
- Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind manuscript was rejected 38 times before finding a publisher. The book went on to receive the Pulitzer prize in 1937. The 1939 film of the same name won an Academy Award and is considered one of the greatest films of all time.
- Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time received 26 rejections from publishers before its 1962 release by Ariel Books. Sources say L’Engle almost quit writing before it was published.
- Twilight, the original book in the series by Stephanie Meyer, failed 14 times before finding a publisher. The series went on to sell over 160 million copies worldwide. The film series grossed over $3.4 billion worldwide.
Imagine any of these authors giving up on their work!
Self-promotion is part of the equation.
Stop waiting to be discovered.
Even today, with the internet and 24/7 media, the artists who get discovered are already out there promoting themselves via social media, Youtube, and other online venues.
They’ve put in the time building a platform, creating a marketing presence.
Failure vs. Criticism
Maybe you’re less concerned about failure.
You know, however, that promoting yourself could invite unwanted criticism.
And opening yourself up to criticism can feel like failure. Secretly, you want everyone to appreciate your work; you want everyone to see your value in the marketplace.
The problem is that it’s unrealistic.
Even the best writers encounter criticism. Like failure, it’s an inevitable consequence of releasing your work.Even the best writers encounter criticism. Like failure, it's an inevitable consequence of releasing your work. Click To Tweet
It’s important to realize that some critics are just plain mean, looking for ways to tear down another person’s work. Please ignore this type of personality. Some of them only want to hurt people. Degrading others makes them feel better about themselves.
I wrote extensively about criticism here.
So how do you benefit from criticism?
First, if the critique contains some balance (positives and negatives), look for common denominators among multiple critics.
If several critiques mention the same issues (for example, the second half of the book was too long), decide whether you want to adapt or edit your work accordingly.
So, it’s important to look for common denominators among comments and critiques.
The remaining criticism can be filed away for future consideration.
Keep in mind, most writers are their own worst critics anyway.
You’re Entering a Strange, Unknown Territory
Many fiction writers find marketing uncomfortable and foreign.
Let’s face it, society teaches you that it’s wrong or unnatural to toot your own horn. As an artist, you think you must remain humble. To complicate matters, the commercialization of your work feels like a sell-out, a corruption of your art. You want to be seen as an artist, not a salesperson.
Marketing requires self-promotion or showing off your work, and this feels uncomfortable, like bragging. You’re afraid you’ll look narcissistic.
To a creative person, art and commerce look like opposing forces, so it can be tough to switch gears, to begin thinking about your work through a marketing lens.
This aversion to marketing and self-promotion is understandable. After all, most of us got into writing because we’re passionate about stories and characters, not because we’re good at selling things. But the fact is, if you want to be a successful writer, you have to promote your work.
The good news is that marketing doesn’t have to be sleazy or opportunistic. There are lots of ways to market your work that show respect for your art and your audience. You can start by building a platform and developing relationships with your readers. It’s about building trust. These are not things that come naturally to most fiction writers.
Writers can overcome their aversion to marketing by understanding that marketing is just another way to tell a story.Writers can overcome their aversion to marketing by understanding that marketing is just another way to tell a story. Click To Tweet
So, remember that your story is already worth sharing. You wouldn’t have written it otherwise. Marketing simply helps you reach more people.
Where to start?
Empower yourself by learning how to best promote yourself and your work.
To ease yourself into a marketing mindset, I recommend the following books:
- All Marketers are Liars Tell Stories by Seth Godin
- Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith
- Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
You Don’t Want to Make Mistakes
I encounter this often–especially in academia. My students don’t want to make mistakes.
For some, their fear of making mistakes leads them to stop trying. Without a guarantee, they don’t want to expend the effort.
They don’t realize an important truth:
Making mistakes is the best way to learn. Period.
Mistakes show us where we fall short, where we can adjust course, where we need to spend more time and attention.
- Penicillin was discovered accidentally.
- Post-it notes began as a failed experiment to make a strong adhesive.
- Potato chips and chocolate chip cookies were both the result of cooking mistakes.
How do you conquer your fear of mistakes–particularly in the realm of marketing?
They’re the most important gift you can offer yourself. Mistakes show that you’re trying, growing, evolving.
In marketing, mistakes don’t actually exist.
In marketing, mistakes = valuable feedback.
Each mistake demonstrates what’s not working, what you can change or dispense with altogether.
The best marketers orchestrate mistakes with A/B testing. They run two sets of ads to find the one that converts to the most sales. They repeat the process multiple times to create the best campaigns.
In marketing, mistakes help you move forward.
So, embrace the process. Self-promotion requires trial and error.
You May Discover That No One Likes Your Product
I know you’ve thought about this.
After all the hard work, what will happen if no one likes your product?
This fear keeps you from promoting yourself, from sharing your writing in the marketplace.
Want to know what really happens when no one likes your product?
Essentially, nothing happens.
And you’ll survive.
You’ll be the same person you were days, weeks, or months before.
You’ll get feedback out of the equation–valuable feedback.
Maybe you’ll get constructive criticism.
Maybe you’ll learn something valuable about the marketplace:
- Your writing didn’t meet the genre’s expectations.
- Your writing needs more work.
- The timing was off (the market’s already saturated with vampire stories).
If your project isn’t a huge success, it doesn’t mean you don’t have talent. It doesn’t mean your next book or article can’t be successful. You may have simply reached the wrong audience. You may need to step up your marketing efforts.
But every experience provides the potential for learning, for increasing your chances for success.
Self-promotion is absolutely essential to writing success.
Commit to learning, to practicing, to evaluating the feedback you receive.
Now, it’s your turn.
What have we missed here?
Why is self promotion so terrifying to you?