I Heart Indies

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Self-Promotion as an Act of Generosity

When authors see their novel in print from a big publishing house, they often naively believe that the publicist is going to make sure it rises to the top of the best seller list, lands in the hands of Oprah, and is the hot topic over Hollywood power-brunches.  This is not the case.  The truth is, and now more than ever, that responsibility for publicizing a book is on the author's shoulders.  Yes, there may be a publicist, but she is often a poorly paid or even unpaid intern, with many other books to look after, and not even enough time to read the golden words of prose that surely merit your place among the immortals.
Authors, often being shy and unworldly, don't always make the best self-promoters.  They think promotion is sort of a blood-sport that begins once the book is in print, and safely ends with the new catalogue.  Instead, promotion is an ongoing enterprise, that begins at once, even before the first word of your novel is typed.
They imagine publicity requires a fast-talking Phil Silvers character in a plaid jacket and a fedora, chain smoking Pall Malls as he reels off one line of malarky after another.  I have come to realize, and I realize more and more, that effective promotion comes down again and again to being generous. After all, the reason you wrote a book in the first place, was because you felt you had something to share.  This instinct for sharing is exactly what the world wants from us, and in fact, it is so hungry for our talents and our ideas, a thousand lifetimes would be inadequate to take advantage of all the publicity opportunities out there.
As a writer, there are four groups crying for you - your readers, your community, your booksellers, and your fellow authors.

Be Generous to Your Readers: You’re not asking readers to give you their time and money; rather you want to give them something; your talent, your vision, your craft.

• Start by writing the very best book you can. Don’t settle for getting it done, get it right.

• Offer giveaways of autographed books through goodreads.com and librarything.com

• Write a blog in which you share genuinely interesting writing: share your passion. After posting your blog, don’t keep your light under a bushel: tweet it, email it to friends who might be interested, post it on facebook

• Prepare carefully for speaking events, don’t just read; perform! Memorize if possible

• Bring book-related giveaways to readings: bookmarks, recipes from the book, key chains or novelty items

Be Generous to Your Community: Become a literary luminary. You are a writer and have a special knowledge of the written word. Share it with the world. There are many places EAGER for your talents: your children’s school, your local library, community center, gym, church or synagogue, local bookstores.

• Lead a book discussion club

• Start a writer’s group with regular meetings and chances for critique

• Host readings at your library, bookstore, or local coffee shop

• Write reviews for books you recommend: submit these to your local bookstore, to the local paper or shopper, or post on your blog.

Be Generous to Your Bookseller: God bless the bookseller. God bless the bookseller. God bless the bookseller. Even with electronic books, we depend on communities of readers booksellers foster. This also applies, as do most of the suggestions below, to local libraries.

• Patronize your favorite bookstore. Meet the owner or manager and say how you like their store.

• Offer to write “So-and-so recommends” cards to place under your favorite titles

• Host book clubs, readings, writing groups in the store

• Put links on your blog, website, and facebook to the store: let the owners know you’ve done so

• When traveling, stop by bookstores and introduce yourself. If you have a book in print, offer to sign their stock. If they don’t have copies, have attractively-printed information to give them

• After doing a reading or signing at a bookstore, write a personal note (not an email) thanking the owner or manager. Enclose photos of the event

Be Generous to Fellow Writers: We’re all in the same boat, even if some of us at the stern and others at the bow. Writing is not a competition sport: you want people to succeed because their success really benefits you; synergy among creative people is a powerful thing.

• Help others become better writers: teach classes at a college, community center, or school.  Freely offer advice and encouragement
• Foster writing groups

• Write fan letters (not emails) to your favorite authors

• When your book is in print, offer to tour with fellow authors

• Visit other’s blogs and comment frequently. Offer to write guest blogs or let others guest blog on your site.

These are just a few ways generosity can help you promote yourself and your work.  What ideas do you have?


  1. I love this way of looking at promo, Man. Marketing is something that has always been a tough pill for me to swallow---taking this approach sounds like a much easier way...and helps other writers, as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Man: Sound advice, good to be reminded of these things. And as someone who blurbed your upcoming book, I am thoroughly excited about its publication. One of my favorite reads in the past year. Good luck with the launch.

    Ad Hudler

  3. Great counsel and strategies. Man, you are right on target!

  4. Man,
    These are all things I should be doing and have failed to do in some areas. Bravo for sharing! And lots of sales on your new book.
    Jackie Lee Miles

  5. Great advice I'm doing most of this but I can always strive to do more. I be passing this on to my writing groups

  6. I do some of these well. I'd get a failing grade at others, like commenting on blogs...I don't do that so well, but here I am, trying to do better! Good advice here!

  7. Nice post, Man. It's interesting how some writers are shy about self promotion, and yet other forms of "business" must be promoted. We don't think anything of the advertising done in the business world, and even in the medical world. I guess we wish art was "above promotion" but it's not. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. These are great suggestions, Man, and very original too. I've always felt it's important for authors to reach out to their various reading and writing communities, but I also know it's sometimes a very frustrating task. Not all regions of the country are as receptive as others to win/win marketing, and it can feel utterly thankless, especially for new authors, to have their offers to contribute rejected time and time again. All I can say about this is, thank goodness for the Internet!

  9. Man, you are succinct and on target when you summarize promotion as generosity. The last thing a writer weary from long hours in front of a blinking cursor wants to do is spend more time at the computer. But we should, and if our book is to be noticed in today's world, we must. Thank you for a thoughtfully written viewpoint of promotion.