Self-Promotion, Old School

One of the most difficult parts of being a writer is self-promotion. Writing is an intimate art, most often carried out in some form of isolation. Even the writer who composes lines in a bustling diner creates a sort of protective bubble in which to dwell while working, pierced only by the occasional presence of a waitress come to warm up the cup of coffee forgotten and gone cold while the author chases a mental image and tries to capture it in words.

Promotion, on the other hand, is such a public act. And writers are not necessarily public people, not necessarily performers. It’s awkward to be “out there,” shouting about one’s work in order to earn a living. It can be unnerving, embarrassing. Many of my friends who write have been chastised for carrying out self-promotion, some have been shamed into doing it less and have seen their income suffer because of it.

It used to be artists had patrons who would see that they were fed and kept while they created, but that time is no more. Publishing houses demand a lot from authors when they do help to promote a book – speaking tours, readings in book stores, signing endless copies, appearing on half a dozen television shows in the space of a day or two. Those who self-publish or work freelance, must work even harder to promote our work.

Novelist Jennifer Belle talks about how exhausting it is for a writer to use contemporary tools like Facebook and Twitter to promote a work, and I’m sure she speaks for many of us when she says we’d rather be writing.

It’s very hard for a writer to know what to do to promote herself. You go from being a shut-in, finishing the book in total isolation, to being a hostess, giving readings and parties like crazy. You want to do what you can for the book. You want to show the publisher that you’re willing to prostitute yourself in any manner possible, all while trying to be taken seriously. Of course it’s all a waste of time and money, and what you should be doing is getting to work on your next book. But most of the writers I know, are compelled to try.

Belle launched an old fashioned publicity stunt to promote her book, The Seven Year Bitch. Interested in trying something different to promote your next work? Read about how she did it in “‘I Paid Them to Read My Book: Jennifer Belle’s ‘The Laughter Project’ Pays Dividends” at Publishing Perspectives.

© 2010 Kyla Matton. Image by Julian Cenkier (onemhz, Stock.xchng). Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments! If you want to share this piece, please respect the copyright by quoting a brief excerpt and providing the permalink for this entry. Thanks!

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