August 8th, 2011

What’s the difference between self-promotion and book promotion?

If you ask me, there are two huge misconceptions writers make when it comes to the subject of self-promotion. The first is that self-promotion is something you either do or don’t do; the second is that self-promotion is somehow directly related to book promotion.

Let’s start with the self-promotion = book promotion thing, because I think confusing the two has a massive impact on people’s approach to both.

Self-promotion is not the same as book promotion.
Self-promotion is about name recognition, nothing more, nothing less. Self-promotion is about getting our name known to folks who’ve never heard of us. This is a good thing, because we’re not trying to sell anything. All we want to do is create favorable name recognition.

In the case of writers, I think the end goal is for people seeing your name on the spine of a book or the cover of an anthology or magazine to think, ‘Hey, I know him/her.’

Of course, whether any of those folks then pick up the book or magazine depends on many things, not least of which is if the potential reader has a favorable opinion to go along with that name recognition.

How do get that? On purpose, that’s how, which brings me to the other misconception, ‘Self-promotion is something you either do or don’t do.’

Everything we do is self-promotion.
As writers, whether we intend it to be or not, everything we do is self-promotion in some way, including the negative stuff. When folks attend a writing conference or critique group, they spend the entire time self-promoting – even if they never speak to anyone else.

How is book promotion different from self-promotion?
Again, this is just my opinion, but to me, self-promotion becomes ‘book promotion’ the moment you mention the title. Book promotion requires a different approach, which can be split into two distinct, but equally important, parts.

The first is more general. The goal is to make people aware of a specific work. If you’re a writer, people shouldn’t be surprised to know you have a book out or a story in publication, nor should they have to go searching to find it.

It’s easy to let folks know about both of these things. All it takes is a line beneath your e-signature, a cover pic somewhere on your blog/website home page etc., and of course, the occasional mention of a review or publication date in a specific journal entry. For example, the print version of Fur-Face comes out this Fall, I’ve changed my e-signature to reflect this:

Jon Gibbs
www.acatofninetales.com
Coming this fall: Fur-Face, the bendy version (features include turnable pages, realistic paperback smell and much, much more)

The second part, and this is where I think many folks feel uncomfortable, is the direct approach. We do this by holding contests, making personal appearances, taking part in blog tours and so on. Essential as these things are in today's publishing world, I don’t believe they come under the heading of 'self-promotion'.


How about you?

What do you think marks the difference between self-promotion and book promotion?