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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
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?

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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
in that case, isn't everybody always self-promoting, whether they're a writer or not?
Aug. 8th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
Well, yes...
and depending on their line of work,
the distinction between self promotion
and the promotion of their product or service
could be hazy.
Aug. 8th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, though some types of self-promotion are more effective/helpful than others eg: making an effort to chat with folks at a writing conference as opposed to being a wallflower etc.
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
absolutely. there's nothing like extending yourself as opposed to "being a wallflower" in any context, i think! if you offer of yourself, people can respond to that, as opposed to when you hold yourself in reserve.

i have a number of professional hats (my writerly one is probably really the lamest :) -- i think i extend myself the most for science in that regard, and maybe second-most just to representing myself as an individual having a life. (not that you'd know from my lj, where i have patient-privacy issues up the wazoo, so i rarely even talk about my science here...!)

but i have trouble taking myself seriously as a writer, so i'm probably not the best datapoint in that regard (although i realize i am probably inappropriate for your desired blog usage that way....sorry!)
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
...i have trouble taking myself seriously as a writer

I know what you mean. I take my writing seriously, in that I want to do the best I can in a way that entertains folks who may read my work, but I hope I never take myself seriously as a writer.

When you think about it, that particular decision should be out of any writer's hands. It's something only his/her readers can do.
Aug. 8th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)

For some reason, a Monty Python moment comes to mind

-Walk this way.

-If I could walk that way, I wouldn't be here.

Aug. 8th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
Self-promotion promotes self, and book promotion promotes book.As an author, naturally, you engage in quite a bit of the first; but when the second crops up, well, it's all about the book, baby. /endAustinPowersmode
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
Lol, as well it should be :)

I don't see self-promotion as being so much about 'advertising' yourself though. I think it's more about putting yourself out there in a friendly, approachable way, like Jim Hines (jimhines, Nathan Bransford and Jonathan Maberry have done.
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
I quite agree with you.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
You mean your surname isn't really 'Punktnull'? ;)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
Now that would be a first :)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
'...I go into Irene mode '

I know exactly what you mean. I call it 'Putting my writer hat on.' :)
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
I never thought being a writer would demand courting so much self-promotion. It actually gets more involved the more I have published and the more success I have. I read your blog about the topic today and found myself nodding me head in agreement a few times.
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
There's no denying self-promotion takes work (and time), but the better job we make of it, the more rewarding the effort, especially years down the line when we've got lots of books on those shelves :)
Aug. 8th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
Question: To self promote successfully, does a person need to be an extrovert? Introverts really want to know. :)

I do see what you're saying. Name recognition and likability (or being an arch-villain if you think any publicity is good publicity) are vital to putting together a readership. But not everyone is naturally outgoing. I maintain a blog and I'm gradually building a readership via that and Facebook. But, I'm not much for twittering and at conferences my introvert side often rears its ugly head. (Maybe I should get a "Wallflower Author" t-shirt to wear.)

So which do you think is more important? Finding a readership by writing or by social networking on and off the internet? I'd really be interested in your views. :)


Aug. 8th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think they're both important.

From what I understand, in today's publishing market, of the hundreds of thousands of books which get published (or self-published) every year, less than 1 in 25 sells more than 100 copies. Our books need all the help they can get.

By the way, I love that t-shirt idea, especially if you get your name printed above 'Wallflower Author' :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

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No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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