Monday, May 23, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion

We've all heard the term "shameless self-promotion."  I've used it myself quite a bit.  Today I want to get on my soap box a little bit.  You don't mind, right?  I mean, that's sort of the theme of my whole blog ... "Tristi on her soap box."  If I were ever to change the title of this blog, that's what I would use.

Self-promotion is absolutely crucial to every form of business.  It doesn't matter if you're a car salesman, or if you work in a clothing store, or if you are a make-up girl, or if you are a construction worker.  In each of those jobs, you are selling yourself - your skills, your experience, your know-how.  You are presenting yourself in such a way that your employer and your customer can feel confident in you and the job you are going to do.  Filling out resumes, going for interviews, meeting with prospective clients - these are nothing more than selling yourself and your abilities.

When you write a book and enter the big, bad world of marketing, you're doing exactly the same thing you've done every time you've entered the work force.  You're informing people of a skill or ability you possess.

Let me ask you a question.  Say you're in the middle of a job interview, and you are asked, "So, I hear you're good at typing."  Would you answer, "Oh, I don't know about that.  That other applicant you just had in here is a lot faster."  Or would you say, "Yes, I'm pretty fast." It's a pretty simple choice to make, isn't it?

So why do we downplay our writing?  Why do we feel that we need to apologize when it comes to talking about our books?  We say "shameless self-promotion" as though perhaps, at some point, we might have felt the need to feel ashamed, but we're going to shake that off for a second.  There is no need to ever be ashamed of the product you have produced as long as you know you did your very best on it.  If you turned out something you know wasn't up to your potential, then you can make a decision to do better next time.  But "shame" is not something that should ever be associated with something you created that came from your gut. If you really, really are ashamed to admit that you did it, then ... why did you do it?

Now that we've talked about the "shame," let's talk about the "self-promotion."  Go back to the analogy of the shoe salesman.  A woman walks into his shop and says, "Hi, I need a pair of shoes."  He pauses.  Should he say something?  What if he shows her a pair and she says she doesn't want them?  He would be crushed.  Humiliated.  Rejected.

Um ... no, he's going start showing her shoes, right?  Of course.  That's his job.  And it's your job as a new author to talk about your books.  He has shoes to sell, you have books to sell.  If someone doesn't buy your book, it doesn't have to be a devastating thing - it just means that those shoes didn't fit.  Someone else with feet of a different size will soon come into your life, or your shoe store, and you'll be able to make that sale.

So, let's encapsulate my little lecture.

1.  Stop being ashamed to talk about your books!
2.  Stop feeling as though you have to apologize!
3.  Get some confidence - talk about your book in an upbeat, positive way.  Let other people know it exists.
4. Never downplay your accomplishments.  Don't say, "Well, it's just a little story about ..." No!  Smile and say, "It's a great story about ..."

Self-promotion is hard.  It's hard to get up the courage, it's hard to know what to say, it's hard to find that balance between talking about yourself and coming on too strong, and it's also hard to know when you shouldn't bring up your books (and yes, there are times when you don't want to promote, generally in times of social politics, but that would be a blog for another day).  You can learn how to master all of these skills, but you've got to practice them, and regularly.  Hiding behind pillars and potted plants will not make you a master of self-promotion - you've got to get out there and do it, and you'll find your own stride and what works for you.  And if you're interested, here's another post I wrote on this very same topic.

All right, then!  Go promote yourself, and let me see you stop saying the word "shameless!"  It should all be shameless!


RobisonWells said...

I agree with this in large part--there's nothing wrong with promoting your books.

But I think the problem--the reason self-promotion is frowned upon--is because so many authors do it poorly.

Take your analogy about the shoe salesman: First, the customer walked into his shop. Second, she asked him about shoes. She was initiating a business relationship, so, as you said, OF COURSE he should try to sell shoes.

But imagine if the two people weren't in a shoe store. Imagine they were close friends or family members, and he tried to sell her shoes at family parties, or while they were out at a movie together. We're getting on shaky ground.

To some extent, even an author's blog, Twitter and such are about creating personal relationships--friendships. So, even in these venues, I think self-promotion often is overdone.

I think self-promotion is fine (and necessary), but an author also needs to know when it's time to stop selling.

Shari said...

You wrote that for me, didn't you?

Pam Williams said...

Love this! You have to be able to turn on and off your self-effacing modesty at will, which is a skill most of us thought we would never have to learn.

Anne Bradshaw said...

Ahhhh! I can now breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks, Tristi. This is WONDERFUL!

Angie said...

Thanks, Tristi. That's such great advice!

geschumann said...

Great post! I'm still learning to push myself in regards to selling myself & my product. A little too shy about it, but attempting new things. It's all about getting the word out. If a person wants to find out more, great, if not, fine. But at least they've heard my name.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Exactly, Rob - which is why I said this in the blog:

"It's also hard to know when you shouldn't bring up your books (and yes, there are times when you don't want to promote, generally in times of social politics, but that would be a blog for another day)."

Thank you for helping to underscore my point.

RobisonWells said...


I definitely agree with you that authors need to be promoting, and they need to quit being afraid of self-promotion. I guess my beef is with the term "shameless". Obviously, you shouldn't have shame about promotion generally, but I've seen an awful lot of shameful promotion. I still think the term "shameless self-promotion" still has some legitimacy.

(So, ultimately, I guess agree with most everything here except your final line, "It should all be shameless!")

I look forward to reading that "blog for another day". :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Well, having read my blog, you know that I'm talking about the fact that we should not feel shame about the thing we have created, and that talking about it should not make us feel ashamed. Feeling ashamed for promoting in the middle of Aunt Lulu's funeral isn't on the agenda for today. :)

M. K. Yarbrough said...

Self promoting is a must, just pick the right time and place.

Tina Scott, the writing artist said...

Talking about anything business at a funeral is definately shame-full. At my father's funeral, a cousin asked if he could purchase my father's cabin. Definately bad timing.
I try the waters, so to speak. If I mention that I've written a book, and the person seems interested, I tell them a short bit--15 words or less. If their eyes glaze over, I stop there. If they ask me more, I tell them a little more--and so on.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

This is great, Tristi! Thanks for being brave and posting it. ;)

Cindy M Hogan author of Watched said...

Great post. It is hard to toot your own horn. I'm learning quite quickly how important it is with my launch right around the corner. If I don't tell people my book is great, why would they come?

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