In the previous post, I discussed the importance of simply telling your story in a compelling way as the best and most effective promotion method. There are many channels you can use to tell your story—traditional print media, press releases, blog posts, social media—the options are really limited to your imagination and your available resources.
Technically, it’s not difficult, but there may well be something standing in your way on a comfort level—a societal taboo you just can’t seem to get past. In fact, in my decades of marketing work, I’ve found this taboo to be one of the most ubiquitous and frustrating obstacles I’ve had to help nearly all my clients overcome. And what it is may surprise you.
In our society and many others, the first thing anyone who wants to tell his/her story must become comfortable with is the idea that it is OKAY to “toot your own horn.” Despite what your mother may have told you, the marketplace understands that if you don’t do it, nobody else will (well, except maybe her). Yes, I know, she probably told you not to brag…and she’s right about that. No one likes an arrogant blowhard. But marketing and self-promotion on a professional level are not “bragging,” which is defined as “talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction.”
Marketing and promotion, when done properly, is not bragging. It’s simply letting people, who might be interested in what you have to offer, know what they’re getting themselves into before they take a risk. As long as you’re truthful and not overly self-serving, marketing is not only acceptable, it’s the only professionally responsible thing to do. And besides that, it’s critical to your success and that of your books.
So, get over the false modesty. You know your books have value, or you wouldn’t have spent the time and energy and money to create them. If you believe more people should have the ability to enjoy or learn from your books, then commit yourself to making that happen by promoting the heck out of yourself and your work. And if it still makes you really uncomfortable, you don’t have to tell Mom what you’re doing if you think she’d disapprove.
What Mom was probably trying to tell you was more along the lines that you shouldn’t get a big head and let your ego get in the way. On that point, she was absolutely correct. If you do end up creating a very effective media campaign that gets you lots of attention, don’t let it turn your head. There’s a reason the phrase “someone who believes their own PR” has negative connotations. But there are lots of ways to do this book marketing thing very tastefully and very well. You just need to choose what you know will appeal most to your target audience.
Promoting yourself as an author or publisher and your books is not ego-driven. It’s sales-driven, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, without sales, unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to give your work away, you’re out of business. If you’re out of business, then no one gets to read your books. And if that happens, there’s really no reason for you to be writing or selling them. So instead of being cowed by the feeling that you’re bragging, think about it this way:
Your books are like your kids: You gave birth to their concept, and nurtured the idea over significant time until you molded it into something you’d be proud to send out into the world. Now it’s time to be a good parent and do everything you can to prepare it to go out into the world and do some good. The only way you can do that is to tell people about it! Sure, be wary of becoming that obnoxious parent who whips out the kid’s photo at every opportunity or the “hovermom” who just can’t let go and trust that she’s done a good job.
But by all means, be that parent who prepares the way by introducing your book-child to all the right people who will best care for and most appreciate it. Talk up your book, find ways to insert it into a conversation in ways that aren’t obnoxious among people who are already talking about a similar topic, and celebrate it when it does well. What better way to honor all that hard work you did bringing it into being?