Shameless: on self-promotion

The Quill’s Agony Editor advice column tackles the shame and awkwardness some writers when promoting their books via social media.

I’ve often told newer writers that there’s two stages to being a writer: create art, then edit and craft it. But there’s three stages to being at author: create art, craft it, then sell it. Publishing is a business for everyone involved. And to publish is to “make public”, so what are you doing if not taking your ideas public? The art part of the whole endeavour is fun for me. The rest? Meh.

I have tried various levels of book promotion online, and I will tell you this: it works, mostly. Not spectacularly, but generally. My book Glimpse actually made it onto a bestseller list, in part because I supported the book heavily in the early days of social media — including its own stand-alone app on iPhone (I know!). That said, we’re talking about Canadian poetry here, and the difference to my pocketbook was negligible. But it sure did get a lot of press. And books I’ve supported less (my little psycho book Diversion that is actually pretty awesome, but relatively unread) have quietly disappeared. Perhaps more than anything, promoting your work online is something positive “to do” during a time plagued by doubt, boredom, and agonizing waits.

Am I good at it? Sure. Do I feel comfortable doing it? Not entirely. That said, I look at it this way: It’s like any party or event or obligation you don’t want to go to or perform at… Once you’re there, you just keep your head down, do the work, and power through.

It’s like finally getting on stage after a bowel-liquifying bout of stage fright behind the curtains. You step into the light and just leave it all behind because you have a job to do. And the truth is, once you’re in it, it’s fine. Leave the doubt for later, lying awake two months later wondering if you made a fool of yourself. Do the work now and sell the damn book.

Dear Agony Editor,

When it comes to promoting the work of other writers on social media, I have zero shame. I’m a screaming cheerleader. But when it’s time to promote my own work, I clam up. I’d like to get better at self-promotion, but shaking my own pompoms makes me feel like a cheeseball. How do I get over this?


Little No Peep

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