How NOT to Promote Yourself

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

So, last week I talked a bit about marketing and looking at it from a fresh angle. What might be some ways to NOT promote yourself (or others)?

  • When looking for an opportunity to present your story to an agent or editor, do NOT follow them to the restroom and slide your proposal under the stall door! (True story …)
  • Nor should you pitch your story over washing your hands …
  • Do not join online or face-to-face groups with the idea of them being just another forum for you to market yourself or your work. This includes promoting other people’s work.
  • Do not ignore other people’s overtures to get to know you as a person, not just another cog in the publishing machine.
  • Do not take a prominent position in an organization and then treat your newfound visibility as a vehicle for promoting yourself.
  • Do not post reviews of your own work, or rate your own books. (I mean, really, who wouldn’t give themselves five stars if they could? I was taught that patting yourself on the back is just tacky.)
  • And do not, whatever you do, make every conversation with your friends about them buying, reading, or otherwise promoting your work (or other friends’ work).

Do any of these sound far-fetched? Does it seem that the list would be self-evident to anyone getting into marketing? Well, all of these are real-life examples.

Conference-goers know there are rules of protocol in approaching an agent or editor. Similar rules apply—or should—in how to treat our readers. The first rule of both, I believe, is not to let desperation or the fire for “promotion” drive us to what might be considered a breach of common courtesy, or would make us offensive to those around us.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same standard of what constitutes offensive or courteous.

One of our local groups had a recent brush with someone who joined our online community just for the sake of promotion. We explained to her that we were relationship based, that we’ve been burned by hardcore self-promoters and now only allow promotion from active members. She wrote post after post advertising her blog, her book, other people’s books. I approached her via private message, explained our purpose and asked her to introduce herself personally to the group before she posted that kind of content. She responded that her mission was to “help other authors,” but if that wasn’t welcome, she’d take it elsewhere. I explained again how we believe promotion begins with relationship. She never responded to that.

Another member decided to send her some tips on improving her marketing. She didn’t respond to that, either, or take the time to write a personal post to the group before eventually leaving.

I still feel a bit conflicted about it, but the truth is, “scattershot” promotion is far less effective than building relationship.

What could she have done better? Well, introduce herself as a “real person” to the group, for starters. Share who she is, what her interests are, even being honest about her intent to promote various authors would have been better than going straight to the flurry of promotional posts. Showing some interest in getting to know her fellow group members would have been even better.

Be genuine with the people around you. Respect their time and interests. Don’t view them as just a vehicle for selling your story.

Challenge: Can you think of other ways to NOT promote yourself? And what might be some practical ways to implement the do’s?

About Shannon McNear

A transplant from the Midwest, Shannon McNear has lived for the last 20 years in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband and eight children. With two graduated and in college and the younger six still homeschooling, she does her best to steal slivers of writing and reading time in between being ballet and drama mom.

Read more about Shannon.

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