Why Self-Promotion Shouldn't Be a Dirty Word

Okay, so today I'm talking about something that I've touched on briefly before on my author blog, but after reading this post by the lovely and talented Lydia Sharp (who you should all follow on Twitter because she tweets some of the best stuff for writers), I thought I would expand on it here.

Lydia's post is about how we'll always need blogs for writers, which I agree with. I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't found blogs when I started querying two years ago. Bloggers were my writing saviors. But one of the things Lydia talks about in her post is authors promoting their books on their blogs.

Here are her thoughts:

"I do not blog about writing as a way to sell my books. I bet a lot of you didn't even know I have books out there available to purchase. I do. But that's not what this blog is about. This isn't my 'author blog', this is my writing blog -- a blog for writers. It's about writing and reading and publishing and how all of those go hand in hand.And just between you and me, it kind of annoys me when I see 'buy my book' pimpage in my Google Reader. I'm not following those blogs because I want to buy the author's book. If I want to buy your book, I'll find your book on my own, I'm not stupid, I know how to click on a link in your sidebar and how to use an Amazon search box..."

This part of her post inspired me to write today's post because I think this idea that authors shouldn't promote their own work on their own blog is a little extreme. When Nathan Bransford did a tongue and cheek post promoting his book, people jumped his case and I didn't understand all the ire. (I blogged about that here.)

I totally get that we don't want to be beat over the head with advertisements and book spam. God knows there are people out there who do it all day long on Twitter and such. And my guess is that those types of self-promoters are who many people are frustrated with. Obviously, that is the wrong way to go. Social networking and blogging are about building relationships and community. However, I also think swinging so far in the other direction in that promoting your own work at all is some sort of insult to your followers is a bit ludicrous.

I am a service-minded person. I genuinely write this blog hoping that my posts provide you guys with solid information or something to think about or tips or whatever it is that day. I take a lot of time to (hopefully) provide you with quality content. And I have kept my writing blog a writing blog and started a separate author blog because I didn't want to bait and switch you by changing the focus once I needed more of a broad online presence.

I enjoy the blogging process. I enjoy talking with everyone and hearing people's feedback on different topics. I love the blogging and social networking community.

BUT I also hope to sell books so that I can continue to follow my passion and do what I love for a living. And  if I told my agent or editor that I wasn't going to promote my book on my writing blog that I've spent two years building, they would look at me like I had grown a third head.

And I understand the thought of--you don't need to talk about your book because if I want to see if you have a book, I'll go look for it. But really, that's not the case in a lot of ways. If it's not obvious, I'm not going to go hunt down to see if a blogger I like has a book out. I don't  have that much time on my hands and there are hundreds of books I want to buy at any given moment. So if I have to "work" to find out if there is a book, I'm probably not going to.

I WANT bloggers I like to tell me about their book. No, I don't need a weekly post about it and a thousand "check out this latest review" tweets. (One of my personal goals is that once my book comes out, I don't turn into someone who only talks about things having to do with my book. I've seen that happen to many a blogger who transitioned from pre-pubbed to post-pubbed.) But mentioning your book and talking about it on occasion are good. Having a book link in your sidebar and even at the bottom of your posts (like I do below because you can't see sidebars in google reader) is a good way to advertise your book without smacking people in the face with it.

If someone stops by my blog for the very first time, I want it to be glaringly obvious that I have a book if they are interested. They shouldn't have to hunt the info down.

And I refuse to feel ashamed or apologetic about promoting my own book on my own blog. Blogging is a give and take relationship. I expect when I go to someone's blog that I am taking away something (information, a laugh, whatever) and in exchange I'm giving that blogger my attention to their platform/their book/whatever it is they may be promoting. It doesn't mean that I have to buy their book, but it means that I have to expect to be exposed to it.

So what are some things you can do to make sure you don't become one of THOSE people who give self-promotion a bad name?

6 Ways to Promote That Won't Make People Want To Punch You in the Face


1. Make sure your online content offers something to your reader. 

You are writing these posts for them. It is not about your own agenda. This is why posts in which the blogger whines about something never work. You're not offering the reader anything, you're looking for someone to soothe you--not a good blog post.

2. Be a cheerleader for others.

Like Lydia suggests in her post, promote other people's stuff if you've enjoyed it whether that be a book or a blog post or whatever.

3. Once you are published, do not contract "published author disease."

This disease is characterized by only posting about YOUR book ALL THE TIME and linking to review after review, awards, contests giving away your book, and what magazines you've made it into, etc. Some of that is fine because you're excited and want to a share. But make sure that kind of stuff is no more than 10-15% of the content/tweets/etc. you're putting out there.

4. Expand your online presence in a way that doesn't alienate your original readers and followers.

I knew I needed more of a reader-focused blog once my book was getting closer to publication. I needed a place where non-writing readers would want to visit and hopefully hang out. Had I kept this blog more broad in its focus, I could've just expanded that here. (Ah, hindsight.) But I hadn't. This was a writing blog. So instead of pulling the rug out from under that, I started a separate author blog on my website and kept this one the same. That way people could choose which kind of content they wanted.

5. Promote your books in a way that is very visible but still subtle.

I don't blatantly blog about my book unless I'm revealing a cover or blurb or something. I will, however, have a big fat glaring post the day it releases, just warning ya. ;) But in general, having a clickable cover in the sidebar, a book page with buy links, and a link at the bottom of each post (so that people who only read you in a reader can click) are all unobtrusive but effective ways to go about it.

6. Be genuine, friendly, and helpful.

Of all the things above, this is the most important. Social networking is about building genuine relationships. We can all spot a faker a hundred yards away.

So how do you guys feel about self-promotion? Do you get annoyed if a blogger talks about their book or are you fine with the give-and-take relationship? What are some self-promotion methods that you think are effective and non-annoying? What makes you want to punch someone in the face? :)