Why book promotion is like being a Viagra Salesman.

Sonia visiting local Indie Book Stores for future book signings.

Who can blame authors for feeling queasy about self-promotion.

That dirty word, “self-promotion” makes some of us feel we’re peddling our work like a Viagra salesman, however, this may not be a new thing. In fact, while researching how a writer should build his/her brand, I came across a great article by Tony Perrottet in the Sunday Times, Book Review. Tony points out the easy part is writing the book, but what comes after, can be horrific.

It might help to take a look back in time. Realizing that Herodotus, a first-time Greek author paid for his own book tour around the Aegean in 440 B.C. or so, makes me far more willing to shell out my own money for a book tour. Since Herodotus’ big break came during the Olympic Games, when he stood up in the temple of Zeus and declaimed his “Histories” to the wealthy, influential crowd, I now understand the necessity of hiring a PR expert to book new authors on radio and television. If Herodotus promoted his writing in front of thousands, shouldn’t we?

Then in 1887, French author, Guy de Maupassant, sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side. Now that’s Gutsy, don’t you think? I read in Guerilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work, about having your book cover painted on your car, and thought, Why not?

One publisher, Behler Publications, offers a unique idea for book promotion: a book purse, or a book cover on a purse or handbag, (if you’re British.) Take a look at the concept. Imagine shopping with your book cover on your purse. (I used to sell Cookie Lee jewelry and remember my purse had small, see-through compartments, displaying the necklaces and earrings. It was a great way to get a conversation going and I sold necklaces, even while shopping at the grocery store.) So why not your own book?

Finally, I have to bring up the 12th century, clergyman Gerald of Wales. He organized his own book party in Oxford, hoping to appeal to college audiences. “The Oxford Book of Oxford,” edited by Jan Morris states that Gerald invited scholars and offered them good food and ale for three days. This did not take place without long recitations of his golden prose. So I ask you, how is that different from a cheese and wine book salon signing today?

When my friend Penelope James from Don’t Hang Up, mentioned, “My blog was originally intended to support my soon-to-be-published book, “Don’t Hang Up!”Some newbie bloggers, like me, in search of a wider audience, find ourselves caught up in the blogging world. .. At first, it was like taking an intensive course in blogging, learning about blogging from the pros, about content, traffic, message, communication, etc. Only after six months of this have I realized that I still have a lot more to learn, which will require much more involvement before I can even aspire to improve my disappointing Google stats. However, in this time, I have not written a word – not a single word – of my book. I haven’t even made corrections or done any editing.”

I told Penelope, “Please Don’t Hang Up. You have to keep going especially after all the work you’ve put into your social networking.”

And one last piece of advice from an article entitled, 5 Crippling Beliefs That Keep Writers Penniless and Mired in Mediocrity” from Copyblogger.com,  “If you want to be successful, you can’t be a writer and nothing more.You also have to be a constant caretaker, a shameless promoter, a fearless champion. You have to fight for your ideas the way a mother fights for her children.”

So what do you think? Have times really changed? Hasn’t it always been about self-promotion? Do you think it’s far worse today, or are we offered more opportunities than we had in the past?

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Category: People, Writing & Work

Comments (16)

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  1. Robert the Skeptic says:

    I'll suggest who could write the book on self-promotion: Lady Gaga.

  2. Doctor Eclectic says:

    Good Stuff, Sonia. I know you like to pick stuff up from other bloggers and wonder if you saw a recent blog from Damien Farnworth http://www.copyblogger.com/author/demian-farnworth/ . I got some good tips fom it and from the comments.

  3. GutsyWriter says:

    @Robert the Skeptic
    I'm sure she will one day.
    @Doctor Eclectic
    Thanks for the link.

  4. ladyfi says:

    You're right – self-promotion has been around for centuries. I think that social networking has made it far more visible as everyone can now do it far more easily and reach a wider audience.

    Can't wait for your book to come out.

  5. GutsyWriter says:

    @ladyfi, I was surprised to read about self-promotion by authors in the past, considering how so many of us complain about how much we're expected to do today.

  6. Amanda says:

    very interesting post, sonia. i believe today writers do have to double as self promoters, as publishers don't have the same money as in the past to pay their pr dept to market books, so the job often falls to the author. many places i am submitting to ask up front if you are willing to promote your book and if you have any platforms from which to tie in and sell your product. yes, and then there's branding…….it's endless.

    love the look into how ancient authors promoted their work – some things never change, i guess?! ;-)

  7. Miss Footloose says:

    Kudos, Sonia. You really have thrown yourself into this job of self-promotion and networking. I dread it.

    As mentioned in your post, you start blogging to promote your writing and before you know it the blogging takes over your life and you don't work on the actual book or other writing project that you were doing it for.

    My earlier career as a romance writer was so much easier. I wrote the book, sold it, and that was that. The publisher took care of everything else. SIGH. The good old times. Then the Internet arrived and messed it all up ;)

    I like the idea of putting your book cover on a purse/handbag. I read about putting it on your laptop too, especially if you make a habit of writing in public.

    Have you read PLUG YOUR BOOK, by Steve Weber? I haven't but I might buy it.

  8. Penelope J. says:

    Fantastic post, Sonia. All the information that you provide, dating from Herodotus' time, could also make a very interesting article. I suppose self-promotion in one way or the other has been around almost since men started giving speeches. However, it's evolving so fast that it often becomes our primary focus instead of what we really want to focus on.

    It was a big surprise to find your mention of my blog post and excerpt from it. Glad that you found it useful for this topic. Many thanks for the plug!

  9. Peter H says:

    YOU are in business – as a writer or whatever, and as such promotion, advertising and related activities are just a part of it.

    Might not be the same as writing but it still requires process and a plan.

    Why write a book and then not get it out there for others?

  10. Stephanie says:

    I had no idea self-promotion started so long ago! It's something I'm not very good at but I'm determined to be as gutsy as you about it! Thanks for another interesting and inspiring post.

  11. Angela Ackerman says:

    I think self promotion is a natural thing, but it feels oogy to us because we're natural introverts and we do what we do because we love it..and so the idea of pimping a product of out passion seems…wrong somehow. But this is just something we have to move past, and realize our hard work is just as worthy as any other product out there vying for consumer dollars. :)

    Hope you're well, Gutsy!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  12. Barbara says:

    In my past life I was always in sales, and pretty good at it. I know I need to promote my own work, and yet it feels wrong somehow to constantly blow your own horn. Guess it's the way our generation was brought up.

    That said, I think there are so many helpful ways to promote now that we didn't have very long ago. We just need to keep plugging away.
    Interesting post Sonia!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful collection of ideas, Sonia. I think you will be a natural at promoting your book. It's book promotion, after all, not self promotion. Does that distinction help you? Have you published the book?

  14. GutsyWriter says:

    @Anonymous
    Wish I knew who you were. Although I agree it's book promotion, it's also self-promotion because of the branding aspect that authors are expected to have and to make "presentations on." No publisher yet, hopefully one day. Thanks for your comment Anonymous.

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