Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Top Ten Reasons I Suck At Promotion

In the last year and a half, I’ve e-published nine novels. I should feel gratified and excited, right? And I do, except for one nagging, discouraging thought: Now I have to promote them. The authors who’ve been really successful at selling ebooks are either already successful or are whizzes at promotion, while I, quite frankly, suck at it. When I was published in print, I wasn’t good at promotion either, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I’d known a number of authors who spent lots of money and time on promotion who weren’t cracking the bestseller lists either. My observation was that most people who made those lists mostly did so because they wrote the right book at the right time. (Or “God smiled,” as one editor I know explains it.)

But for ebook publishing, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The success stories are mostly authors who are as skilled at promotion as they are at writing. I decided to analyze exactly why I’m so bad at promotion. Not that this will help, but it will allow me to procrastinate a little longer rather than forcing myself to actually do some promotion. 

1.                      I don’t have time. With a 32-hour a week paid job and doing basic secretarial and bookkeeping for my husband’s business, I’m left with about twenty-five hours a week when I’m capable of intellectually demanding tasks.  If I spend that discretionary time writing, or doing self-publishing tasks, that leaves me no time for promotion.

2.                      I’m an introvert. It’s awkward for me to “put myself out there”. Really awkward. That’s partly why I’m a writer. I’m more comfortable and happy in my inner imaginary world than I will ever be in the real one.

3.                      I was raised in a culture (female, small-town) where it was considered bad form to boast, or even to admit to having any sort of special talents or accomplishments. Extreme self-deprecation was the norm. I can’t get over the feeling that in doing self-promotion I’m being arrogant, or even downright rude.

4.                      I’m a digital immigrant and I haven’t assimilated very well.  When I grew up, there were no computers, no internet, no Facebook or Twitter. I’ve kept up with technology, barely, because I’ve been forced to by my job. But it doesn’t come naturally. I just got my first “smart” phone. We’ve had a “stupid” phone for several years, but I’d never texted or taken pictures or used it as other than a phone. My new phone sat in the box on the counter for a week until my son came to visit and could help me learn to use it. Even though I use computers all day and already had an Ipad, I was scared of this tiny, fabulously complex entity, with its apps and glowing touch-screen and myriad mysterious buttons.

5.                      I’m basically shy, and when I socialize, I do best on a one-to-one basis, or at least in a small group. With electronic media, you’re putting yourself out there to the whole world.

6.                      I’m a word person, and electronic media is very graphically-oriented, with photos and YouTube clips, etc. When I’m reading news online and there’s a link to a video, I always scroll down to see if there’s an actual article below. I don’t want learn something from a 30-second video. I’d rather read a few paragraphs of text. But promotion nowadays is very oriented toward visuals.

7.                      I’m verbose. To me, electronic media seem to provide such superficial information. I want more. More than the 130-characters Twitter allows you.  All these little bits of information floating around just frustrate and overwhelm me, and I don’t know how to communicate that way. I write 100,000-plus word books. I’m really not good at writing short.

8.                      What makes me good at writing fiction doesn’t work for promotion. Fiction is about becoming your character, feeling what they feel, thinking what they think. In promotion, I’m stuck with myself. I have to be me, or at least an author version of myself. And I’m not really good at that.

9.                      Promoting books seems trivial. We’re destroying our planet and wiping out our fellow species. If I’m going to invest a lot of time and energy trying to affect something in the larger world, shouldn’t I be crusading for environmental causes rather than promoting some stupid book I wrote? Maybe if I really believed it would work and I would make tons of money that I could invest in environmental causes, I would be more motivated. I guess I should try to cultivate that mindset.

10.                   I hate having to plan and organize. The idea of setting up a business plan for something writing-related just makes me crazy. Writing is my sacred thing, where I get to be who I am. I don’t write from outlines. I don’t plot. I write “into the mist”.  I wish promotion was more like that.
I tried to think of some way that I could approach promotion on a free-form, intuitive level. I finally came up with the idea that I would tell myself I had to do one promotion-related activity a day. Maybe it would be researching a website that promotes ebooks, or putting a post on Facebook. Or writing a blog on promotion. I need to make myself do just that one thing that day.  Sounds manageable and doable, right?

 I’ll let you know how it worked in a few months.


  1. I'm still giggling over "stupid" phone. LOL! I have one of those that's just a step above moron.

    I'm with you, Mary. Self-promotion has become more complex than ever, and as interesting as it all is, I find it hard to keep up. I think many savvy self-publishers have made self-publishing their business, so it's their main focus and a full time job. One of my friends here in Bend does that and she's highly successful. She has no outside distractions.

    I don't really know enough about self-publishing to offer suggestions, but from what I've seen and heard, it takes a lot of personal sacrifice to do it successfully. And that's as it should be, I suppose. But you're right about social media peeling back those protective layers many writers retreat behind to be creative.

    I'm not shy, but I am selective on how I spend my time. I love being social, but I prefer face to face over pixel to pixel. :) It's definitely a balancing act and I admit to being kinda lopsided, lol.

  2. Oh, Mary, I do identified with everything you said. This is me!! I also cringe at the in-your-face promotion efforts of some authors. They may be very effective for them, but I could never see myself doing some of these things. We'll just have to muddle along, I guess! Cindi Myers

  3. We'll just have to keep muddling away, won't we?

  4. Muddle is a good word for it, lol. :)

  5. For me it's a time issue and an ignorance issue. And a plain, I-don't-wanna-issue. If someone could tell me, post a blog here, get reviewed there, show up here, I'd be happy to do it. I'm overwhelmed with options so I do nothing. Muddling... or moldering in my case.

  6. I agree, the overwhelming nature can be paralyzing. That's why I'm trying to take baby steps, do one little thing here and there.