I recently met with my literary agent to discuss a few projects and we talked some about how important it is for authors to promote themselves. Of course self-promotion isn’t limited to one specific group or industry yet a lot of people still have trouble getting the word out about themselves. Why is that? Well, first of all, and this comes from personal experience, very often it’s simply more fun to promote others. When the media doesn’t bite, the wound that creates doesn’t feel so personal. Plus, I for one always get a kick out of achieving a media hit for someone else. Don’t worry; it’s not that I’m so nice. It’s just validation that I’ve done my job.
But let’s get back to the problem. People have been promoting themselves for thousands of years. So why the apprehension after all this time? It’s just not that easy. So I’ve returned to one of my favorite experts in public relations: Sandra Beckwith. She always knows what she’s talking about for thing. And it gives me a chance to learn something new. Sandra is a former publicist who shares her award-winning expertise with others as the author of two publicity how-to books and a book publicity workbook, and as a publicity workshop presenter and e-course instructor. She is the author of Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions and Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement. Her two book publicity e-courses and free book publicity e-zine help authors learn how to generate media exposure for their books. Learn more at buildbookbuzz.com, nonprofitpublicity.com, and her fabulous blog. Here’s part one of my conversation with Sandra about self-promotion:
Leslie: Why do so many people characterize their publicity efforts as “shameless”? It seems very nineties to me . . .
Sandra: I think it’s also very “female” — we are always apologizing for something, aren’t we? Many of us were raised to believe we shouldn’t call attention to ourselves or our work, so we feel “shameless” when we do it. In reality, as long as you’re not being obnoxious, it’s just good business. An ongoing problem with some of the students in my book publicity workshop is that they’re uncomfortable talking about themselves. I try to help them see that they’re not talking about themselves, they’re talking about their book, and their book is going to help people. It’s an important difference.
Leslie: What are the top three mistakes people make when they’re promoting themselves?
Sandra: 1. They don’t understand what is worth talking about and what isn’t. 2. They try the latest approach (we’re all hearing a lot about Twitter now, right?) without first determining if that tactic is a good fit for their audience. You don’t want to be putting a lot of energy into Facebook, for example, if your target audience isn’t using Facebook. And 3. They have unrealistic expectations. (You don’t always get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the first time you try.)