Confession: no word gives me more angst than the boastful, hyphenated noun self-promotion. The thought of soliciting book sales from my middle school crush on Facebook is downright creepy. Moreover, prowling around on social media websites in search of new friends and followers is a complete time suck. “Self-promotion isn’t for me,” I confided to an author friend the night of my first book release party. Biting into a salmon mousse canapé, she smirked, as if she knew so much better. (Spoiler alert: she did.)
Not wanting to rain on my cutesy appetizer-filled book parade, she called later to readjust my oh-so-naive and erroneous ways: “Authors cannot live by canapés alone. You wanted to get into this racket. Own the angst and sell yourself like a gold rush harlot.”
Touché. Self-promotion is fraught with the cringiest of awkward moments, but my more experienced comrade was right. Combing the social media circuit in search of friends, followers, and readers isn’t just necessary; it’s an integral part of the average author’s day. I consoled myself with one small, comforting thought: I can at least be smart about it.
Smart is always easier said than done. Nonetheless, through a steady upswing of sales, a myriad of book signings, and more hours on social media than I care to admit to, I managed to snag some amazing opportunities—all thanks to shameless self-promotion. Never, for instance, did I think I would interview on an NBC morning show, speak to a room of 200 people, or have a tiny pigtailed fan beg me to write a sequel, which is the best accolade an author can ask for.
I’ve made peace with self-promotion as a necessary affliction that perhaps can’t be cured, but most certainly can be treated. When played right, self-promotion can have a resounding ROI—Return on Investment—especially when guided by a few rules.
Rule #1 Fortify your brand with a basic media kit. The key essentials include an author website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and some eye-catching business cards. Invest in a quality headshot taken by a professional photographer that can be used for your website and various promo ops.
Rule #2 Always show gratitude, no matter what. If no one shows up for a book signing, write a gracious thank-you note to your host. Ditto for author presentations. Speak to your audience, regardless of how meager the turnout, as though they are the VIPs of the world. Hyperprepare and be professional at all times, especially online. It may be tempting to post snarky political comments or an old, risqué college pic, but you are bound to offend someone, possibly an ardent agent or esteemed editor. Don’t do it!
Rule #3 Choose wisely. Promotion opportunities, especially ones with an excessive price tag, should be vetted carefully. Book marketers and publicists will haggle you 24/7 with promises to make you the next Stephenie Meyer, only to drain you emotionally and financially. Opt for affordable opportunities with a high ROI.
To that end, below are 10 smart, economical, and (practically) cringe-less ways to promote yourself, your brand, and your books.
1. Start weekly Twitter chats with readers.
2. Keyword your blog posts.
3. Create a monthly newsletter with news of upcoming events.
4. Post pictures of fans reading your book.
5. Host a book release party. (Don’t forget the canapés.)
6. Create a Meet the Author or Writer Meetup group.
7. Provide a book link in your email signature.
8. Write magazine articles that your niche audience might read.
9. Post short stories on your blog.
10. Contact your alma mater. They might be willing to do a story on you.
Now put down the salmon mousse canapé and go sell yourself like a gold rush harlot, you brilliant author, you!
Kimberly Dana is a young adult and children’s author who lives in Nashville with her husband and spoiled shih tzu.