Promoting Your Writing

AlbertChinaSeriesOne of my heroines in the writing business is Susan Wittig Albert, who besides being the author of the popular China Bayles herbal mysteries and founder of Story Circle Network, a nonprofit organization for writing women, has written books for young adults, books for women on life-writing, and all kinds of work-for-hire books when she was learning her craft. Her Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place focuses on how she made the shift from University professor into a new marriage and writing career. Along the way she provides all kinds of writing advice.

“Marketing,” she says, “is a necessary fact of the writing life.” Many of the writers who question me don’t ask about writing details: they want to know how to market. Almost all of them say, as I do, that they understand the difficulties of writing, but they loathe marketing and don’t know how to do it. Susan Albert agrees.

“Jane Austen never went on a book tour, or put together a brochure advertising her work, or handed out bookmarks.” Modern writers must do these things, and because of the Internet, the emphasis on promotion has grown. Writers are encouraged by publishers to set up web sites, blog, and be on Facebook. She adds, “Writers also do bookstore signings, give library talks, go to conferences, and generally make an effort to flaunt themselves, sometimes with the financial backing of their publishing house, usually not.”

“Usually not.” That’s an important omission. Even writers fortunate enough to publish with big companies often get no promotion budget these days; they are expected to do all this time-consuming self-promotion without pay. And all these activities take time away from the writing that got them published in the first place.

SocialMediaLogosI approach self-promotion with the same attitude I have toward drinking alcohol: moderation. Neither drinking nor self-promotion is really necessary to preserve your life and sanity. Both can provide feelings of euphoria. Over-indulgence in either leads to headaches, and makes you wonder just what you said that left you with a feeling of loathing.

My method is to try to make self-promotion enjoyable but I do have a particular advantage. I couldn’t promote as well as I do without the thoughtful help of an assistant who maintains my website, Facebook page and WordPress blog. She also edits my writing, and decides what gets posted where and when. Because she has alerted me to the way these social media work, I sometimes get ideas that help with the promotion, but mostly I am able to do what I believe I do best. I write.

If you are a writer who needs to promote, look for someone to help. This might be a friend, employee or both (if you’re as lucky as I am), whose skills make promotion enjoyable and understandable. Perhaps you can barter with this person: your skills for his or hers. But don’t be chintzy; remember that unless someone is reading what you are writing, you can’t pay for the electricity to run your computer, so be prepared to understand what promotion is worth to you and compensate accordingly.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota

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For more information:

These two entertaining blogs found at www.whimseydark.com/blog/ address the difference between pushing yourself on readers and pulling them into your writing.  The reader comments below each blog also have some good ideas.
Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion As an Author Doesn’t Work
Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promotion That Actually Works

Website for Susan Wittig Albert:
http://www.susanalbert.com/

Website for Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles mysteries:
http://www.abouthyme.com/
There are many more titles than the 12 shown at the beginning of this blog, and I own every one of them.

Website for Story Circle Network:
http://www.storycircle.org/
I am a member of this organization and am featured in the Professional Directory here:
Story Circle Network Professional Directory

© 2016, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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13 thoughts on “Promoting Your Writing

    • Be creative, Marjorie; what do you have to trade? You might find a retired person who would give you help with a specific person for a home-cooked meal. Or trade your editing skills on her short story for her work setting up a website. Not everything needs to hinge on money.

    • Abbiejohnsontaylor, I’ll ask my assistant to answer that, if she chooses to. We’ve worked together for years; one of her first jobs was driving my mother to various appointments when my mother was in the nursing home. And it’s complicated; she trades me chickens and sometimes eggs for beef. I’d suggest that you speak to the person you are thinking of and explore ways you might trade work with one another. Then test the arrangement by having this person do one or two things for you and see how you communicate. I hope you can also work out an agreement in writing so you can be sure both of you understand the terms.

      • Thanks, Linda, I don’t need help right away, and I’m hesitant to approach this person now since she’s doing publicity for the Wyoming Writers conference. Maybe after the conference or when I get my memoir published, I’ll ask her to help with social media since she seemed to be experienced in this area.

  1. Abbiejohnsontaylor, I’ve discussed this with my assistant, and we don’t think the details of our employer/employee arrangement would necessarily help you, since every situation is unique. Remember, in this digital age, your assistant need not live nearby, but might work long distance. And consider a swap of skills: what do you have that your potential assistant might like to trade for her work? And this might be editing, or car repair, depending on the situation. Remember that many young folks are much more experienced with social media than we are; perhaps you could trade with a high school student who needs help in English. Look around creatively and see what occurs to you.

  2. Great advice, Linda. It would be a stretch for me to pay someone, so my husband has been urging me to try contacting the local community college and offering an internship – paid or unpaid – to a student of marketing or an aspiring writer. I’m too much of a control freak to do it, but maybe that would work for others, especially those living in university towns.

    What duties does your assistant perform for you? My sales place me solidly in the midlist (I’m a romance writer), so I feel it’s important to offer readers a personal touch and really connect with them. I have no doubt I spend too much time doing just that on Facebook, but I live in a remote area and I love my Facebook friends! I’ve long aspired toward a monthly newsletter, but that resolution gets broken every time I peek at my current manuscript and get drawn into my character’s lives again.

    Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I believe the best way to promote your books is to keep working, write daily, and, most of all, write a better book. The best and most effective promotion in this business is still word-of-mouth raves from satisfied readers.

    And by the way, everything I’ve read of yours is solidly in the “better book” category. I worked in bookselling most of my life, and yours were books I was always happy to recommend.

    Thanks for the post! I’ll think about that assistant/intern some more.

    • Thanks for the compliments, Joanne; the second best thing we can do as writers is have librarians and booksellers who like our work and talk about us–my thanks!

      Your husband’s idea is a great one, and I hope you will give it careful thought. Granted, it could turn into a time sink, but for the marketing aspect, you might work with the marketing instructor to create an internship with set time limits that profited both of you. Anyway, good luck with your search. It sounds to me as if you do benefit greatly from Facebook connections; I can see the social aspect as a real advantage when you’re far from people. I have enough local volunteer responsibilities, so I get a lot of personal interaction that way.

      Whatever you decide, I hope you can make it work for you.

  3. Pingback: The Best Approach To Promoting Your Writing | Tamar Hela

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