Six Ways to Self-Promote (Without Feeling Like a Huckster)

November 16, 2021 § 4 Comments

Buuuuuuuuuuyyyyyyyy myyyyyyyyy booooooooook!

We’re all afraid of sounding like that, or wearing out our welcome by spamming our acquaintances with ads. But you’ve probably heard marketing expert Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s “7 Touches” theory—the potential customer must hear about the product seven times before deciding to buy. Social media counts as maybe 1/4 of a “touch,” because a tweet or Insta post goes by so quickly. Do you really have to post 28 times before someone buys your book?

Heck, no.

But you can make people aware of your book—or your course, freelance services, or webinar—without directly advertising. A light touch brings your work into your community’s consciousness, so when the time comes to buy, they remember what you’re selling.

Social media bios. Most social sites allow one link, and most people put their website, most recent publication or latest offering. But travel writer Erin Van Rheenen has cleverly set up a “links” page on her website. Visit her Instagram bio and click through: you’ll get a page of links to Erin’s most recent articles and podcasts, her blog, and her mailing list signup.

If this feels beyond your website-building skill level, try the free service Linktree, which lets you easily enter and update links for your book, articles, webinars, services, etc., then creates a single link to the list.

Email signature. If you’ve ever gotten an email from me, it probably had a picture below my signature, like this one for a virtual memoir intensive I taught with Dinty W. Moore in January:

In email, the picture is a clickable link. I include a text link for people reading with assistive devices, or whose email loads photos slowly.

Sell one thing at a time, or your signature becomes a crazy quilt that’s easy to ignore. Start using the signature 2-5 weeks before webinars; longer before bigger-ticket items with a more substantial commitment. If you’re not actively selling, use your signature to invite mailing list signups, promote your latest blog, or make graphics featuring your great reviews or blurbs. Setting up an email signature takes 15-20 minutes the first time; about 5 minutes once you know how.

Blog…for SOMEONE ELSE. The personal blog is dead. Unless you’re working in a specific niche or you’re consistently hilarious, blogs aren’t growing readership like they did in the early 2000s. Only your most die-hard fans will visit a blog on your own site. Instead, pick a literary site you admire, or a site dealing with an issue or interest you write about. Read their blog(s). What hasn’t been covered in the past 6-8 months? Check for submission guidelines and pitch or send a finished blog that’s clean, proofread, in their word count, and fits the tone of the site.

Sites like Brevity, Jane Friedman, Craft, Electric Lit and many more use guest bloggers—start where you love to read. If that feels like a big leap, try trading guest blogs with another author—you’ll give each other new audience eyes. Reaching someone else’s pre-existing audience is much easier than drawing eyeballs yourself.

Offer a resource. An ebook or pdf of a first chapter; tips about your subject; a website page listing literary podcasts or another resource. Include an ad midway for your latest book or service; even better, tie the resource into what you’re selling, like Free PDF of Six Ways to Edit Your NaNoWriMo Draft (PS I Sell Editing Services).

Promote other authors’ work. Rather than just liking/retweeting the happy published-essay news, pick a quote you love and/or say what’s great about the article. Post a picture of a book you like and say why, then tag the author, their agent and the publisher. By praising publicly, we subtly establish ourselves as arbiters of taste, building our own authority as teachers and authors. Tagging also means you just created content for someone else, who is then more likely to reshare it…also promoting you.

Be a guest. Maybe you’re ready to speak at a writing conference. Or your local library. Or the Lions Club lunch. Or a college class. Or on a podcast. If you can package your point of view as a 15-45 minute presentation with specific takeaways for the listeners, you don’t even need a published book. Marketing yourself as an expert—or just fun to listen to—guest can lead to same-day book sales or class registrations. Long term, public displays of expertise serve as part of your author platform, making it easier to sell your book (or your next book) to agents and publishers.

All these techniques are gentle touches, rather than direct self-promotion. My email signature sits below a response you asked me for. If you’re checking out Erin Van Rheenen’s social media, you already want to know more—her easy link is a service. Blogs and reviews are informative to their readers. Everyone wants free resources. Guests are fun and enlightening. By attaching your ad gently to a product or service your audience actively wants, the recipient remembers that you gave them something they enjoyed…and oh yeah, you also have a book for sale.  


Moving through the middle? Join Allison for Second Draft: Your Path to a Powerful, Publishable Story Dec 14th and learn to revise, refine and shape an ugly-duckling draft into a beautiful book. Click here to register/more info.

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