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

November 16, 2021 § 5 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.  


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List! She tweets @GuerillaMemoir.

Creative Marketing with Book Blurbs

July 11, 2019 § 5 Comments

By Stephanie Weaver

You might have heard writers say, “Blurbs don’t sell books unless they come from big-name authors.”

I don’t agree and here’s why: getting creative with how you use blurbs from lesser-known authors might indeed help sell your book.

When my book The Migraine Relief Plan came out in 2017, I knew I was going to work hard to market it. I asked doctors who believed in nutrition, authors of similar health books, and cookbook authors I knew to write blurbs, including several people with more than 50,000 followers on social media. Sixteen people delivered blurbs on time, which was fantastic. Receiving their approving words was validating, but I knew that if we only included them on or inside the cover, their recommendations would only reach people who picked up and paged through the physical book. I wanted to reach the blurbers’ followers too, not just people who might look at the book in a shop.

The publisher decided to place the blurb from Dr. Mark Hyman on the front cover because he’s nationally known, with multiple New York Times best-sellers. Instead of the traditional two paragraphs of description on the back cover, they used seven more blurbs. The publisher’s marketing team also used many of those same blurbs for the Amazon description.

When I was researching how other authors marketed similar books, I had noticed that Dr. Hyman had good engagement using square images on social media. For his previous book launch, his social media team had pulled quotes from his book and added them to a beautiful background.

I asked my publisher’s designer Morgan Krehbiel to create a template. She used the book’s background image of weathered white boards and added a colored bar and the 3-D book cover to the bottom. She created one for each blurb we got, whether or not they’d been used in the final cover design.

I sent the pre-order quote cards to each person who blurbed by book, asking them to share the graphic on social media with the pre-order link during our four-month pre-order push. Then I created an “On Sale Now” version they could share on publication day. About half of those I contacted shared the cards at least once, or shared my version when I tagged them. This way both their audiences and mine saw the images—and sharing their own words with their audience felt more organic than simply posting an ad for my book. Making it easy for people to share meant that more people did so.

Over the month following the Migraine Relief Plan launch, I shared one quote card every few days on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, thanking and tagging the blurber if they were on that platform. Any blurbs that came in after the deadline also became quote cards and were shared with a thank-you.

After the book came out, I started getting wonderful messages from readers telling me how the book had impacted them. With their permission, I created more quote cards with their words in the same template.

What I like about sharing these social-media-ready graphics is that it doesn’t feel like me “selling” the book; instead I’m sharing someone’s wonderful response. And often that response will reach a new person who tells me, “I didn’t even know you’d written a migraine book!”

Since these images are evergreen, I can re-share them as seems relevant—often in response to items in the news that relate to migraines. I have a Google News Alert set for the word “migraine,” and get an email digest once a day. If I see that a star athlete is out with a migraine, I tweet a quote card to them and their official team account. They may never buy my book—but some of their fans will find out about it.

Any time I get a great review on Amazon or a comment in my Facebook group, I ask permission and create a new quote card to share on social media to spread the love.

These “quote cards” can be created easily using or another photo editing program, and you can use blurbs, reviews, and enthusiastic comments in creative ways, whether or not they’re from someone famous. Even non-famous-person blurbs sell books—when we use them wisely.


Stephanie Weaver is a writer, wellness coach, and speaking coach based in San Diego. Her third book is The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health (Surrey Books, 2017). She’s currently at work on a memoir inspired by her mother’s recipe box.

Social Media Isn’t Free

October 27, 2014 § 16 Comments

salesmanThere is a literary magazine I love. (Yes, this one of course, but right now I’m talking about another magazine.) One whose issues I devour, grabbing random friends and saying, “wait, you have to hear this!”

This magazine contained the paragraph that I believe to be the most beautiful lines I have ever read in the English language, and some days when I want to write better, I read that paragraph over and over again, hoping it will osmose into my head and my heart and my fingers and homeopathically tinge my own work.

I love that this magazine releases all their issues by pdf, which makes them both free and also delightful to print out and carry around (I get carsick if I read off a screen in a vehicle). Their new issue is out, I saw on Twitter.

I didn’t retweet it.

I started to. I started to type “Another fab issue of @…” and dig through for a good quote to make a quality tweet instead of just a RT, and then I stopped. Because I remembered that I’d submitted to them–after reading many issues, carefully choosing what to send, polishing it for hours, formatting, tracking down where to send it (not as easy as many mags)–and gotten no response.

Well, not entirely true–they responded the same day to my cover letter that said how much I loved the magazine, to ask if I’d be a Reader of the Week. I took a photo of myself reading the magazine in an interesting setting, sent it in, then when they sent it out I happily spread it all over my social media, linking to their site. But my actual submission? Not a word.

I’m sure they have ninety gazillion submissions and their primary business is putting out a magazine and their staff is small and overworked…

They’re on Twitter. They want social media, the godsend of free advertising! Getting the word out! Going viral! They hope their readers will engage with them. And most of the time, I’m delighted to. But not after a year of hoping they might send a “not quite for us but try again,” or a “this doesn’t seem ready what were you thinking please never write anything again,” or even “thanks no thanks” as clearly copy-pasted by an intern who has been promised pizza in exchange for forty hours of labor in the keyboard mines.

You want my 30 seconds to retweet, multiplied by a couple of tweets a month, twelve months a year? You want my positive word of mouth, my recycling printed copies by shoving them into the hands of strangers in airports reading literary fiction? You want to engage in social media?

Well media costs money, so the key word here is social. And social isn’t “free,” it costs time. You buy my time with your time. The bigger the institution, the more their time is worth proportionate to my time–compared to their literary might, maybe my submission-prep time and my support-the-magazine time and my share-your-tweets time is worth very little, but it’s probably worth a 30-second thanks-no-thanks.

I’m glad that Brevity responds to every submission, and tries to reward the time of interviewees and essayists and authors (who are paid, but no magazine pays enough) with our time promoting their work. And Reader, if you’re promoting something right now you’ve worked hard on, that could use a little attention? Tweet me @GuerillaMemoir. I can’t promise we-the-magazine will RT them all, but I-the-writer will.

I’d like to bank some time.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor. Find her on Twitter & Insta @GuerillaMemoir. Want to write better with Social Media? We’ve got a webinar for that. April 5th, replay available.

Yes, You CAN Tell People: On Writers and Self-Promotion

March 12, 2011 § 33 Comments

A graduate student here at Ohio University had a nice literary magazine publication recently, and when I asked him for details, so I could share his good news with others in the program, he e-mailed back, “I’m not really one for self-promotion (makes me feel a little icky).”

I hear this often – “I don’t like self-promotion” or “she’s so self-promoting”– as if it were a horrible literary transgression to make the results of one’s considerable effort known and available.  Why is it shameful, after having worked very hard at something, and had some success in seeing it to publication, to then tell folks?  I don’t get it.

Sure, we’ve all seen authors push their work and accomplishments rudely, brazenly, and stupidly, especially in the era of Facebook. Does this mean we must rule out all mention of one’s publications, however? Must all good news and honest celebration be labeled with the same nasty brush?

Consider. Where would we be as writers (and how would our publishers ever survive) if no one ever told anyone that they had published a poem in The Kenyon Review or a book with University of Nebraska Press?  The ship of Independent Literary Publishing is not exactly sailing in a sea of money right now, so why do we as writers go out of our way to make sure we aren’t helping out at least a bit?  Trust me, the editor of the small literary magazine would be thrilled if three of your friends subscribed, or even bought one issue.

And it isn’t always about money, of course.  Most of us in the writing/publishing community would agree that the literary arts are not enough valued in our culture, so how does sneering at any author who makes even the smallest mention of their latest publication help that along? Let’s hide that light under a million bushels.

Listen.  If one of my friends publishes something, I want to know. Sometimes just for the ’feel good’ moment.  Sometimes so I can track the poem down and read it.  But I’ll never know, if all mention of one’s publications is seen as conceited self-promotion.

So let’s be reasonable. I’d like to propose a few guidelines for the sharing of literary success.  If you agree, please share these guidelines with others, and please share your good news:

1.     Self promotion is when you spam all of your friends and those who are barely friends and repeatedly say “buy my stuff,” or “look at my stuff.”  We don’t need daily updates.

2.     Self promotion is NOT when you share good news with fellow strugglers (like grad students in your program, or the faculty who are rooting for your success).  That’s just being part of a supportive community.

3.     To my mind, even a link on Facebook, or on your blog, or as a signature line in your e-mail (subtle, not blaring), is NOT self promotion, at least not the bad kind that folks want to scorn and avoid.  Certain people wish to know your good news, or read your poem, or buy your book, so it is fully acceptable to tell them that the work is now available.  It is, in fact, inconsiderate not to tell them.

4.     Tell them once, of course, not fifty times, and give them a clean link rather than e-mailing PDFs of everything you’ve ever written.

5.     If you assume your friends would hate you for your success rather than be pleased for you, maybe it is time to look for new friends.  Or look at yourself.

6.     Writing is not bad.  Publishing your writing is not bad.  Don’t treat it as if it were.

— Dinty W. Moore,  editor, Brevity

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