J. D. Huffman wrote a thought-provoking piece on self-promotion here.
I’d like to add to it.
I too hate self-promotion. It’s a drag. Its time consuming. It’s terrifying! I’ve mentioned before that I have anxiety and depression. I don’t like speaking in public; mostly in situations where I’ve got to draw attention to myself and address a large group of people. But it’s something I gotta do.
My childhood was spent moving every year. I had to learn to rely on myself for entertainment. I learned to dig deep into my own mind and sometimes that was a curse; I was aware of my flaws and I didn’t know how to communicate with other people. But also, I knew myself. I was confident in being myself and didn’t really care about conforming. I didn’t know how to conform. In middle school, I got picked on a lot for this. These days, I’m pretty sure they were just jealous that I didn’t care and I did what I wanted.
As Huffman said, I love writing. I love that I wrote books, but also, after writing my first book I was so scared to promote it. The social stigma against self publishing back in 2008, when PTH first came out, was very hard to push through. Whenever I mentioned I had a book, people would first light up like “Oh neat!” and then I say I’m self published… and the disgust on their faces just made me feel dirty. I didn’t try to go to a major publishing house. I didn’t query anyone. The general consensus back then was that people only self-published when they were bad writers and couldn’t get anyone “in charge” to buy their crap.
However. I have absolutely no regrets on taking my work this direction. I still stand by the fact that both the big and small publishers of the day would not have taken a chance on NFS. If I had the chance to go back and do it again, the only thing I’d do different is that I’d push harder to get my work out there. The early 2000s was the prime time to get popular, as someone on the front lines of self-publishing in the new millennium. I regret not knowing then what I know now. I can only go forward, though.
While it has been a hard battle to get any kind of respect, the ease of self publishing has at least made people more open to the idea. They’ve become more understanding of the amount of effort, time, attention to detail, and formatting it takes to create a book they devour in a few days. Making something worth reading goes way beyond just a keyboard smash and a quick spellcheck. These days, every time I mention that I’m published in public, I inevitably get someone who says “I’ve always wanted to write a book…” and we both know that the reason why they haven’t done it is because they KNOW its hard. Not just getting the file ready to put out into people’s hands, but the work before that. The work of getting past your inner editor, that awful voice that says “No one wants to read this, you’re kidding yourself.” That’s really the first step. Then there’s the “Halfway” point where you look at the last 30 pages you wrote and resist the urge to delete it all because, honestly it sucks. Anyone who has created a book and put it out there should be proud of themselves.
Anyone who has done it can tell you that the work doesn’t stop there. Even with a major publishing house, you still have to self-promote and build your Brand. You can’t just be a recluse and write books. Today, you still see J. K Rowling out there on twitter, talking to fans. You still see R. R. Martin doing interviews on the Ellen show or whatever. Yes. It sucks, but we live in a digital age where the inner lives of our idols are on display 24/7 and we’re just two clicks away from seeing them drunk and vomiting in a public bathroom. No one is perfect. Nothing is perfect. But it also means that anything out of sight is out of mind and easily forgotten.
You don’t hear much about that Eragon author anymore. What’s he done lately? Who knows. What about the person who wrote Divergent? Can’t even remember who wrote Hunger Games. I bet that you do remember what that one singer did recently that’s been all over the news; because it keeps getting brought to your attention.
That’s the reason for remaining active on social media and writing posts for your blog. You’ve got to bring attention to yourself, even though it’s uncomfortable.
Take heart, though. If you’ve written a book, or you’re posting stuff on Instagram, if you’re trying to become YouTube famous, you’re out there creating something, and people who like what you make will eventually show up as long as you keep making things and making yourself visible. Be proud of yourself for doing it. You’re not an impostor. You’re not faking anything. You’re not stealing from anyone. There are at least 10 people you personally know who are gonna say “I always wanted to…” but never done anything about it because they’re scared of the work it’s going to take.
Anyone who doesn’t like what you’re doing can sod off.