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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Richardson

Writer Self-Promotion and the Art of Unlearning Life Lessons

I am not good at advertising my own writing and being assertive to say “Hey reader! Yeah you! Go read my books! They ROCK!”

When I put out a post on my social media, I am still using words like “Thank you” and “Please go have a look” or employing soft language to hook my reader in. When I ask for people to read my writing, I feel shy, and a bit nervous telling people I am worthy of their eyeballs and time.

As an author that puts my work out on Wattpad, I am not traditionally published. That is happening next year —through Wattpad— and there will be promotional support and advertising done. But for my other books? It’s all me, baby. I need to make the ads on social media. I need to find the ways to promote my books to gain readership.

Why has it been so damned hard?

Learned Behaviour

From childhood, we are told not to have a big ego. Don’t boast, be humble, be tactful and courteous. Especially as a woman, the pervasive dichotomy from my childhood was “Don’t take up space, be meek, be kind, show your worth by being amenable, make others happy first” - if you were assertive and did speak up on your accomplishments, or advocated for yourself, you were labelled aggressive. A bitch. Hard to work with. Shrill. Bitter. Brazen. Unlikeable. A butch. Brittle.... Need I go on?

I know. Stupid.

This mindset is changing slowly as more women come into positions of power in workplaces and in the world at large, but jeepers is that hill hard to climb! I know there are women reading this right now nodding their heads. I’m not alone in that observation.

However, as I know men also have the same issues around this as women, I’ll set aside Women’s Equality and Equity for now. Drilling down into the why’s of my own inability to be assertive and promote my own accomplishments is (like everyone), personal, my gender and sex notwithstanding.

I was always uncomfortable talking about myself in a positive light. Highlighting my wins, showing my worth. It felt pushy, like I was bragging. Nobody likes a braggart! I remember when I bought my first car, in high school. I was so excited about it, because I had bought it with my own money, it was a cool car (Dodge Daytona with mags and a T-Top), and no-one had a car quite like it in our small town. I guess I talked about it a lot. A friend turned to me one day and said “Stop talking about your stupid car. Nobody cares, it’s dumb, so shut up.” and it reduced me to tears and ruined trust in that friendship, when I thought they would be encouraging, not petty and rude.

At the base of it, I just wanted others to be happy for me, and I was excited. An accomplishment for me was destroyed in seconds because someone I valued found it irritating and upsetting to hear. Now, pair that with a massive drive to be liked and included from years of being an unpopular and ostracized child in peer groups, and it was a recipe to close my mouth and not put myself out there for years. I was sensitive and easily discouraged as a teen.

Job interviews as an older teen and young adult were painful. I HATED the question of “what is your greatest strength”. Even worse than “what is your biggest weakness”. Trying to pump myself up to others felt wrong and I always flubbed the question, trying not to sound overconfident, often coming across as self-defacing or lacking in self-esteem. I wanted people to like me, so I softened who I was to make sure they didn’t feel threatened or irritated. By anything.

Over the years, it has gotten easier. Well into my adult years now, I have learned to be my own advocate in my health and in my relationships. Unlearning fundamental lessons from my generation's behavioural touchstones. Heavy baggage.

Now, as I am entering a new phase of my life as a writer and published author, I am looking at the same baggage and re-unlearning life lessons from a long time ago.

Writer, Promote thyself!

I don’t want to appear to be this puffed up, egotistical auteur that proclaims that they are the best writer in the world. I don’t want to promote my writing so much that I become that irritating person on social media that makes their followers roll their eyes “God, she’s talking about her book again”.

Let’s correlate. My husband and I posted 6,432 pictures and posts on our Facebook about how lucky we are and how much we love our new trailer during our first weekend camp with it. Potentially a bit boastful. We really were ridiculous in our gushing, but for us, it is a celebration of how far we have come in curating the life we want to live.

Now, a meme was posted the other day by someone I follow on my private Facebook. It said “I don’t care about your stupid run, latest workout, or home-based business. Shut up!” or something to that effect. It was triggering, because I immediately went to “Oh no, are we sharing too much?”

So, I had a good think on the reaction I had and how ridiculous that a random posting by someone I don’t socialize with in real life made me question myself. Why would it matter what that person thought of me and my own social media activity?

I circled back and I flipped the narrative.

I WANT to see posts about my friends crushing a run, seeing gains from a workout, or how successful their month was selling their products from home, providing for their family. I want to hear about trips, and accomplishments. New baby pics, graduation pics, just everyday happiness pics! Especially during a Pandemic, I want that. It isn’t annoying, or over the top.

So if I am not upset by all that overshare... I can’t be alone in that. One person who does the eye-roll “no one cares” is not the rule, it is likely the exception and they are being a dick. If you don’t find it exciting, then move on, you don’t have to pop someone else’s balloon just because you don’t have one!

So, ergo, why am I worried about promoting my books and asking people to read them?

Lightbulb moment.

So what can we do to be more comfortable, as writers, when we ask people to go read and review our books? How do we promote them to our friends and family without worry they will get annoyed? We need those sales, and reviews, and we want the positivity to spread about our hard work!

Is there a tried and true technique? Toughen our hides, push the worry away and just do it?

I have no idea, but I’m going to be less afraid to put myself out there and ask. It’s a start.

How do you promote your books? Do you have a strategy? Do you get nervous doing it? Do you get negative responses when you do? Let me know your experience!

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