Writing Wednesday: Marketing yourself and your work

When I signed the contract five years ago for My Hands Came Away Red I had ridiculously little idea about what went into getting a book out there. As far as I was concerned, I’d done my part by writing the thing and whatever happened next was up to the publishers – I was just along for the “fun and games” ride.

Against all odds, this actually worked out quite well for me. Moody Publishers got me reviewed, printed marketing materials, organized radio interviews, hosted me at trade shows and even got me on the cover of a magazine. I got into the spirit of things and organized a couple of readings, a lecture at my alma mater Notre Dame, and an appearance on a nationally-syndicated Canadian television program. Perhaps best of all, this all felt like fun and games rather than work or something that I was trying too hard at and taking too seriously.

I hate feeling like I’m trying too hard or jumping up and down saying: “Look at me! Look at me!” I do this sometimes, of course. I think most people do. But I do it a lot less than I used to and whenever I catch myself attention-seeking now – looking for others to reassure me that I’m cool, or admirable, or interesting or worthwhile – I cringe. And I try to stop.

Which is why I’ve struggled to think deeply about marketing in relation to my next book, Love At The Speed Of Email.

Because this time I am self-publishing, which means that there is no publishing company to organize interviews for me and tell everyone that the book is worth their time and money. And it’s a memoir. So, basically, I need to get out there and tell people some version of the following: “I wrote this book about myself and you should buy it and read it because it’s really good.”

I also, however, need to find ways to not let this book (or myself) become too big a deal in my own mind, because therein lies the road to desperate, self-promoting narcissism. And no one wants that, least of all me. (Well, actually, probably least of all Mike.)

This all seems like a bit of a Catch-22 to me. Even thinking about marketing the memoir makes my teeth feel furry. Yet I suspect the minute it starts to feel completely comfortable – the minute I stop second-guessing myself, and examining my motivations and methods  – I’ll have crossed the line and become overly self-absorbed.

Le sigh.

And while I hate the idea of getting out there and selling this book, I also do want people to read it. I’ve worked hard on it, I’m really proud of it, and I do think it’s good.

Le sigh, deux.

I’ll be back next Wednesday to write more about this topic and share a marketing strategy I’ve come up with that I am really excited about – one that I think will help word get out there without feeling like I’m jumping up and down saying “Look at me! Look at me!”

In the meantime, I have some links and a question for you.

First, the links: For those of you also thinking through this thorny tangle of marketing your art and yourself, you might find the following posts useful.

  1. Should I be investing in my own publicity? (Chip MacGregor): “YOU are in charge of marketing your book. You. Not the publisher, who will help you but may not do all that much unless you’re a proven bestseller. You. Nobody else knows your message as well; nobody else is as committed to your story as you are.”
  2. Know your audience (Chip MacGregor): “Don’t assume your book is for everyone, at all times. It’s not — no book is… If you know your audience, you can determine where they’ll be, so you can go stand in front of them. You’ll also be able to best determine how to approach them and what to say.”
  3. Monthly marketing to-do list for authors (Rob Eagar): “There are thousands of ways to promote your books. But, trying to do everything won’t necessarily make you successful. Usually, you’re better off sticking with a consistent plan that keeps you focused on a few main priorities.”
  4. A spreadsheet for the self-published (Jenny Blake): Jenny has provided a great resource – a multi-pages excel spreadsheet for those thinking strategically about marketing. Set aside some time, it’s not a quick read.

Now, the question: Here’s the current draft of the back cover text of my memoir. If you were in charge of my publicity, what might you recommend that I do?

Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life.

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15 responses to “Writing Wednesday: Marketing yourself and your work

  1. I can’t wIt to read it.

  2. Great post, and as someone who struggles to toot their own horn, thanks for the links!

  3. Don’t think this is the help you are looking for, but just to say how awesome I think you are–b/c you are and I am so jealous of how far you’ve come! Go you!

    • Help like that never goes astray. (Well, actually, it can, but it won’t right now because I’m in a humble period of my life :)). I was going to write “kidding” after that last sentence, but that’ll make me sound like I’m definitely NOT in a humble period when in all seriousness I don’t think I’m doing too badly in the grounded domain at present mostly because having a six month old child doesn’t leave me nearly as much time to think about myself. And now I’m all tied in knots and my reply is way too long. I should have stuck with a simple and sincere thank you. Le sigh, trois.

  4. We’ll always be happy to have you back for another visit at Notre Dame, whenever you’re on this side of the planet! (and this time I’ll make sure I’m in the country for it!)

  5. So when is the release date?
    J’aime bien les soupires en franglais!

  6. If your question is serious, I would say move toward authenticity whenever possible. You have something to offer in marketing your narrative that no one else has–the mind and the heart of the originator. For instance, when I read your back cover, I thought, “why not use first person? After all, it’s you, isn’t it?” But there’s much I don’t know, while you are…the one who knows. May you enjoy the marketing as authentically as you enjoyed the writing 🙂

    • Oh it was serious (though, to be honest, I didn’t expect a huge response as this isn’t most people’s area of interest and that’s OK). That’s an interesting idea re the first person for the back cover and I’d honestly never thought of it. Perhaps because I’ve never seen a back cover in the first person that’s not a straight text excerpt, even for memoirs. I’ll have to think on that further. Totally agree about your point with authenticity.

  7. What a fantastic post, Lisa. Thank you! I recently self-published my romantic Christian women’s fiction novel, and I’m in a similar boat: I hate to jump up and down and shout for attention, but I know I NEED to get someone to pay attention. And I believe in my characters and their story, which should make it easier, right? Er… no. I’ll be following your blog for more of your story and experiences! 🙂 Blessings to you.

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