Your Best Promotional Tool

Every week I get questions like this: “I don’t have a book out yet [or my first book came out last year], but do you think I need to have a website, a blog, a newsletter, be on Facebook and LinkedIn and Goodreads, and also tweet on Twitter daily? Is all this self-promotion necessary?”

I wish I knew!

A Voice of Reason

If you believe everything you read that “they say,” you might think you needed to do all that self-promotion. However, I’m inclined to think James Scott Bell in his book The Art of War for Writers is closer to the mark.  In talking about self-promotion, he said, “The more anxious you are about forcing success through self-promotional effort, the less creative energy you have for the writing itself.”

Why? “Because,” Bell says, “the most important promotional tool you have is your best book. Period.”

Creating that “best book” of which you’re capable takes hours and hours of writing and revising, learning new skills, honing your craft, your heart and soul, your blood, sweat and tears. He cautions writers not to dilute their strengths by obsessing over promotion. (Isn’t that a breath of fresh air?)

Good, Better, Best

Bell gives an interesting list of the “ten best forms of self-promotion.” Only one item on the list deals with the Internet. He simply calls #4 on the list your “web presence.” Guess what SIX of the items on the list are. Your book. He says that a good book–and the word of mouth it generates–will do more for your sales than all the Internet marketing efforts put together. That has been my experience personally, but it’s rare to find such a successful author say so. Rare and refreshing!

Concerning the questions I receive weekly about Internet promotion: I think I’m going to start quoting Bell’s book from now on. His simple guideline for “how much” self-promotion to do is this:

“Do what you can without (a) taking away from the quality of your writing time; (b) taking away from the quality of personal relationships, and (c) taking on debt.”

Now that’s food for a lot of thought.

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6 Responses to Your Best Promotional Tool

  1. Amy Simon says:

    Thank you! I had been feeling so pressured and stressed about marketing myself that I questioned if it was even worth writing if it meant I had to do all this sales stuff. Your post further confirms some things I’ve been learning to the contrary. Very encouraging! Thank you!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Amy, a couple years ago I nearly quit too for the same reason. Then I read his book and decided to settle down and relax about it and WRITE MORE instead of market more. It has paid off even better than I had expected. I’m not anti-marketing, and I do my blog and some social networking, but it doesn’t run my writing life anymore.

  2. Vijaya says:

    That’s such a great book and Bell has the best advice. I don’t think it makes sense to promote something until you have a product. A book!!!

  3. Do you think it’s different for self-published authors, though? I don’t know yet how to balance marketing and writing, but I would much rather be writing!

    • kwpadmin says:

      I expect self-published authors feel the pressure to market even more because they don’t have a marketing or publicity team working for them at a publishing house at all. On the other hand, the ONLY thing a self-published author has going for him/her at the beginning is a really good book. They don’t have marketing people, they don’t have a big publisher’s name behind them to get them into book stores and libraries, so it’s even more critical that their book be really good, I think, so people give it good reviews and talk to their friends about it. Self-publishing is double the work, but having a really good book is still the best marketing tool, I think, and it will help build a career long-term as well. Just my opinion though!

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