I recently received some feedback that I promote myself too much and that I should “tone it down.” I didn’t reply, but still wanted to thank the giver of that feedback. Why? Because if I’m promoting too much it means I’m doing something right and I’m getting out there. Also, I know that I give valuable content through my blogs and newsletters, I offer awesome programs for free at local libraries and I do two monthly “give-back” programs to the community in the form of a live author book club and an open mic. Also, that feedback giver is not paying my mortgage, my gas, my inventory costs, or my Food Lion bill. This is how I make a living and I need to let my potential clients and students know what I offer and how I can help them succeed.
If you want to be a successful artist in any capacity: recording, literary or visual, you have to promote yourself or no one will know who you are. You promote to develop a following and fans. If not, no one will attend your showings or gigs; they won’t buy your books. The same goes for a blog: if you spend all of your time writing a blog and then don’t get others to follow you by promoting it, you’ve lost a lot of time and energy. Let’s look at John Denver’s self-promotional success.
I grew up with John Denver’s music and later learned how much he had to self-promote to get his recording contract with RCA extended. He had a hit song recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” to get his foot in the door, but after that he had to pass out fliers and play for free to get gigs and radio spots in town after town. Eventually his hard work and amazing talent won out and he became one of the most popular and ubiquitous artists of the 1970s.
By developing a solid fan base, some of whom followed Denver throughout his career, he sold out shows and became a best-selling recording artist. As a full time writer/editor/poet/speaker/teacher/entrepreneur I make my living by letting others know what I do via social media and my twice-monthly newsletters.
I do feel comfortable talking about myself and my business in a healthy way. By that I mean I have a quality bio prepared, along with a professional headshot should anyone ask for it. I also make sure I always have business cards on me, and can give a two-second talk about what I do when prompted. Here goes: “I love helping authors develop their voice.”
This feedback mentioned above did remind me about what my family thought of my self-promoting nature when I was a kid. Coming from their generation (pre-Baby Boomers, both born in the late 1930s), my parents didn’t think it was proper to brag about yourself; you should let others do it for you, except my mother didn’t like it when her friends and our neighbors told her she had a really great daughter, especially when they told this to me with me standing there. She was afraid I’d get a “swelled head” and often noted that I was just “average,” although I felt anything but. I knew I had academic weaknesses in math, but I was strong in English and history, I had an awesome memory and I loved music, writing and performing.
This tack actually made me a praise-hound and needy for attention (or perhaps I was always needy for attention?) and did make me comfortable promoting and taking risks later in life. I can only imagine what my mom would have gone through had I grown up with Facebook and YouTube!
But to my mother’s point: should you only let others talk about you? Yes and no—I feel you can guide what others say about you, although ultimately you have to be in charge of your business and not give up control. It’s necessary to be clear with your intentions and my intentions are to use my writing gifts to help others succeed. I have found that having friends who are influencers talk about you is also a strong way to promote your brand. I always make it easy for these friends by giving them the exact links and write-ups I want them to promote. And I also make sure that I spend time promoting their work as well.
Yes, it’s probably too much self-promotion if you are sending too out many Tweets that say, “Buy my book!” I also see folks heading into too much self-promotion when they don’t give back in social media. Do you congratulate your friends on Facebook when they garner a publication or an award? Do you comment on their links? Do you ask them meaningful questions and/or add value to their blog? Do you take photos of them at events and tag them? It’s also important is to create an online newsletter that’s not all self-promotion. Instead list tips, contests, recipes, “pet of the month,” cool facts and be liberal with cross-posting your colleagues’ events and workshops.
So, friends, keep self-promoting and growing your business!
Your Turn: How do you self-promote and what challenges have you faced with marketing yourself and your talents?