May 17, 2011

Guest Post: Shameless Self-Promotion Dos and Don'ts by Lisa Carter

We welcome Lisa Carter of Intralingo to our blog today with a wonderful article about self promotion (check out my guest post at her site as well). Yet another fascinating and talented blogger I've met through WordCount's Blogathon, Lisa is a literary translator.

Shameless Self-Promotion Dos and Don'ts

Congratulations! You've just had your feature article/book of poetry/contribution to an anthology/novel/[fill in the blank] published! This is no easy feat. It has taken time and effort, dedication and perseverance. You should be justifiably proud. Now the public needs to hear about your work so they can read it.

In 2007, The New York Times book review supplement estimated that 1.5 million books were published around the world the previous year. With the recent explosion of self-publishing, just imagine that number now! Without s
ome promotion, your work is sure to be swept away by this rising tide.

What's more, in this era of reduced marketing budgets, even major publishers leave it mostly up to you, the author, to promote your own work.

Shameless self-promotion can be daunting. Standing there, holding the brightest flashlight you can find over your own head, takes most writers far out of their comfort zone. Yet, if writing is meant to be read and it's unlikely that anyone else will turn a high-powered spotlight on you, it is simply something we have to do.

This fall, I was fortunate enough to have two novel translations released. Because my name is only on the inside cover and the publisher's marketing efforts (such as they are) never target the translator, it was up to me to tell people about this work and my contribution to it. I chose to do a virtual launch for each novel: I sent out e-mail announcements, posted on my blog and added pages to my website.

What you choose to do may vary, but I hope a few of the dos and don'ts that I've learned along the way will help.

Do promote. Whatever you decide is the best marketing approach, be it a virtual or in-person launch, you have accomplished something extraordinary. Shout it from the rooftops! Contrary to what you might think, people do want tohear about your work, and you are the best person to tell them about it.

Do cast your net wide. Invite friends and family, of course, but also colleagues, past and potential business contacts. A launch is not only about one specific publication; it is about building your reputation. Clients you may not have worked with for a while will be reminded of your skill. Prospects are sure to be impressed and will be more likely to get in touch.

Do be personal yet remain professional. Since the invite to take part in your launch is from you, not a slick marketing firm, let your real voice be heard. Write in your usual e-mail, speaking and published writing style. People will be more receptive if they feel they are being approached personally. However, make sure you maintain your high writing standards: use appropriate language, ensure there are no spelling or other mistakes.

Do offer some value-add. By announcing your work, you are asking the public to acknowledge you. It's only fair to acknowledge their attention by offering something beyond the trumpet horn blaring your name. You might want to give away a certain number of your books or provide links to related articles of interest.

Don't announce every single publication. You're obviously proud of everything you publish, but save your focused promotion efforts for major milestones. People will grow tired or even annoyed if constantly spammed with announcements. Then, as the boy who cried wolf found out, when a really important work comes out, your news will be ignored.

Don't only ever promote yourself. If you are going to interact with potential readers, let it be about other things as well. For example, if you tend to announce new works on your blog, make sure you post other things in between. This will build up a consistent readership that is engaged, not rolling their eyes thinking, "Here she goes again…"

Don't offer more than you can deliver. If your value-add is to raffle ten signed copies of your book or three subscriptions to the magazine, make certain you actually have those physical gifts to give when the time comes.

Don't repeat yourself ad nauseam. Let's say you have decided to launch the work on your website and blog, as well as send an e-mail invitation. Be sure to provide different content in each of those places so visitors will find something new of potential interest, not be sickened by the same thing over and over again.

Although promotion means an investment of at least your time, it is absolutely worth it. You write with the public in mind. They deserve to be given the opportunity to read your work, to congratulate you on your success. If shameless self-promotion is done well, respecting your audience, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck with it!

Lisa Carter is a literary translator with five novels and one book of non-fiction to her credit. You can find her on Twitter @intralingo and on the Web at
Note: This post originally appeared in November 2010 on The Urban Muse blog. 


Tracy O'Connor said...

Bravo Lisa! These days it's almost always up to the writer to do most of their own publicity and marketing. I know a lot of us are socialized that it isn't "nice" to toot our own horns, so it's hard work to get to a place where we can put ourselves out there.
The good news is that it does get easier each time.

Dana & Keith Newbrough said...

I think this is great advice. Self-promotion is so hard, though - you want to get the word out, but you also do not want to let is absorb your life or irritate others - a tough balance. Though, I think you all do it beautifully!

Lisa @ Intralingo said...

Tracy -- Thanks! You're so right: it feels very awkward to promote yourself, but that does dissipate over time.

Dana & Keith -- It really *is* such a hard balance to get the word out and yet (hopefully!) not irritate others. I appreciate the encouragement. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great advice, Lisa. It's a new truth that everyone has to market and promote her work and ideas these days. But, consumers can smell an ego a mile away so best to tread carefully in the world of self-promotion as you so wisely advise.

Jan said...

Nice advice and you covered a lot of area. I think it's common for writers to not want to self-promote.
Very balanced.

Tia Bach said...

Thanks for guesting, Lisa! I must say I think her suggestions apply to anyone who has to self-promote for their job, not just writers. I know a lot of women who are real estate agents, Pampered Chef consultants, Mary Kay reps, Arbonne reps, Silpada jewelry reps, and the list goes on and on. It's hard to sell yourself, but it's necessary and can mean a lot to your success.

Anonymous said...

What a well written, informative piece! Thank you so much, Lisa, for bringing these words of wisdom to our awareness.
Angela Silverthorne

Lisa @ Intralingo said...

Thank you to *you*, Tia and Angela for the opportunity to post here! I hope my experience will help others with their self-promotion. And yes, absolutely, this is not just about books, but anything we do that requires us to put ourselves "out there."