Self-Promotion Sucks

I get tired of writing like a machine that generates marketing copy.

_Totality: The┬áMilitiaman_ is published by a small imprint. This means there’s not really a budget for marketing or promotion. Don’t get me wrong–they are wonderful people and they do the best they can. But it’s simply not the same as having a major publishing house pushing your books. A lot of work falls on me.

And you know what? I hate it.

I don’t hate talking about what I write. In fact, I love that. I love discussing the characters and storylines and the world-building. It makes me really happy when people seem invested in the story and have insights and critiques. It means they care, that I’ve touched them in some way. My words have left an impression.

But when I make social media posts to help get some visibility–yes, ultimately to sell books, let’s be honest here–I feel like a fraud. Some of the most common advice is to “be yourself.” Nobody likes a robotic marketroid. Nobody wants to read copy that sounds like an advertising major wrote it, all focus-grouped and market-tested. The best thing is to be genuine, to be authentic.

Are you kidding me??

I’m a weird guy pushing 40 who writes heavily politically themed sci-fi/fantasy books. I spend too much time on Twitter and Facebook. I spend my days solving technical problems for a software company. I’m not much to look at, to say the least, and I have the personality of a grapefruit. What I want to get attention are my books, my writing. Not me, personally. I don’t like attention directed at myself. It feels like a spotlight under which I am expected to perform, and I’m terrible at that. I’d rather put some work out there and let people enjoy it and talk about that, instead of me.

Even writing this post involves some level of strategic decisionmaking for what effect it might have on my promotional efforts. Is being genuine like this going to help me sell books? I have no idea.

You could say I have a severe case of impostor syndrome. I know I wrote a book, and I know people like it, but maybe I just fooled them into thinking it’s good. Or maybe they’re just being nice. Truth be told, I feel this way about my day job, too. People tend to say kind things about me and the work I do, but do they mean it or do they just feel sorry for me?

And I know full well that many, many people experience this. I’m not special. Nothing about this is special or unique. I don’t have any kind of interesting, artistic-genius-like suffering to expose to let everybody in on my tragic brilliance. I just write about what interests me. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read. It warms my heart when people enjoy them, but it’s a feeling I try not to get too comfortable with, because there’s always that self-doubt, the suspicion that it’s not real.

All this is to say that I am often at a loss as to how to promote my books, because a major part of it is promoting myself. I have figured out how to do this in the professional arena, at least. I know how to present my skills in such a way that employers are interested in me. But creative writing is massively more subjective. It’s not about being “professional” or displaying certain skills. It’s about whether your story grabs people or not, whether they enjoy reading it or not.

For what it’s worth, I’m grateful to everyone who has supported and encouraged me in this. I’m sure I have said that before, but my gratitude never fades! And I love knowing that there are people out there reading what I have written, and having a good time doing so. (I’d hate to find out anyone is having a bad time with it. I’d probably offer you a refund if so.)

So, I’ll be out here trying to figure out how to promote my work without drawing too much attention to my awkward ass. Somebody please let me know if you’ve got this one figured out.