Why Are Writers Afraid to Promote Themselves?
In this age of social media, there is much you have to do to make money as a writer
Every time I open Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, I see writers who are stepping out of their comfort zones and promoting themselves and their work. They are giving a peek into their lives and writing processes so readers can see the human side. They are changing the template of what a successful writer is and how they act.
But it’s not enough.
There are still too many writers who choose to stay in the dark. They get angry when someone even suggests they should promote their writing — like it’s a slap on the writer god’s face to not hide behind our words and cower in fear of anything with a camera lens. I wrote an article about becoming a famous writer in 2019, and when I dared suggest we get our image out there and let readers know who we are, these are the kind of comments I received:
“No thanks. I’ll take the money, but don’t need the fame. I don’t need to pimp my life to gain a following. I don’t need to pimp my family to gain some Likes. I don’t need strangers justifying my existence. I don’t need the pressure of being ‘me.’ I don’t want to be a performer. I don’t want to be a star. I don’t want to be mobbed in a supermarket. I treasure my ‘relative’ anonymity.”
Making money these days is a different animal than it was 20 years ago. People don’t only want your words; they want to relate to the person doing the writing. They want to attach a face to the poetry that makes them teary-eyed and sentimental.
Yes, some people are starting to see what they need to do to be a successful writer, but we all have a long way to go because there is a greater number of writers yelling from the dark telling us to stop making them look bad and cheapening their art.
It’s time we writers got over ourselves.
Why Do I Have to Promote Myself? Why Can’t I Just Write?
I still see people complaining that they don’t want to do the things they need to do to become successful or even famous. In this age of social media, we can no longer sit back and hope someone discovers us and starts reading.
Yes, I’ve seen some explode on the scene without promoting themselves, but how long do you think they will stay relevant if they remain a hermit? When people search for them on the internet and find nothing, how long do you think they will stay interested?
Do you think the only reason Stephen King is still famous after all these years is that he continues to write fantastic books and movies? No, he promotes himself and is active on social media. Many of his tweets go viral. He stays relevant because he and his publicists put his name and face in places where he can interact with a new generation of readers and movie watchers.
If King has to do it, so do you.
What are you afraid of? Put yourself out there — pimples and all! Sure, people still like to see fake and disingenuous; look at the Kardashians. But they also want real and honest. They want to see people just like them who are doing cool things like writing the next great novel.
As an example of a writer doing it right, take Nicolas Cole. Yeah, he is a great-looking guy, but he is not afraid to show all sides of his personality. He attaches a picture to everything he does. He is a successful writer, but he didn’t get there by spending a lot of money. The fact that he is easy on the eyes is beside the point; he puts himself out there.
We need to do the same.
How to Promote Yourself
The first thing we need to do is drop our preconceived notions. Yes, people want to see us, and they want a behind-the-scenes look at our lives. People want to see we are not a polished Barbie or Ken — we’re just like them. They want to know we have bad days, think our butt is too fat, get stressed out from watching kids all day, have money problems, hate our job, and get anxious from seeing too many political posts on Facebook.
Readers want to relate to us.
Next, stop trying to monetize everything. Take me for instance: of all the writing I do, I’ve only monetized two things — I put my writing on Medium behind the paywall, and I have a premium newsletter. But I don’t try to make a quick buck from everything I do. I haven’t tried to sell a course or an e-book; I know that will come later. I write in places that won’t bring me money but will bring me exposure. I say yes to a lot of things that don’t put money in my bank account right now because the payoff will come down the road.
I am in this for the long-term.
I try not to get upset when I don’t grow as fast as I would like. I know this is a gradual process, and building great things takes time. I don’t fret because I’m not famous yet. The thing I am doing is helping people with my words. My inbox is full of correspondence from people looking for someone to listen to them, and I do. I’ll be famous later when I’m ready for it.
Finally, we need to be doing things that move us forward — not stagnate us. I’ve said it before: stop wasting time building and maintaining a blog. Get work out there on Medium, LinkedIn, and Business Insider, and use our limited time promoting on social media instead of setting up WordPress plugins.
- We are writers, not web developers, so do writer-y things, like writing, editing, promoting, and networking.
- Build up an online library and publish evergreen pieces that Google will keep suggesting again and again.
- Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your work.
What Are You Doing to Become a Successful Writer?
Are you going to be one of the writers who hide in the shadows and discourages others because you think promoting yourself is beneath you, or are you going to do what it takes now to get the word out about you and your work?
Why be a stick-in-the-mud when you can be a vibrant and helpful part of the writing community? If you feel like promoting yourself cheapens your work, can you at least be supportive to others who don’t think the way you do?
While many of us don’t necessarily want to be famous, we do want our work to be well-known. Some of us want to make money from our writing. To do that, we have to be promoting ourselves and our work consistently and constantly.
Do be afraid to promote! Your readers are waiting.
This article was originally published on Medium.com on 12-29-2019
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