Okay, so I got asked advice on how to self-promote and get people to do the things you ask them to do and so on. And I thought, this is a loaded question and I ought to write a whole post about it. Because here is the thing.
I'm not an award-winning expert who knows how to self-promote, in case you're seeking some truth here. There is none. I have stumbled into having to self-promote and have been trying out things ever since, some with more success, some with less. And I keep trying new things every day, like right now, for example, I have drastically reduced my tweeting time and have shifted most of my social media attention to Ello. Do I know what I'm doing? I have no fucking idea, but I'm having more fun on Ello than on Twitter lately, and that's why I'm there. (Plus, no ads.)
Although what I do might seem as self-promotion—you know, tweeting, going to conventions, doing writing residences to trains (by total accident)—I don't think of it as promotion at all. I get excited about stuff, I shout everywhere about being excited, and that's that. Or I get super sad and mopey and I whine everywhere about being sad and mopey. Any strong emotion I experience, I throw out there on the wide wild Internets and see what happens.
I dislike the term "self-promotion." It makes me think of cloning yourself and dressing your clone in kitschy gaudy garments and pushing that poor clone on stage, demanding it do acrobatics and bring back money. I really like better the term "self-sharing." Okay, I just invented that. Simply "sharing." Share and share and share, and people will come to you for what it is you share, that is all.
There is such a thing as asking people for stuff. It is a part of self-promotion, especially the part that involves money. "Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book, you damn impertinent cows!" You have to ask, but you have to ask by coming from nothing and expecting nothing. If you ask me for a sock and I tell you I won't give you a sock because your feet stink, your job is to not get offended and receive my "no" with grace. That will make me think twice and I might even backtrack and give you a sock. See? But if you get pissed at me, you will forever lose me. Also, think about real life. Would you ask a stranger on the street for a kidney without expecting anything in return? Then why would you do the same online? Why would you send me messages on Goodreads asking me to vote for your book? I don't know you. This is not asking, this is annoying me. Which leads me to the next point.
Give. Before you begin any interaction with anyone—and self-promotion is getting in front of people's faces and talking about your shit—give something away. This will in turn prompt the other party to want to give something back to you. It's basic human nature. So what do you give? Happiness. A bit of love. A smile. How? Joke. Make fun of yourself. Offer a free cookie. A free sock (for special occasions). Whatever it is, give first AND DON'T EXPECT ANYTHING BACK. If you do this, you will more likely have people want to pay attention to you, whatever it is you're promoting.
Know when to stop. Everyone is different. People's patience for your excited outbursts may be short-lived. Again, give them happiness. Don't bother them if you clearly see they are not interested. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. They might have other things on their mind and simply have no capacity for you at the moment. If you treat them right, chances are they will be back.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Learn as you go, apologize if you have ruffled any feathers, and move on. Life is constantly changing, we are constantly changing. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, but what will work tomorrow for sure is people's memory. If you were a dick, people will remember you as a dick, and no matter what promotional tricks you try, your reputation will precede you.
Develop your own rules and follow them. You might not be comfortable doing a hard sell face to face to people at book fairs. Don't do it just because you see someone else do it. Start with something you're comfortable with. Be human. Be vulnerable. Tell people you're trying this out for the first time, ask for their advice. People love to give advice. Everyone loves to look smart. See, I've been asked advice and I'm fucking typing up a whole novel on self-promoting here, pretending I don't have an ego. How did it happen? I got asked. Nicely. I rest my case.
I feel like I have to say something here to make it to number ten. Self-promotion is not for sissies. Get ready to receive twenty "no's" and one "yes." Or fifty "no's" and zero "yes's". Or any similar combination thereof. Many people will tell you "no." Be okay with it. I think I'm repeating myself. Drats.
We got to number ten! Woohoo!!! You get a golden star sticker! What else can I tell you? Trust your gut. If you try out something and it doesn't sit well with you, stop doing it. Chances are you're right for some unexplainable reason. Stay true to yourself and never compromise. People will soon learn that you're not a flake and that you hold true to your words, so when you say something next time, they will actually listen, and that is what self-promotion is about, to get people to spend their precious time listening to you rant about your thing, whatever it is.
Okay, I'm done.
P.S.: This is totally unrelated, but I have typed this whOLE post on my phone for the first time because my time has grown so scarce, I started skipping on exercising, until today—see, I'm sharing this because I'm excited though you probably don't give a shit but that's okay!—I downloaded a Squarespace app and have been typing while pedaling on my bike and squeezing sweat out of my brow. Fuck, I'm so efficient, I'm proud of myself.