More On Shameless Self-Promotion


Let me start by saying that I actually suck at self-promotion.  I do a bit of it, and I know a fair amount about what I ought to be doing, so I can speak with some authority about it at conventions and such.  I have my blogs (including this one and SFNovelists, of which I’m a part) and my website.  I do some blogging at, though not as much as I should.  I guest blog at the sites of other folks, I answer my fan mail faithfully, and I have done some leg work in local bookstores. I used to have an author forum, where I answered questions from readers, but it’s kind of gone the way of the Dodo.  I do signings and go to conventions, and occasionally I get gigs at writers’ workshops.  

But there are also things I don’t do that I probably should.  I’m on Twitter, but I only Tweet occasionally.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the medium yet, and I think that a) I have better things to do with my time than tell people what I’m eating for lunch, and b) people really should have better things to do with their time than read what I’m eating at any given time.  It is a weird phenomenon.  I’m on LiveJournal and WordPress, but not on Facebook or MySpace.  This is in no way a value judgment on my part.  I know lots of people who love Facebook, and I respect that.  But my fourteen year-old and her friends are on it, and the thought of being on there with them makes me queasy.  My agent wishes I would get over this, and maybe I will, particularly if I do some writing under a pseudonym.

I also am not as aggressive in speaking to bookstore staff as I should be.  I should approach staff in every bookstore I enter.  I should introduce myself, offer to sign stock, and talk up my work.  Doing this could have a notable impact on my sales, and it really wouldn’t be that hard to do.  But the idea of it makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not shy — anyone who knows me will tell you that.  But I’m also not the kind of person who enjoys talking about my own accomplishments.  It feels like bragging.  Again, this is something my agent would probably like to change about me. 

I could probably be more creative with my self-promotion.  I could come up with something — anything — to use as giveaways.  Magnets, bookmarks, postcards, little toys of one sort or another.  Misty has done this very well.  Kim Harrison has made an art of it.  It wouldn’t be that hard to do, and it might do me a lot of good.  So why don’t  I?  Well, because it would take away from the time I spend writing, or it would take away from the time I don’t write, which is my family/personal time.  It would cost money.  Not a lot, but some, and I don’t know if the money I’d get back in royalties and/or increased advances would be worth it.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that if I were to do all of these things, devote all my free time to publicity — through preparing giveaways, or visiting bookstores, or increasing my online presence — this would only allow me to reach a relatively small number of additional possible readers of whom only a small percentage would actually buy my books.  Would there be some change in my numbers?  Probably.  Would it make a huge difference?  I really don’t know, but I doubt it.

I have a friend who has been hugely successful as a writer, an editor, and an agent.  He says that the single most important thing a writer can do to improve his/her sales and further his/her career,  is write the next book.  There are stories of people who really made their careers through successful self-promotion.  Raymond Feist is the name most often mentioned in this respect.  John Scalzi is a more recent example.  Both of them are accomplished writers who would have been successful anyway, but who made themselves hugely successful by taking extraordinary steps to get their names out.  But these two, and a few more like them, stand out precisely because their career paths are so extraordinary.  Most people who self-promote don’t see such dramatic results.

My point in all of this is NOT to discourage anyone from self-promoting.  Far from it.  I intend to keep on doing the things I do.  And maybe I’ll even get myself to do some more.  But I’ll only go as far as I feel comfortable going.  Will I go on Facebook?  Maybe; maybe not.  MySpace?  Probably not.  Will I Twitter more?  Don’t know yet.  Will I be more aggressive in dealing with bookstores.  I’ll try.  But I won’t do anything that isn’t true to who I am, and I won’t sacrifice much more of my writing time or my family time to do these things.  Some things aren’t worth sacrificing, even for success.

All of that said, please allow me to engage in a bit more shameless self-promotion.  As we mentioned to you last week, we are hoping to get MagicalWords nominated for a Writer’s Digest top 101 writing websites mention.  If you would care to help us out by nominating our site, please go to this site and nominate us.  We’re hoping to compete in the “Genres/Niches” category.  And yes, the deadline listed is January 2009 — we’re pretty sure that’s a typo.

Also, this coming weekend, May 29-31, Faith, Misty, and I will be appearing at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Please come and see us if you’re in the area.  We’ll also be signing books with our friend Gail Z. Martin, at the Carolina Place Barnes and Noble in Pineville, North Carolina this Thursday night, May 28, starting at 7:00 pm.

And finally, I have a new, really fun contest up on my  So stop by the website, check out the contest, and maybe you’ll win a signed hardcover edition of THE SORCERERS’ PLAGUE, the first book of my Blood of the Southlands trilogy.  And while you’re there, check out the site:  There are maps, background stories, some of my old short fiction, and sample chapters from every book I’ve published.

There:  I have shamelessly self-promoted.  I feel better now….

David B. Coe

26 comments to More On Shameless Self-Promotion

  • I found this very helpful and would like to link it to my website if that’s okay with you.

  • Can’t wait for the con! Looking forward to seeing everyone again.

  • Mark, yes. Feel free to link to it. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    And Christina, we’re looking forward to seeing you, as well.

  • David, you tweet! I am impressed!
    But lunch…yeah, it feels odd when people mention on facebook that, “I had pimento cheeze and crackers for lunch.” Like, who cares…

  • As I’m finding out, tweeting is really nothing to be impressed about. And yeah, the whole “Here is what I am doing at every given moment of the day,” thing is just weird. Anyone seen the Doonesbury lampooning of Twitter with Roland Hedley? Hilarious.

  • Tom Gallier

    Some people tweet outrageous things. Even very off-color things. I don’t tweet, myself, but some of my peeps on Facebook do, and they set it to update on Facebook. So far, I’ve seen nothing impressive with Tweeter to lure me in.

    Enjoyed the post. Keep up the great work.

  • Thanks, Tom. There is some stuff on Twitter that’s pretty entertaining, and it can be fun to keep in touch with friends through it. But lately I’ve been starting to get Twitter porn and Twitter spam, which I really don’t care for at all. I can block that stuff easily enough, but given that I don’t seem to be getting much out if it, it may be time to give it up.

  • Susan James

    I’m glad to know there’s someone else who hasn’t quite understood the tweeting fascination. But I do love Facebook. I began it because an agent/editor board at a conference said that one of the first things they did when faced with a perspective client was check sites like FB or LJ to see if the writer was internet savvy. It hasn’t garnered me any asking of partials or fulls, but I have found a lot of friends I’d lost touch with- almost my entire elementary school class! It’s been great to see how these people are doing.

  • I actually really like Twitter and I think it gets a bad rap. I use it a lot, I’ve done a lot of self promotion there and I’ve sold books because of it. The trick is not to engage in the juvenile waffle about what you had for lunch. The things I tweet are interesting!

    For example, I’ll retweet interesting links from other people I’m following, I’ll tweet other interetsing things that I come across on the internet and elsewhere, I quote interesting things from people and I’ll always tweet a link to new posts on my blog and anything related to my writing, among many other things. That way I’m not just self-promoting all the time but providing quality content and adding a bit of my own stuff to it every now and then. I only really pay attention to other Twitterers (Tweeters?) that do the same. I’ve found some fantastic resources through Twitter and hopefully provided some too. It’s like your wife always tells you – what’s important is not just having it, but what you do with it!


  • “I have found a lot of friends I’d lost touch with…” Susan, this is something I’ve heard again and again about Facebook, and I have to admit that I am intrigued by it. There are a lot of people from high school, college, and grad school who I’d love to find again, and so getting on FB for that might be worth it.

    Alan, as always your approach to things is far more intelligent and thoughtful than that of the general public. I can see where using Twitter as you describe would be useful. Sadly, most people don’t use it that way. And I also have to admit that I find the whole 140 character thing troubling. We live in an age where everything is being reduced to sound bites at the expense of substance and depth. Twitter, even used intelligently, reinforces that trend. I’m not giving up on it yet, and as I say I think your approach could be useful. But the medium itself bothers me.

  • I’m on Twitter, but haven’t really found a use for it yet. Seems too…constrained for me. Much like a number of other sites, I only have it to keep track of other friends who have it. I’m also typically on Myspace or Facebook. Then, o’ course, I’m on Word Press, Blogger, and a couple others. Facebook, Word Press and Myspace are the one’s I’m most active on, however.

  • “Alan, as always your approach to things is far more intelligent and thoughtful than that of the general public.”

    Wow – that’s very nice of you to say!

    I hear what you say about the 140 character limit, but it actually makes it easier to distill what information you want and what you don’t. For example, here are three of my tweets from today:

    “RT @JeremyCShipp: Want to read my newest short stories? They’ve available exclusively via Bizarro Bytes:

    This one was simply retweeting a note from a fellow writer. You only have to read 140 characters (or less) to decide if you want to follow the link and read on or not.

    “RT @onlinefiction: A ‘Verse Full of Scum – Ghost is a bounty hunter, after a mutant Magicker murderer – by @AlanBaxter –

    This was retweeting something that someone else wrote about my own work, helping them to spread the word further, so good promotion for me.

    “Win a signed trade paperback copy of RealmShift – details here: Please RT”

    This was one of my own, promoting the new competition I started at my website today. Hopefully some of the people that I RT will pass this one on to their followers.

    Other tweets today included a conversation about the relative metaethical merits of atheism over religiosity, a bit of fun making jokes about “three words after sex” with other tweeters, a few more retweets from writers that I follow and so on. As you can see, it’s far more interesting than what we all had for lunch and there’s an awful lot of information there that’s been digested. People can decide whether or not to click links and learn more. It’s easy to pay attention to other people that use Twitter like I do and largely ignore the lunch reporters – especially with software like Tweetdeck, which I use to sort people into groups. You have to be a pretty interesting tweeter to make it into one of the groups that I actually pay attention to. 🙂

    I also use Facebook, MySpace and numerous other social media sites to varying degrees. These days though, Twitter and my website/blog are the places where I’m nost active, by a long way.

  • Sorry – didn’t realise those short links would go live. Feel free to edit those out, as I don’t mean to spam here with links! There’s no edit button that I can see.

  • Daniel, yeah — constrained is the right word. But each of us has some site that works for us and others that don’t. I like Livejournal best, but may well give FB a try eventually.

    Alan, I don’t see any links. It may be that Safari doesn’t let them show up. But no worries.

  • I have been on twitter for a couple of weeks now, and find it somewhat useful. I don’t use it to post about my day (boring!) but I follow several agents and writing industry types and have gotten a few questions answered by them. Some of it is to just put me name out there. As an unpubbed writer, I am always looking for ways to generate notice. Not much success thus far. Pretty much nobody has been to my site or blog from any of this, though honestly, not sure there’s anything there folks would want. I know there’s ways to build notice, but thus far I haven’t been doing the right things apparently.

  • Ah. Alan, your longer post hadn’t shown up yet when I replied. Weird that the second showed up before the other. Anyway, still no worries.

    Jim, it is hard to get noticed, particularly when you haven’t been pubbed yet. It’s easier to hawk something than to say simply “Hey, look at me!” This comes back to my central point in the post. The best way to build notice is to focus on the writing and get stuff published — short fiction, novel, whatever. THEN try to get that stuff noticed. But to the extent that the blogging etc. is taking you away from your writing, it’s undercutting your efforts. My opinion, anyway. Good luck!

  • I agree with David – you have to get stuff written and out there. But I also think you need to build yourself as a brand too, as time allows. If you already have a small author platform it’s going to be easier to help your published stuff along. Of course, David’s comment that any social media stuff that takes away from your writing is undercutting your efforts is dead on. It’s all about balance!

  • Self-promotion has felt, to me, a great deal like dancing on a stage in front of an audience. I get horrible stage fright, until I let myself ‘become’ Mahisti, the dancer. Then I’m fine. When I have to approach bookstore folks, I ‘become’ Misty the writer, and let her do all the talking. I’ll share more tales of that on Thursday.

    Promo on Teh Intarwebz is much easier, of course. I’m on LJ because it’s easy to use and honestly it doesn’t take me much time to post regularly. Not daily, of course, but often enough. I joined Twitter because someone convinced me it might be a good idea. So far I haven’t seen an increase in sales, but hey, I can be patient. I don’t “tweet” every day, but now and then I can think of something quick to say. MySpace, however, I just don’t get. The page is too busy, and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to DO with it. It makes me feel like an old lady yelling at the kids to turn that noise down, you know? I’m purposely staying away from all the other social networking sites. Friends keep telling me about Facebook games they’re completely addicted to – oh yeah, that’s all I need. 😀

    As for the giveaway goodies, I went over to Kim’s before my first signing and picked her brain about how to choose what to give. She warned me to spend only fractions of cents on whatever item I decided to give away, and she was so right. I’d been looking at personalized shot glasses and bandanas, but those were very expensive. I went with bookmarks and magnets instead. After all, I want people to remember me by my books and not by the trinket that they picked up with it, and if the person with the trinket isn’t buying the book right away, a bookmark might remind him while a toy won’t.

    Someday, when I’m debuting on the NYT Bestseller’s List, I’ll start giving away those cool shot glasses. 😉

  • That helps me, too, Misty — the whole putting-on-the-other-persona thing. I still have postcards and bookmarks to give out, though they’re for books in my backlist at this point. Still, as long as potential readers have something to carry away from the encounter. Looking forward to seeing you Thursday!

  • Chris Branch

    David, interesting post, and it gives me an opening to make a comment I’ve been thinking about for a while now…

    I read all over the place, including here, that there’s a reason why writers write. You know it: it’s because we feel that we must. We have unique stories inside us that we want to tell, fantastic ideas to be developed and explored. We think there might be someone out there who’d like to read our stories. We’ve read the writing of others and it’s inspired us to want to do our best to measure up to our those writers we admire. This sums up my feelings perfectly.

    There are plenty of things that are NOT the reason we become writers. I’d say for most of us, self-promotion is one of them. We do not become writers in order to blog, tweet, market, sell, talk to bookstore owners, autograph things, come up with cool giveaway items, go to workshops, conventions, or even brag about what we’ve written. Sure some of those things might be fun, and some of us might be better at them than others. If it ever turns out I have a shot at getting published, I’ll probably try some of them – but the truth is, what I intend to do is write. If no one outside of my family and close friends ever reads what I write, well, that’ll be sad, but I don’t see myself becoming a salesman in order to change that. If what I wanted was a job in sales and marketing, I’d just find one and do that instead of writing.

    Bottom line, I hope I’m coming across as agreeing with your position on this. We’re writers, not salespeople – live with it. 😉

  • You say that now……


  • I agree with you 100%, Chris. I do the other stuff because it’s part of my job. I write professionally and that means I have to do what I can to sell my books. And I enjoy the cons, I enjoy meeting fans. Sometimes I enjoy signings and blogging and the rest. But I love to write, and if I had my way I’d never do the other stuff (but would still manage to sell the books — that’s the tricky part. 😉 )

  • Beatriz

    David announces:

    Also, this coming weekend, May 29-31, Faith, Misty, and I will be appearing at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina.


    This has been a test of the Emergency Fangirl Warning System. This was only a test. In the event of a real Fangirl Emergency, you would have been hit with a hat.

    ~ahem~ Looking forward to seeing y’all.

  • Excellent post! I feel like you pretty much boiled down so many of my own thoughts and experiences so well! For me self promotion quickly began to have the same feeling as being in school and studying – there was always something more I could be doing. I also learned pretty quickly that I could spend tons of time, money, effort and get some results and the publisher could do co-op or even something small and get way way more results than I could ever hope for. And I couldn’t agree more that the best thing writers can do is write the best next book.

    It’s funny, I had the same feeling as you about Twitter and then I went on a writer’s retreat and watched some other YA authors tweet and I saw just how useful it could be (I think Maureen Johnson is a pro at it). I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it since then — mostly I think I’ve made professional contacts, but I also know I’ve definitely made sales from it. But like everything else online promo — if I didn’t like it I’m not sure the sales would be worth it.

    I can’t wait to see all y’all at Con Carolinas (I live in Charlotte)!!

  • Gwendolyn Borgen

    On Facebook, rather than create a personal profile you should make a ‘public figure’ page (what many authors/bands do). People can become a ‘fan’ of yours rather than ‘friend’. That way it should not make you so queasy. 😉

  • Thanks for the tip, Gwendolyn. That I could live with — it may be just the solution I’ve been looking for.