The Queasiness of Self-Promotion

groundhogI’ve had a few friends jokingly ask me if I’m nervous that the novel won’t do well. When that happens, I like to turn into Joe Pesci’s character from Good Fellas and press them to explain what they meant: “Why wouldn’t it do well? Are you saying I wrote a crappy book?” Fortunately, my friends know not to take me seriously.

The honest answer is that I’m not nervous about that at all. For whatever reason, the book’s commercial success just isn’t something I worry about all that much. What does make me nervous, however, is the part I’ll be playing in promoting my novel to others.

I’m not talking about the managing of my website or social-media marketing. That stuff is easy. It’s the upcoming book signings, fairs, and actually describing my book to potential buyers that I fear the awkwardness of.

I certainly believe in the product. That’s not the problem. I’ve worked long and hard on it, and am proud of the end result. I’m confident readers will enjoy it. I’m just not a great salesman, and never really have been.

I’ve spent a lot of time working closely with salespeople, and have marveled at their abilities to draw in an intrigued party, work their magic, and seal the deal. I, on the other hand, have always been more of a behind-the-scenes guy, and comfortable in that position.

The first time I spoke to my publisher’s marketing manager, we had a really great conversation about all of the things I’ll be doing as an author to promote the book. The meeting was very helpful. She then asked me to try and sell the book to her – a thirty-second pitch that would make her want to buy it.

This caught me completely off-guard. I tried, but what came out of my mouth sounded like a garbled, nearly incoherent summary of the first couple of chapters of my book. Too many needless details, no elements of suspense or intrigue… It was really pretty bad.

“Well, we’ll work on that,” she said assuredly. And I know we will.

The good thing is that I’ve got plenty of time to get my act together. The book won’t be available until the summer, so between now and then, I’m sure I’ll become more comfortable with the art of self-promotion.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t want to come across like “Needle Nose Ned” Ryerson from the movie, Groundhog Day. You know, the guy who kept walking up to Bill Murray on a street corner and pestering him to buy life insurance. Though I would love Ned’s confidence, I’d rather stay on the right side of the line between a good sales presentation and repellant nagging.

Beyond all of that, I’m excited about the marketing materials I’ll be receiving… especially the bookmarks. I like the idea of bookmarks, because I’m pretty sure that no one has ever turned down a free one. I’ve conducted no studies to support this claim, but I certainly can’t remember ever passing on one myself, and I don’t even use them. I dog-ear my pages, which seems to annoy my wife.

Cross-promotion is another intriguing idea. It’s something I hadn’t considered until the marketing manager brought it up. The concept is to find elements within the book that could work in conjunction with the marketing of outside products or services. I’m vowing to put some real thought into this, because I’m convinced there’s an angle I can take advantage of. I just haven’t identified that angle yet.

Interesting times ahead.

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