My Thoughts about Online Self-Promotion

So admittedly I am not the best “self-promoter.” In fact, I’d say that selling my work isn’t something I do well. I’d rather have someone else do it, honestly. Part of the challenge is that I really can’t stand writers who sit there and tell me how great their book or game is without telling me “why.” Of course, the other part is that I’d much rather interact with a person–not a product–when I’m online. Sure, I don’t think any of us want to come across as arrogant or condescending, but it’s really hard to know what people’s impressions are of you unless you’re psychic or someone tells you.

Here are some of the things I look for when I either meet people online or read about them. I hope that my thoughts (combined with your feedback) will help shed some light on what might be a good “self-promotion” approach online.

    Your Online Persona is Transparent: If you are a writer and are promoting yourself as such, it’s more useful to me if you have the experience to back it up. If you don’t have the experience and are providing commentary — link to the articles and the people who do. I can’t tell you how many times an individual will talk about all these larger-than-life concepts only to find out they don’t have the street cred or the articles to back it up. Honesty goes a much longer way for me than if you try to “pad” your credentials, especially because I am actively seeking to promote my peers through this channel and through others that I might come across.

    You Don’t Tell Me How Great You Are or How Much You Think You Know: As a personal preference, I really don’t like pretenses. You’ll see this a lot with people trying to sell you something — they are exclusive, one-of-a-kind, different. Give me a break. Just because you are selling something doesn’t mean that your online persona has to be “on” all the time, nor does it mean that someone reading about you doesn’t already know what you know. Everyone is not an expert; in a lot of cases some of the folk selling what we want to buy are learning right along with you and me.

    You Remember that There is a Time and Place for Heated Discussions: Whether it’s the election or global warming, it’s easy to get caught up in discussions that can get pretty heated rather quickly. For those that know me, yeah I can be pretty opinionated but I also strive to be very open-minded. I intentionally keep those opinions off of my blog because I don’t want to exclude anyone, nor do I want to get into a heated discussion that makes both myself and my reader look like idiots. I feel that way about other websites and blogs I visit as well because the comments just seem to get completely out of control. To me, there is a big difference between ranting and having good content.

    Your Site Isn’t an Eyesore: If your site is a selling monstrosity that doesn’t offer any real content then I probably won’t stay on it for long. If it doesn’t have a search function and I have to navigate all over creation to find more information about you, then I’ll probably leave it shortly. I hate to admit it, but badly-designed (or outdated) websites and blogs are a really huge turn-off for me. Web design has changed so much in the last ten years. In a way, blogging has made the web more accessible — not less — so if your site isn’t more contemporary I have to wonder what other trends you’re not keeping up on.

    You Avoid Spamming Your Network: Yes, we all have personal projects that we like to promote. Unduly spamming your network of friends and contacts multiple times to promote your event or project really irks me. At the most, I’d like to see one–maybe two max–emails about your book or seminar sent in a very friendly and helpful way using phrases like “I don’t normally do this, but…” and “I just wanted to keep you in the loop about what I’m working on.”

    You Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Have you plagiarized other people’s work on your own site? What if you have worked on a project with other people and take all the credit for yourself? Or how about talking bad about people you’ve worked with in an online, public way? Sure, it’s nice to be validated but it’s even better when someone says something nice “about” you. (Rather than you having to take the easy way out and try to say it about yourself).

What are your thoughts on good versus bad self-promotion? Am I being too harsh or too critical? Are there any exceptions to the things I mentioned here?

How to Avoid the "Writer’s Stigmas" and Promote Yourself

For those of you who enjoy writing, I’m sure you’ve heard of many of the stigmas that authors face from time-to-time. From being accused of anti-social behavior to not living in the “real world,” as artists who write for entertainment or for business, it’s sometimes good to consider what you’re getting into. Many famous authors and writers weren’t necessarily remembered for their works, but because they had a personality and were relatively quirky. Some personality tics can help you sell your work, because you’re creating a persona to tie into your work. However, there are others attributes, that we all have, that aren’t so great which can really put a damper into your ability to get work.

Here are a few tips to help avoid the stigmas to earn yourself a professional reputation, and the ability to find more work:

  • Keep up with Technology: In related posts, I had talked about how to use your technology wisely. From avoiding flame wars to ensuring you speak grammatically correct, your command of technology and computers is important in this “cyber age.” I know how frustrating it can be when new things come out on the market (Hint: Microsoft Vista or new forms of PHP programming), so consider spending a few dollars at your local community college and sign up for a four-to-six week course for whatever software you’re weakest on. They’re not that expensive, and you’ll gain confidence in your abilities as you go along.This link is a veritable writer’s toolbox perfect for crafting some savvy online tools to promote yourself as well. You’ll need to sift through the links, but the descriptions are pretty easy-to-read and you’ll be able to quickly ascertain what will work for you.
  • Join your Local Business Organizations: If you’re like me, you probably work a full-time job and then write in your spare time or, you spend a lot of time looking for work to keep up with bills as you grow your freelancing career. Time is valuable to you, especially when you’re trying to move forward in your career. I highly recommend looking for local business organizations in your area to network, and also join your university’s alumni association.
  • Start (or Join) a Book Club: It’s very easy for your social skills to weaken as you spend more and more time in front of a computer. One way to hone those skills, while getting something out of it for yourself, is to join (or start) a face-to-face discussion about a particular book once a month. Not only will it force you to read something outside of your normal scope, it will help you diplomatically improve your debate skills and get that intellectual discussion I know you crave.
  • Work Hard, Play Hard: In another tip, I had talked about the importance of play. I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember to balance your writing with getting off the computer and enjoying yourself. It’s so easy to fall in the trap of burn-out or worse, writer’s depression. Please, please, please reward yourself for all the good that you do in this field by spoiling yourself through fun. When you’re happy and well-adjusted, other non-writers will pick up on that and your business will grow.
  • Balance Promotion with Common Sense: As I had stated above, the worse thing you can be accused of as a writer is being dysfunctional or flighty, because it implies you’re not reliable, so a lot of the time we have to work around that by showing how unique–not crazy–and healthy we are. If you have a decent photo of yourself (make sure you ask someone else if you’re not sure) post that on your blog or website.

Are there things that you do to promote yourself that I haven’t listed here? I invite you to share your tips, and I will follow up with another blog post in a few weeks crediting your advice. Be sure to include your website or blog if you are interested.

Happy promoting!

Monica Valentinelli >

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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