3 Things That Make Self-Promotion Hard and 5 Things You Can Do About Them

I got a lot of positive feedback about the post I wrote last week about self-promotion for the shy. I talked about how awkward it feels to initiate conversations about my book even though I’m really happy to talk about it. I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is, and one thing I keep coming back to is this:

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

The thing that makes it hard for me to promote my work is the same thing that makes it hard for me to ask for what I need or want in other situations: a combination of fear, shame, and self-doubt. Specifically, shame around the need itself, fear that it won’t be met, and doubt about whether I deserve to have it met.

These fears are not unique to me and certainly are not limited to book promotion. Here are some of the most common settings where these fears arise.

  • Self-promotion
  • Requests for emotional care
  • Requests for financial assistance
  • Requests related to sexual desire

For me, the first two are the deepest. The third is happily something I haven’t had to deal with in many years, and the last is something I don’t have much trouble talking about or asking for. But those first two… Wow, are they hard for me!

Here’s some good news I’ve uncovered through hard-won experience: Fear, shame and self-doubt can all be overcome. Therapy or counseling can be a big part of this, and I spent the majority of my 20s in therapy with an incredibly insightful, nonjudgemental psychiatrist who will certainly be receiving a surprise copy of my book when it comes out. I probably wouldn’t have survived my 20s without her, but even if I had, I doubt I’d have finished graduate school, developed healthy intimate relationships, or worked out the boundaries I needed with my mother, all things without which this book could never have been written. 

Of course, therapy can be expensive and access to mental health care can be infuriatingly hard for many of us to come by, so here is some more good news; Self-talk can do wonders for reducing shame, fear, and self-doubt. Imagine how you would talk to a friend — someone about whom you care deeply — if that person were experiencing exactly the same problem. Write down what you’d say. You might have written something like “Of course you deserve this,” or “Everybody needs to be cared for. There’s no shame in that,” or you might have written a string of affirming adjectives that you believe the person needs to hear in order to remind them how lovable and deserving they are. Whatever you wrote down, remember that those things apply to yourself, and if you tell yourself those things when you need to hear them, it will help you feel better, too. 
So here’s what I’ve been doing since I wrote that post to help myself feel better about self-promotion:

  1. I’m doing a TON of self-talk. I’m really grateful to have the voice of that therapist from my 20s in my head because I’ve been using it to help me with self-talk ever since, and it’s been incredibly helpful.
  2. I’m letting myself revel in the positive feedback that’s come in so far, and using that as fuel for more self-talk: it’s amazing how effective it is to remind myself that someone I respect really found lots of worthwhile stuff in this book, and so I’m not really “out on a limb” in sharing it with others.
  3. I’m working on ways to make the promotion efforts fun. The truth is that I really do enjoy sharing the messages of my book with other people, and I like fooling around with graphics, so the first thing I’m doing is working on making some graphics using quotes from the book. Later, I’m going to make an “assets” page on my web site and encourage supportive friends and family to share these images to help raise buzz around the book. 
  4. I’m remembering the feminist lessons I learned in college and graduate school, lessons that have been part of my worldview ever since. So much of what drives the fear, shame and self-doubt I talked about earlier is rooted in sexism, misogyny,  heterosexism, and homophobia. Just reminding myself that there are tons of people working to dismantle those unjust power dynamics helps me feel better about acknowledging my own needs and making space to meet them.
  5. I’m promoting others. For every mention of my own work, I’m making sure to do several things that lift up or promote the work of others. I created a daily aggregator to help spread my She Writes Press sisters’ tweets. I share or retweet announcements about other authors’ articles, books, and events. It’s so much easier to promote other people’s work, but it also makes me feel better about sharing my own. 

Bonus tip: Remember that loving kindness meditation I told you about a few weeks ago? That still rocks! Try that and see if it doesn’t make you feel much more love and much less fear or shame about what you need in order to be happy, healthy, and at peace!

2 thoughts on “3 Things That Make Self-Promotion Hard and 5 Things You Can Do About Them

  1. I relate to this post so much. I am just wrapping up the revisions on a novel, the first one I’ve completed in over 20 years (the other one is best not talked about) and now I’m in a state of near-paralysis contemplating the next steps, which will involved self-promotion. Query agents and publishers? Pursue hybrid publishing? Whichever path I choose, it will involve putting myself out there, and the idea of it makes me positively queasy. I admire you and other writers who push themselves over that hump and do what needs to be done to get your work out into the world.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Brigette. Whatever your next steps are, I wish you lots of luck. I’d be happy to talk about the hybrid option with you since that’s the route I ultimately chose. I also hope you’ll stay in touch and share your challenges and victories. One thing I’ve learned is that there is no one hump to get over. It’s like a series of rolling hills (which makes it sound much prettier than it feels). Anyway, I’m glad you’re finding community. Writing can be solitary and self-promotion can feel alienating. I think it works best when we support one another!


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