Writers, Be Honest: What REALLY Scares You About Self-Promotion?


by Meg Dowell


Do you like promoting your own work? Like REALLY like it?

We all feel a rush of excitement the moment we are able to share even the smallest writing accomplishments with the world. It’s totally normal to want to show off what you’re doing — after all, when you’re proud of your hard work, you certainly deserve the reward of being able to put it out there for other people to see, if you want to.

But even if you do look forward to being able to publicly celebrate your achievements, there might also be a part of you that’s dreading the moment — and if it’s not the promotion itself that has you worried, it’s much more likely anticipating people’s reactions to it that unsettles your stomach.

Not every writer dislikes or is afraid of self-promotion. But it does slow many people down and prevent them from sharing their work with more potential readers.

What is it about promoting your own work that feels intimidating? Is there a right and wrong way to self-promote? And how do you know whether or not you’re putting your work out there without spamming everyone you know?

When you post a link to your latest blog post on Twitter, sometimes — no matter how many times you have done this before — you feel a slight hint of nervousness inside when you hit the post button.


I have some theories as to why — based, obviously, on my own hesitations about promoting my work.

  • We’re terrified of feedback. Even when we want it — no, CRAVE it — there’s a small part of us that doesn’t really want to hear what people have to say — especially if what they have to say isn’t exactly positive, constructive, or helpful. Put simply: We’re afraid of not doing a good job, and if we don’t get the kind of feedback that reassures us, we’re going to struggle.
  • We want people to like us. And the reality is, many people don’t like other people’s self-promotion, especially smaller creators who have yet to earn a loyal following. Most of this comes as a response to people who over-promote their work — e.g., people who only use Twitter to share links to the same book they wrote five times a day or more — please don’t do that. We’ll get to that a little later.
  • We’re worried about getting lost in the noise. How many times have you sent a link to your work out into the void and wondered if it will ever reach anyone? Probably most times you promote something! The thing about being an online creator is that it can sometimes start to feel like EVERYONE is an online creator, EVERYONE has something they want other people to read, and wait, what was it about your work that made you feel unique and memorable again?


And honestly? Some of us just don’t think we’re good at what we do. And even though we know we have no choice but to get our work out there and see if it has an audience, we’re convinced doing so isn’t going to make a difference. After all, if it’s not good, no one is going to care, right?

Chances are, it’s probably not as awful as you think. But that’s a discussion for another post.

We can’t be afraid to put our work out there. Because if we don’t, our chances of ever attracting a loyal, worthwhile audience will remain next to zero.




Meg Dowell is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter or check out her blog.

Image source – CC0 License.



15 thoughts on “Writers, Be Honest: What REALLY Scares You About Self-Promotion?

    1. I second this critique.
      I’ll happily share what I’ve written. After all, who’s really going to read it except for a few friends. And those few, well, we’ve got this “understanding.”
      Promotion? Me? Never. I’m much too horrified of embarrassing myself with shoddy writing (isn’t it all shoddy?) to think that I could actually PUSH people into reading my work. No, I’ll never promote what I’ve written. Offer it up, for free, for others to discover on their own? Sure.

      The flip side of this is others who promote their work to me. I’m immune. All ads slough off my back as if they were political promises. Not to mention that your work probably sucks just as much as mine does. I KNOW how hard this task is. And there are only maybe ten authors in the whole-wide-world who are worth a damn. And their work is either too $$$ to pay for or free for the taking because they’re dead.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s the idea of spamming people that worries me. As a result, I probably don’t push my work enough. But the biggest thing for me is getting reviews. I see others posting their reviews, week in and week out, when I’ve nary a one! Yes, I ask in every book and sometimes on my blog. I’ve said to forget what you did in school. Just a brief note saying if you liked it or not will do. Still nothing.
    Sorry. Rather off topic. I’ll shut up.


  2. I don’t self promote because it takes time and energy, and I prefer to use my spare time and energy to write. I figure my novels aren’t going to up and vanish at any point, so it’s okay to be a prolific nobody until I feel the urge to gain an audience. Maybe then I’ll become insecure about it all, but for now it’s moot.


  3. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of self-doubt in putting your book out there. I know absolutely zero about creating an Indie book–self-editing, or hiring for such, creating book covers and formatting. I’ve done one but had massive help doing so. I have 17 books and 34 years in the business, but the last ten years has been a horrendous chore of promoting, and even marketing with paid ads. I’m lost in an ocean of books and cannot draw the precise or even general audience that I’m after. I’m well known and have my ducks in a row, even multiple awards. But…it is still tougher than ever because I am competing for the same eyes that everyone else is coveting. I’m very weary and depressed at times at how this industry has changed SO much from the old legacy days. Yet, I forge on and hope for the best, as do we all.


  4. I know I can write, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know how to promote or market. No article or blog post I’ve ever read about the secrets of SEO or selecting Amazon keywords has made any sense at all to me. And Amazon advertising, with its “impressions” and “click-throughs” is another mystery that does not intrigue me. I’m grateful that the internet allows me to publish my works. Of course, it also allows every other indie author to do that, so there are more books than readers. That’s the way it is. I’m allergic to advertising in all its forms, so have no desire to inflict it on anyone else. I have adjusted my expectations for sales accordingly.


    1. Promoting, marketing, qualifying for ads, bidding, key words, mailing lists, engagements and everything associated with it has driven me right over the edge of understanding the immense complexity of this business. I”m in complete turmoil about how to do my own publicity, and yet when I seek out assistance, I get more cost demands to just figure out what it is I don’t understand!!! I need a tutorial to understand a tutorial! Believe me, you are not alone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Being able to write well doesn’t mean one has marketing skills or even wants to develop them. That’s what traditional publishers used to do for their authors, supposedly. It’s a rare indie who can do both. I’ve decided my writing endeavours shouldn’t be a source of angst, so have found what feels like a good approach. To some that may look like failure, but I’m okay with it.


  5. It’s not that I’m ‘scared’ of promotional activity, more that I dislike it. There seems something desparate and needy in trying to get people to buy your books. I worked in sales for a few years in various roles, and I never enjoyed the jobs; in fact i loathed them. I found that world to be full of charlatans, liars and cheats, and wanted nothing to do with them. So that experience seriously asffected my attitude to selling.
    I think my writing is good: certainly the reviews suggest that, and the fact I have a publisher, a small independent company, indicates I’ve reached a certain standard. But the whole idea of self-promotion is alien to my nature.
    I’ve built a platform; Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and a personal website, but I spend little time shouting about my work. Most of my ‘spare’ time seems to revolve around sharing the work of other authors, and advising new writers about the wonderful world of words, language and storytelling.


  6. I am intimidated by almost everything about promoting myself. However, it is necessary. Publishers these days expect the author to do a large part of the book promotion.
    So, it doesn’t matter how much I don’t like the idea of promotion. I must.
    I am now pitching my first manuscript to agents. I’m spending most of my writing time on my marketing plan. I’m drafting social media content in advance. I’m researching reviewers and bloggers to try to contact. I’m optimistically making a list of the independent booksellers I can visit to in a day trip. I’m drafting 10- and 20-minute presentations, with and without visuals to go behind me.
    The alternative is to fail to promote the book, and be the most obvious reason the book fails.


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