The Five Stages of Self-Promotion

Our son got second place in the adults’ portion of the mini-triathlon! Do you hear me bragging about it? Heck, yeah.

Miles run today: 4

Words written in my novel in the past four days: 0

Hours driven yesterday: 9 1/2

My mom didn’t believe in bragging about her kids.

I begged her to brag about us, just a little. As a Leo, I didn’t mind the extra attention.

I mention this in order to show that she did the best she could in encouraging humility and modesty. In some ways, maybe it took. In others, not so much.

Now that I’m older, I struggle with the need for self-promotion and the inevitable eye-roll from other people when you try to promote yourself in any way. How arrogant is it to write lots of things on a blog and then think they are so good that other people might want to read them? Pretty darn arrogant, I think.

And if you’re writing a book, you may not believe that your book is the next To Kill a Mockingbird, but you have to have a certain belief that someone, somewhere, is going to enjoy reading your stuff.

For those of you who want to promote yourselves to land that new job, conquer that big mountain or market that new book, I have prepared a self-help-style primer for you to remind you that you are not alone:

The Five Stages of Self-Promotion

1. Denial. If you are trying to get word out about how wonderful you are, about your amazing accomplishment or your super new blog, you may sit in your office and think to yourself: “My book is wonderful. I am sure that because I have written something so good, everyone will simply find this gem without any work on my part. Oprah may find my work on Amazon for 99 cents and go back to her old talk show just to promote my book.”

This is called denial.

Sometimes people have these same feelings about something big that you have to train for, like a marathon. They don’t train and think they’ll be just fine running for 4+ hours. We call these people stupid naive.

2. Anger. Rail against the universe. Stand outside in the rain and cry and scream. Sometimes, if your spouse is in a cooperative mood, you can yell at him or her because he/she made the bad choice to get married to a writer.

Just like in the creepy Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the little girl and The Red Shoes and she kept dancing and dancing and couldn’t take them off… Sometimes writing feels like that, doesn’t it? Don’t lie. I can feel your lies through the computer screen.

Get mad all you want. But your word count is still stuck at the same place. Move on.

3. Bargaining. If you are a seriously introverted writer, a.) you are not alone and b.) you probably don’t relish the social events necessary for self-promotion.

“If I write more things, maybe more people will stumble upon my writing.” “If I sit in front of the computer a lot, maybe my friends, family and co-workers will get the hint that I’m writing my tail off and take pity on me.”

Don’t count on it, my friend.

This attitude is akin to reading a whole lot about running. But not running. The marathon itself requires running. And self-promotion, unfortunately, requires self-promotion. Some might call it bragging. But in today’s world of reality TV and blogs, we call it self-promotion.

4. Depression. By the depression stage of the game, you may be lolling around, playing computer solitaire or Angry Birds Space or reading unrelated blogs and telling yourself that it constitutes “research.”

Did you tell one person today that you’re writing a novel or have finished a novel? No? Then your work here is not done.

Remember, 92 percent of self-promotion is convincing yourself that you have something to promote.

Did you get dressed today? Really look at yourself. Be honest. Pajama pants and a tank top don’t count.

5. Acceptance. Now you are fully self-actualized, whatever the heck that means.

You are in the stage where you tell everyone you know that you are writing a novel. This is mostly so they will ask you the next time you meet, and you will be too embarrassed to admit that the last time you wrote ten words was at your Aunt Esther’s house for the family reunion five weeks ago.

Shout your self-promoting words to the rooftops! Someday, you will have fans and people who can’t wait to read your next words. Until then, become the person you yourself most want to read.

And find someone other than your mom to help you spread the word about your writing. She remembers, in vivid detail, all the years you made her wash your clothes and then got mad at her when the burgundy dye ran on your favorite sweater. And you got annoyed with her.

Sorry, Mom…. did I tell you that I’m writing a novel? Let me tell you about it…


32 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Self-Promotion

  1. Holly says:

    You killed me with this post! So funny!

  2. Admitting you write is the key to recovery.

    The problem is that such an admission also prompts non-writers to say something like this: “A novel you say? Hey, I have a great idea for a novel! But I’m not a writer. So! Do you want to collaborate? We’ll split everything 50/50!”

    So introversion does have its plusses.

    • annewoodman says:

      Must remember that: chain self to desk. No interaction. No need for other people. ; )

      You wouldn’t believe how many people have ideas for books who don’t write. Oh. Yes, you would. You’re a writer.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Love your self-promotion stages, though I certainly haven’t passed through denial. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve been through my manuscript so many times that by now I’m convinced it’s just a bunch of jibberish. Hmmm, what stage is that? 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      That is the Gibberish Self-Resentment Stage where you start hating every single word you wrote in that silly book. Then someone takes it off your hands, and in a few weeks, you are able to tell people, with a straight face, that it’s a terrific read.

  4. I too am writing a novel, and a collection of short stories, and an article for a magazine. I tell my wife there is one constant to the universe and that it is my incredible good looks. 😉 After that, I have to pause as she cleans up the Diet Coke she spewed forth as a result of my last comment.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I think a lot of writers can identify with these stages. 🙂 I’m partially at acceptance or I wouldn’t be blogging about my WIPs or linking blog updates to Facebook. But I still haven’t told people at work that I’m writing. Part of me wants to see if any of them notice when I get published. 😉 Of course, by doing that, I could be missing out on some folks who would help spread the word!

    • annewoodman says:

      I bet there are many, many bestselling authors who go about life in their communities with no one the wiser about what they do for their “day jobs.” Writer doesn’t necessarily equal celebrity (thank goodness).

  6. 4amWriter says:

    I think I vacillate among all of the stages on any given day. On a good day, I am full of acceptance. On a not-so-good day, I am in depression mode.

    But I suppose I’m doing my best to do the self-promoting, even if at times it feels contrived and over-the-top. I am fully aware of the mechanics behind the game, and I’m the only one who’s going to get myself up that mountain. If I don’t believe in myself enough, then no amount of cheerleading from the sidelines is going to help.

    This was funny, thanks for making me laugh today 🙂

  7. Hilarious! I love it!

  8. SmallHouseBigGarden says:

    First off: how incredible that your son placed so high in the triathalon! He must be a dedicated, hard worker and THAT is something worth bragging about, too!
    Loved this entire post..self promo is hard to do, especially for creative people!!

  9. Ravena Guron says:

    Yay for your son! What a great achievement!

    I told someone I was writing a novel… and now they keep bugging me, telling me to do this, this, and this. Oh lordy. They’re more excited about it than I am!

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, dear. Yes, I was commenting on someone else’s blog, and we writers do get lots of advice from non-writers about what we should be writing about, don’t we?? So funny. I’m glad you’re keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing.

  10. Congrats to your boy! And what a great post 🙂 I haven’t gotten out of my PJs today 😦 but I am sick so I’m convincing myself it’s okay!

  11. 1. Danny Kaye playing Hans Christian Andersen was one of the top two creepiest movie experiences of my childhood.
    2. I will never, at any point, no matter the level of desperation, resort to playing Angry Birds for distraction. I tried it once. It’s called “angry” for a reason.

    • annewoodman says:

      1. I want to know what the other top creepiest movie experience was.
      2. I don’t play Angry Birds either.
      We are soul mates. ; )

      • The Boy with Green Hair – I somehow saw it when I was very young and I had no concept of a movie having a message, I thought they were for enjoyment. I couldn’t figure out why would anyone think it enjoyable to watch a movie about being ostracized, and the scene in the woods with the orphans, and then him getting chased completely disturbed me. For years afterward I felt sad, scared and nauseous every time I though to of it.
        Angry Birds, I just feel pissed. There’s NO WAY you can get all of them.

  12. Amy Mak says:

    I think I’m still in the denial phase. Oh dear. If my husband mentions I’m writing a book, I give him a kick under the table. I must self-promote more! On the other hand, I am training for a half-marathon and have no fantasies that sitting will in any way train me to kick butt. It’s good to have the reminder 🙂

  13. David Gentry says:

    I grew up going to Catholic school. That should be enough said, but if you did not go to Catholic school this explanation is for you. Pride is the number one capital sin. It’s what got Satan into so much trouble. He thought he was better than God. You don’t want to even come close to doing this, so be humble. Never speak about yourself. Never stand out. Just blend into the background. “Self-promote” is not in the dictionary. I learned that this self-effacing, if not self-denigrating, attitude is shared even by non-Catholics! I was amazed!

    Fortunately, I went to work for someone who said that marketing is simply telling one’s story. I noticed how successful my boss was and, more importantly, how successful his entire division became, including me. It was the beginning of an entirely new way of looking at the world. It made living more fun. Try it. You might like it.

    • annewoodman says:

      Make living more fun? Wow. That’s big. Or at least more challenging? I like the part about “telling your story.” That makes it sound less Satanic. ; )

  14. Melissa says:

    I just can’t resist, you left out the eye roll…you know….what do you write…I’m working on a novel and I have a blog….equals eye roll. Ths can be yours as in…duh. Or theirs as in….seriously? We bloggers are so under appreciated.

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