I hate self-promotion

Here’s a phrase I hear from authors far too often:

“I hate doing self-promotion.”

Of course you hate doing self-promotion! Anyone that isn’t a narcissist or completely unaware of social graces, is going to hate self-promotion.

I hate self-promotion too.

But here’s what you’re going to have to understand if you ever want to successfully build your author platform…

It’s not about you.

Self-promotion is focused on you.

Real, successful online marketing for authors is focused on other people.

What is a tribe?

Seth Godin popularized the term “tribe” in his fantastic book Tribes (here’s my summary) when it was released in 2008. According to Seth, a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

You need three things to build your author platform:

  • You – the leader
  • Readers – the members
  • The Idea – the why

When does self-promotion happen? When an author is trying to build their platform without the “why”.

How to beat climate change

In 2006, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth based on his popular lecture series on the topic of global warming. For 30 years he has taught and fought around the topic of climate change. He has a large following around this topic and many people look to him as a leader.

Here’s the question… does the idea of climate change exist outside of Al Gore? Would the topic still exist without him?

Al Gore is just a leader for a larger worldview and movement that exists outside of himself. The tribe is:

  • Al Gore – the leader
  • People that read his books, attend his seminars, etc – the members
  • Climate Change – the why

Without the bigger “why”, there would be no tribe.

What is your why?

Every writer I’ve met has a “why”. From the vegan chef to the management guru to the steampunk sci-fi writer… they all have their own “why” that is bigger than themselves and book sales.

This is the place you find your cure to self-promotion. When you identify your “why” and make everything you do about that, you will attract your members and be a true leader.

I’m not letting fiction writers off the hook

Here’s a piece of feedback I get on a weekly basis:

“Your stuff seems great, but it’s not really for fiction writers.”

Peruse through Hugh Howey’s blog and you’ll see his “why” oozing out of every corner of his updates. He’s passionate about writing, the publishing industry, telling great stories and helping other writers reach their goals.

Follow Elizabeth Gilbert on her Facebook page and you can see clearly that she wants people to find their happiness. This is why she writes. But you can also see it in the quotes, pictures and poems she shares. She encourages her readers to do things like create happiness jars. It’s woven through everything she does.

Other authors such as Patrick Rothfuss and Brent Weeks use their blogs to share their love and support of the entire Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

In his fantastic book On Writing, Stephen King says:

If you write a novel, spend weeks and then months catching word by word, you owe it to yourself to lean back when you’ve finished and ask yourself why you bothered – why you spent all that time, why it seemed so important. […] It seems to me that every book – at least the ones worth reading – is about something.

If you think because you’re a fiction writer it let’s you off the hook for having a bigger worldview – a why – then you’re selling yourself and your fellow writers far too short.

Your “why” and your marketing

In my book Your First 1000 Copies, I share my story of dealing with a car salesman. Self-promotion shows up only when someone is concerned about themselves over other people. They’re willing to fill your social media feeds with constant pitches to buy their book. They get frantic and loud and annoying because they’re more concerned with themselves than other people.

However, self-promotion disappears when you focus on your “why” and how you’re trying to change the world.

I confidently invite every author to my book. Will that help me? Of course! I’m trying to sell 10,000 copies after all. But that’s not my big, capital-w “why”.

As I was running my company and working with authors, I kept seeing thousands of authors floundering in this crazy online marketing space. They didn’t know where to start and kept getting really bad advice. So I decided to write a book that would help them have a clear path.

My big, capital-w “Why” is that I love books, love authors and want them to succeed. I recently had a  friend recommend that I launch myself into the corporate speaking world to share my marketing message and ideas. My response was, “Yeah, but the problem is I don’t get out of bed in the morning wondering how I can help corporations sell more widgets. I get out of bed in the morning wondering how I can help authors sell more books.”

Your favorite authors – both fiction and non-fiction – write books to add something to your life. They have a “why” that they are deeply connected to, even if they don’t realize it.

Once you are deeply connected to yours, it becomes much easier to invite people to connect with you. Sure, you want to sell some books. But it’s bigger than that. It’s no longer about you and your self-promotion, it’s about your calling to add to your readers’ lives. From that foundation you can build an author platform that you can be proud of and leave self-promotion behind.

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