Baby steps in self-promotion
Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to me. I am, after all, British by birth, and my natural inclination is to mumble disparagingly about my accomplishments.
‘I … err … write the odd short story from time to time … Nothing much, and you probably wouldn’t be interested … but if one day you don’t have anything better to do, then maybe … ?’
This is a recipe for not getting read until I am dead. In my obituary I will be hailed as a literary genius and riches will be showered on my bemused heirs. Heirs, I might add, who never showed the faintest interest in a darned thing I wrote …
Meanwhile, in the real world: I’m not a literary genius, but I am a half-decent teller of short stories (laying British modesty aside), and it is something that I enjoy doing.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy it more, though, if someone actually reads my stuff. If they’re not my wife or my mum and I haven’t had to employ emotional blackmail – bonus points!
So, I want to be read. To be read, I’m going to have to blow my own trumpet. (Or twang my own banjo.) British modesty be damned.
At present I’m in the process of launching my new free ‘storyletter’ Tall and Tiny Tales. This inevitably involves self-promotion. Fail to promote, and I might as well publish it at the back of a locked filing cabinet.
I might be a bit rubbish at promoting myself, but I do like a challenging project, so I’ve thrown myself into this.
The chances are, you’re reading this because you’re in a similar boat, so here are some thoughts and observations that you might find useful – or at least touchingly naïve, if you’re a seasoned self-promoter.
Over the last few months I’ve designed the occasional pin. It’s a vaguely arty thing that I enjoy doing. I’ve also accumulated vast boards of good-looking pins by third parties that I’ll probably never, ever, look at again.
For the self-promoting author, there’s a lot to like about pins: the portrait-format image, perfect for book covers; the concise blurb; the seamless click-through to your target URL; the culture of saving and sharing. The prospect that your pin might be out there, advertising away, for years, if it is sufficiently arresting to get saved and shared.
All of that works a lot better if you have more than five followers, of course.
What about paying to have your pins promoted? Is this a viable alternative to spending years becoming popular on Pinterest?
I’ve been having a shot at this for the last few days. It’s cheap: for $1 a day I’ve reached about 5k users. The promoted pin received 39 clicks, of which 6 were clicks off-site to Tall and Tiny Tales. Subscriptions: 1.
Now, this was just a first low-cost suck-it-and-see. I suspect that I can do better with a stronger pin and more targeted marketing, once Tall and Tiny Tales is up and running and there’s exciting stuff (well I’m excited about it) to see there.
I swore only a few months ago that I would never join Twitter. I lied.
Twitter is cheerfully promiscuous in terms of follow-for-follow. (Possibly other ways too if you use the right hashtags.) As a platform, it has the attention span of a toddler on a sugar rush. There’s a big and lively writers’ community, full of opportunities to cross-promote. I can dip into it for a few minutes a day without FOMO when I dip back out again.
I suspect that we’re all busily cross-promoting within our own #writersbubble, not to folk whose primary focus is #reading. But what the heck? So far, two clicks through to Tall and Tiny Tales. But then I’ve only put out a couple of half-arsed tweets. I think Twitter shows promise. Time for a #writerslift, anyone?
FB Personal page
When I first started writing fiction, I fondly imagined that many of my Facebook friends would be interested in my new hobby. I mean, what are friends for? We take an interest, right?
But then, how many times have I failed to watch a friend’s video of their grandson or their guitar solo or their goldfish, or missed their heartfelt post? How many times has the Facebook feed algorithm perversely hidden posts from my own wife, tapping away on the other side of the living room?
I think there’s something else going on here too. We’re comfortable with the friends and relations we know – as we know them. We don’t necessarily want to become acquainted with other facets of their character, hitherto mercifully concealed from us.
Like the time that my dear departed Dad started writing soft porn novels. I fear that his nearest and dearest (his only son included) may not have been supportive of his literary endeavours …
This makes the few exceptions, the friends who care about my stories, all the more precious to me.
FB Professional ‘Steve Fendt Author‘ page
This is still in its infancy. Although 30-odd friends and friends-of-friends have been press-ganged into ‘liking’ and ‘following’ it, it is still somewhat ill-frequented, a repository for odd snippets, bookish memes and breathless announcements which fall largely on deaf ears. Or possibly no ears at all.
Also, Zuck and his pals at Meta get highly excited if it looks like you’re running a business of any description, no matter how microscopic. They blandish you with arcane gibberish and impenetrable Business Centres. They woo you with advertising campaigns and post boosts left and right. You have to wade through a tonne of crap each time you visit your own page.
FB community pages
Yee-haw! Finally I hit paydirt. A short post on two community pages brought about 80% of the subscriptions I’ve received so far to Tall and Tiny Tales. Can you guess which day the post came out?
My regular Medium followers probably groan each time a scintillating essay turns out to be yet another promotion of Tall and Tiny Tales.
About five of them have followed me across to the Substack platform and taken up a free subscription. I appreciate it; actually I’m deeply touched by it.
Still, that’s probably 10% of my regular Medium readers; less than 1% of my alleged followers. The sad truth is: most people will not follow you to another platform if they’re comfortable right where they are, thanks.
Did I mention that I’m launching a new storyletter? With my best writing? Did I mention that it’s free?
2 thoughts on “Learning by Doing”
You’re an inspiration, Steve! I need to focus on this side of the business and get on top of it. As you say, without it we’re just talking to ourselves and a handful of other people. I’m doing Amazon Ads, which I resent but are a necessary evil. I’ve just fallen down the Pinterest hole, for which I fully blame you.
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Cheers Chris! Yeah, I’d rather just write stories, but … Good luck with Amazon. It will be many months yet before I’m ready for that. And welcome to Pinterest 😉 Check out Lee Ameka’s pins for Self-Crafted.