On Self-Promotion

Here’s a little something on this subject that just appeared in my inbox.

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I realize I got a little out of hand with that whole Medium Fiction thing, posting here, there, and everywhere with pleas to read “Shunyata” and vote for me. It was a tough contest, because in order to get read, I really had to self-promote. It may come as a surprise to learn that I loathe self-promotion, or at least, I loathe the point where you travel from casual, appropriately-proud asker-of-favors to overbearing, obnoxious, and desperate.

Forgive me if I reached that point.

We’ve been talking about this over on popcorntheblog, because contributor Tara Conklin is about to have a book out and we all want to support her as much as we can (and of course, by promoting Tara, we also promote popcorn, which is thus also self-promotion). It feels easy-peasy to support someone close to me, another writer whose work I love–I do it here all the time, after all–but much less easy to swallow and ask everyone to support ME. It makes you wonder which successful writers and artists had a huge hand in their own success and which just got lucky. Someone told me the other day that Cheryl Strayed is a shameless self-promoter. How so? How did this person know? Would Wild have been any less successful if Strayed hadn’t gone to bat for herself? (I loved that book; I think it was worthy of self-promotion.)

Self-promotion is like networking, that other horribly uncomfortable occupation that one must engage in in order to get ahead. My friend Jesse Taggert is an excellent networker. Sometimes I think I should hire her to tell me what to do with my career. She’s the one, for example, who suggested I email the head of Medium just to casually say hi and tell her about my experience with the contest. She’s always got a plan to open a door.

Me networking with a dog.

Me networking with a dog.

Then again, as she said to me before I sent that email, “Take me with a grain of salt. It’s easier to be glib and enthusiastic about others’ actions versus your own.”

Which is, of course, true. I think most of us, at our core, just wish doors would open for us without the need for networking or self-promotion. Unfortunately I don’t think the world really works that way.

Your turn, readers: share your deepest secrets and stories of self-promotion. I am all ears.

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5 Comments

  1. Jesse Taggert (@jtag)

    Think of it this way. There is so much information out there competing for anyone’s attention, it’s your duty to help them learn about you. They can’t find it themselves. And in some way you could say it’s a duty to your writing (talent + hard hard work) to introduce it to the world. It helps to not think of it as “promoting yourself” and more like “promoting your work” and “work” is it’s own being that you steward. You rock, Susie Meserve.

    Reply
    • Susie Meserve

      See, as usual you have managed to get my head in the game in the right way. Excellent points my friend. How much do you charge an hour?

      : )

      Reply
  2. Katie

    Ms. Meserve, I think I know you well enough to say with credibility that you could never in a million years come off as overbearing, obnoxious, or desperate. In fact, I would really like to see you try to act in any of those ways. I’d LOVE to see obnoxious, I DARE you to attempt overbearing, and, well, no one wants to see a good friend desperate. But you get my drift, right?
    Also, to the extent that self-promotion introduces readers to new material, you are directing us to a gift! You wouldn’t beat yourself up for addressing us envelops with lovely cards inside, or drawing us maps to a great destinations, or providing us with recipes to make delicious meals, right? This work you do isn’t about yourself as much as your audience, so please don’t hesitate to share and invite others to share. Your Shunyata story was wonderful and I’m very grateful to have read it.

    Reply
    • Susie Meserve

      Well that’s just a really nice thing to say. Thanks, my friend.

      Reply
  3. Katie

    Oh the typos in my post!! They’re killing me. : (

    Reply

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