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

by Meg Dowell (originally posted on

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.

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