Book Promotion as a Public Service

by | Aug 19, 2019

By Sandra Beckwith

In response to a recent article on my book marketing blog, a reader commented, “Blowing my own horn, so to speak, has never been in my nature.”

I had to think about this for a moment to truly understand it.

From my perspective, “blowing your own horn” would look something like this: “I’m the best. I’m the greatest. There’s nobody better than me. Look at how great I am.”

Of course you wouldn’t do that – and neither would this woman. It’s a great way to turn people off. And, what’s more, it has nothing to do with your book.

And that’s a key point.

Book promotion is exactly that: Promotion of your book. If you were promoting yourself, it would be called “self promotion” or “author promotion.” So, when you tell people about your book, you’re not “blowing your own horn.” You’re sharing information about your book.

It’s not about you

Making this mental shift from “it’s about me” to “it’s about my book” is essential. Most of us struggle to brag about ourselves. (And baby boomer women were raised to think that behavior is tacky and inappropriate.)

When you see that you’re not talking about yourself, you’re talking about a book that people need or want, you can start to understand what you should be doing. Most people write a book to:

  • Educate
  • Entertain
  • Inform
  • Enlighten
  • Influence
  • Inspire
  • Preach
  • Impress

You won’t do any of that if the people you wrote it for don’t know about it. It’s up to you to help them discover your book. Discovery is the whole point of book promotion.

You’re providing a public service

You’re actually providing a public service when you do what it takes to get the word out about your book. That might sound like a stretch, but think about it. How can you educate, entertain, or influence anyone with your book if nobody knows about it?

It’s up to you to loop them in.

But do it in a way that’s comfortable for both you and the people you’re trying to reach. If you’re a gentle soul, then reach out gently, in your own way. If you tend to be hard-charging and aggressive, then we’d be surprised if you didn’t approach book promotion the same way (whether we like it or not).

What’s your style?

We all have our own comfort level when it comes to the claims we make about our books. While some might be comfortable saying that their book could be the next National Book Award winner, others prefer to leave the superlatives to others.

One area where this comes into play is with best-seller status. Many authors lay claim to “Amazon best-seller” status. They can do this legitimately, even without telling others that it was actually an “Amazon category best-seller” in an extremely niche category with just a handful of books for competition.

You might be comfortable claiming best-seller status in that situation. Some might not be. In fact, while a couple of books I co-authored were category best-sellers for a nano-second each, I’m not comfortable labeling myself as a “best-selling author.” I know and respect many authors who do this and that’s fine. It’s just not how I roll.

And that’s what I’m referring to when I talk about knowing your style. It’s about what you’re comfortable doing and saying.

Focus on the book

Always remember that your goal is to help or entertain people with your book. Because it’s your responsibility to help them discover your book, you need to find a way to talk about it that works for you.

Consider developing key messages about the book to communicate in interviews and on social media. Practice deflecting back to the book when a podcast host says, “Tell us about yourself.” (A good way to respond to that is to say, “I wrote the book because . . . . ”)

If you’re uncomfortable putting yourself out there in the name of book promotion, just remember to keep your focus on the book. Remind yourself that it’s not about you. It’s about the book.

If you’re like most authors, you’re enormously proud of the book you’ve produced. Let that pride energize you and give you the courage to step out and make sure the people who will love your book learn about it.

It’s an individual choice; there’s no right or wrong. As you move forward and assess outcomes, you might find that you need to put a little more zip into your promotion or that you might need to tone it down a bit.

But letting people know how they’ll benefit from reading your book? That’s never the wrong thing to do. It’s a public service.

Where do you stand on blowing your own horn? What are you comfortable doing for your book — and not doing?
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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  1. Sandra Beckwith

    Thanks, Ernie. I’ll have to remember that Whitman quote.

    I think a lot of us in the business are jaded now about that “international best-seller” status claim, and readers are starting to join us. They aren’t seeing these titles on the NY Times list, etc.


  2. Sandra Beckwith

    You’re so right about perspective, Mark, and just a tweak can make a big difference.

    Thanks for sharing the link. Hopefully, that will help more authors!


  3. Mark Schultz

    Good post! Perspective is very important. I will share this widely. I will add a link to this post from my website also, my “Highly Regarded Blogs” page. I hope that is okay with you.

  4. Ernie Zelinski

    I follow these words of wisdom.

    “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”
    — Walt Whitman

    Having said that, I would never call myself an “Amazon bestselling author” because that would cheapen my name big time. On Facebook you may encounter a guy promoting his book and programs. Go to his link and he claims that his book is a “Amazon #1 International Best-Selling Book” Really, what the heck does this mean? Go figure: I did a check on the industry book sales reporting program and found that the print edition of that book sold a total of 153 copies in US bookstores and on I can give a lot more examples of phony people like him who are using the term “Amazon Bestseller” and their books have sold only a total of 100 or 200 or only 500 copies.

    On the other hand, I have no problem calling two of my books still in print “International Bestsellers’ given that one of them has now sold over 310,000 copies worldwide and the other one has now sold over 400,000 copies worldwide. I will only call any of my books an “International Bestseller” if it has sold over 100,000 copies in its print edition. In fact, I have a third book that I can call an “International Bestseller” but it is now out of print and had sold only 110,000 copies worldwide.



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