Marketing for Poets & Writers Who Prefer Writing or How Not To End Up in a Leisure Suit with an Author Nametag

Since I wrote about the new Facebook Author Page last week, I thought I'd talk about the internal battle I have with the word "marketing" and how I've come to reconcile it.

First, I'll be honest here-- I would prefer to just write and have nothing to do with promotion...well, except for the postcards.  I love postcards.

In my best world, I live in a small house on the water where I write.  My book sales have paid for my mortgage and royalty checks afford me a housekeeper named Antonio Banderas and enough money so to buy prosciutto and not "prosciutto ends" which are half the price, but also the grab bag of the meat department.

In my best world, I live simply, but also always wear matching lingerie and refer to myself as Coco.  Okay, that's not part of the dream (well, the Coco part isn't).

But so far, this has not happened.  I have learned that as a poet, part of my job is helping to get my book out and into the hands of readers because it's not just about me, it's also about this incredible publisher (White Pine Press) who supported me and my work.  The Capricorn part of me doesn't want to let them down.

So here's a few ideas for how to market and promote your book without feeling as if you constantly have to wear your "Author" nametag (which you don't, because that's weird and creepy).

1)  Choose an anti-role model--

This was a huge breakthrough for me.  While there really wasn't a poet or writer who I thought "did it exactly right" or how I'd like to do it, I sure knew what I didn't like--

I didn't want to be like the poet approached me with his chapbook peeking out of his shirt pocket.

I didn't want to be like the guy who wore a nametag that said Author next to an image of his book cover, who when I asked, "Oh, did you just come from a reading?" said, "No." (See, weird and creepy.)

I didn't want to be like the writer who decided she was going to create "a huge fan base" before she actually wrote or completed something.

I didn't want an author photo of me holding a wine spritzer wearing a fancy pin.

I didn't want anything that bordered on my idea of *cccchhhheeeeessssyyyyy* (definition of cheesy: Cheap, unpleasant, or blatantly inauthentic.)

Once I chose an anti-role model, every time I started to do something that felt as if I wasn't following my own values, inner style and it felt more like something that would be done by him/her, I knew not to do it.

2.  Change your vocabulary.  Instead of marketing think share.  Instead of promotion think celebrate.

This was also helpful to me as a huge fear of mine is to be seen as a "shameless self-promoter" (see #1).  I battle with this fear a lot. I don't want to let down my publisher, but I also do not want to feel as if I'm wearing a leisure suit and calling myself Larry.

But if I change the way I think about this part of the job in my head and get rid of the words I have put a negative association with such as marketing & promotion, I can actually do this.

For example, if someone said to me, "You must market your book to your friends and family," I'd say Screw you.  Okay, I wouldn't actually say "screw," but I'd say no.  However, if someone said, "Could you let your friends & family know that your book is out?"  I'd say, Sure.  Letting someone know my book is out to me falls under "sharing" and talking and conversations are things I do pretty well.

Would I create a promotional event highlighting myself and my book?  Never.

But would I have a party at my home for all my best friends where we dressed up like different versions of Emily Dickinson (there were 3 Biker Dickinsons & one Grunge Dickinson), drank wine and ate good food, so I could thank them for their support of me as a poet as I wrote this book?  Check. Check. Check.

Many Emilys

 3.  Do what you love to do, but in regards to the promotion your book.

I like to send postcards and to laminate things.  I like Emily Dickinson, bookmarks, and old keys.  Since my book was titled, Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room I used all of these to let people know about my book.

My book with the Emily Dickinson bookmark I made.

4.  Remind Yourself It's Okay to Make Mistakes in Your Attempt to Find the Right Balance for Yourself

As Dr. Seuss says in Oh, The Places You'll Go: I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you. You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch...

If you do something that makes you feel as if you've put on the leisure suit, learn from it and don't do it again.  

Or if you feel you were so excited about book that you completely "overshared" (aka Became a Shameless Self-Promoter), then lay low for awhile, take off your author name tag and go to the beach.  It's okay.  People forget and forgive.  

To many of us who have just be writers, this public world can feel strange and uncomfortable.  
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And since many of us are introverts, it can feel as if we're having to do a dance no one ever taught us.  And that's okay too.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Just remember to have fun...


  1. I love this! Thank you. Helps me think about it all better.

  2. Thanks for this, Kelli. Am feeling constantly like I both need to be promoting the new book more, and the hesitation about doing anything at all.

    Like Aimee Mann says, "Sugar-coated, self-promoted..."

  3. I totally enjoyed reading this post, Kelli. You should write a book about the Anti-Author (Larry Leisure Suit).

    I love your bold and forthright style ("I like to send postcards and to laminate things.").

    Also, thanks for reminding me about it being okay to end up in a "prickly perch." Or to be caught in the snide!!! I hereby am no longer afraid to be caught in the snide.

    Your ED Costume Party was not marketing. It was definitely celebrating and sharing, though. Thanks for taking the bad juju out of the dreaded M word (marketing).

  4. I don't see what's wrong with shameless self-promoting. If it's shameless then it's without shame and the idea of "sharing" sounds like A.A. and makes me cringe. I wish writers would get over the "shame" of loving and promoting their own work. As you write here, no one is going to do it for us.



Post a Comment

Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.