Promoting Yourself with Nothing to Promote III: Roadblocks

Part of the problem with promoting yourself–whether or not you have a finished book–is the slew of roadblocks that make promo a pain.

On Wednesdays this month, we’re talking about promoting your unfinished novel. In case you missed the first two posts, here are the links:

I’m sure every author has their own promo headaches. Here are mine.

Time Management

Actually, I struggle in general with time management. But nowhere as bad as when it comes to promotion. Part of that is because promo can be so fun! It’s very validating to line up my social media messages and watch the view count on my website grow. And then I spend half my time checking and rechecking the stats … (Ooo, how many people retweeted that?)

Whether or not you’re addicted to promo like I am, the fact is, promo takes time. Time you could be spending writing.

One helpful tool is to use social media schedulers to automate the updates you send to your social media accounts: programs like Hootsuite, Buffer, etc. For WordPress users, I’m particularly fond of CoSchedule.

One thing I learned from my short stint as a freelance writer was that, in the beginning, you can expect to spend 50 to 75% of your time marketing yourself. After you’ve established a steady clientele, you’ll spend more of your time on actual writing and less on marketing–though if you want to guarantee future work assignments, your marketing should never go away entirely.

I’ll be really curious to find out if the same holds true for novel writing–if I’ll eventually reach a tipping point where I have enough followers to guarantee sales on new releases, and I can concentrate more on writing and less on marketing. (Hey, you well-established authors, care to weigh in on that?)

Learning Curves

Another pain about promo is the learning curve and the continuing education. When you first learn that you have to do your own promo, you can feel a bit like a deer in the headlights.

Start a website? Okay! How?

Get on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and/or Google+? Okay! How?

Get business cards and bookmarks? Okay! How?

If that weren’t bad enough … not all sources agree when it comes to that all-important “How?” That’s because there are so many options out there, and everyone has their own preferred method. All you can do is wade in, feel your way forward, and eventually develop your own preferred method. It takes a bit of moxie just to get started.

But even after you’ve learned the ropes, you’re not done learning. Self-publishing is a new field; the Internet and social media are still new fields. Everything is in a state of constant flux, and what was best practice a year ago may already be outdated now.

That puts the self-publishing author in the position of having to enroll in continuing education, listening to the newest trends and seeing what the Jonses are up to. I happen to think that’s fun, but other people would call that a royal pain.

When to Say “No”

Finally, another challenge the indie author faces is when to say “no” to a particular promotional opportunity. Not everything that shines is gold. And maybe you’d rather make your fortune in oil, anyway.

To get the most bang for your buck, you have to decide whether any given promotional opportunity is worth your time or money, and whether it’s a good fit for your particular style. (More on that next week.)

Maybe someone puts a shout-out for guest posters. Great! You jump at the chance. But wait–Does this blogger have a big enough following to make it worth your time? Does he or she write for the same audience as you do? If the blog is small or if they write for a different audience, you might be better off saying no–unless you just want to support that blogger. (Nothing wrong with being nice!)

You might also try a particular social media platform, only to find it’s not gaining you the results you expected. (Lookin’ at you, Facebook.)

Keeping abreast of marketing trends and advice can help you avoid wasted effort–but in the end, it’s a well-seasoned stew of personal experiences that will prove the most nourishing.


I never said marketing your unfinished novel would be easy. It’s kind of like a beast you have to learn to control–lest it control you. But nothing beats the thrill of watching your following grow. And if you hate marketing that much … I understand that virtual assistants for authors are gaining popularity. Actually, if I fail as an author, that’s probably what I’ll do …

This series on promoting your unfinished novel continues next Wednesday with a discussion on specific promo techniques for you to try, including some unconventional ideas I’m currently experimenting with. Hope to see you there! If you like what you’re reading here, feel free to give our subscription a try!

In the meantime, here’s something for you to brag about: What’s your favorite part about promo? Okay, what’s your least favorite part about promo? Leave your answer in the comments!

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