by Steven Lewis, @Rule17
Promoting my blog and my books has required me to re-educate myself. It hasn't been easy to unprogram a lifetime's teaching. Only the other day my wife took me aside after I was asked how sales of my new book Hot Silver - Riding the Indian Pacific were going.
"I'm no Bill Bryson," I'd said.
With a stern look she pointed out that I was number three in the Amazon bestseller list for my category. Why on earth didn't I tell people that, she asked. Well now I have and that's what I'm learning to do with my blog as well.
Taleist runs under the slogan "Helping writers become published authors". It's true, that's what the site is about, but it seems wrong to shout about it. I was a long time before I put the tagline up.
The truth is that nice bloggers don't get the reader. You have to talk about your virtues and strengths. You need to tell people what your site is good at because you can't count on them investing the energy in finding out themselves. You need to back yourself, to become your cheering section.
Certainly word-of-mouth is crucial, especially people using their social networks to share your content. But you set the tone. Your self-belief leads others to believe in you.
The trick is to find the line between confident and obnoxious. Whatever our cultural background there is a line between someone we admire for his or her self-confidence and someone whose arrogance grates. That line is in a different place for everyone so you're also going to have to grow a thick enough skin to cope with that.
You won't be loved by everybody but it's better to loved passionately by a few than to be a source of indifference to many.
Some of the things I've learned to do to promote myself assertively are:
To have an elevator pitch. As well as "helping writers become self-published authors" Taleist is “well-regarded internationally by self-publishers”. Both these statements are true but previously I wouldn't have said them out loud, I'd have hoped someone else would say it or you'd find it out some other way. Having those phrases ready in the wings means I don't need as much mental energy to say them out loud when the opportunity arises. (Note I still won't say I'm helping authors or well-regarded.)
To use testimonials. I'm lucky enough to have found some credible people who like what I'm doing. When they say something nice about the site/the books/me, I ask to use their words. That way I don't have to assert these things myself and it doesn't look like I'm the only person who thinks I'm useful or I write well.
To ask for what I want. No reader is as committed as the reader who has subscribed to your blog by email. I work hard to build my subscriber list, including having a pop-up window that appears on the site and asks visitors to sign up. Many people instinctively recoil at the idea of these windows. Me, too! How obnoxious they are. But they work: I've had triple digit percentage growth in my mailing list since introducing them. If you don't ask, you don't get.
I haven't got all the answers and there are things I still need to work on. I think Copyblogger is essential reading, for instance, but sometimes I find their tone relentless and their content contrived. Their success suggests, however, that they're onto something!
Most of all, after writing for newspapers and magazines for 15 years and having seven books on Amazon, I'm surely entitled to say "writer" when asked what I do. So why can't I? Yet.
Steven Lewis writes the Taleist self-publishing blog, where you can sign-up for his social media check-up, a free email course showing you easy ways to make sure you're using social media to maximum effect in promoting your books.