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How to Promote Yourself & Your Work With Confidence 📣 ✨
my thoughts on self-promo, advocacy, & practice - welcome back to The Slush Pile!
It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through May and even harder that we’re already on Issue 19 of The Slush Pile! This month, I want to chat about self-promotion in the writing community—yes, it can be icky. Yes, you’ll at some point feel annoying for doing it. Why? For me, oftentimes, when I think of self-promotion, I think of a door-to-door salesman or a celebrity advertising their skincare line. Products that are unnecessary, wasteful, and birthed out of capitalistic greed. But the work we writers do is different and arguably, even necessary. In many cases, what we’re “selling” is actually free, like a piece that you had published in a literary magazine or an open mic you’re performing at. Even if it requires some kind of payment, like a workshop you’re hosting or a book you released, you should be unafraid to let people know all about it. You’re amazing!
Many writers are introverts, including myself. It’s safer to not say anything for fear of feeling rejected or that no one else will care. It’s easier to turn the mic to other people instead of wielding it ourselves, to avoid taking up space, to not offer your work or services, to not be that person ready with the links and business cards. It’s sacreligious to the art, we might think. I’d rather people find my work naturally. Today I want to talk about how to quiet that voice inside yourself that says no one else cares and instead, to promote and be proud of the work you do with confidence. Because whether or not you know it now, you are worth being proud of. You are worth listening to!
What is self-promotion and why is it important?
No matter how old I get, these are the two things I know to be true: we live in a capitalist society and sometimes, we have to play its game. For survival, for visibility, for awareness. Whether or not you’re “known” as a writer doesn't make or break your identity as such, but it can lead to really exciting opportunities to share your work and make a living off your art in different ways, which after all, is the goal. In the same way, self-promo can take different forms too: sharing accomplishments on social media, sending links, setting up an email list or messaging people individually, pitching your services or products, networking, exchanging business cards, sharing a convo with another writer about what you do, attending events, performing. It’s saying “Look at this thing I did!” or “Get your copy of my book today!”, hopefully, of course, without the predatory behavior that inherently comes with marketing.
Even the last section of this newsletter, the only part that stays the same every time, could be considered self-promo because, in a way, I’m offering my writing, services, links, and platforms. I’m not saying to be a walking billboard for yourself and I’m not saying to be relentless; I am saying that if you want a certain thing out of a career, you should be willing to do the work of sharing it with other people.
Of course, there are plenty of writers who don’t have social media presences at all, which many people use to market themselves. I’ll concede that point but even they find ways to promote their work in person (book tours, readings, panels, interviews), not only because that’s how they make their money but also because they’re exceptionally proud of it. Sometimes, that’s reason enough.
Be willing to do the innerwork
Many of us don’t like self-promo out of fear. When I was starting out, I absolutely hated sharing my work because I didn’t want people to think I was “showing off.” I didn’t want to be “annoying” or “overbearing.” Even now, I’m in the habit of undermining and undervaluing my own accomplishments because I don’t want to be perceived as prideful or stuck-up or braggy. I don’t want to be another cog in the capitalist system. I don’t want to be a mean girl in the writing community and was afraid of becoming one.
But the thing is, rarely have I thought that about other people, so why then would we think other people are thinking it about us? Especially in today’s climate, I’d argue that people are much more understanding, kind, and tolerant than we think when it comes to monetary issues or self-promo in general. And even more so, people are SO excited to promote other people’s work. Especially if they’re genuinely doing cool and great things, what’s not to share with our own communities?
For all of us, I think it starts with defining that line between being prideful and being proud, and what it looks like for us. Because part of what makes self-promo authentic rather than tacky or fake is genuinely believing that you have something worthy and beautiful to offer. Especially on social media, people can tell if you don’t believe that.
So in a moment of free time, I recommend sitting with yourself and really thinking about if that’s true for you. Are you confident in yourself? Are you passionate about the work you do? Do you believe you’re worth celebrating? Trust that you have something people want to hear, and the rest will follow.
In her book All About Love, bell hooks debunked the myth that just because someone doesn’t love themselves, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of love. In the same vein, just because you might not feel confident in yourself or your work now doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of celebration or will never become so. You’re amazing just as you are! But it is something to think about and work on if you’re in the mindset to do so. What’s holding you back? What might you want to change? Who is the person you want to become?
Look at what others are doing
As usual with a lot of my advice columns, mostly because I often live by examples, a major step to take is researching and looking around at your community for guidance and inspiration. How are they sharing their services/resources/work and what exactly are they sharing? What language are they using to signify its importance (ex. “I’m so excited to share…” “I’m thrilled to say…” “Huge thank you to…”)? In essence, how are they carrying themselves? I love when people promote their accomplishments in big ways, no matter how small, and go the extra mile of creating fun graphics or designs in a free service like Canva. And if you don’t have a knack for aesthetics? Ask someone for help or just post it anyway! I promise there is someone watching out for you and ready to be proud of you, no matter how you present it.
And perhaps even more importantly, what are people doing when they’re not promoting themselves? In this context, it might seem contradictory to say but so often, I notice people actually have an easier time promoting what they do than simply being themselves, especially online. People get so lost in the weeds of their identity as a writer, endlessly sharing their work and links and books that who they are as a person becomes secondary, and that for me, I’ll admit, is when it can start to get tiring. I would recommend finding that balance between promoting yourself and being a regular person on the Internet so that you’re not doing too much of the former. So what does that mean?
Well, think about who you are outside of writing: your interests, your likes, your passions. For me, I enjoy posting about my everyday life as much as promoting the cool things I’m doing, and I always make sure that I’m doing both equally. You don’t have to share every thought you have every moment of the day (although I know people who do it well and are hilarious) but it’s about finding what you’re comfortable with or even how you could challenge yourself to be more open.
Give back to community
Another way to integrate balance into how you promote yourself as a writer is through the community. To me, this part of the job can and should absolutely be a shared process where the community promotes themselves and others doing good work, who then promote others, and on and on into the beautiful cycle we have today of endlessly lifting each other up. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today without a whole group of people behind me sharing my work, advocating for me, and mentioning me on their own platforms, so it’s only natural that I do the same in return and give back the spotlight.
I love doing this in between my own stuff so my content isn’t just clogged with me but all the amazing writers I know and love. There is so much talent in the world, not just my own, and I always get excited at the chance to show it all off, not only because of how good it feels but also because of how much it’s worth doing. You could be helping sell another copy of your friend’s book or get another pair of eyes on their published piece or just expose them to someone who wouldn’t know them otherwise—and not even know it!
Like anything else, promoting yourself to the public comes with practice and your confidence will only grow with time. I highly recommend practicing with someone you already know and trust, whether in-person or on a call, to introduce yourself and talk about your work in a simple, succinct way that doesn’t overtake the conversation but also doesn’t undermine your accomplishments or humble yourself. Remember, you’re worth being in awe of! In the end, there’s nothing wrong with loving ourselves and others a little more. Because if nothing else, we could use a little more love and light and beauty in the world, and for you to be a part of it.
notes from the writer’s desk ✍️
my favorite recently pub’d pieces:
The Power of a Good TV Theme Song and Why It Matters, Unpublished Magazine
Submissions for my magazine Mag 20/20 are now OPEN for Issue 06! We are looking for writing (all forms), art, music, photography, and hybrid work from creatives 20-29. Until the deadline on July 15th, your work will be considered by an incredible masthead of readers and editors, so be sure to get your submissions in soon. Submit here!
Since January, I’ve been hosting creativity café, an ig live series where i feature, create space, and hold conversation with writers I love and that you should too! The tenth episode will premiere this Saturday and feature special guest writer Emily Wingfield, so head to my Instagram to watch it then. See you there!
STREAMING SERVICE: season two, the sequel to my self-published debut poetry chapbook STREAMING SERVICE: golden shovels made for tv, IS NOW OUT! Digital and signed physical copies are available, as well as the option to bundle both chapbooks and receive a bookmark and sticker with every physical order! Order your copy today! Thank you as always for your support :’)
Looking for book recommendations? Check out my Bookstagram and TikTok to keep up with what I’m reading and loving right now! On TikTok, you’ll also get more snippets of my everyday writing life and lifestyle/fashion content. See you there!
I am now a media mentor for Tectonic Media! If you are a young/aspiring journalist, I am available for consultation and mentorship on a variety of topics. Learn more about my areas of specialty and how we can connect here.
other stories i’m loving 📖
What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri
Bob’s Burgers S9
currently listening to:
“Montana Sky” by the Jonas Brothers
all my love,