Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 2 August 2013

The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion

The British are notoriously rubbish at boasting. 

We don’t like braggarts, and we don’t like to be seen to be bragging. “Pride comes before a fall” and all that.

Sadly, in our business, we’re absolutely required to promote ourselves.

Most publishers don’t spend any money on promoting writers. Adverts are expensive, and there are very few ways to reach mass target audiences any more. In my corner of the sandbox, we’re pretty well required to get word out, about our work, ourselves. That’s what Twitter and FaceBook are for. That’s why writers have blogs. That’s why we have web presences at all.

Of course, this is less true of me than it is of other people, because I write less than other people, and a good proportion of that isn’t represented by my name, so there’s less pressure on me to self-promote than there might be.

On the other hand, if and when I sell my own independent stuff, and my name does appear on books, and I am out in the World, then I will have to do more self-promotion. I will have to take every opportunity I get to do Q&As and interviews and guest blogs, and I will have to work FaceBook and Twitter in ways that I haven’t had to do before, and I will have to have greater discipline when it comes to blogging, and I’ll probably have to keep more of my opinions to myself, too, so that I’m more acceptable to a wider audience.

The husband’s luckier than most, not least because he writes a lot of tie-in fiction, which fans buy, because of the product more often than they buy it because of who's written it. Certainly, he has a following, particularly when it comes to his work for the Black Library, but when he’s writing for Doctor Who or Primeval, for example, the audience is ready and waiting. He also has the advantage of having busy fingers in lots of pies, so he’s as well known for his comic book work for Marvel and DC as he is for his long form fiction for BL or his audio dramas for Doctor Who. He gets about a bit.

The husband and I share a Twitter account, so he also has the advantage of having me tooting his horn, blowing his trumpet, when it comes to promoting his work. He rarely has to promote himself, because I tend to do it for him. He does write about stuff he’s doing on his blog, and he’ll mention events he’s attending, but it’s generally me who says, “Go and buy this”, or “here’s a great review of the other”.

There are a lot of writers on my Twitter feed, so I see lots of examples of how people promote themselves, and, frankly some do it better than others. Some simply give information; some, usually the Americans, are brazen; Lauren Beukes is very inclusive, so she’ll often talk about, for instance, the guy who designs her covers; Sarah Pinborough always manages to be funny, charming and self-deprecating with tweets like, Dear USA. Andy Levy reminded me I have a book out there next week. Buy it and I'll do anything you want!

La Pinborough is, of course, British, and she’s the exception that proves the rule, because it’s generally the British who do less well at self-promotion than do other nationals. Lauren Beukes is South African and her self-promotion is always effective and never offends. Adam Christopher is also good, and he’s a New Zealander.

I saw this, yesterday, from a fellow Brit, and thought it might be improved upon,

Just a friendly reminder that I have...

Too, too odd!

I couldn’t decide whether this sounded too much like an apology or more like some sort of admonition. It sounded a bit passive aggressive to me. Just a friendly reminder that... if you leave your shoes in the hall one more time, I’ll break your neck! Or Just a friendly reminder that I have to work nights and if you wake me up during the day I will tear your head off! Or Just a friendly reminder that the milk in the fridge belongs to ME and is not for general consumption.

Just a friendly reminder... isn’t going to sell books... Is it? 

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Maybe, for some people, saying, Just a friendly reminder that I’ve got a book out that you might want to buy  is enough to get some readers and book buyers salivating. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

In the end, I didn’t really know what to do with this information, or what to think about it, but I did know that, somehow, it was all wrong. There was too much pathos, and the tweet really didn’t make me want to buy the book. I cannot begin to imagine an American writer posting that tweet.

We’ve got to learn to man up and brazen it out. We’ve got to learn to be charming and ballsy with a nod to the self-deprecating and a sweeping gesture of inclusion. We might be British, but we’re also writers, creators of wondrous stories. If we can’t write a convincing tweet, if we can’t self-promote, if we can’t sell, we’ve only done half the job.

There’s still time for me to learn something before it’s my turn to sell books, so I’ll be keeping an eye on Twitter and writers in particular, and I’ll be trying to work out what’s effective and why, and I do hope that the guy who opted for his friendly reminder does the same.

Lauren Beukes, Sarah Pinborough and Adam Christopher,
all very good at self-promotion


  1. I wonder if looking like Brian Cox in that photograph was part of Le Christopher's strategy for selling smart sexy fiction?

    On a more serious note, I am approaching the issue of publicity by trying to talk a little more about myself without going too far. I am hopeful that this will ease me into social media for self-promotion.

  2. I'm finding this so hard! Self-promotion breaks all those social rules for about not blowing your own trumpet/drawing attention/self-aggrandising that we grew up with. I think you make a great argument, and draw on some great examples, for working on it and maybe being more confident about it!