Never Again Hate Self-Promotion

Self PromotionIf you’re like most people, you’re probably uncomfortable with the idea of “self-promotion.” As a blogger, an author, a public speaker, or a business person, you need to promote your offerings so that people will know about them.

But you’re self-conscious about it. You don’t want to bombard and annoy people, and you don’t feel right tooting your own horn. When you think of self-promotion, you think of people like Paris Hilton or the Kardashians… people who self-promote like crazy, and for what? Nothing of much value, as far as we can tell.

So you’re turned off by self-promotion. Today I want to change that.

After reading this, you should never again feel uncomfortable with “self-promotion.”

There is ONE secret to embracing self-promotion as positive and even enjoyable, and here it is:

You are not promoting your SELF. You are offering a valuable product or service that others need and/or want, and you’re telling them about it so they’ll have an opportunity to benefit from it, if they choose.

That’s it! If you truly understand and accept this truth, then promoting should no longer be an issue for you.

Having an honest belief in the goodness of the product or service you’re providing is the key to being able to promote it effectively.

It comes down to how you look at business as a whole. Businesses exist to provide people with something of value. If you take your business seriously, and run it with integrity, then you are doing something good for the world. There is no shame in telling people about it.

Try taking inventory of the positive things you are providing with your service or product. Entertainment, inspiration, enlightenment, education? What is it? Do you believe in the goodness of it? (If not, then why are you doing it?)

You’re not trying to draw attention to yourself for no reason. You’re offering something of value. But how will people know unless you tell them? Let people know that you have something they might like, and if it’s not for them, they’re free to ignore you.

Your hesitancy to toot your own horn will serve you well. It’ll help you avoid “bombarding” your followers with inane “Buy my book!” tweets. It’ll remind you to keep offering something of value, even as you are promoting. (Free giveaways, extra content, interesting facts or relevant information. Anything you can offer that people might want.)

You may need to lose the phrase “self promotion” altogether. When you can replace “tooting your own horn” with what it really is — “offering something of value” — I think you may find whole new reservoirs of motivation and enthusiasm for it.

What do you dislike about “self promotion”? If you decide to see it differently, will it be any easier?



Never again feel uncomfortable with “self-promotion.” The secret: (Click to Tweet)

An honest belief in your product or service is the key to effective promotion. (Click to Tweet)

Are you turned off by the idea of self-promotion? This post will change that! (Click to Tweet)

You’re not “self promoting,” you’re offering people something of value. (Click to Tweet)


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. […] 2. Share them. It also makes our day when you retweet our tweet about how much we loved your book. It puts a smile on our face when you share a link to our review on Facebook. It’s a win-win situation, really. Your friends and followers get to hear about how great your book is and why they should buy it (but it’s not you saying it–which reduces the self-promotion anxiety). […]

  2. Spring Link Roundup 2013 | Emily M. Akin on April 16, 2013 at 5:15 AM

    […] Never Again Hate Self-Promotion by Rachelle Gardner […]

  3. vps on March 14, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    This blog is amazing. I realy love it!

  4. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on February 25, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Thanks so much for your insight!

  5. fashionandstylepolice on February 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Thanks for the informative post. Learnt a lot of new tips on self promotion.

  6. David Bennett on February 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Knowing and feeling the truth in this is a good guide to knowing whether one believes in one’s product.

  7. […] Never Again Hate Self-Promotion – After reading this, you should never again feel uncomfortable with “self-promotion.” […]

  8. Camille Eide on February 22, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Thanks Rachelle, not only for the reminder to get a more healthy, accurate perspective on us vs. our product, but also for a valuable reminder to check in with our purpose for doing what we do. It serves us well in those times we need a shot of perseverance in what often feels like a long, weary road.

    I hear encouragement to “work hard and persevere” from you and am grateful.Keep it up! God bless you & your calling to guide and encourage writers through all the peaks & valleys of this publishing biz.

  9. Lauren Nicolle Taylor on February 22, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    I’ve just started this whole self-promotion thing and it is a bit over whelming. It’s hard not to feel like you’re badgering your friends to share or like or whatever.

  10. Lauren Nicolle Taylor on February 22, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    Ii’ve just started this whole self-promotion thing and it is a bit over whelming. It’s hard not to feel like you’re badgering your friends to share or like or whatever. 🙂

  11. Brian Henwood on February 21, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Well, you say it yourself Rachelle:
    I must have an honest belief in the goodness of the product.
    It is difficult to think of my prodcut as having value, when it is constantly being rejected time and time again. I realize I must continue to submit despite the rejections; I realize rejections do not mean my work is bad.
    I also realize that if my work (or at least my query) were really good, it wouldn’t be getting rejected.
    If I got a “this sounds great but it’s not what I’m into” from an agent, I might be more encouraged to put myself out there – to really SELL it. But right now, I’m stuck in this “am I any good” mode.
    Maybe that’s what is holding me back.

    • Brian Henwood on February 21, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      Taboo to reply to your own comment. Sorry.
      But…a year ago if you had asked me if my book was as good as I could get it I would have said yes. Since then I’ve tweaked it twice, with some pretty major changes (improvements?).
      So now, if you ask me if my work is as good as it can get, my answer is, I hope not – because no one wants it so far.
      I’m killing myself with indecision and self-doubt. If this is my best effort, and no one wants it, then I’m not going to make it as a writer. I don’t want to face that possibility, so the only alternative is that this is not my best work.
      Therefore, I shouldn’t put it out there for everyone to see. I shouldn’t try to pass it off as Shakespeare if it barely rates a wall in a public bathroom. This is why I have trouble self-promoting. Not because I’m modest or shy – because going full out and getting nothing means I should take up golf.

  12. […] Marketing our books is all about discoverability. Roz Morris talks about how people find new books online, while Rachelle Gardner tells us how to make self-promotion something we love instead of hate. […]

  13. Linda Caddick on February 21, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    I love that last comment – hilarious!

    The difference between authors promoting their books, and businessmen promoting their merchandise is that authors are inextricably connected with their product in a way that businessmen are not. By announcing our great books we cannot help implying that we think we’re great writers (which of course we think we are, otherwise why would we be offering our books?) No one notices the salesman selling the Jaguar.

    I begin to see why writers (like politicians)have to develop extremely thick skins – firstly to survive having their work hacked to pieces by critiques, reviews and rejections, and then being faced with the possibility of public contempt.

    I think this article should be stuck to all our mirrors!

  14. vrabinec on February 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    It’s not that I’m so humble that I don’t want to promote myself, it’s the fear that they’ll all laugh at me like they did that time in the school yard when I told Billy Starzinsky that I had thing for Janice Bonocoursi and he told everyone and they laughed at me. They made fun of me for months. I can’t take that kind of embarassment. I’d rather not say anything and have them come to me, beg me to read my stuff because they heard through osmosis that my writing was awsome. Now, just leave me alone, I want my mommie…:)

  15. Catherine Hudson on February 21, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    Thank you so much! That is great advice. I’ve slowly been losing my attitude about it all, but this mindset will really help. You’re right – they are free to ignore me. But they probably won’t because it is true – I do believe in my product. Thanks!

    My resistance? Time. I want to be there for the people in my life. Self-promotion can be a huge time suck.

    I try to manage it now

  16. Never Again Hate Self-Promotion - Soicalpost on February 21, 2013 at 6:02 AM

    […] post Never Again Hate Self-Promotion appeared first on Rachelle […]

  17. Natalie Sharpston on February 21, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Love how you suggested transforming a weakness into a strength with this advice:
    “Your hesitancy to toot your own horn will serve you well. It’ll help you avoid “bombarding” your followers with inane “Buy my book!” tweets. It’ll remind you to keep offering something of value, even as you are promoting.”

    (Why do I have “This Little Light of Mine” from Sunday School running through my head after reading this post?) 🙂

    Note – for your webmaster – all of the placeholders for the images on this site have a “?”. I thought it was just my Nook, but I’m on my computer at work and am having the same issue. Wondering if the image links are broken… Anyone else seeing this?

    • LC Plaunt on February 26, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      I know it has been days since you asked this question, and your problem may be resolved now, but thought I’d answer anyway. Several earlier commenters also mentioned having trouble with the graphics, on various systems. I’m on Safari on a laptop and not having any trouble with images or graphics at all.

  18. Mercey Valley on February 20, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    I’d never thought of it like that! That the socialites shoving themselves under our noses aren’t offering much of value but WE ARE! I know that sounds dumb, but some things you have to hear back or have said to you plainly 🙂

    One thing did come to mind. Not so long ago people were asking if there should be another name for Traditional Publishing (I didn’t think there should because we ALL know what that is). However, to make ‘self-promotion’ more palatable, should it have a new name, and take the ‘self’ out of it in exchange for something more true and accurate? – or are we our brand?

    Maybe it’s the realization that when we’re self promoting we’re only DOING it ourselves and not actually selling ourselves. It does beg the question of wrong and right ways of doing it.

  19. Peter DeHaan on February 20, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    There’s been more than one blogger whose content I enjoyed reading, but I unsubscribed because they couldn’t stop their endless and too frequent promotions of their awesome book/product/service. They wore me down and I tuned out. I never want to become that person.

    • Mercey Valley on February 20, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      Ditto. That’s the off-putting part… and also goes to show that if what you’re selling is so brilliant, it will sell itself by word of mouth.

  20. Ruth E. Walker on February 20, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    I recently led a 1-hour mini-workshop for 30 writers on ‘Self-promotion Confessions of a Debut Author.’

    Rachelle, you are so right. It is not easy to call attention to our work but it is so important in this crowded marketplace to bring readers to our books.

    Authors today — even best-sellers — benefit from immersing in the promotion of their work. After all the years it takes to finally get here, why would you not want to have others read your book.

    The response to the 1-hour workshop was so strong that I’m offering a full-day workshop later in the spring. Rachelle, may I quote you — copy and share with the participants — your practical and encouraging words?

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 20, 2013 at 11:38 PM


  21. Cyndi on February 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I’m not exactly sure how I arrived here on your post today, but I definitely needed to hear this. And I LOVE your tweetables. That’s brilliant…and helpful! Thank you!

    • Mercey Valley on February 20, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      Tweetables! Yes! Score!!!!

  22. Jessica Snell on February 20, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Seriously, this is brilliant. Thank you!

  23. Prosepasture - Never Again Hate Self-Promotion on February 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    […] post Never Again Hate Self-Promotion appeared first on Rachelle […]

  24. Kathryn Barker on February 20, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Nice fresh re-definition to concept of “self” promotion…thanks, I needed this!

    And keep those “Tweetables” comin’…

    Have a tea-lightful day!

  25. CJ Vermote on February 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Thanks for the great insight/advice. It makes sense. Taking the “self” out of the equation brings strength in my mission to promote my book. It will be published in a couple of months and the promotion part has been a struggle for me. Your advice gives me a sense of accomplishment in my project because I know it is worth the read.

  26. Patti Townley-Covert on February 20, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Because of posts like this, I’m recommending your blog again and again, Rachelle. Great input!

    When I quit trying to promote myself, it completely changed my focus and speaking became sheer joy. It set me free to get passionate about the valuable insights I offer. That shift in focus makes a tremendous difference. It’s not about me–it’s about the distinctives I offer. BTW, I think your “tweetables” is yet another brilliant idea. Thanks!

  27. Ann Averill on February 20, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Thanks so much Rachelle! This was a head game I was losing until your post.

    Of course what I wrote is valuable, or I wouldn’t have felt compelled to share it. I can’t toot my own horn.I’m just another sinner saved by grace, but my product is worthy of tootage because it’s all about grace, invaluable grace.

  28. Peter Frahm on February 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Thanks, Doctor Rachelle. I feel better already!! 😀

    Thanks for another great post.

  29. Dale S. Rogers on February 20, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I heard someone speak about this yesterday. One of her points was: “It’s a sad dog who can’t wag his own tail.”

  30. Minkee Robinson on February 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    It is like you were reading my mind. Self promotion (especially the kind we see in the media today) has always been something I struggled with. I’m not shy, it is not that I have nothing to say, it is a deeper feeling that people will not only ignore what I have to say, but may think less of me for having put it forward. Thank you for giving me a new way to think about promoting my writing to those who are interested instead of worrying about the reaction of those who would never be interested. It is valuable advice for life as well as writing.
    ~Minkee Robinson

  31. Andrea Goodson on February 20, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Great post, Rachelle. I actually love promotions! (Yet I somehow feel the need to back that up with the statement that I am not conceited and don’t enjoy tooting my own horn!) However, it is great fun, especially online. Giveaways, contests, and freebies are the best! I feel a strong sense of satisfaction when I give my readers something for free and they are happy and thankful. I, in turn, am also thankful to them for taking the time to read my work and leave reviews. Self promotion can be a daunting task, but the more fun one adds to it, the less scary it becomes!

    • Mercey Valley on February 20, 2013 at 9:40 PM

      Love it, and so true. When we enjoy something it’s a gift not a chore. Giving ourselves permission to enjoy promoting makes sense because we have enjoyed creating it, so why must be tell ourselves that essentially ‘bragging’ about what has been so much fun should be a bad thing we ‘have’ to do? We GET to do it!! What a cool comment you have made 🙂

      • Andrea Goodson on February 22, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        Thank you! When it comes to anything writing/book related it is enjoyable for me. All day I look forward to connecting and interacting with my readers so “self promotion” is something I greatly appreciate! 🙂 You’re exactly right, it is something we “get” to do, a privilege to be had from long hours of writing something that I hope touches the world and helps others learn as I have from books I’ve enjoyed. 🙂

  32. danni mcgriffith on February 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Thank you from someone who has to lie down and recover every time I tweet something about my blog. (Only a slight exaggeration :D)

  33. Lisa on February 20, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Sorry about that disjointed comment above … as I wanted to mention that I hesitated to add one more day because of the issues of “self-promotion.” Your words were exactly what I was struggling with. My hang up with “being annoying” was clouding my marketing judgment and distracting me from valuing my own work. Thank goodness for my mastermind group and their input, along with the timing of your post this morning!

  34. Kris Underwood on February 20, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Great post! I had a discussion with my friend recently about this topic. She was concerned about sounding conceited and afraid of turning people off. I said the exact same thing as in this post…you are not selling yourself…you’re selling your work, your product, your service. It makes sense!

  35. Lisa on February 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Your timing on this is perfect, as I just had two free days for my book, Impact My Life, and it was way more successful than I anticipated (4488 downloads in 48 hours). I thought about adding one more day, but after seeking counsel from a few others who’ve gone this route, they encouraged me to not do one more free day now, because I need to value my work. I do struggle between what I should give away for free to gain exposure and what I should charge for to show value. So thanks for tackling this today!

    By the way, the graphics on your site won’t load, even after I refresh Firefox. Hmm?

    • Holly Russell on February 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      Glad to know I am not the only one having problems with graphics. And use Safari.

      • Mercey Valley on February 20, 2013 at 11:00 PM

        Yep having problems with graphics, and also with the Twitter linkage… it creates a very weird page. Windows 7.

  36. Linda Aalderink on February 20, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    You rocked it, Rachelle! Thank you for that encouragement/truth today!

  37. Meghan Carver on February 20, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Definitely makes it easier. Thanks, Rachelle.

  38. Susan Bernhardt on February 20, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    This is helpful. A great way of looking at it, providing a service. And if they choose to benefit from it, they can. I love this!

  39. Lisa on February 20, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Perfect encouragement. In the midst of sharing the good things you have to offer, keep giving back to others!

  40. Richard Mabry on February 20, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Thanks for the new perspective. And the “Tweetables” at the end–fantastic idea.
    As always, your posts are pure gold.

  41. Dan Miller on February 20, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    As a little kid I sold sweet corn, Christmas cards and car clean-ups.
    In my early days of business as an adult I sold cars, career training and health club memberships. I know that made it much easier for me to continue “promoting” and “selling” when I became an author. I do believe I have something of value that will inspire and guide the reader – and the testimonials keep me going now. The promoting is not unlike that required to sell any product of value. I’ve always been told that true selling is simply sharing enthusiasm.

    Thanks for framing it so well.

  42. Angela Brown on February 20, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    This is something that I’m working on daily. I’m not the best person when it comes to tooting my own horn though I don’t mind lending a hand to tooting the horn for others, even if it’s just a few tweets 🙂

  43. Anne Love on February 20, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    I love this “truth” because it separates things as they should be and helps the promoter take a more realistic view of things. Great insight, thanks for putting it so succinctly.

  44. jeffo on February 20, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Excellent point, Rachelle. Just as a review or a critique is about the product, not the person (or shouldn’t be, at any rate), the same applies to the promotion. Thanks!

  45. Kathy Heady on February 20, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Your post makes so much sense. I especially like the idea that I am promoting a product for the reader’s enjoyment and maybe something that will give them new ideas. I am providing a service. This is a much better way to think about it for those of us who were brought up not to talk about ourselves.
    And I so much agree with the comment that if you Google yourself and your name doesn’t come up, you have a problem. It is so easy to set up a blog, website, and become involved in on-line writers’ groups to get your name out there.

  46. Jo Murphey on February 20, 2013 at 6:32 AM

    I always looked it at as self promotion. It’s not bragging it’s self promoting. Just like it’s not conceited, it’s confidence. But then I’m a business person too.

  47. Tehila on February 20, 2013 at 4:56 AM

    This is truly encouraging, and truly for me! I have never minded self-promoting on the internet, but for some reason, doing so in person – face to face – is nothing short of excruciating for me.

    The concept that you have provided is immensely helpful to me, as it will remove the pressure, and potential feeling of rejection. I can now view the exercise as promoting someTHING, rather than someONE (me).

    Thank you so much for helping me with an area that I have always struggled to overcome.

    • Kenneth Benton on February 20, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      February 15, 2013

      Acquisitions: Dept.

      Dear Rachelle,

      I’m a retired State of Florida Highway Engineer, and have always wanted to write. So after retiring at the age of 65, and also going on to a writers School. I had my first book Published, this was just over two years ago.

      It was a World War II love story, called, “FDR – A day of infamy, by Kenneth Benton”. It can be found on-line at Barnes and Noble, and also at other great book retailers.

      Now, I have also another great War time love story, on the American Civil War.
      I wish to publish this story also. It is a good read of 9,342 words.

      My Great, Great, Grandfather, is the main character here. He was in that War, as a Southern, Cavalryman.

      Thank you for considering being my Agent.
      I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.


      Kenneth C. Benton
      3496-B North Ventura Village Cir.
      Hernando, Fl. 34442
      Phone 1-352-419-6111


  48. Ernie Zelinski on February 20, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Whatever form of promotion one decides on, it is likely to offend someone sooner or later. But it is also likely to interest many people provided it is done with tact and class.

    Here are some quotations that relate to promotion and why we must all do some:

    “Nothing sells by itself.”
    — Ellen Chodosh

    “Every child should be
    placed on a doorstep to
    sell something. It’s the
    best possible training
    for life.”
    — Robert Morley

    “The shortest and best way
    to make your fortune is to
    let people see clearly that
    it is in their interests to
    promote yours.”
    — Jean de La Bruyére

    “Everyone lives by selling
    something, whatever be his
    right to it.”
    — Robert Louis Stevenson

    In short, promotion is the mother — father, grandmother, aunt, and uncle too — of extraordinary success attained with any product or service, including books.

    Strictly from a business point of view, it’s not creative unless it sells! A creative product or service gets you to first base only; creative promotion of the product gets you all the way to home plate.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Ernie Zelinski on February 20, 2013 at 5:31 AM

      One more great quotation from the man who calls himself “The Name Tag Guy” and wears a name tag 24/7:

      “If someone types in your name
      into Google and you don’t show
      up, you have a problem.”
      — Scott Ginsberg

      • Kris Underwood on February 20, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        That is a great quote!

  49. Charise Olson on February 20, 2013 at 3:04 AM

    This is such a critical reframing tool. I’d add, if it still feels bad then to break that down because maybe it isn’t that the author hates self promotion. Maybe it’s a certain element of promotion (eg technology, public speaking, meeting new people) and that is the thing to work on.

    Good post!

  50. Zion Amal Rafeeq on February 20, 2013 at 2:23 AM

    Thanks a lot for sharing Rachel.
    You are always good at delivering great content to your readers.
    Congrats! 🙂

  51. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on February 20, 2013 at 1:38 AM

    That’s really an excellent approach – thank you!

    Self-promotion has been hard for me because previous work experience has required me to be the “grey man”; being able to disappear in the smallest crowd , or to be eminently forgettable, was an important job skill.

    Making the transition is difficult.

    It’s not that I don’t feel worthy, either as a person or in representing my book. Quite the contrary. I think that both I and my work have a lot to offer. It’s simply habit.

  52. Saqib Hussain on February 20, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    As always, some great insight. Thanks. As an aspiring (finally) writer to be published, I find your take on the marketing and promotion aspects very encouraging and helpful.

    Keep rocking.