How far would you go to promote yourself and your new book?

imgres If you’ve been to any kind of writing or reading event recently, there’s a good chance you heard someone somewhere talk about the importance of us authors building our  “brand” and developing a “social platform”. In other words, about promoting ourselves by doing author events and using twitter and facebook, and keeping a blog – not sure about  keeping a blog? Hop over to Belinda Pollard’s brilliant site, where she explains why we authors do need to blog and much, much more!
signbookfest The thing is, while I agree in theory with the writing gurus about spreading the word,  I also absolutely believe we writers have a duty to write “with integrity”. Blatantly inviting people to listen to me talk about me and my books, makes me feel as if I’m prostituting myself and it puts that integrity thing into doubt. But then when I feel like this, I remember that self promotion for authors is not new. Far from it.  The great and good writers have been at it for years.  Like who?

url Well, Georges Simenon for a start – you know,  the famous author of the Maigret novels?  In 1927 for 100,000 francs he agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub for a period of 72 hours. Members of the public were to be invited to dicate the theme and name characters and even the title of the novel. It was promoted as a  “record novel: record speed, record endurance and, dare we add, record talent.”  It was the talk of the town. And, even when, in the end,  the event didn’t actually happen, people talked about for decades to come as if it had.


url-1 And then there’s Mr Earnest Hemingway, who sold his name willingly for all sorts and appeared in ads for Ballantine Ale, Pan Am, and Parker Pens.

And John Steinbeck, who also appeared in Ballantine Ale ads.


And Ms Virginia Woolf, who went on a “Beautiful Woman” style shopping expedition with London Vogue’s fashion editor in order to help improve her “image”.

yurt One of oldest records of self promotion dates as far back as 440 BC when writer Herodotus paid for one of his own book tours around the Aegean.

In the 12th century a certain Gerald of Wales invited people to his house for a meal and then  forced them listen to him read  from his latest work for three days!

In the 18th century Grimod de la Reyniere invited his friends to a “funeral supper” which he held to promote his new book “Reflections On Pleasure”. When the friends got to his house, he locked them in a room and hurled abuse at them while others watched from a balcony above. When the visitors were finally released they all ran around telling everyone that La Reyniere was mad and his books sold like hotcakes.

event office In the 19th Century Balzac, in his work “Lost Illusions”,  said that not only was Paris  plastered with posters advertising new releases, it was standard practice to bribe editors and critics with lavish dinners to secure a good review.

In 1887 Guy de Maupassant sent up a hot air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side.

book fest In 1884, Maurice Barrés hired men to wear sandwich boards promoting his literary review, Les Taches d’Encre.

In 1932 Colette created her own line of cosmetics, which flopped.


And in 1885 the famous American poet Walt Whitman wrote his own anonymous reviews:

 “An American bard at last! Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sun-burnt and bearded.”

photo So, you see, even if it sometimes feels wrong, when it comes to self promotion, we writers have to remember that we are in some very good company indeed 🙂

Finally, author Stendhal said in his biography “Memoirs of an Egotist”:

“Great success is not possible without a certain amount of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.”


Do you agree with Stendhal? And, if you are a writer, how far would you go to promote your book? If you are a reader, how much “charlatanism” would you put up with before being put off reading books by an author?


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9 Responses to How far would you go to promote yourself and your new book?

  1. Stendhal was absolutely correct. The public are interested in authors who believe enough in their work to go to great lengths to promote it. I do not feel that an author’s dignity is compromised by this at all; rather, the reverse is true. An author’s dignity is best maintained by success.

    If this was true of the historical authors mentioned above, it is much more so today, with a highly competitive market and hundreds of thousands of writers choosing to self-publish. No one else is going to promote the work of self-publishers, and for such individuals the question is not of whether to promote or not but how most effectively to do so. I would say that the best means are those that will attract most attention.

  2. Thanks very much for your comment. Even though I still feel uncomfortable when I talk about my own books, I agree, we writers must embrace self promotion. Even more so today, and, yes, we have to do whatever it takes to attract the most attention, which does seem to require some barefaced cheek and charlatanism. It’s a bit of a disadvantage if you are not the cheeky type, but there is a lot of good free advice there and nothing ventured, nothing gained etc. So onwards and upwards 🙂 Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Hi Marianne, have been under a rock lately and only just saw this post. Thanks for such a lovely mention. 🙂

    I’m inspired by that funeral supper idea. Just going to check now how many people I can squeeze into my living room… 😉

    • You’re very welcome to the mention, your blog is a fantastic source of advice and support for both experienced and beginner writers and bloggers:)

      I love Walt Whitman “bigging” himself up. Even poets were at it – he he he!

  4. The Grimod de la Reyniere story – I wonder if it’s time for history to repeat itself…. Hmm, I could so see me doing that!

  5. Patricia Parulekar says:

    I laughed when I read this article about artists promoting themselves. Thank you. I have no talent whatsoever. I am therefore an admirer and, most importantly, a fundraiser and buyer. I have no time for hands out for sponsor funds while thinking advertising is dirty, worse, taking money and doing nothing for it. There are artists who are painfully shy or who have mental health issues – another story and they have me in front of them. Your article rightfully pointed out that self-promoters are not alone, and that there are ways (imagine!) to be creative about it.

  6. S.K. Rizzolo says:

    Your entertaining and well written post made me laugh–and it very much speaks to my sensibilities as a person and an author. Oh dear, I’m afraid I am utterly lacking in “barefaced cheek.” And I wholeheartedly agree that we have a duty to write (and present ourselves) with integrity.

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