Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Writers Advice: How to Tell the Difference between Promotion & Self-Promotion

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

We hear it all the time. “I can’t do social media. It’s uncomfortable for me to promote myself.” OR, “I can’t send out a newsletter or go on a TV show. It’s self-promotion.”

I have two responses: 
  • 1) Seriously, do you think it’s selfish? 
  • 2) What good is a book on the shelf if you feel you can’t promote it?
Those are my gut reactions, but there are things we need to talk about concerning this. I am no social media guru. But I do spend some time on Facebook and Instagram. I think it’s crucial that we, first and foremost, define self-promotion. There are some who, despite my efforts, will refuse to promote a book. I simply ask that you hear me out before you say nope.

There is a vast difference between promoting a book and self-promotion. The difference lies in how you do the promotion and with what heart you present. I hear some of you saying, tomato to-ma-to, but it’s true. Promoting a book or service, done professionally and kindly, works beautifully and without repercussions. It’s not waving a flag every post, screaming, buy my book, buy my book. You don’t become that annoying kid who keeps on and on. Learning to choose your method of promotion is important, and it’s not hard when you keep these tips in mind.

Insight on Promotion vs. Self-Promotion

Follow the ten-to-one rule: On social media, be kind. Promote others along with your work. For every one post you place on your writing, share or post ten things about others. When you do this, social media becomes social again. You’re developing relationships with others who will return the favor. Promoting your books is not about how many times you can slam social media with your work. It’s how much you can do for others, first and foremost. The rest will follow. 

Develop a launch team: When sharing your work is difficult for you, pull together a team. There are folks who love to share your work (refer to the above). Their mere personality wires them to find joy in sharing things they love. Find those folks, invite them to be a team member, and do something special for them—i.e., a copy of the book via pdf so they can read in advance BEFORE the book releases. This is such a perk for readers who love your work. They get to read your work before everyone else and are super excited to share that news and your story with others. When the book is printed, send them a copy. It’s a wonderful reward, and they’ll write reviews which are so necessary. Your team will post, send out notes, tweet, and do reviews for the joy of reading your work pre-publication. Publishers will provide watermarked PDFs for you to share with a launch team. 

Stop being silly: Ouch! I know that sounds harsh, but here’s the truth. We seem to have no problem promoting photos of our pets licking our cheeks or our babies or grands, but we can’t share photos of our newest release? This puzzles me. The comparison is that folks enjoy a few photos of the dog or baby, but photo overload happens quickly. As the promoter, you must learn to spread these things out strategically. Again, refer to that ten-to-one rule. It’s a great rule. Share your work via book cover rather than shouting, “Look at my book!” Tone it down and say, “Coming soon,” or “Introducing.” These words are crucial to separating professional from irritating. Again, it’s all in how you present things. When you think professionally on every level, you won’t go wrong. How does Hollywood promote movies? They use a trailer. Good idea. Keep them under 30 seconds. In other words, don’t tell the entire story—just give them the hook that makes them want to read your book. You can download free software that helps you make trailers, but these days, there’s usually something on your computer to help you create this. Step up to those radio and television spots. Instead of telling all about you, let readers know what is coming inside this book. It’s all about the item, not the author; this is the mindset you must develop.

Find something unique or useful for your readers: For example, I posted Mountain Trivia weekly as my Appalachian Historical novels began to emerge. These are little tidbits about living in the mountains, the culture, and the oddities of mountain life. Plus, they are usually multiple-choice, so folks get to guess. It’s fun and informational, and it draws folks in. In between times, I replied to everyone who played along. When I visit their pages, I see things that help me build a relationship with them. I can share those things or respond to them. Before you know it, these folks are sharing my information. When I drop in my book, they’re thrilled to see it because they’ve developed a relationship with me. 

The truth is, too much of anything crosses the line from promotion to self-promotion. When we overdo, folks grow tired of the flag-waving, but when we take the time to be intentional about what we share and its frequency, others enjoy the information. 

Let’s look at a comparison:
  • I wrote a book. It goes on sale this week. You have to read this book. Go to Amazon and buy the book.
  • News flash—Newest Appalachian Historical Novel releasing June 2023. This is Where It Ends. The question is, how long do you keep a promise, even if it’s detrimental?
Do you see the difference? 

When you decide to become a writer and to have a book on the shelves, you accept the responsibility of promoting your book. This is part of the job. However, you can be very choosy about how you perform the promotion. I’m about to repeat myself here—but it’s important. Always promote your book professionally and in a kind matter. Be courteous about what and how you share and the frequency. Recruit others to help you. The load then focuses on the work, not on you. 

The success of your work will depend on how intentional and professional you are about promoting it. Change your thought process, and remember, it’s about the work. You’ll soon have a following of folks who love to invite others to read your work, and your thought process changes for the good. Now—promote that book.


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

Featured Image: Photo by Kyle Anderson on Unsplash


  1. Good thoughts, Cindy.

  2. This is really an excellent post, Cindy. Thank you!

  3. Really good, Cindy! We must offer people what they need, because that is what ministry is all about. Seeking God on that is a great way to identify posts that will be helpful to our friends.

  4. Excellent post, Cindy.

  5. This was soooo good! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Oh great. I'm glad it's useful.

  7. Great information, Cindy. This is an area I have a lot of trouble with.

  8. Just be aware. Think professional.