I have just completed a job application alongside an updated CV (résumé), wincing and gurning the whole way through writing and editing them.
I followed all the usual advice, noted all the ‘power words’ and ‘action words’ I should be using… Although heavens above, I don’t think I can put ‘spearhead’ when a simple ‘lead’ will do. And cannot bring myself to use the terms ‘passion for’ or ‘passionate about’ in a job application. I mean, I care, there are certain work matters I feel strongly about, and I am committed – please, can that not be enough? I am not a pioneering brain surgeon, after all.
Advice on ‘selling yourself’ commonly suggests spending time thinking about your strengths and skills, what makes you unique, stand out… When I do that, I sound like a puppy dog: loyal, reliable…
I don’t think I am alone in finding it hard to promote myself, words of self-praise causing me to squirm, toes curled. Maybe I am afraid of being seen as a narcissist, or of not being liked. As the nineteenth-century French author Pierre-Jules Renard proposed, “Be modest! It is the kind of pride least likely to offend.” Or maybe my concern lies in being unaware, suffering from ‘unconscious incompetence’, as Noel Burch’s Competency Model describes it.
However, if you don’t recognise that state of mind and find it easy to broadcast your hard-won skills and accomplishments, then good for you. Truly. I don’t agree that modesty is a virtue, not if it means underestimating one’s own value, particularly in a work context. And yet…
It comes as no surprise I am not great at promoting my ebooks either. Following my best sales month in December, when I took care to plan promotions, give-aways, and had something new and seasonal out, came my worst month in January. Don’t misunderstand, that ‘best’ month did not mean tons of sales, just a more pleasing number of them than usual and a greater number of KU pages read. Plus a bunch of free give-ways – which remains essential to what I may grandiosely call ‘my strategy’ (ahem).
If I take my hand off the wheel for a moment and do not actively promote, sales and even reads largely melt away like last week’s snow. I believe that to be pretty common unless an author has ‘taken off’ and grown a fan base.
Time, as ever, is one enemy to this continual round of promotion, as is cost – I keep mine low and no-cost in order not to run at a loss. Many would say (entirely reasonably) that with this lack of time and cash investment, I should not be surprised at few or no sales. And honestly, I’m not. I reconciled myself to the fact that self-publishing for me is largely about providing an objective to writing. Doing it as a profitable side hustle would be nice, but would take huge input, on top of the time needed for the writing process itself.
As so much of the literature reminds us though, selling simply means to communicate the value of something, and thus need not have negative associations. In his article The Importance of Selling Yourself: Why everyone is in sales (to a degree), self-improvement author and blogger Steve Handel goes on to note some of the many every-day situations in which we all are marketing ourselves—such as getting a job, or looking for love and friendship, that we are in a continual process of winning others over.
Handel goes on to point out that “The chances are slim that you are just going to be randomly discovered – so you have to put yourself out there and get people’s attention.”
Exactly so. In life as in work. And in book sales.
Ultimately, marketing techniques keep reminding us that we need to ‘believe in the product’. So, with regard both to ‘selling myself’ and writing, do I believe in the ‘products’? Actually I do, yes. An answer that slightly surprises me.
http://www.theemotionmachine.com/the-importance-of-selling-yourself/ on The Emotion Machine blog https://www.theemotionmachine.com/author/stevenhandel/, Steve Handel