by Alice Osborn

I recently gave an online blogging class and on the evaluation form I was told “instructor (meaning me) used too much self promotion.” Too much? I thought back to what I did and yes, I did have a signature tag for my e-report on blogging and yes, I did mention I was giving a free blogging chat that week for the site, but was there more?  This negative eval also prompted me to remember that I hear “Alice, I see you everywhere,” a lot. These comments made me think: am I promoting myself too much?

I say no. If you want to be a successful artist in any capacity: recording, literary or visual you have to promote yourself or no one will know who you are. You did to develop a following and fans. If not, no one will attend your showings or gigs; they won’t buy your books. The same goes for a blog: if you spend all of your time writing a blog and then don’t get others to follow you by promoting it, you’ve lost a lot of time and energy. Let’s look at John Denver’s self promotional success.

I grew up with John Denver’s music and later learned how much he had to self promote to get his recording contract with RCA extended. He had a hit song recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” to get his foot in the door, but after that he had to pass out flyers and play for free to get gigs and radio spots in town after town. Eventually his hard work and amazing talent won out and he became one of the most popular and ubiquitous artists of the 1970s.

By developing a solid fan base, some of whom followed Denver throughout his career, he sold out shows and became a best-selling recording artist. As a full time writer/editor/poet/speaker/teacher/entrepreneur I make my living by letting others know what I do. I don’t over-promote by sending out a full length newsletter every day, nor to I send out invites to my events over consecutive days, but I do let folks  know what I’m doing on a regular basis via my channels: blog, social media and eNewsletter.

I do feel comfortable talking about myself and my business in a healthy way. By that I mean I have a quality bio prepared, along with a professional headshot should anyone ask for it. I also make sure I always have business cards on me, and can give a 10-second talk about what I do when prompted. Here goes: “I am a writer who helps passionate writers market their work and become better business people. I also help business people become writers.”

This eval mentioned above did remind me about what my family thought of my self-promoting nature when I was a kid. Coming from their generation (pre Baby Boomers, both born in late 1930s), my parents didn’t think it was proper to brag about yourself; you should let others do it for you, except my mother didn’t like it when her friends and our neighbors told her she had a really great daughter in front of me. She was afraid I’d get a “swelled head.” This tack actually made me a praise-hound and needy for attention (or perhaps I was always needy for attention?) and did make me comfortable promoting myself later in life. I can only imagine what my mom would have gone through had I grown up with Facebook and YouTube!

But to my mother’s point: should you only let others talk about you? Yes and no—I feel you can guide what others say about you, although ultimately you have to be in charge of your business and not give up control. It’s necessary to be clear with your intentions and my intentions are to use my writing gifts to help others succeed. I have found that having friends who are influencers talk about you is also a strong way to promote your brand. I always make it easy for these friends by giving them the exact links and write-ups I want them to promote. And I also make sure that I spend time promoting their work as well.

Yes, it’s probably too much self promotion if you are sending too many emails during the week or blog promotions or not giving content that’s worthy. I also see folks heading into too much self promotion when they don’t give back in social media. Do you congratulate your friends on Facebook when they garner a publication or an award? Do you comment on their links? Do you ask them meaningful questions and/or add value to their blog? It’s also important is to create an eNewsletter that’s not all self promotion. Instead list tips, contests, recipes, “pet of the month,” cool facts and be liberal with cross-posting your colleagues’ events and workshops.

So, friends, keep self promoting and growing your business!

Your Turn:  How do you self promote and what challenges have you faced with marketing yourself?

Alice Osborn, M.A. is the author of three books of poetry, After the Steaming Stops (Main Street Rag, 2012), Unfinished Projects (Main Street Rag, 2010) and Right Lane Ends (Catawba, 2006); she is a manuscript editor, successful blogger and humorous speaker. Alice teaches creative writing all over the country where she uses sensory images and road-tested prompts to stimulate her students’ best work. Her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two children. Visit her website at

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