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A “Beginner Self Promoter” recently queried the Toronto Star Urban Etiquette columnist, Ellen Vanstone, with this: 

“I’m trying to drum up publicity for a book. Can I just email everyone I know? Should I do it during the work day, or are evenings and weekends okay? Should I dive right in or talk pleasantries? If I don’t hear back right away, should I send a follow-up email? Should I break the ice by liking all their not-entirely-cute baby pictures on Instagram first?”

Vanstone encouraged “Beginner Self Promoter” to go ahead and promote their talents using social media, which has helped level the playing field for those without pockets full of friends in the sometimes elitist world of publishing: “As long as people can mute, block, snooze, unfriend or unfollow you, it’s never rude to blitz your contacts with whatever message you want to send, on any and all platforms, day or night, repeatedly,” she adds.

But no matter what, writes Vanstone, “keep it honest. Anytime you send an email asking people for something, don’t insult them by candy-coating your opening with pleasantries, or pretending it’s anything but a sales pitch. Dive right in and get to the point.”

Honesty and sincerity always go a long way. Although I’d also add a little footnote to suggest maybe send some individual emails to those whom your closest with rather than one mass group email, which can be easy to glaze over—or ignore entirely. And okay, another footnote about how maybe one or two tweets a day about your book is a good start, unless you’re a Twitter genius and your 10 tweets about your book are all original and fun. Oh, and one more: I, for one, would never follow up with an acquaintance and say: “Hey Ronnie, I notice you haven’t tweeted out a link to my self-published book. When I can expect you to do this?” Last one, I promise. I would never in a million years ask a stranger, including a celebrity, to “read my book” or “check out my blog”. 

I cringed just thinking about it. 

Then again, what do I really know about self promotion? I don't even have business cards.

What I do know is that when people I follow on social media, including friends, tell me to buy their book or see their movie, I’m never annoyed. I applaud them because their achievements have required years of work and dedication. They better be shouting at me to support them. 

What I don’t know how to do is promote my own stuff. Ok, I know how but I just don’t want to tweet out a link to my followers every time I write something. I don’t want to bombard them. I don’t want them to think that I think the content is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I don’t want to spend the day on Twitter arguing with strangers over something I’ve written.. I suppose my self-promotion problem is equal parts a lack of confidence, laziness, over-thinking, and being overly concerned about appearing full of myself.  

One bit of self-promotion I never used to have a problem with was sharing Foodie and the Beast links with my Facebook friends. But I’ve even stopped doing this. (In fact, my mom relied so heavily on those links that she missed five new posts because they didn’t show up in her Facebook feed.) 

Wait a second, and this is just coming to me right now, maybe if I did something big, something out of the ordinary—not a new blog post or a new Jess Files or co-hosting a day here and there, all of which are common enough—then maybe I’d feel like it was an accomplishment worth sharing. Like writing a book, or creating a podcast, or being chosen as the next Indiana Jones. These things would be noteworthy, right? I’d want to self-promote the shit out of that because all of these things would require a lot of work and effort. Using a whip is a lot harder than it looks. 

Enough about me and my fantasies: how do you navigate self-promotion within your social circles? Have you ever been annoyed by a friend’s self-promotion on social media, or have been guilty of being “that person” yourself? 

Tweet at me! Just joking! Oh god!