Does Marketing Your Writing Feel Like Prostitution?

by Diane Holmes, Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book, founder of Pitch University.

So there we writers stand, on the virtual street corner with our computers, wearing sexy sweat pants, hawking our books, articles, and “content creation services.”

“Hey, big boy….”

Ack, my eyes, my eyes!


In the world of “writers who market,” there are those who feel sullied by the experience and those who feel empowered.

Marketing for authors is very personal, because we are marketing who we are and what we do.  There’s just no prep for this in school.

Even in Girl Scouts, we’re selling cookies that everyone already knows are delicious and going to the common, non-profit good.  We’re not marketing ourselves.  Just these boxes of treats that everyone loves.

Nope, what society has taught us about marketing ourselves is this: telling people why we’re so special, how skilled we are, and why we’re better than others (marketing, right?) is a sure sign of jerky arrogance, me-me narcissism, or a clear lack of social skills.

Hey, it might even be a sin.  Mike Duran wrote this insightful post called “Dear Author: Is it God’s will for you to sell a lot of books?”  While there are references to Christian writers in this post, the spiritual crisis of “selling yourself” is felt by many, many writers.

The Approach:Marketing As Shameful

In Prostitution: A Self- Published Author’s Guide to Promotion, R. A., Evans says, with a wink,

Your job is to carve out your own street corner to hawk your wares. My advice – wear comfortable shoes..:)

Message = It feels a tad shameful, but you can get good at it.

The Approach: Marketing As Empowerment

In Lynne W. Scanlon’s post, How Low Should You Sink to Shamelessly Market Your Book? Is Author Jeff Pearlman a Prostitute? she applauds Pearlman, saying:

You are doing what every author should do: Exploiting any and all opportunities, while moving steadily away from the minor leagues and into the majors.

Message = It feels empowering, so you should get good at it.

The Official Marketing Aftertaste Test

Which are you?  Sullied or Empowered?  For each of the following, answer either (a) or (b).

(a) My mouth tastes vile, thanks for asking. I think I’ll never be the same.

(b) My mouth tastes sweet, because I’m sharing the love.  

  1. I overheard a woman say she’s a reader, so I told her about my writing and gave her my business card.
  2. I signed up for social media so I can interact with readers and turn them into fans.
  3. I cold-called a bookstore, and asked them to carry my book.
  4. I created a page on my website for my bio and testimonials.
  5. I have copies of my writing with me to hand out or sell at a moment’s notice.
  6. I’m giving lots of public talks to promote my writing services.
  7. I spent 5 minutes telling an interested stranger about what it is that makes my work unique.
  8. I do guest posts on blogs to generate name recognition and promote my writing.
  9. I had large signs made for the side of my car with my writing contact info.
  10. I’ve dedicate part of every week to getting the word out about my writing and why it rocks.

No, This is Not a To-Do List.

That’s what you’re thinking, right?  These are things you should be doing to market your writing?

Heck, no.

Some of these items might work.  Some probably won’t.  And there are more creative and effective ways of marketing than what’s on this list.

But when writers tell each other they HAVE TO MARKET, they talk about stuff like this.

And this gives us something to “taste” when we talk about how marketing feels.  And don’t underestimate feeling.  How you feel about things makes up your experience of life. It’s kind of a big deal.

And here’s the bottom line:   If marketing tastes vile, you’re doing it wrong.

Marketing isn’t prostitution.  It’s not vile.  And over the next few articles in this series, we’re going to find ways of marketing that are effective and feel great.  Because you should feel empowered.  You should freaking love what you do, even when it’s marketing.

Who’s with me?

Diane Holmes Crop 1
Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

She’s the Founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University