Are you an author or an ego-maniac? A true author loves to write. He doesn’t mind locking himself in a room by himself to pump out words for hours. While he may be willing to go out and promote his book, he will have a tendency to complain about how the time spent marketing a book is taking away from his time to write. By comparison, the ego-maniac will whip out a book, think it’s brilliant, spend little time polishing it, and then go out and promote it to the world, expecting everyone to be in awe of him. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I have seen ego-maniac authors who are clueless about how to market their books in a professional manner without their egos getting in the way.
What do I mean by ego-maniac in relation to these authors? I mean these authors go out of their way to pat themselves on the back and let everyone know how wonderful they are. While an author needs to get the word out about his or her book, and it is necessary to make clear why the book is worth reading, sometimes self-promotion can go overboard. Following are a few examples of when authors let their egos go overboard and alternative ways to get a book’s message across to entice readers.
Book Covers That Praise
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen, usually self-published, books where the back cover sings the author’s praises. I’ve seen phrases like, “Every sentence sparkles with wit,” “Joe’s rollicking storytelling technique is one-of-a-kind” and “Mary has written the quintessential book on….” When I see such praise on the back cover, I’m usually turned off right away because I suspect the author wrote the words him- or herself. Such phrases are also usually part of a couple of paragraphs about the book that are not well-written-another clue the author has no idea how to promote a book, and perhaps not even a clue how to write one.
Of course, you want the book cover to entice people to buy the book, but you should limit the book description to a simple description of what the book is about-either the plot or what information the book contains that will be valuable to readers. Save the praise for testimonials written by other authors or experts on your topic. A simple rule of thumb here is: Don’t praise yourself. Let others praise you.
Interior Book Praise
I’ve seen the same ego problem in the pages of the book itself. I can’t tell you how many self-help books out there are written by authors who use writing their book as their primary example for how people can achieve these goals. These authors are patting themselves on the back for completing writing a book while they are still writing the book. A better model would be to achieve any other significant goal and then write a book about it. Then you have an experience to write about. Otherwise, it feels like the blind leading the blind, with the author struggling for ways to prove he has something worth saying.
I also get turned off by introductions where the author says such things as, “In this book, I will share my secrets for success which I developed by myself and no one else has ever come up with before.” Really? It’s been years since I saw a self-help book with new information. That’s not to say that self-help books are not helpful or that people should stop writing them. It just means that when you tell people how great your book is and that it’s better than other books, you’re putting yourself on a pedestal from which you’re likely to fall. The truth when an author says such a thing is that he may have only read a couple of self-help books and his idea wasn’t mentioned in them, so he thinks his idea is revolutionary. Had he really done his homework and read a hundred self-help books, I’m sure he would have found his idea expressed in at least half-a-dozen of them. Remember the saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Before you toot your own horn about your brilliant ideas, make sure they really are original.
Sometimes a book may not have new content, but it can still be extremely helpful. I have no problem with an author saying, “I have written this book in hopes it will help you overcome the obstacles in your life so you can be happier and more successful.” That statement has a touch of humility in it. The author is expressing goodwill toward the reader and offering to be helpful. It is a far cry from other authors who will state such things as, “You will find this book indispensable if you want to succeed in your goals.” Hmm, who gave that author all of life’s secrets? How does he know the reader, who has turned to his book for the answer to a problem, won’t have already learned what the author claims is “indispensable” in his book? Instead, the reader might just add the book to the stack of three dozen other self-help books that all told him what he already learned in the first self-help book he read.
Perhaps what I dislike the most about self-serving authors is when they are called upon to help others but use the situation to toot their own horns. This situation frequently happens when authors are invited to be guests on a TV or radio show where they are asked to give information about writing or publishing. Instead, the author ends up talking about how wonderful his book is rather than providing the information that will help the listeners.
Another self-serving folly I’ve seen is authors who write book reviews or testimonials for other authors as a way to praise their own books. They might say, “This book is great” but then will add in phrases that draw attention to them and their books such as, “When I wrote my book, I wish I’d had this book as a resource” or “While I disagree with the author about this topic, I won’t go into the details, but I direct readers to my own book.” These self-serving manipulative tricks are usually a turn-off to readers rather than a successful marketing strategy.
Toot Your Own Horn by Having Others Toot It For You
As I began saying, authors do need to promote their books. But no one likes an ego-maniac. So what’s an author to do? Find some fellow authors to help you.
Rather than writing on your back cover about how great your book is, ask some other authors to write testimonials for you and do the same for them. People won’t listen when you praise yourself, but they listen when other people praise you. Besides, if your name is on other authors’ back covers as a testimonial, more people are going to see your name than they would if it were only on your book.
Do interviews but don’t talk about yourself. Instead, just send the host your biography and list of accomplishments. A good host will be gracious and introduce you so you sound important and praiseworthy. You don’t need to toot your own horn when the host does it. The host’s listeners will then perk up their ears and pay attention to you and your book. Similarly, if you go to speak somewhere, don’t introduce yourself. Let someone else introduce you and sing your praises.
Finally, a good rule to remember is: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. When you show people you are likeable and human like them, they are going to listen to what you have to share. Think about it. If you want advice on relationships and the person who claims to be able to help you tells you he has a Ph.D. from Harvard, do you really care? But if he tells you he went through a series of bad relationships before finding his wife to whom he’s been happily married for twenty years, and he can tell you how you can also build a lasting relationship, you’re more likely to listen because you can relate to that person.
If you want to be a successful author, don’t strive to be a superstar in people’s eyes. Strive to be a competent and personable person who also writes. Then people will like you and start to toot your horn for you, and who knows, maybe in time, author superstardom will still result. In any case, you’ll find readers who will be more likely to buy your books.