Toot! Toot! Tooting Your Own Horn

Luis Arrieta - Tango aDeus
Every performer, by definition, seeks the spotlight. What about the rest of us? Image by Vivadança Festival Internacional Ano 5 via Flickr

If you work for yourself — and even when you work for someone else — you have to do it.

Do you dread it as much as I do?

The world of social media has made it much easier to spread the word, globally, about how fabulous!!!!! you are but sometimes, truly, I wish everyone would just button it!

I visit LinkedIn almost every day and I enjoy seeing what my contacts are up to. I loatheloatheloathe one woman who “updates” there every 13 seconds with work tips to make sure we do not waste even a single hour forgetting who she is. I know, I know, I can’t email her and say “Enough! Stop! You are boring and overbearing and horrible.”

But I’d sure like to.

With my new book out April 14, I have to toot long, loud, clearly, daily and — pardon the appalling biz-speak — across multiple platforms.Why? Because, in the U.S. where I live, 1,500 books are published every single bloody day!

Frankly, I’d rather organize the linen closet, but I did that last week. Or polish my shoes. Or go to a movie. Or make soup.

Yammering on about how amazing I am makes me feel a little ill. But if I don’t stake my claim, every single one of my loud-mouthed competitors will.

And guess who will sell more books? And get a bigger advance on the next book as a result? Not the shy, quiet girl in the corner.

I grew up in Canada, a nation — like the Aussies, Japanese and Swedes, to name a few with similar cultural values — that hates self-promoters and punishes them with the worst possible paddle. They ignore you!

I’ve lived near New York City for 22 years. You want pushy? Babe, we got pushy!

It’s been sadly instructive to watch the relative “Who gives a s–t? my book has been getting in Canada and the fantastic enthusiasm it’s been getting here. Which, and this is basic, is now fodder for more horn-tooting!

In Australia, it’s called tall poppy syndrome, where the highest flower, swaying happily in the summer sun, gets its gorgeous little head lopped off for — being the most visible. In Japan, they hammer down the tallest nail.

Don’t boast! Don’t gloat! Don’t tell people you’ve done some terrific work and people are liking it!

Yeah, be invisible.

There’s a strategy.

How do you reconcile the career-boosting need to tell others about your skills and work accomplishments and being (blessedly and attractively) modest about them?

28 thoughts on “Toot! Toot! Tooting Your Own Horn

  1. Exactly! How do you???

    Modesty is a wonderful character trait but it doesn’t pay the bills and it certainly won’t get you a job. But, I will get drinks bought for you, which probably evens out the field a little.

    1. You just have to! I’ll be posting a long piece in a few days detailing 30 different ways I’ve been promoting “Malled” my new book in the hope it will inspire others and offer some ideas how to do it.

      I find that enthusiasm from others really helps me get out there and make some more calls and emails. I find it really touching when others get excited about my work and if they believe in it, I should too!

  2. Lisa

    I am horrible at self-promotion, but I recognize it has held me back and I’m trying to get better. I am much better at helping others promote themselves, which comes in handy with my husband who is even more modest about his abilities than I am (cultural trait, although born and raised in the States he is Japanese/Korean). Of course, it makes life difficult when both of us need to get out there and sell ourselves. Sigh.

    1. I hear you! Modest attracts modest….my sweetie of 11 years is of Hispanic origin and it’s totally against his cultural grain to beat his chest and roar and remind us all how GREAT he is. The man has a **&^%#@ Pulitzer prize, (for photo editing) which I tell people about as I am so proud of him but he would never tell you that himself.

      He, too, is lovely about telling others about me…
      I am happy to talk about what others do, but I have to shout from the rooftops with a new book because there are so many others shouting more loudly to much wider audiences.

      This book seems to be gaining some serious traction, which makes me feel less uncomfortable doing so after others have said they like it.

  3. Damned if you do – penniless if you don’t. Well, penniless is a bit of stretch. Perhaps you could look at it this way: There are two types of people in the world: Those that promote themselves with nothing to show for it and those that promote themselves with the works they’ve created. (It sounded better in my head.)

    1. I know the frustration of seeing the former far out-earn the latter. There’s a lot of this here in NY!

      Some people are amazingly talented at making sure the right people appreciate what they have done. I often prefer to DO the work than run around talking about it. But without that, it can quickly sink beneath the waves.

  4. I am very uncomfortable bragging about myself. I AM very proud to tell friends and aquaintances about the amazing feedback I have gotten from my first book.
    Many times I have considered not sharing my writings any longer because I don’t get many comments or any when I add to Twitter or FB. Then on occasion someone tells me they have been reading my work and how they liked it!!! So,with a little encouragement I continue to share.
    But I am not good at marketing myself…it makes me uncomfortable.

  5. Thanks for sharing this.

    I suspect many writers, especially, would rather write than talk about it. I know I would….because talking about it means I don’t get anything (new) done!

  6. My take on self promotion is take a deep breath, believe in yourself and go forward in good faith. People tend not give feedback unless it is negative. But I believe they are thinking positive things about you.

    1. Interesting take on it.

      The challenge is finding people sufficiently passionate about the same ideas/issues that they will align with you and promote you, in addition to their agenda. I have been very fortunate, twice so far, to have found three well-placed people influential in their fields and excited about my book and they are sharing the word on my behalf. That sort of authentic and spontaneous endorsement is rare but wonderful.

      I wonder if it’s any accident that all three of them are Canadian, as am I.

  7. I absolutely share your distate for self-promotion. There is something particularly artless in it, but at the same time, I think that refusing to self-promote (as I am apt to do) displays a certain pride which is conducive to future success. I would very much like to read your book though, so you are doing something right. 🙂

  8. Congrats on your new book! April 14? That’s next week! Here’s to a successful launch and fabulous sales!

    I know what you mean–whenever someone boasts too much, I wonder what sort of shortcomings they’re trying to cover. But in the business world you have to self-promote. You’re right–if you’re not willing to do it, your competitors will best you every time.

    Don’t you wish LinkedIn had a way to “hide” people?

  9. It’s a fine distinction! For some people, even talking about yourself and your accomplishments — with genuine pride and excitement — is considered boastful. I figure those who really can’t handle it are envious, and that’s their issue.

  10. Growing up in the Midwest, I have similar feelings about self-promotion. Wanting to work in the arts, though, has forced me to work around my past reservations. I’m still not great at it, but I feel less awkward bringing up past work, my resume, a website or a blog. You just have to do it, especially in an arts-driven career in this city. If you try to be modest, you’ll get left behind.

  11. New York City will certainly force the most shy among us to up our game(s) or get left behind. I am sometimes appalled by how aggressive some people can be. But knowing what they can get out of it…if we don’t, we have to stand back and watch them succeed.

  12. Hey, I don’t know about tooting, am a hermit who goes into hibernation at the thought. Putting up my blog is as far as I can go with bragging. But you’re terribly accurate about the relentless tooters who get ahead doing less and talking more. I enjoy reading your stuff, its fluid, fun and always informative. Glad to have found you.

  13. I also grew up in the Midwest where it is positively *unseemly* to toot your own horn. “Let your works speak for you” was a frequent message. It’s been very hard to shake that, but I’m seeing that it’s imperative if I ever want to sell my stuff. Blogging has been a great way to start, because it’s not so blatant. Now that I know people like my photos and paintings it will be easier to get out there.

    1. So true….The problem with this attitude (which is cultural and regional) is that if you want or need (which some don’t!) national attention or sustained readership, you are competing with people with no such compunctions! Then we are quickly and decisively drowned out.

  14. Oh I do feel for you. In my family, my mother regarded people who ‘put themselves forward’ as on a par with organised crime. In fact, she would probably have found a way to explain any criminal involvement I had, but I don’t think she’d forgive me if she ever caught me boasting. But you DO have a lovely blog where you talk about much more than just your book, so readers are warmly recompensed for a visit. Good Luck! with the promotion for your book, though – hope it goes wonderfully well.

  15. Thanks! You know what a terrible sin it is to BOAST….yet I defy anyone to survive NYC or writing or a recession (let alone all — UGH — three at once) and be able to sit quietly and politely in the corner while others get all the gigs.

    Fingers crossed for the book, on sale tomorrow!!!

    I will be posting two posts specifically about it this week and next, but promise not to beat it to death after that.

  16. I’m not big on verbal horn tootery.

    I suspect there’s a fine art to playing that instrument. Most tooters I know have yet to master it. 🙂

    By the way, sent me an email this week. Your book is finally on it’s way to my doorstep.

  17. Pingback: Stigma Can Hack At Us, But We Don’t Have To Lose Our Heads Over It « A Friend to Yourself

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s