8 Highly effective ways NOT to promote YOU

background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash
background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash

There are a number of things I am good at, however, self-promotion is not one of them. Ask any of the people who comment on my posts regularly. Heck, ask pretty much anyone. Chances are they will agree. As a firm believer in the concept that there is always something to learn, some additional skill to master, I rarely consider myself an expert in anything, but if there is one thing I deserve an honorary Ph.D. in, it is in how NOT to self-promote.

So I hope you will sit back and enjoy these tried and true tips from Dr. Potts.

  1. Treat your interests and hobbies like state secrets, better yet, treat them better

Don’t share anything that you do for fun with anyone. When people ask you to tell them a little about yourself, convince yourself that they are only looking for a way to bring the conversation back to what it is they do or what they sell. Stick to the expected script. Only tell them about surface level things such as your day job and never expand upon your hopes, goals, and dreams. Limit your networking to only watching shows on TV.

If you actually let it slip that you enjoying painting, for example, your sibling might call to ask you to help with a mural on a child’s wall. Even worse, someone not related to you might actually make you an offer to be *gulp* paid professionally for your hobby.

2. Keep your smiles to yourself

If you find yourself doing a job that makes you want to smile, bury that joy deep down. If it looks like you are actually having fun performing a task that others view as work those same others might start thinking of additional ways to make you smile. If you aren’t careful, you might just be asked to paint another mural in the not too distant future. Or worse, your connections might just introduce you, and your skills, to their other connections, and what did we just cover about networking in tip number 1.

3. Never accept compliments

That beautiful thing you just created. It was a pure fluke. If it hadn’t been that spasm in your back keeping you from adding additional brush strokes or the sun blinding you at just the right time, you would surely ruin it. It certainly had nothing to do with skill or honed practice. Those are gifts only possessed by the professionals and this was just something you do when you don’t have anything else to do and you got lucky. Make sure you emphasize the word ‘just’ repeatedly. ‘It’s just a hobby.’ ‘I’m just doing it for fun.’ ‘I just got started.’ Deflect, deflect, deflect

4. Destroy the evidence

Be like Tibetan monks and treat your interests like the Sand Mandala. Enjoy your hobbies simply for the moment and then get rid of any trace of evidence the minute the task is over. Under no circumstances should you actually save things in a way that someone might misinterpret as a portfolio or resume. Someone might misinterpret that sort of thing as credibility.

5. Convince yourself that timing needs to be right

Success is all about being in the right place and the right time. If you can just be patient enough to wait for that perfect time to call yourself a qualified expert, your name is bound to be in the headlines. The fact that those headlines may be in the obituary section is only a minor detail.

6. Never publicize your accomplishments or other interests on social media

That’s the sort of information that can be used against you. The next thing you know, you will be hit by all sorts of spam bots showing advertising for products you actually might be interested in buying, classes that might help you hone those skills, or even worse. What if some stranger actually contacted you about your not-so-secret skills with genuine interest? Didn’t your parents always tell you not to talk to strangers?

7. Don’t treat yourself as a boss or your hobby as a business

They say that the day you start doing what you love, you will never work another day in your life. Do you really want to put yourself out of work?

8. Associate your self-worth with the success of your business or product

Never remind yourself that even the most valued companies have product flops. A failure today is proof that you could fail tomorrow.


But… a failure today at least means you tried, and that you is worthy of promotion.

And the winner is…

Back in October I decided to terminate my agreement with my publishing channel. While this decision will provide me with greater creative control of my existing work, it also presented a major challenge in that I did not own the rights to my original cover design. I was going to have to address this as books don’t tend to sell without covers no matter how many times we are told not to judge them.

I reviewed my options:

  1. Sit back and sell nothing waiting for a big time publisher to sweep me off my feet and offer to pay for everything. Because that’s how it works, right…
  2. Do it myself with Photoshop and hope that the casual viewer doesn’t notice the rough edge where I accidentally erased out too many pixels, but hey it is only the cost of a stock photo license!
  3. Purchase a ready-made cover that might possibly, sorta, kinda, maybe represent a scene or theme from my book. Although, if I find a pre-made cover not requiring a full-page of explanation, does that mean the content of my work is so cliché that a suitable cover is on standby? Does that really matter? This option would be shoestring budget friendly. Meaning I could afford to actually do additional marketing with said cover.
  4. Hire a professional hoping that with my limited experience I’m able to identify someone capable of reading my mind in 2-4 tries (and in as many weeks or less) well enough to produce a cover that not only do I like, but readers do as well. Because if reader’s don’t, I just bought myself a nice new decoration for my shelf and little else.
  5. Launch a design contest and throw myself on the mercy of designers, some amateurs playing with Photoshop, some seasoned veterans, but all as hungry to distinguish themselves as I am. Sure, it could potentially cost more than hiring a single professional, but I’d have the one thing I was looking for when I started down this whole road – more choice (and a money back guarantee).

I thought long and hard about my options. It seemed that every 4th tweet that crossed my feed was “Bad Cover = Bad Sales!” No pressure!

After my eyes had gone blurry from viewing pages and pages of images and designer portfolios, I ultimately designed to bite the bullet and launched the design contest (I chose 99designs.com). Entries began to roll in. A few of the early designs looked similar to my Photoshop mock-ups. I felt justified. Talented even (I refused to worry that I made the wrong decision). I began to think maybe if this whole writing thing didn’t work out I could earn some spare change selling my own pre-made covers.

Additional entries started to roll in, and wow! I thought to myself, what an interesting idea – I wouldn’t have considered doing that! Now I understand what separates my Photoshop dabblings from experienced professionals. Keep them coming. In the words of my 2yo, “More! More!”

I found myself with over 160 entries in less than a week, and more than half of them were completely unique (I believe my experience may be atypical – I was told to expect 30). Suddenly all that choice I wanted so badly a week ago was overwhelming. How can I pick just one? What if I pick the wrong one? Too much choice was almost as paralyzing as having no choice. I was once again stressed, but it was worth it.

Thankfully, the contest offered the option of sending out a poll and letting the public vote. After whittling down the list to a few favorites, I asked, and a number of you answered. I am now extremely pleased to present the winner and new cover of An Uncertain Faith!

Cover by Danny Design Studio, Photography by Dave and Les Jacobs.

An Uncertain Faith
A brand new cover for a brand new release!

Know yourself and your audience

Earlier this week I allowed my toddler to take over my blog for a few reasons. 1) He is a master manipulator 2) I’d mentioned my other son a few times and decided he deserved some spot light time and 3) His methods may be somewhat Machiavellian, but he instinctively knows how to conduct a basic personal SWOT analysis.SWOT

By SWOT I mean the business process of analyzing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and then figuring out a way to turn weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities, or at least neutralizing them.

He is mobile, but not agile. That is fine with him, he forces us to fetch and carry for him so that he can focus on other priorities saving vital resource time.

He is loud, but not necessarily articulate.  He finds other ways to get his message across. He is big on non-verbal communication.

What he lacks in world experience he makes up for by cultivating strategic partnerships.

All to often we try to be too many things to too many people. As the saying goes, when you try to please everyone, you please no one. Our messages become diluted, convoluted and lost in the crowd. In business it is of utmost importance that you clearly identify your target customer / target market.

When I began writing, I decided the same principles applied. There are going to be readers out there who just aren’t going to be interested in what I have to say, or be turned off by my style. Just as if I was creating a marketing plan in mind for product development, I tried to always keep my ideal audience in mind as I was writing. The story could easily have taken various, ultimately pointless, detours if I had tried to throw in nuggets for my non-target readers.

In addition to the book’s SWOT, I thought I might follow my toddler tyrant’s lead and complete my own personal SWOT. So what were my strengths? In the case of An Uncertain Faith, while I didn’t have much professional publishing experience, I have more than a few years of experience with much of the subject matter.

My weaknesses? The lack of prior publishing experience was a big one, but my day job has given me plenty of experience writing to non-English speakers. If you ever wonder if you are describing something well enough, send a note to overseas colleagues. If they can understand you even after putting it through a free translation program then you know your word choice is spot on. If you don’t have that luxury, merely open two free translation programs. Write text in one and convert it to Traditional Chinese. Copy and paste the Chinese translation into the second translator, specify that it is Simplified Chinese and convert back to English. I tried this once where I attempted to describe a metal fan blade. The resulting translation back was a poetic phrase about steel flower petals wafting in the wind. I believe there might have been a tiger involved as well.

Threats? Yes, there are going to be internet trolls and negative reviews out there, and as I become more successful they will become a greater threat, but at this time I found my greatest threat was myself. If I didn’t hit the submit button, I would never achieve success.

Opportunities? Well that is the whole point to this exercise isn’t it?

An unforeseen benefit from giving the little man the blog reins for the day was giving me an opportunity for my first blog two-parter, my first attempt at a sequel! I hope you enjoyed it.

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Virtual Trade Shows

Shortly after my book was published, I received a call asking about whether or not I wanted to participate in an upcoming book show where I would be one of several new authors. All I would have to do is register for the event for a mere $1000 USD and arrange my own transportation, hotel room, etc.

I’ve participated in a number of tradeshows over the years through my day job and am very familiar with trying to balance between being the best eye candy I could be in order to draw visitors to my booth and representing myself and my company as an expert in the field in order to keep them there. I’ve helped create large visual displays for the booth, administered contests, sent out targeted invitations, and have done the whole swag give-aways thing – I could go into depth on my opinion about the effectiveness of tradeshow swag, but will save that for another day.

In short, I’ve done as much as I could to differentiate myself and my company, and that was only against a small handful of similar product and service companies also in attendance. At this show I could only imagine the competition is much, much fiercer.

Admittedly my tradeshow experience has been in a completely different industry, but based on my royalty rate, I would have to have massive amounts of foot traffic at a time when most people in the US are visiting family in order to see a return on that investment. Additionally the time spent at the show would keep me from continuing work on my follow-up project, an activity that I now understand is absolutely critical towards establishing myself.

I politely declined this ‘opportunity.’

Still the concept of added visibility from a show is appealing. Luckily there are things known as Virtual Trade Shows, also known as Virtual Book Tours and Blog Tours. Rather than physically being behind a booth and smiling until your cheeks hurt for hours at a day, participants ‘exhibit’ themselves at a number of blog site destinations. I’ve found a number of organizations advertising ‘tours’ which they will arrange for you for fees ranging from as little as $15 to $200 depending on the level of service you need. Heck, you could even arrange one yourself for no cost at all – provided you are friends with a number of book bloggers with high readership counts. You would still have to provide any merchandise for sales, giveaways, swag, etc, but at least you are able to make your sales pitch via podcast from the comfort of your home or office rather than deal with TSA. Plus this method allows you to reach a potentially much greater audience – assuming you do your homework, are selective of your partners, and prepare ahead.