Excuse me while I humblebrag…

‘maybe I’ll just carry this around with me wherever I go?’

‘maybe I’ll just carry this around with me wherever I go?’

Except I’m not actually going to humblebrag. Not here anyway. Instead I’m going to have a (hopefully mini) rant about one of the most difficult parts of being an author – self-promotion.

Readers might not realise it, but publishers do really hope authors will do quite a bit of promotion of their own books. After all, publishers publish so many books throughout the year, and while most of them receive some marketing budget, only a few of them – the ‘big’ books (or ‘lead titles’ as they are called) will get the ‘big’ budget, with lots of promotion, like book tours and extensive proof mailouts and adverts on the underground and fancy launch events, alongside the normal things such as online advertising and social media support.

As the writer, the person who cares the most about your book is you, and this also means you’re the best person to promote it. After all, you know it best. You know who your potential readers are. You know the storyline in and out. You can happily wax lyrical about it for hours.

So it would be a bit crap if you didn’t at least try to give self-promotion a go.

I feel like I’m standing on a table in a busy room shouting ‘Me me me, everyone look at me!’

But oh my god is it hard. I’m not sure why – I’ve had a business before and I found it pretty easy to promote that. I was more than happy to shout about it to anyone and everyone. But promoting my books is like pulling teeth. Every time I tweet or instagram about them, I feel like I’m standing on a table in a busy room shouting ‘Me me me, everyone look at me!’ It’s so uncomfortable.

I wonder if it’s because, deep down, I still believe that writing a book is a pretty arrogant thing to do – it’s so personal, and yet it’s assuming that this personal thing is so important and worthwhile that everyone needs to know about it. Everyone needs to read it. It doesn’t help that I grew up in the UK in the 90s when ‘showing off’ was not cool, nor was foisting your opinions about things on any unwitting bystander (I still wish this wasn’t cool. While I understand the motivation behind them, the endless political rants on Twitter don’t half bring me down). And sometimes that’s what it feels like, promoting your novel. After all, when you write a novel you’re trying to convey a theme or deeper message – something that resonates with you and bugs you enough to make you wonder about it at night – but who’s to say that that ‘thing’ is as important to others as it is to you?

How very dare you!?

These are the voices in my head that I battle with whenever I tweet about my books, or share a nice review. Having talked to other writer friends about this, I know that many of them feel the same awkwardness when they have to talk about their books too.

But there are also other authors who are unashamed in their self-promotion, who go ‘all out’ to sing their own praises. And I have to confess that I look upon these people with a strange combination of admiration and horror.

Do I just need to get over my Gen Y upbringing and get on board with the self-love?

Where is the line drawn between self-promotion and bragging? Is bragging even a thing anymore? Do I just need to get over my Gen Y upbringing and get on board with the self-love?

Is there a ‘good’ way to do it? If you caveat it (which I often do) with some kind of disclaimer - ‘I know I’m showing off here but this review made my day’ - does that make it better? Does self-awareness cancel out the negative side of bragging?

Do readers mind unabashed confidence in novelists?

It’s just I’m conditioned, when I see people telling the world how great they are, to wrinkle my nose in disapproval, and then I wonder if I’m the only one. Do readers mind unabashed confidence in novelists? Maybe, like enthusiasm about anything, it’s infectious – maybe the self-belief rubs off and the readers then also feel convinced of your greatness. Or do readers see tweets like that and think, huh, get over yourself love, I’ll be the judge of how good your book is!

Either way, I suppose it gets you noticed. Which is the main aim after all. To stand above the crowd. 

Another thing that interests me is whether or not this is just a British thing. I don’t know. I remember the fascinating interview with the American author Jessica Knoll on The Cut about her income. Again, my cognitive dissonance was off the charts. I massively admired her for her confidence, while also finding it a bit distasteful. The reactions to that interview were fascinating.  

What do you think? I’m genuinely so interested in whether people mind authors ‘showing off’ (I know it’s not showing off really, but that’s how it FEELS to me)? Or do they like it?

A few years ago there was a hashtag on Twitter that was pretty popular - #humblebrag. I was pretty fond of that one. It allowed me to ‘show off’ whilst also acknowledging that I knew I was showing off and that it made me uncomfortable to do so - neatly incorporating an invisible plea not to be judged too harshly for it. I haven’t seen it much lately – perhaps I should try to bring it back?!

You can order my debut, The Rival, here. Unfollow Me is out now!

How I deal with professional jealousy as a writer

THERE’S ENOUGH CAKE FOR ALL! HONEST

THERE’S ENOUGH CAKE FOR ALL! HONEST

I just want to put something out there, in the full knowledge that it might make me seem like a spoilt brat. But being a writer is hard. Really. It is.

Let's take away the never-ending financial insecurity (which most people would find incredibly stressful), the loneliness, the fact that so much of your success is completely out of your control, the long hours, the late nights, the backache, the lack of exercise and consumption of too many snacks. And let's focus on the hardest thing of all: professional jealousy.

I've always thought that I was quite lucky, as I seem to be missing the jealousy gene. As a general rule, I don't get jealous of other people. Or their success. I suspect that the reason for this is that I am far too self-absorbed to really care what other people are doing (this is probably not a good thing!). I'm too focused on my own life, my own success, my own happiness. I don't really notice what other people are up to in anything more than a perfunctory way, and I usually just think 'good for them' and move on.

no matter how well you write, how well your book ‘performs’ in the marketplace, there will always be someone else out there with a ‘bigger’ book

However, when it comes to writing, I think even the most self-absorbed person struggles just a little bit with professional jealousy. Because no matter how well you write, how well your book 'performs' in the marketplace, there will always be someone else out there with a 'bigger' book. A 'better' book. And you will sit back and wonder why it isn't you. And you will be pleased for them, but then you'll also start to panic that your book is going to get lost, because surely there's only so much room for big books out there, and what if yours isn't one of them? What does that make you? Who wants to be second rate? Who wants to 'nearly make it'? Who wants to be the one that people look at and think 'Oh dear, guess it didn't work out for her then'?

The reason I write this post is because recently I've had to remind myself of the most useful tool you have for defeating this green-eyed disease: abundance mentality. I have noticed my bouts of professional jealousy come and go in waves. Usually, it's when things are quiet, when I'm just sat at home doing the part of writing that people ignore when they see it as a 'dream' career: the actual bloody writing. Sat at home alone day after day, struggling with my characters and the ever-present imposter syndrome that seems to be just an inevitable part of this job, and I start to look at other writers with 300 five star Amazon reviews and tons of praise on social media and I think, why am I doing this again? The world doesn't need my books. I’ll never be as successful as them. What do they have that I don’t? Why are they so brilliant/lucky/talented?

I read about abundance mentality a few years ago in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and it’s probably one of the most helpful concepts I’ve ever come across. I'm not usually one for self-help books, but this particular concept really struck a chord with me. Put simply, people who believe in abundance - that there is enough happiness, success, love and joy for all of us, are much happier than those who believe in scarcity - that if you're eating the cake then I can't eat it too.

I'm no philosopher, and I am terrible at explaining things like this so here’s a diagram that really neatly sums up this way of thinking:

abundance-thinking-and-scarcity-thinking.jpg
just because a reader likes someone else’s book, that doesn’t mean they won’t like your book too!

If you see success as something scarce, that can't be shared, all you do is make yourself miserable. Because the truth is there IS enough space for everyone. To be specific about writing, just because a reader likes someone else's book, that doesn't mean they won't like your book too! Just because an agent has sold someone else’s book for six figures, doesn’t mean they can’t do the same for the next book you write. There's no limit to the amount of books or writers that readers can admire and enjoy. 

putting a bit of positivity into the world is the best thing you can do when you’re feeling negative

It's easy to write this down as a theory - something that's nice on paper, but it's more difficult to change your mindset. So on the days when I'm really struggling with self-esteem and find myself slipping into a scarcity mindset, I have one trick that really works for me. Fake it til you feel it. And the best way to do this is to support others. On the days I'm feeling really down about myself and my writing, I make sure I praise other writers, share their posts on social media, am supportive and helpful to them in any way that I can. Sometimes I have to force myself to do it, sometimes I really just feel like locking myself away and eating a whole packet of Maryland cookies and simmering with envy, but I always feel better afterwards. I really believe that putting a bit of positivity into the world is the best thing you can do when you're feeling negative. It's the ultimate mood lifter.

I also try to go back to the writing and remember what I love about it - because for me, it really is the best bit about being a writer. When I’m writing and it’s going well, I find I don’t care at all about how successful or not the book might be. Instead, I’m completely focused and absorbed in my own little created world.

Of course, you can also choose to avoid social media, and lots of people I know do that, but it’s quite hard to do that completely (especially if you have your own book to promote). It’s also tough if lots of people you know are writers too, as you’ll inevitably hear about their success one way or another. So really, I think supporting them as best you can is the healthiest thing to do. Because they will, of course, have felt the same way you are feeling at some point in their writing career - it’s par for the course. Are you even a writer at all if you haven’t felt like a massive failure at some point?!

I hope this doesn't sound super preachy. I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live their life - everyone has their own ways of coping with things. But I thought it was worth a blog post, because it is something that helps me, and if there's any chance it might help you too when the green-eyed monster comes to call, then that's gotta be good, right?

And if you have any other tips for coping with professional jealousy, please do share them in a comment below!

You can order my debut, THE RIVAL, hereUNFOLLOW ME will be published in June.