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On Self-Promotion | Words Count
Many writers cringe at the thought of self-promotion myself included, but this time around, I decided to try to embrace it instead of dreading it.
Another reason I decided to go all in on the self-promotion was that this is probably my most personal book to date.
My debut story collection Anecdotes came out with Book*hug Press on Tuesday September 19th. That’s the official book birthday. But it’s been in stores for over a month, and my dear dear friend and Book*hug Press sibling Michael V. Smith (Queers Like Me) and I co-launched our books at Camas Books and Info Shop in Victoria on September 18th.
The last time I had a solo authored book out was in 2015, my poetry collection, The Purpose Pitch. A lot has changed with book publishing, marketing, and publicity in eight years. And even though I have had poetry books published before, I feel like a brand new author because nothing is as it was. In 2015, there was social media of course, but video and TikTok have taken things in a whole other direction.
Many writers cringe at the thought of self-promotion, myself included. But no matter if you are with a big press, small press, or self-publishing, self-promotion is just going to be part of the gig. This time around, I decided to try to embrace it instead of dreading it.
One thing that changed my attitude about self-promotion was Chen Chen’s January 22, 2023 IG post. I urge you to read it in it’s entirety.
Chen Chen writes:
“i used to think self-promotion was a really icky concept & practice, until i realized that the actual self-centered thing is to believe that poeple will just flock to your work (based on talent/”merit”) without you having to say antything about it/support readers finding it.”
Yes, wouldn’t we all just love to sit back and have readers flock to our work, but that is just not going to happen for most writers especially for those without an agent or those with smaller press or those who are self-publishing.
Self-promotion doesn’t have to be screaming “buy my book” all the time. There are many ways to promote yourself and many ways to do it by uplifting other writers, which is something I am particularly interested in because I like being part of a community.
Another reason I decided to go all in on the self-promotion was that this is probably my most personal book to date. It deals with subject matter that I care deeply about—sexual violence, harassment, addiction, disfigurement, mental health, environmental collapse, and the absurdity of the hellscape we find ourselves in (there is humour here too—it’s not all depressing). But I want to reach others who care about these things or may have had some of these experiences.
I’m also passionate about independent presses and independent bookstores. Promoting this book allows me to shine a light on my favourite bookstores. And it gives me an opportunity to support my publisher who has invested in this project. Anecdotes is experimental, unusual, has upsetting subject matter, a weird sense of humour, and will not be to everyone’s taste. It doesn’t fit in an easy marketing box. And, fuck, I’m glad and fortunate that a press would take a chance on a book like this. And I was so lucky to have a such a wonderful editor—Malcolm Sutton who also created the cover illustration and designed book. I don’t take any of their work for granted, and so I hustle.
But just because I’ve reframed self-promotion doesn’t mean that I find it easy or I don’t cringe at myself. I hate having my picture taken and try do it as infrequently as possible. Weirdly though I’ve found myself on TikTok over the last year, which I have discovered has a really lovely literary community. I don’t have may followers (there’s freedom in being ignored) and I’m just sort of playing around, but I’m having fun with it and meeting new writers and readers. I even got invited to be on Tim Blackett’s new literary podcast (details to come) because of TikTok.
One self-promotion activity I found very difficult to do was go into a bookstore and ask to sign books. I don’t know why it made me feel uncomfortable. It’s good for the bookstore, it’s good for the publisher, it’s good for me and my book! But old me dreaded it and was embarrassed, but I pushed through and got myself down to the bookstore and asked to sign my books. Everyone at Munro’s couldn’t have been nicer. Todd took my picture, and Munro’s shared it on their socials, and I shared it on mine.
And then there’s the tour. I was not planning on doing a book tour but having Michael launching during the same season with the same press it seemed ridiculous not to set up a small tour (Michael and Book*hug did the heavy lifting here). We got Sandra Ridley on the ticket—how cool is that—whose poetry book Vixen is also launching with Book*hug this fall, and the three of us will be heading to Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. I also added some other readings along the way—a virtual event with Junction Reads, Concordia in Montreal, and Words Fest in London. Although I’m excited about this tour, it causes me a great deal of anxiety. I worry that no one will come or that I’ll forget people’s names or that I won’t read well—all the fears! But because I’m committed to the subject matter of my book and my publisher, I’m going to push through despite this.
I wanted to write this piece about self-promotion for those like me who find it extremely difficult. And to also explain why I do it and why I think it’s important.
Also check out Book*hug’s entire fall season! It’s amazing!
Please share your experiences with self-promotion and any tips or tricks for getting through it!
If you have a book coming out or that’s out, please share it in comments with your title, publisher, release date, and a link!
Kathryn Mockler is the author of five books of poetry and several short films and videos. She co-edited the print anthology Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (2020) and is the publisher of the Watch Your Head website. She runs Send My Love to Anyone, a literary newsletter, and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria where she teaches screenwriting and fiction.
With dreamlike stories and dark humour, Anecdotes is a hybrid collection in four parts examining the pressing realities of sexual violence, abuse, and environmental collapse.
Absurdist flash fictions in “The Boy is Dead” depict characters such as a park that hates hippies, squirrels, and unhappy parents; a woman lamenting a stolen laptop the day the world ends; and birds slamming into glass buildings.
“We’re Not Here to Talk About Aliens” gathers autofictions that follow a young protagonist from childhood to early 20s, through the murky undercurrent of potential violence amidst sexual awakening, from first periods to flashers, sticker books to maxi pad art, acid trips to blackouts, and creepy professors to close calls.
“This Isn’t a Conversation” shares one-liners from overheard conversations, found texts, diary entries, and random thoughts: many are responses to the absurdity and pain of the current political and environmental climate.
In “My Dream House,” the past and the future are personified as various incarnations in relationships to one another (lovers, a parent and child, siblings, friends), all engaged in ongoing conflict.
These varied, immersive works bristle with truth in the face of unprecedented change. They are playful forms for serious times.
Praise for Anecdotes
“Part coming of age and part end times, Anecdotes is a bold and brilliant mixture of dark humour, understated literary experiments, and a poet’s eye for the truth. Mockler’s writing isn’t afraid to look at the world and see it for what it is. Her stories are so deeply immersive you’ll never want to leave. An absolute must-read if you live on this planet and even if you don’t.” —Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings
“‘What happened to you?’ Terrible things do happen. Daily. From the opening story of a dead boy nobody loved, to anxiety-ridden days of overcrowded public buses and murderous job interviews, to birds dropping from the sky, to no one needing money anymore [or a stolen laptop] because the world is ending today and everyone still thinks it’s happening to someone else while it’s happening to them. Is it too late? Of course it is! ‘What do they need?’ Don’t ask Pastor Rick. Like you, dear reader. ‘They need to hold on real tight.’ Mockler’s Anecdotes is an instant ‘post hope’ classic!” —Kirby, author of Poetry is Queer
“Utterly original, bracingly acidic, and always vulnerable, Kathryn Mockler channels Donald Barthelme having a psychotic break in this magnificent collection of coming-of-age stories for late stage capitalism.” —Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes and Sleeping With Friends
What We’re Reading: Staff Writers’ Picks, Spring 2023 —Hamilton Review of the Books
24 Books by Past CBC Poetry Prize Winners and Finalists Being Published in 2023 —CBC Books
What to Read this Summer —Frieze
Most Anticipated: Our 2023 Fall Fiction Preview —49th Shelf
Our books editor on the 30 (plus!) new reads we can’t wait to cozy up with this fall —Toronto Star
Books of the Month: September 2023 Edition —Vol. 1 Brooklyn
Send My Love to Anyone | Issue 29
Issue 29 Gatherings
Excerpt from Jawbone (Radiant Press) by Meghan Greeley
The First Time “Prissy” by Kirby
On Self-Promotion by Kathryn Mockler
Sign up for Where Do I Start? | Writing Prompts & Resources by Kathryn Mockler
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