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Why Do Many Writers & Artists Hate Self-Promotion?

A funny thing happened on the way to my Facebook page.  A handful of professional contacts refused to be my friend, not because they didn’t like me, but because they weren’t on Facebook.  The interesting thing was that they seemed to take pride in not being on Facebook.  This reminded me of something I’ve noticed over my career, an odd anomaly about many writers and artists: They don’t like to promote themselves.  Not a good idea!

Well, after years of resisting it, I finally caved and got onto Facebook.

You can "like" me here...or "friend" me here...and I'm also on LinkedIn, so you can "connect" to me here.

Why am I on Facebook and LinkedIn?  For two reasons: 1) social and 2) business.  Which boil down to really just one reason:

...TO PROMOTE MYSELF!

(Did I say that loud enough?)

To prevent any confusion, let’s take a look at the two most relevant definitions of the word promote:

            to further or encourage the progress or existence of

Please don’t think me selfish, but I do everything I can to encourage my continued existence.  It’s a survival thing.

            to encourage the sale of (a product) by advertising or securing financial support

As a professional writer I also do everything I can to encourage the sale of my writing.  And that includes selling me.

For you see, I am both a producer of products and a product myself.

Socially, I am Jeffrey Scott, nice guy; and my product (which is really just me) is good, enjoyable communication.

Business-wise, I am Jeffrey Scott, Screenwriter, and my products are professionally developed and written TV series and feature films.

A funny thing happened on the way to my Facebook page.  I emailed several professional contacts and asked if they wanted to join me on Facebook.  Most of them enthusiastically did so.  But there were a handful who refused, not because they didn’t like me, but because they weren’t on Facebook.  The interesting thing was that they seemed to take pride in not being on Facebook.  Some even emphatically insisted they never would be.

I can understand this.  I don’t like big crowds or fads or doing what everybody else does for the sake of being like everyone else. I’m an artist at my core.  And most artists like to be unique.  But this response reminded me of something I’ve noticed over my career, an odd anomaly about many writers and artists: They don’t like to promote themselves.

Ever notice how few writers and artists have business cards?  It’s almost a taboo.

I’ve given this whole subject some thought over the years and I think it’s an “art vs. business” thing.  There has been an emotionally-charged conflict between artists and businessmen over the centuries.  The artist is the selfless, creative spirit, while the businessman is the greedy, materialistic exploiter.  The artist comes up with what he or she “knows” is a great piece of creative work, and the businessman “knows” that it must be changed or edited so that it will be better (meaning make more money).  The artist starves while the businessman feasts.

What self-respecting artist wouldn’t despise such an antagonist?

Promotion and advertising, of course, are what businessmen do.  So for the artist they are verboten.

And out with the bathwater the baby doth go.  And in this case, the baby is the artist.

The truth is, we are all artists and businessmen to a greater or lesser degree.  And the extent to which we don’t realize this and wear both hats we diminish our own survival.

There's a reason Coke spends a billion dollars a year on advertising.  It works!  They promote and their business expands.  And if you want to expand you need to promote yourself as well.

Whether you like it or not, writing is a business.  You have a product to sell and people to sell it to, and they need to know about you and your product to buy it.  Out of sight IS out of mind.  And out of mind = no sale.

If you neglect the business side of writing (i.e. promotion and marketing) you will lose, because someone else isn't neglecting it.  And if the buyer (i.e. studio, producer, story editor, etc.) thinks of them first, they get the job.

I'm a successful writer, but if I stop promoting I do less work.  Period.

Even if you have an agent they can only do so much for you.  They have dozens of other clients, and can’t be selling you 24/7.  If you want to maximize your work and income you have to support your agent by promoting yourself.

I've done lots of self-promotion when I've had agents, yet most of my work came from my contacts, not from my agent's efforts.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of this.  Writing assignments are proportional to promotion.  The more promotion the more assignments.  You can wish it wasn't true.  You can ignore it.  You can wallow is artistic self-righteousness.  But you will get fewer writing assignments.

It’s a long known maxim in Hollywood that

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”

Schmoozing isn’t something done just for fun in Hollywood.  It’s vital.  Why?  It’s promotion!

People hire their friends first.

Facebook and LinkedIn are ways to schmooze and make friends with people all around the world—social friends, business friends and social/business friends.

So if you are a professional writer, or any other kind of professional artist, and you want to increase your exposure, your credits, your income and your survival, the first and most important thing you need to do is promote yourself.

You’ll not only get more work, you'll make more friends, too.

Jeff

©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved