Searchlights & Signal Flares

Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

How do you promote yourself? (04/15/07)

Featured writer: Betty Winslow

Contributors this month:
Barbara Shine
Betty Winslow
Branch Isole
Christine Falcone
Don Edgers
Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Kate Douglas
Ken Rodgers
Susan Bono

Betty Winslow

I promote myself by attending as many conferences, workshops, and other writing events as possible, dressed nicely and armed with a purse full of business cards, a brief biography/background to verbalize as the occasion offers, and the courage to introduce myself to whoever crosses my path. I introduce myself to the authors who speak in our town and exchange cards with them, for future contacts, interviews, etc. And I belong to a number of online and face-to-face writing groups, which have turned out to be a fertile field for tips, techniques, jobs, encouragement, and critiques. I even landed a paying columnist job through my participation in an online group, without even applying for it!

Betty Winslow, writing and promoting in Bowling Green, OH

Self-promotion: an unladylike proposition

  by Barbara Shine

Shy and demure?
I don't think so, my friend.
A smart lady author
Just cannot pretend

To modesty, caution,
Reluctance to speak,
If she wants to draw readers
Whose interest she'll pique.

The smart lady scribe
Says her name with a shout
And lets everyone know
What her writing's about.

With a Web page and blog,
Nimble fingers go reaching
For wannabe writers
Who can learn from her teaching.

She sends weekly tips
To scribes international,
Just to give them a boost.
She's a little old-fashional.

A signature block
For her e-mail transmissions
Lets everyone know
Of her recent editions.

When a writers' group meets,
Our girl's at the fore,
Finding contacts and networks
And contests galore.

She reads from her writings
Where folks like to listen:
At coffee and book shops,
Or near a church kitchen.

With tearsheets in hand
And a book-signing pen
Our author goes speaking
To the clubs of her friends.

She gets more by giving,
Speaking oft and for free,
Gaining new friends and clients.
It's all good. You'd agree?

Barbara Shine is a freelance writer and editor in rural Virginia. Preview her recent coauthored anthology, The Pen Is Mightier Than the Broom: Memoirs, Stories, and Poems, at bshinewrites. To get free weekly writing and editing tips, send an e-mail to E-Mail tips-4-free

Betty Winslow

I promote myself by attending as many conferences, workshops, and other writing events as possible, dressed nicely and armed with a purse full of business cards, a brief biography/background to verbalize as the occasion offers, and the courage to introduce myself to whoever crosses my path. I introduce myself to the authors who speak in our town and exchange cards with them, for future contacts, interviews, etc. And I belong to a number of online and face-to-face writing groups, which have turned out to be a fertile field for tips, techniques, jobs, encouragement, and critiques. I even landed a paying columnist job through my participation in an online group, without even applying for it!

Betty Winslow, writing and promoting in Bowling Green, OH


  by Branch Isole

The waves crash
upon the rocks
spray, in the air
The tides continue to ebb and flow
always, without a care.

White caps on the horizon's peak
as if flickering off and on
One moment above the surface
the next moment gone.

To gaze out upon its spectrum
spectacle and might
The waters climb and roll
ever changing in their height
Its majesty combined
for my sight
Seeing the small me in perspective
is a thought of awesome fright.

To be lost at sea
no more than a speck
No power or control
to save my neck.

To the depths
do I commit
my mind, my body, my soul
What once was, is, to be no more
That which has always been
free again to soar.

To bob starkly alone
in the dead of night.
Drifting as smoke
lost in flight.

Waiting for a vision
A sign
A ship
to come
within sight.

Oh to be saved
one way or the other
To be warm and dry
in the arms of another
Reduces the fright,
darkness of night
For from up above
I am seeing a light.

Author of Barking Geckos and God i believe, Branch Isole writes of issues and emotions surrounding personal responsibility choice and avoidance. His style and presentation, known as ‘voyeurism poetry’ engages the reader in common life themes often experienced, but not always voiced.
Branch Isole
PO Box 1696
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96767-1696
Branch Isole's Website

Honesty is Always Best

  by Christine Falcone

I've come at this question four or five different ways, and all I've come up with is crap. However, it has gotten me to a point where I realize how absent this goal has been in my life, shedding light on the fact that I need to take myself more seriously and start at least THINKING about the act of self-promotion.

Christine Falcone is getting to and around this question in Novato, CA.

Don Edgers

As a writer of historical memoirs that are primarily of interest to a particular region (Puget Sound in Washington State) I publish through Print On Demand (P.O.D.) publishers. If I want to sell books, I have to promote myself every conceivable way possible.

Because I'm not shy, I sometimes tread in unthinkable territory - sometimes by accident. For example, I've promoted myself during school registration, in church bulletins, memorial services, from my hospital bed and wheelchair (after suffering a stroke), community meetings, newsletters: for community, high school, Army, fraternity, church, etc. I've also sold quite a few at high school class reunions. When a cable TV show featured my community, I got to put in a plug for my book. I hit all the book stores in my and neighboring communities, sometimes giving readings as well as signing books. Our local historical society and museum sponsors several events throughout the year, and I'm there to chat and sign books. The museum has copies that I've signed on display along with newspaper articles about the book.

Early in the life of my first book, I took advantage of a free Web site and had links to book sellers who had my book for sale. Since then I've had a professionally designed (by my son-in-law) Web site. I have been writing travel reports for for several years, and have my Web site linked to them. I sell used books through and always thank my customers and have a link to my Web site.

My press release has been used effectively to get articles and reviews in several newspapers. Because of this publicity, I get requests to speak about and read from my book, "An Island in Time: Growing up in the 1940s". A local book club decided to read my book, and invited me for lunch and I narrated a boat cruise pointing out things from my book as well as answering questions. I also narrate a historical cruise telling about what my community was like in the 1940s.

I have used business cards with the book title, my address and e-mail address and Web site address since the birth of my book, very effectively. I always carry several books in my car for on-the-spot sales. I even take a couple of books with us on cruises.

Don Edgers is an historical memoirist with one book published (P.O.D.) "An Island in Time: Growing up in the 1940s" and another on the way (this summer) "An Island in Time II: Coming of age in the 1950s" He is a retired high school teacher (30 years) and he and his wife like to travel and dance.

Don Edgars Website

How do you promote yourself?

  by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

I'm always envious of networkers—those people with a talent for shmoozing and the wherewithal to always have a business card handy no matter where they go. I don't believe I'm one of those people. My first thought in answer to this question was, I DON'T promote myself—I'm too shy, too lazy, too embarrassed to flaunt it. For three years I interviewed established and emerging authors on radio and I never thought to ask for contacts, leads or referrals. Or rather, I thought about it, but never felt right about doing so. I don't know if that makes me a bad networker or what.

The most successful ways I've been able to promote myself and my writing is through my immediate community, and by engaging in projects that bring me pleasure. In other words—I only promote if it's fun for me. Years back I spearheaded the LiveWire literary salon (with HUGE support from fellow writers like Susan Bono here) and found that by doing what I enjoyed—helping other writers find a forum to read their work—I got to know just about everyone in the local literary community. Not only did people start to know my name, which helped when I started freelance writing, but I made some of the best writing friends I have to this day. My radio show, Word by Word, had a similar effect. It gave me small-time name recognition. Projects are a good way to go: start a literary magazine (she says casually, as if this is a small-time endeavor); host a poetry reading; create a conversation café; write a book; help other writers become successful.

With two non-fiction books coming out in the world, I thought that literary conferences would be a good way to both serve a purpose—to teach something—and to make contact with writers who might benefit from my books.

Promotion, in my mind, has to be organic. You can't force yourself or your writing on people. You have to find authentic ways to connect with people of like mind, and then, hopefully, they spread the word on your behalf.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld, writer, is too tired to think of a witty bio. Find out more by visiting Jordan's Website

Promohos Unite

  by Kate Douglas

Even my agent calls me the "promoho," but then she's also the one who insists I work on "name branding." The image isn't pretty—picture large, western-style branding iron affixed to rather pasty white ass—but since I write in the fairly overloaded sub-genre of erotic romance, it's important that I find ways to help people remember my name. If I'd been smart, I would have picked one like "Thea Divine," but she's already got it, and it is, after all, her real name. I was stuck with Kate Douglas, not my real name but the best I could come up with when I sold my first book and discovered there was already a "Kate Moore" writing romance.

So, I'm suddenly Kate Douglas and I need to get the name out there, which means a website (check) and business cards, (check, again) and bookmarks, postcards, mass mailings to bookstores, reviews and reader chats and MySpace and a newsletter. It's a wonder I actually find time to write, but I've discovered the trick to effective promotion is to be absolutely shameless. I pass out my postcards with the covers of most of my current series wherever I go. I just returned from New York and a meeting with my editor, and there's not a flight attendant or restaurant waiter between here and there who has walked away without one of my postcards in hand. I felt a bit odd handing one to the motivational speaker I flew home next to—he was, after all, quite a bit more conservative than the typical reader of erotic romance. The white collar sort of gave him away...but, he politely took my post card and then actually had some fairly good questions about the business of writing stories that skirt the edges of the acceptable.

I've learned the most effective promotion is to believe in yourself and to forget all the rules you grew up with about not tooting your own horn. If you don't toot it, who will? There's a line between good promotion and being rude and obnoxious. I try to avoid the used car salesman approach, but I don't hesitate to bring up—in public settings—what it is that I do for a living. Of course, when an almost sixty year old grandmother announces to one and all that she writes erotic romance, ears perk up.

I figure I've reached old broad status and I may as well use it. If you write for publication and you want to sell books, promotion is a necessity. If you're lucky enough to have a publicist, or if your publisher provides one, that's wonderful, but for most of us toiling away in the trenches, promotion is something we have to schedule into our already overloaded lives.

From the signature line in my email with all my contact information, to the contests I run through my newsletter, the book signings and stock signings I do around the country, the readers and writers conventions and conferences I attend—all of it is promotion. Entering this contest is promotion. It's all part of the "promoho" mentality I mentioned earlier, but with a sell-through of my books at close to 90%, it must be working.

Kate Douglas~~Wolf Tales

Ken Rodgers

I had a graduate school professor in creative nonfiction writing who shocked us students when he yelled, "I'm the f****** smartest person in the world and I want everybody to know how f****** smart I am."

That proclamation, to me anyway, illustrated why we write and by inference why, if we want anybody to know how "f****** smart" we are, we need to promote ourselves.

And I understand the basic notion that if I don't tell somebody about my writing, how are they going to know how "f****** smart" I am, or how creative and artistic, either.

But somewhere down in the back of my brain, or my personality, dwells another critter who seems to say that I should temper my enthusiasm about how "f****** smart" I am with the notion that maybe I'm not as good a writer, or even more basic, not as smart as I think.

My mother used to tell me how smart I was, but when I started to dote on that fact she quickly reined me in with some comment such as "Oh, you think you're soooo smart." Comments like that usually got the desired effect and I started to doubt how smart I really was.

I wonder if that emotion, that reluctance to flaunt or even announce one's own abilities, is tied to a fear that we might get razzed, chastised, or even belittled. I have images of entire populations of co-writers smirking behind my back when I deign to self-promote. That's something that bites me, and bites me even worse when the smirkers emerge and prove to be folks who have no hindrance about blowing their own bassoons.

I wonder if the desire to let "word of mouth" and "publication" do my talking is related to the same beast that shows up as my own worst critic—me and the primal desire to have people admire me and what I do. It certainly feels that way as it sneaks around the inside of the skull but way in back where the spine comes in so I can't get at it.

And what's worse, I have a wonderful loving wife who does promote me in an almost-shameless manner—website, flyers, e-mails, press releases, readings—and would do a lot more if I'd cooperate. She'd even take care of all my submissions for Christ's sake—find appropriate venues, edit my work, send it off. What more could a writer want?

Doesn't sound like I'm so "f****** smart" after all, does it?

Ken Rodgers is trying to get a lot smarter in fabulous early springtime, bloom-time, Boise, Idaho, where he writes and teaches and secretly thinks he is very “f****** smart.”
See more about him at

That's What it's All About

  by Susan Bono

I'm one of those people who ends up at parties talking only to people I know. I go thinking I'll mingle, but once I'm there, I always stick with familiar faces.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended the opening reception for an independent film festival. The only familiar faces were ones I thought maybe I'd seen on late-night TV. When George told me he had some business with a colleague, I planted myself on a wooden bench and watched the folks around me flirt and network. My attempts at looking nonchalant and tolerant must have worked, because the man who spilled his glass of wine on my skirt didn't seem to think I minded.

I had just swallowed the last of my own wine and was wondering where I could find some more when the guy sitting next to me turned from his companion and handed me a postcard and lapel pin advertising a movie called "Netherbeast, Incorporated." All I had to do was say "Thank you," and he supplied the rest of the conversation.

This outgoing young fellow with his fashionably rumpled suit and gold-tipped dark hair was Dean Ronalds, the director of the movie. He was openly ambitious, but in a relaxed, honest way that made self-promotion seem perfectly natural and healthy.

"I'm so lucky," he said, pointing to the "Netherbeast" postcard listing Judd Nelson, Robert Wagner and a bunch of people I'd never heard of as cast members. "I get to work with really great people like these guys." I got the feeling it didn't matter to him whether I was impressed or not. That got me thinking about how many great writers my work has brought into my life, some of them widely published, some not at all.

I asked this seemingly contented man if promoting his movies was hard for him. He laughed. "Making the movie is the hard part," he said. "That's work. Showing it off is fun."

What a concept.

Then he looked me in the eye and told me he'd enjoyed talking to me. In that moment, I became a fan, not of his films, which I've no immediate plans to see, but of his marketing philosophy: Love what you do and let it show.

Susan Bono is trying to let it show in Petaluma, CA.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono


Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

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