As a writer it’s easy to become a billboard of broken dreams.
Overpromoting yourself makes you look desperate. Nobody wants to follow a desperate writer begging for attention. It’s not in our human nature, and we don’t even know why.
I see this mistake all the time. You’ve seen it too. There are writers who over-ask. It looks like this:
Follow me here.
Read more from me here.
Subscribe to my email list here.
Oh, and don’t forget to…
25% of the blog post becomes a call-to-action. It’s painful to read.
Why? When you ask a reader to do something, what you’re really doing is giving them an ad.
Every ask is an ad.
That’s why I’m extremely careful as a writer how many asks I request from a reader and you should be too.
What Is Misunderstood About Readers
Readers have a short attention span.
When I see a writer who over-asks I switch off. It’s exhausting to read and it’s easier to click away than stay for the ads. Even if the content is good, ads ruin your writing.
Why Writers Overpromote Themselves
It happens for a few reasons. I overpromoted myself as a writer in the beginning because I was desperate. I had unrealistic expectations about writing online. I thought you needed to have a big audience within a year. I followed writers like Ryan Holiday and thought to myself, “if I don’t achieve what Ryan has done in a year then I’m no good and should give up.”
As a result I jammed asks down my reader’s throats. I asked them to follow me on every social media platform. I begged them to take actions that were good for my writing career as opposed to good for them as readers.
My focus was on my writing progress, not the reader’s problems.
You’re taught as a writer that you have to market the heck out of your writing. It’s why writers paste links to their blog posts all over social media, not realizing social media platforms will never send traffic out of their apps and to their blog. It’s why my facebook feed is full of writers begging me to read their articles.
If a reader doesn’t find your work out of their own curiosity, they sure as hell won’t find your writing by you begging them to read it.
Asking people to read your work just doesn’t work.
It Gets Worse
The problem doesn’t end there. Writers spend so much of their energy trying to get people to read their work and then commit a cardinal sin. What’s the cardinal sin?
Writers send readers to platforms they don’t own.
It makes no sense. You spend all your effort asking people to follow you on social media platforms you don’t own. It creates a brick wall between you and readers who like your work.
You’ve got to stop thinking, as a writer, that followers matter. I posted a story a few days ago on LinkedIn to my 250,000 followers. The story was read by less than 200 people. Does that math not make you a little curious?
Divert readers to platforms you own. You own your mailing list. You can also own a group chat on apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, Slack etc.
Or if you really want to own your destiny you can get a developer off a freelancing platform like Upwork to build you a group chat app that is 100% yours. Personal finance expert, Alex Saunders of Nugget’s News, did this with his Collective Shift platform. Alex had a developer build this personal finance community of his followers after his bitcoin videos were being suppressed by media giant Youtube, along with other content creators.
Asking people to follow you on social media is a waste of your energy and marketing power.
There Are Too Many Platforms for Writers
You don’t know what platform readers prefer. So when you ask readers to follow you on News Break or Instagram you could be wasting your time. If a reader doesn’t use the News Break app then it’s like asking them to join a church when they’re an atheist. They’re probably not going to do it.
There are so many platforms for writers to use now that getting readers to find you on one isn’t worth your time. Let readers organically find you on a platform they already use.
Save your marketing power for activities that will actually boost your writing.
A Bigger Audience Isn’t the Answer
Another reason you overpromote yourself as a writer is because you’re trained to think bigger is better.
Having 100,000 followers doesn’t make you a better writer. You won’t earn more money from your content by having a bigger audience. The secret is to have a tiny, highly engaged audience, who are interested in the topics you write about. An audience like this can help you earn 6-figures as a writer.
A huge audience is an illusion. They come to see your work once and then often never return again. You get the pleasure of a vanity metric known as a follower, but you don’t get any value as a writer.
A highly engaged audience of less than a thousand readers can do wonders for your career. Look at writers like Zat Rana on Substack. While there is no exact way to check how many subscribers he has, I estimate it’s around a few thousand. Zat used to be on many social media platforms, where he racked up hundreds of thousands of followers. Now he writes for a few thousand readers a month. Zat discovered something interesting: focus.
A focused audience is more fulfilling for the writer, is more likely to purchase premium content and will comment, like, and share your work without you having to beg them — because they’re true fans, not fake fans.
Underpromote your work to reach a focused audience who will do the marketing for you.
I’ll Say This Until I’m Blue in the Face
You don’t own your followers. You can’t speak to them when you like. You don’t have their contact details. They can be taken away from you.
I got accidentally banned from LinkedIn four times. I had to learn the hard way that a social media platform is a privilege to be on, not a human right.
Implement These Things to 10X the Impact of Your Writing
We’ve talked about the problem of overpromotion. Let’s get to the rock solid solutions you can use to level up and escape the neverending treadmill that can easily become the writing rat race.
1. Use this simple rule
One ask per piece of content.
Have the discipline to limit yourself to one ask and you’ll respect your audience more, who will appreciate it. At the most I place one link to join my email list at the end of some blog posts. You can do the same if you choose.
2. Use the superpower of underpromotion
Dare to publish a piece of content with zero asks.
It will hurt. It may feel wrong. It breaks all the marketing rules. And it works, big time. What if you didn’t feel compelled to promote yourself all the time and just got on with the writing, which does most of the work for you?
3. Put your asks in the comments section
Asks are ads. You can remove ads from your blog posts by placing the asks in the comments section. I see this on LinkedIn all the time. It works. Readers read the comments section.
You can keep your content looking stunningly beautiful, and make the comments section ugly. If you don’t ruin the comments section of your work a troll will — beat them to it.
4. Use micro snippets of your content
Placing links to your blog posts on social media is dumb. Micro snippets of your writing placed as native content on social media works. Let me break this down for you so we can skip past the fancy marketing lingo.
- Take a popular sentence or paragraph from your work.
- Copy and paste this micro piece of content to twitter, as an example.
- Make sure the link in your twitter bio leads to more of your work.
These micro snippets of your writing are incredibly effective. They give readers a sample of what they can expect from you. Then, if the reader likes your micro snippet of writing they will click the link to your blog, which you must place in your social media bio.
Better marketing is keeping the reader on the platform they found you, rather than taking the reader away to a place they didn’t ask to be led.
5. Offer value instead of asks
The best marketing as a writer is to offer value. Instead of begging readers to read your work, give them something that can help them. Value just means lessons, helpful links, checklists, eBooks, strategies they can try, people to follow, books to read, movies to watch, experiences from your own life, etc.
Readers are starving for value and drowning in a pile of shitty asks.
When you provide value readers will bend over backwards to find more of your writing.
Readers are smart. They can google you if you’re worth their time.
The Best Strategy I Know of to Promote Your Work
All the time you spend promoting your writing is mostly a waste. The ROI is terrible. Funnel your time into writing better, and publishing content. Write in one place consistently that has an audience (not your wordpress blog nobody can find unless you’re an SEO nerd like Neil Patel).
Your writing is what readers are dying for, not your punch in the face asks sprayed all the way through your writing.
Let your writing do the marketing for you.