“Make It ‘Til You Fake It”

You read that correctly. I hate self-promotion, and I especially loathe that stupid saying, “Fake it until you make it.” Who came up with this, anyway? “Fake” is the antithesis of everything I strive to be, namely authentic, genuine, and real. As far as I am concerned, you gotta get the goods before you can put up a “For Sale” sign.

Besides which, while you’re so busy “faking it,” how are you going to learn what you need to know to offer something of value? That comes from being open, asking the right questions, and suffering through a humbling process called “trial and error.” Where is the shame in admitting we don’t (yet) know what we are doing? There is none, but being a “fake” clearly is shameful.

I have now been around the block a few times where book promotion is concerned. My launches have run the gamut from “do nothing” to “pay a professional publicist”—and everything in-between. So far, the only thing I can say for certain is that the publishing game is “pay to play.” As a business lawyer, I advise my clients daily on how to “cut their losses,” “avoid unexpected surprises,” and “get the biggest bang for their buck.” But being a "successful" (i.e., well-known) writer entails the exact opposite: “Spend as much as you possibly can for publicity” (even though you will probably never recoup a fraction of your investment) and “give away your product for free” (simply to gain exposure). As Razia Schoenberg ( Stage Daughter’s twelve-year-old title character) would say, “It’s twisted.”

Here’s another truism I can impart to fledgling writers: While I don’t advocate “faking it,” you can’t “make it” until you truly believe in yourself. For me, that didn't so much mean overcoming doubts about my writing ability as knowing what the heck I was doing, and why. But that epiphany didn't happen until after I’d had a few books under my belt. Only then did who I am—and what I am trying to accomplish as a writer—come into clearer focus. Now I have a message to impart—something of substance to put behind those (still limited) promo dollars.

Here are my parting shots: Don’t take yourself (or this whole business) too seriously. It’s great (and imperative!) to believe in your work. But you should also see that “rush” of excitement for what it is—dopamine. It’s the same hormonal neurotransmitter that puts women on cloud nine (or into hellish depression) after childbirth—and plays a key role in addictive behavior. Now, I’d rather be addicted to creativity than cocaine any day of the week, but just as a crackhead can quickly go broke chasing after her next fix, so can we aspiring authors go bankrupt trying to garner a few crumbs of recognition. So here’s a bit of free lawyerly advice: When you're ready to "go public," make a realistic dopamine (ahem, marketing) budget. Then stick to it.

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  • Thanks for the comment, Jenny. Nice to know someone reads these things! LOL.