How to Promote Your Work

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Speaker A: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

Speaker B: Hello and welcome to another episode of Working Overtime.

Speaker B: Workings biweekly advice focus.

Speaker B: Carry on to workings checked bag.

Speaker B: I’m your host, Karen Hahn.

Speaker A: And I am your other host, June Thomas.

Speaker A: How are you doing, Karen?

Speaker B: I’m pretty good.

Speaker B: I’m always so delighted to chat with you or Isaac, so I mean, it’s the highlight of my day every time.


Speaker A: Absolutely same.

Speaker A: So what are we talking about today?

Speaker B: So, for this episode, I wanted to talk about a listener voicemail we received, which we’ll have a little listen of it right now.

Speaker C: Hi.

Speaker C: I am an extremely successful professional.

Speaker C: I happen to own my own business company that designs and licenses font software.

Speaker C: I’m probably another 20 years left in my career and I worry that if I ever had to job hunt, prospective employers wouldn’t understand what my resume is and how capable I am in just sort of general creative management.

Speaker C: So I would like to increase my profile in the sort of area where maybe if there was a news story about my field that a member of the press might want to come to me as a source.


Speaker C: And so my question for you, as members of the press, is what sort of thing works for that?


Speaker C: I don’t really know how one increases one’s profile other than social media and it’s not the right format for this.

Speaker B: All right, so the bottom line here is how do I promote myself?

Speaker B: How do I increase my profile?

Speaker B: And more specifically, is there a good way to self promote that doesn’t involve social media?

Speaker B: That caveat makes answering this question a little more complicated, doesn’t it?

Speaker B: It’s the most easily accessible option for most of us in terms of putting ourselves out there.


Speaker A: I agree.

Speaker A: And I know that the advice givers code demands that one never argue with an advice seeker.

Speaker A: So consider this just a gentle pushback, listener, but I would encourage you to spend a bit of time reconsidering your complete rejection of social media.

Speaker A: I’m not saying you have to have a social media strategy and be on Tweet Deck like 18 hours a day or do anything particularly ambitious.

Speaker A: But before you dismiss social media in toto, I’m wondering if there might be small things that you may not even be thinking of as social media that you could do that you would actually enjoy.

Speaker A: So essentially what I hear you saying, listener, is that you are really knowledgeable about a pretty niche topic and you want to be a source for journalists and writers when they’re writing on that topic.


Speaker A: Well, the best way to give those target groups a sense of what you think and how well you express yourself is to put stuff out there.

Speaker A: It might be a newsletter, one you send out every month, or some other low stress frequency.


Speaker A: It might be that you use a free platform like Medium to share your thoughts when your specialist subject is in the news, it might just be that you do a regular search of Twitter for your topic and respond to other people’s tweets if you disagree or want to amplify something they say.

Speaker A: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be heard on a subject that you know a lot about.


Speaker A: And some curated form of social media can be a really effective way of not only getting your opinions out there, but also kind of showing off your style and making yourself easy to find.

Speaker B: I really like the newsletter suggestion, or at least the idea of rejiggering the idea of social media.

Speaker B: But that said, if it really is an absolute rejection of it, I wanted to dig around in our personal experiences a little bit to try to come up with some alternatives.

Speaker B: I don’t think I’ve personally done any self promoting that wasn’t on social media, but I’m curious if you have.

Speaker A: Yeah, I think I have two things come to mind.


Speaker A: So the first is my book proposal, which I spent a lot of time on because essentially you’re selling two things.

Speaker A: The concept of the book is the first, and then the second is you as the right person to write it.

Speaker A: And I am not excessively modest, possibly not even modest at all.

Speaker A: I don’t mind bigging myself up, but I did find it really difficult to write about myself in the third person, which is the way that those things are typically written.


Speaker A: And my amazing agent, who is a genius, gave me a great piece of advice, which was to write a letter to the imaginary editor.


Speaker A: At that point, I didn’t know who was going to be it was just going to go out to the world.

Speaker A: And it wasn’t a letter that I was going to send, probably, but it was a way of kind of getting yourself to figure out what you would say, what you want the decision maker to know, without having to talk about yourself in the third person.

Speaker A: So that’s the first.

Speaker A: The second.

Speaker A: The other thing is that when you’re applying for a job and you have to write a cover letter and generally kind of figure out how you want to position yourself to the team that’s going to make the hiring decision, you’re effectively self promoting.


Speaker A: Right?

Speaker A: Most of us have done that at some point in our lives.

Speaker A: Are there things you’ve learned from making that kind of application, even if it was at a very different point in your work life, that you would apply to this challenge?

Speaker B: I love what you’re saying because right before you answered, I said, I have never done any self promotion that wasn’t on social media.

Speaker B: And that you cited two examples that I’ve also had to do.

Speaker B: And I’m like, oh, you’re right.

Speaker B: Actually that is a sort of self promotion.

Speaker B: That said, in terms of my career, for me it was definitely just the case, I started self promoting on social media and it worked for me to the point that I kept doing it.


Speaker B: But I think both of us have been in the media world, or at least just in the world for long, that we have some thoughts on how to promote without doing this or in slightly more, I guess, public settings rather than like a book proposal which is only really going to the editor.

Speaker B: So we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll really dig in to the question of how to promote yourself.

Speaker A: Well, hey listeners.

Speaker A: Is there a particular creative struggle that you’d like to hear us tackle?

Speaker A: Let us know by emailing us at or even better, you can call us and leave a message at 304-933-9675.


Speaker A: That’s 304933 wo r k.

Speaker A: So, June.

Speaker B: I was really glad to hear you bring up your agent in your previous answer because this is actually something that I wanted to talk about.

Speaker B: I think the most apparent answer to the question of how to promote yourself or your business is to turn to some kind of management company or agency that will take care of it for you.

Speaker B: Their whole job is to promote you.

Speaker B: I’m very lucky that I have a manager and agent for my screenwriting work, though I recognize that that’s slightly different than what our caller is looking for, especially because my representation gets paid when I do, rather than on a consistent basis, which would be the case if you hired a PR firm or anything like that.

Speaker B: But that is the biggest and arguably easiest, though not financially option when it comes to promoting your work or business.


Speaker B: Do you work with the manager or agent?

Speaker B: I mean, obviously you have an agent and if you do, do you feel like the work they do for you is noticeable?

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker A: So as you said, I have an agent.

Speaker A: I mentioned her earlier.

Speaker A: She helped me just immense amount with that book proposal and the process of sending the book out and considering offers and all that stuff.

Speaker A: She helped me figure out what the boot was.

Speaker A: She helped me figure out how to sell it.

Speaker A: She brought a ton of specialist knowledge and then she was there to negotiate and take care of the tricky conversations that I didn’t necessarily want to have myself.

Speaker A: Again, I recently submitted my manuscript, so that has led to another period where we’re checking in more intensely.

Speaker A: So there are definitely promotional aspects to an agent relationship.

Speaker A: She is looking out for my interest, but I’d say it’s more like the relationship we had with our immigration attorney when we were planning to move to the UK.

Speaker A: This professional will help you avoid problems because they have specialist knowledge and expertise.

Speaker A: They know what you shouldn’t do as well as what you should do, and they have a little bit of distance, which is useful when you’re in the middle of something stressful.

Speaker A: It’s very hard to be calm and objective.

Speaker A: It’s much easier to just freak out.

Speaker B: We’ve both been there.

Speaker A: Yeah, exactly.

Speaker A: Let me just call in a professional right now.

Speaker A: I am much less familiar with the manager role, though.


Speaker A: Can you talk about how a manager is different and what they are able to do for you?

Speaker B: I feel like even I still don’t really have a clear understanding of it.

Speaker B: Mostly because I do think what you’re describing that your agent did for you is what I would say that my manager generally does.

Speaker B: Where my understanding of the difference between a manager and an agent, at least in the screenwriting space or the space that I’m in, is that the manager is kind of more selective in terms of what they send you out for.

Speaker B: I think generally also, managers work with a smaller base of clients, so they take more time, they’re a little more tailored to you, whereas an agent is sending you out to every opportunity.

Speaker B: It’s a much more numbers game approach, I guess.

Speaker B: And also the agent is the one who can take care of legal stuff and paperwork for you.

Speaker B: Managers will not do that.

Speaker B: So that’s my understanding, my very, very rudimentary understanding of what the difference is.

Speaker B: And I will say we had our manager for, I would say two years before we started working with an agent.

Speaker B: So it kind of just depends on your path and at the end of the day, less whether you think you want a manager or agent and more do you get along with that person, do they care about you and are they doing the best job that they can for you and with you?

Speaker B: With that in mind, I wanted to ask how you met your agent because obviously the process becomes a little different if you’re hiring someone to do this for you.


Speaker B: But it still seems relevant to ask to shed a little insight as to how to make these connections.

Speaker A: Yeah, my agent reached out to me because she’s a working listener person of incredible taste.

Speaker A: And that had actually happened to me before in the past too.

Speaker A: I think for journalists, it’s relatively common for agents to be proactive if they respond to a piece or a writer, and they think they’d be a good match for them and the kind of work they do, their sort of specialization.

Speaker A: And while that’s specific to journalism, again, I think that’s another reason to put your work out into the world.

Speaker A: It can lead to useful and productive connections.

Speaker B: Yeah, that’s absolutely true.

Speaker B: Very early on, I had a couple of literary managers or agents query me and that was specifically because my work had landed me like a talking headslaught on a CNN segment or something like that.

Speaker B: That was why they saw me, because I had already been promoting myself.

Speaker B: That said, even if you are hiring someone to promote for you, it’s something that requires a little work on top of financial obligation.

Speaker B: For instance, when my book was coming out, the publisher sent out emails and such to promote my book, but I didn’t actually know about any of that until one of my friends was like, oh no, I’ve been getting those emails, you don’t need to worry about it.

Speaker B: I was like, oh my God.

Speaker B: I really had just like white noise coming from the publisher.

Speaker B: And setting up events was actually all my outreach too.


Speaker B: I was responsible for all the events that I set up for my book.

Speaker B: I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’ll still take some legwork even if you have a promoter, whether it’s dictating to whoever’s handling it for you that you want them to fulfill X or Y obligations, or shouldering a little of the burden yourself in order to make sure you’re getting what you want.

Speaker B: But there are still other ways to promote besides social media and hiring outside help.

Speaker B: And this will probably be the most pertinent advice to our voicemailer.

Speaker B: How do you want to be promoted?

Speaker B: Is there a specific site that you want to be on?

Speaker B: Because in the end, the answer I’m coming to is a topic that we’ve talked about a lot on the show, Albay, in a different context, which is pitching.

Speaker B: I’m sure we’ve both written pitch emails for stories before, but have you ever had to pitch yourself beyond the book.

Speaker A: Proposal and the job application pitches that I mentioned earlier?

Speaker A: This topic is on my mind right now because I just got the author questionnaire from my publisher, and this is the document that the company uses to figure out who to send your book to for potential reviews, how to position it, what kind of promotional events you should do, where you think it should or could be excerpted.

Speaker A: And the way you describe your book is incredibly important because it might be the jacket copy, it might be the language the publicity department uses to interest writers or bookers in covering your book.


Speaker A: And a lot of that involves again, pitching yourself as well as the book.

Speaker A: So to get back to the listener email, one way to try to answer this challenge is maybe to ask yourself what your best case scenario might be.

Speaker A: In my case, that might be everyone who reads the book jacket copy decides immediately that they want to buy the book and then you do the best they better that happen.

Speaker A: Yes.

Speaker A: For the emailer, what is it, what would be the perfect scenario?

Speaker A: What is the thing that you really want to happen?

Speaker A: And then try to kind of reverse engineer that?

Speaker A: I must say though, while still describing yourself and whatever it is that you’re trying to pitch completely accurately, that’s a.

Speaker B: Very, very good answer.

Speaker B: We have a little bit more to say on the subject, but we’ll be right back with those final thoughts after this.

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Speaker B: All right, so pitching yourself comes with a pretty big caveat, which is that, like all pitches, it won’t always be successful.

Speaker B: Generally speaking, I’d say it looks like emailing a given outlet explaining who you are, what you do, and why you think you’d be an interesting subject for them to cover is maybe the best course of action based on your voicemail.


Speaker B: But you do have to go one step beyond that and ask yourself, do I make sense for this publication?

Speaker B: Is my work something that this outlet generally covers?

Speaker B: Is it something they’ve already covered?

Speaker B: And if so, how do I make myself stand out or otherwise new and worth taking a look at?

Speaker B: June, what do you think?

Speaker A: Yeah, this is such a basic issue, but it is also very frequently overlooked.

Speaker A: So, listener, I’m not trying to be condescending or anything, but please, whether you’re pitching yourself to be an expert or you’re pitching an article or a book or looking for representation, whatever it is that you want to do, the very first question has to be, wait, does this make sense?

Speaker A: Do they cover this kind of topic?

Speaker A: Do they publish the kind of article that quotes experts?

Speaker A: Because not every publication does.

Speaker A: In essence, don’t pitch a piece about the specs of the latest iPad to The Paris Review, don’t send your poems to the New York Times business section.

Speaker A: That kind of principle also applies when you’re pitching yourself.

Speaker B: Yeah, you need to do a little research and prep, and I think that outside of what we’ve just discussed, the best option you have is making sure that you personally do the best work you can.

Speaker B: Because if you are, as our caller mentioned, that she is very successful in your field, I don’t think future employers necessarily need to see press pieces about you in order to know that you’re good at what you do, because your work will speak for itself.


Speaker B: But if that still doesn’t feel like enough and I get it, because I think we all feel this feeling, then I think maybe another potential route is to get involved with other professionals in your field.

Speaker B: Like, is there some sort of board or committee you could join?

Speaker B: Is there a group?

Speaker B: How can you engage with others in your field and grow your presence that way?

Speaker B: Do you think I’m missing any other methods of increasing one’s profile?

Speaker A: I do think that professional networking part of it is really important, and it can be very easy to kind of forget about that.

Speaker A: I want to just kind of step back just a tiny bit and say that I really applaud our voicemailer for thinking about the future in this way.

Speaker A: What if, for example, AI transforms the field she works in?

Speaker A: These are valuable times in a lot of different industries, and something similar happened to a couple of friends of mine who had spent decades in what I guess you could call theater arts.

Speaker A: And when the pandemic came along and those places closed for an extended period and then afterward cut costs by not rehiring their best people.

Speaker A: That put some of my friends out of work, and they had pretty specialist jobs, and there weren’t other places that did that thing.

Speaker A: If there were, they would have been snapped up because they were known and respected in their field.

Speaker A: But there weren’t.

Speaker A: So how did they get work?

Speaker A: Well, they broke down the type of tasks they did instead of focusing on the field.

Speaker A: So they might have, say, managed a costume shop, but that work involved managing budgets, hiring and managing people, training people, project management.

Speaker A: So they talked about how they’d used those skills and pitched themselves for jobs that required them outside of their previous field.

Speaker A: So in addition to that kind of professional networking, I guess it can be a really useful process to figure out what types of work you’re good at.

Speaker A: Not the job title, not the area, even not the field, but just the day to day tasks that you’re good at and that you enjoy.

Speaker A: I think that’s very important.

Speaker A: And just separate those out and then realize that those are usable and transferable to other professions.

Speaker B: That’s a very, very wise answer and I think a good way to wrap up this episode, because that is all the time that we have.

Speaker B: Thank you so much for listening and for your voicemail.

Speaker B: And if you like the show, don’t forget to subscribe wherever you hear your podcasts.

Speaker B: And if you have questions you’d like to hear us address, we would love to hear from you.

Speaker B: You can send us an email at or give us a ring at 304933 Wo RK.

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Speaker B: Big thanks to our producer Kevin Bendis and to our series producer Cameron Drews.

Speaker B: We’ll be back on Sunday with a brand new episode of Working, and in two weeks we’ll have another working overtime.

Speaker B: Until then, get back to work.