I've been having conversations with my writer friends and other artists about self-promotion. I feel like I'm not great at self-promotion, but I suppose I could be worse. For example, I don't feel queasy about sending out a mailing that announces a forthcoming book, but if you do, the best piece of advice that I've seen is to think of it as sharing good news, not asking people to buy your book. And others might say that if you can't ask your friends and family to buy your books, then how can you expect perfect strangers to buy your books?
In her book Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, Carolyn See advises authors to be compiling a list of addresses, and she says you should include everyone: "These are the people who should know about your book. They include--again--your old professors and schoolmates, your carpet cleaner, the guy who fixed your roof. Before you say, 'Oh, I couldn't ask them,' think for a minute. If these people aren't going to buy your book, then who on earth is going to buy it?" (page 221).
The other day a writer friend and I were talking about money, how it comes in and how it doesn't. She has no problem selling her books but sometimes has trouble collecting the money--not because she doesn't ask/remind, but because institutions can be very good at ignoring bill collectors.
I've heard this piece of advice, and it strikes me as a good one for those of us who have trouble asking for money for our work: create some sort of fundraiser. I've heard of writers who do a reading with book sale proceeds going to support writers in MFA programs--for example, I've heard of a group of recent graduates who created a travel fund for students with a reading that they did. How cool is that?
And of course, we can support our writer friends. Many of us have no trouble supporting other people. If we have a wide enough network, maybe we don't have to worry about promoting ourselves, as long as we're promoting each other.
Here's a great post about ways we can help our writer friends. And of course, many of these suggestions we can adapt to promote our own work, if we're so inclined.