Self-Promoters Take a Page from Taylor Swift's Book

Riddle: So Why Is Taylor Swift a Terrific Marketer?

ANSWER: Because she knows the real meaning of the word “assertive.”

I fear the word “assertive” has gotten a bad rap in the last couple decades.
People often associate it with being brash or downright overbearing, but it’s a skill we all need in business (in our case the world of publishing) when we must negotiate a contact or make ourselves heard in the din of a hundreds of thousands of books being published each year.

But Taylor got it right. She thinks creative people should get paid for their work. She stood up for that idea. She wasn’t afraid to use her financial clout to do it. And—here’s the biggie. She doesn’t hesitate to do it!

Recently, Taylor pitted her case against Apple--financially the world’s most influential company—who planned to launch a free promotion for their new music streaming business, Apple Music. She did it with an open letter on her blog (ahh, the power of the written word!) and a tweet or two. And she did it without mussing her hair or raising her voice or resorting to a lewd gesture. 

She assured Apple that she loved them, threw in a few more compliments like “I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple does,”  but she still socked it to them. In something like sixteen hours they were smart enough to buckle--which, by the way, can also be a smart marketing and/or public relations move. Swift and all their other musicians will get paid.

And now we can all add the word “assertive” to the lexicon of skills we need to survive, to influence. She used a gentle voice that convinced others that her protest was not about making more money for herself but a matter of principle and passion. Now the rest of us can be assertive and know that can mean engaging and focused as well as strident.


Nonfiction Bio
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter published in 2003. Her The Frugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is


Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, great advice on creatively putting our assertive foot forward when planning our marketing strategies.

Heidiwriter said...

This is great, Carolyn. Assertive is NOT aggressive, it's standing up for ourselves in a firm, kind way. Well-said, and Taylor Swift is a good example of a great marketer. As creatives, we are often afraid to toot our own horns!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thanks for coming by Heidi and Karen. It's a lesson too many of us--both men and women haven't quite got down yet! (-:

Shirley Corder said...

Thanks Carolyn, I hadn't heard of this. Well done on Taylor Swift's assertiveness - and not aggressiveness. We need to learn from this.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thanks to all of your for comments, but also for sharing on the social networks! That's so important for those of us who want to be helpful to as many authors as possible. And that must be us 'cause we're here, right?!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I think it is about being assertive with grace. As Heidi said, this is very different for aggressive. Thanks for the post.

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