I hate self-promotion.
I’m not a particularly modest person but I prefer to let people discover my good points over time, rather than loudly and insistently advertise them up front. And I judge others more or less the same way—the braggarts and blow-hards are discounted, while I take time to get to know the more confidently interesting ones who don’t feel the need to tell me right away every last one of their accomplishments in life.
Now square that with a career choice that requires a heavy dose of my loudly and insistently advertising to others just how wonderful my books are. Not only that, but that people should open their wallets and joyfully watch those dollars flow my publisher’s way.
So I made a decision a long time ago that it would not be like that. There had to be better ways to self-promote.
One person who does it particularly well is my agent, Kristin Nelson, whose blog Pub Rants is a daily stop for many writers, both aspiring and published, and industry professionals. Kristin is a very nice person and she used to be a professor, so she genuine wants to impart useful information. But she is also an extremely savvy business woman who knows that a widely read, widely respected blog is a perfect venue to promote her authors—and herself.
It’s no secret that when I queried, I queried her exclusively—I wasn’t going to try any other agents until she’d turned me down. Part of it was Miss Snark’s consistent praise of Kristin as a fabulous agent. The other part was months of reading Kristin’s blog and seeing for myself how she adroitly balances helping others and promoting her clients and herself. The woman presents an absolutely stellar image online—every bit of it backed up by her real life demeanor and job performance–and it didn’t take me long before I decided that I wanted to be on her team.
Another person who does a bang-on job is Bettie Sharpe. The serialization of Ember, how brilliant was that? And Bettie might not have originated the pay-it-forward contest, but it was on her blog that I first read one.
So with all these luminous examples before me, what have I learned and how have I implemented my own self-promotion?
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The Hippocratic Oath of self-promotion: first, do not annoy. Jane of Dear Author scared the living daylight out of me with her sharp-eyed catching of blog comment abusers. Not that I was ever going to do it, but now I don’t even think about it.
- If at all possible, make sure others benefit from my self-promotion efforts, whether it’s by dissemination of knowledge, entertainment, or what have you.
Here’s the implementation part.
1) I volunteered to be the PAN (Published Author Network) Liaison this year for my local RWA group. Sure it’s work compiling things like everyone’s release schedules for 2008, and will be even more work when I get around later on to compiling an e-mail listing of local booksellers, but it gives me a legitimate excuse to cold call booksellers, introduce myself, and ask such fun things as whether they might want to join the PAN authors for lunch.
2) I queried and received editorial approval to write an article for the Romance Writer’s Report (RWA’s monthly magazine) on how library systems acquire fiction, particularly genre fiction. I am personally fascinated by how it works and I think a lot of other authors might be interested in knowing how their books do or do not make it into libraries. But it’s also a good opportunity to introduce myself to the adult fiction buyer for the my local public library system—not to mention get some questions answered by Super Librarian, whose blog I enjoy very much and whose purchasing dollars I would not mind coming my way.
3) I got up at the crack of dawn to write a double-review for Bettie Sharpe’s Ember and Like a Thief in the Night. Bettie is one of the fiercest writer to come along in a long time, but I did not actually decide to write the review until I’d read LATITN and enjoyed it—I’m one of those crazy people who take their own credibility dead seriously. But once I decided to do it, I made sure I did it properly. I contacted Jane of Dear Author–she has one of the highest trafficked blogs–and attached a giveaway to the review (which Jane graciously doubled)—who doesn’t love free books? It was for Bettie—especially the getting up at the crack of dawn part, so that I could get the review done in time for a high-traffic day and that she would receive the exposure she so richly merited–but I also knew I was publicizing my own name. I mean would you even believe it if I said that I wasn’t aware that such a gesture would harm me none?
4) Whenever I can, I write blog pieces that, if not useful or entertaining, at least try to be thoughtful. (Yes, I know it’s a disgrace how I’ve neglected this blog again, especially after I made a New Year’s Resolution to be less neglectful. Shame on me.) With a big line-up of guest-blogging spots in March and April, sometimes my head throbs just wondering how am I going to come up with original content for everyone. But I will, because that is the least I expect from myself.
Does any of it work? Who knows? But given all the publisher support that I’ve received, it is incumbent on me to do as much as I can on my end to promote the debut of Private Arrangements. And I can only do what I feel comfortable doing.
So far, I have enjoyed myself: it’s great fun talking to booksellers and interviewing librarians and promoting Bettie; it’s completely liberating to never participate in blog discussion with an eye toward putting my book out there; and it’s amusing to read over old blog posts and go, lol, I said that?
Tomorrow, mutually beneficial self-promotion continues with the Query Consultation Prize finally up for grabs. (It will be a separate post of its own.)