|“Nen Dreier, det Schäfchen” by Theodor Hosemann|
So, in case you missed the to-do on Friday, I posted a “pledge drive” that was intended to be jocular but also nudge-nudge in its approach, and I received some negative feedback about its thrust and style (along with lots of positive feedback from people who didn’t think anything of it).
And if it seemed like I was a bit twitchy about it on Friday, I have to be honest that I’m particularly sensitive to criticism when it comes to self-promotional activities.
Because here’s the thing about self-promotion: It sucks. It really sucks.
If self-promotion were an insect, I would squash it with the world’s biggest fly swatter. If self-promotion were a field I would burn it and salt the earth so it could never live again.
It doesn’t feel right to stand in front of a crowd and shout, “Me!” and no matter how much you try and cloak the self-promotion in elaborate disguises, it can still feel kind of icky. And if you don’t enjoy the spotlight, self-promotion in all its forms can be downright terrifying.
This is one of the hugest drawbacks about an era of publishing where publishers expect authors to shoulder the lion’s share of the promotional activities. No one I know enjoys self-promotion, and no one out there particularly likes being promoted to either. People usually want to hear about new things from enthusiastic and neutral third parties, not the hugely biased person who created the thing.
And when it comes to social media, the Internet dislikes it when something they are accustomed to getting for free suddenly comes with strings attached, even if those strings are only of the heartstring nature. It’s such a fine line between reminding people about your book and hoping they buy it while not alienating your audience and turning into a shill.
So basically: Self-promotion = not fun!
And yet I know what I would tell someone else who has a new book out: You have to do it. No matter how much you might dislike it, no matter how much negative feedback you get about it, no matter how much it makes you cringe, you gotta do it. You have to give your book a boost, you have to make your network aware of it, you have to do everything you can to help it sell. The era of being just an author, if it ever existed, is over.
Do it as non-annoyingly as possible, but do it.
Sure, it would be fantastic if you had an army of rabid fans or a fabulously wealthy and dedicated publisher to do all the promotion for you. But unless you win the publishing lottery, that first boost has to come from you. You have to build your own army and hope they start evangelizing and creating new converts. You have to get that first bit of momentum going. Otherwise your book will quietly disappear into the great unknown.
So… yeah. It ain’t fun. But there’s a lot of noise out there, and sometimes you have to shout to make yourself heard. Even if you cringe the entire time you’re doing it.
And to show I practice what I preach, here are some links to buy JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW. Kirkus said of the series, “There’s plenty of set-up for future volumes; fans will hope they won’t have to wait long. ” (And you won’t: JACOB WONDERBAR FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSE is coming in April).