Janet Elaine Smith had an interesting piece about her methods of self-marketing in the December issue of Writer's Journal, titled How Bold Are You, Really? I've been pondering it along with some other articles I've gathered on the topic. Janet's enthusiasm for self-promotion led a fellow writer to call her a "brazen hussy," which Janet then promptly turned around and used as a title for a Yahoo group she started on self-promotion.
I like that kind of attitude. It tempts me to rename this place. I can't remember which names that I'm not supposed to know about, though, so I'll save it for the industry expose. In any event, being the reserved, quiet soul that I am -- shut up, Jean -- I couldn't do what Janet does, but I admire her energy and enthusiasm. It takes a lot to get out there and do the self-promo dance. There was one tip she mentioned that bothered me, and I'll quote from the article:
"Don't be afraid to interrupt, politely -- even on the internet. If someone in a thread mentions something that pertains to your book, jump in with a bit of BSP (blatant self-promotion)."
I think interrupting a discussion thread solely for the purpose of self-promo is transparently rude. Working in a mention of your book when it's directly related to a topic of discussion, on the other hand, isn't. The line between the two? Very thin.
I'm not against self-promotion. I avoid it whenever possible. Seriously, writers who maintain blogs solely for the purpose of self-promotion, and never post about anything but themselves, their struggles, their work, their releases, their glowing reviews, their personal appearances, etc. are fine with me. If that's all you care about, or all you have to contribute to the publishing blogosphere, go for it. Your weblog will have huge appeal for your readers, and if it's all about you and your work, you'll be safe. With all the ire directed at the writer who dares express an opinion these days, it's probably the smart thing to do.
That said, when you visit another writer's blog or discussion board, you're a guest. If you went to a party at that writer's house in real life, would you jump in the middle of conversations or derail them to talk about yourself? How about walking away from someone who is talking to you the minute the subject is no longer about you, or you've finished pimping yourself to that group and have moved on to the next?
The internet may seem impersonal because we're not talking face-to-face, but that doesn't mean that it is. Insincerity has a very distinct smell to it, even on the web.
Given all the pressure publishers are putting on us to self-promote, what do we do? Maybe we should stop viewing other writer (or any type) weblogs as self-promo opportunities, and see them more as neighbors. Over the years we've become a very large, diverse online community. Do we really want to be reduced to filtered, programmed, self-absorbed Stepford Bloggers, air-kissing each other in comments? Don't we have enough of that going on already?
If you really get involved in a discussion versus playing your own publicist, chances are some of the other visitors will take an interest in you. People who like what you have to say track down your blog or site, stop in to participate in your blog discussions, and best of all, invest in your books. Or, to put it simply, be sincere, and be yourself, and keep your self-promo in your pocket until it's the right time to share.
What do you guys think?