The Distasteful Business of Self-Promotion

If anything, self-promotion is more prevalent (and just as distasteful) now as it was when I originally wrote this article five years ago.

At that time Harper Collins had launched a website called authonomy.com. That site has since been closed. I don’t know why but perhaps they began to realize what I did right from the beginning – online votes, likes, recommendations, nominations – whatever you want to call them, don’t translate into sales.

Five years later and up steps Amazon with Kindle Scout. In the article below you can substitute Amazon for Harper Collins and Kindle Scout authonomy.com  As much as things change they stay the same.

I should mention I submitted my soon-to-be-release novel, The Widower for the Kindle Scout program (see my blog of October 24, 2015, Kindle Scout scouting for sales not quality). I didn’t get nominated and the title of this article is likely one of the reasons why, though I’m sure not the only one.

So some of you might consider this blog sour grapes. Would I still be writing this if I’d won the $1500 advance and a publishing contract? To that I say – I hope so.

 

The distasteful business of self-promotion

Most the lessons I’ve learned in life are not from people who excelled, but from people who were jerks, morons, mind-numbingly boring, or teeth grinding obnoxious. I have this moment when I realize I am or have been that person. I’ve actually displayed that kind of attitude or conducted myself in that manner. Believe me, this kind of epiphany is the best behavior modification I can think of.

This brings me to the subject of self-promotion, or self-aggrandizement, defined as “an act undertaken to increase your own power and influence or to draw attention to your own importance.” For me, even the definition, sounds distasteful and a huge personal turn-off. This is probably because, as a former aspiring politician, I’ve done so much of it myself – until, you guessed it, I had one of those behavioral modifying moments.

Second only to the previously mentioned calling, we writers seem to be the most flagrant self-promoters. Indeed, we are encouraged to be. Some agents and publishers, as part of their submission process, start by asking how we personally plan to promote our work – this even before they decide whether what is being submitted has merit. Many people in the industry suggest you begin building your profile even before you’re published. Just what you would say, and who would be interested I’m sure I don’t know.

A new twist to the self-promotion game came with the launching of Harper Collins website authonomy.com. Here’s what this publishing giant has to say about their site.

The site “…invites unpublished and self published authors to post their manuscripts for visitors to read online. Authors create their own personal page on the site to host their project – and must make at least 10,000 words available for the public to read.

“Visitors to authonomy can comment on these submissions – and can personally recommend their favourites to the community. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives, and uses it to rank the books on the site.

HarperCollins hopes to find new, talented writers we can sign up for our traditional book publishing programmes – we’ll be reading the most popular manuscripts each month as part of this search.”

When you upload your manuscript or w.i.p. you immediately receive requests from other authors basically saying, “if you plug mine, I’ll plug yours.” There is no caveat about it being well written or a good story, or requests for suggestions on how to improve the work. The emphasis is on self-promotion and networking not good writing with these ambitious wannabes hoping to secure enough recommendations to get their work before the decision makers at HC. The assumption appears to be that HC will be so impressed with their self-promotion skills they will over look the fact the work is crap.

Frightening, but maybe they’re right.

I recently came across another writer’s version of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

I was intrigued by an offer that appeared on my publisher’s author’s forum expressed as an opportunity for fellow authors to promote one another. It amounted to author’s writing positive reviews for each others books and than posting them on various sites like Goodreads, and Amazon.

What makes a review credible? The absence of conflict of interest would be a good start.

I think the importance of self-promotion is blown way out of proportion. Contributing to blogs, managing Facebook and Twitter, uploading stuff onto YouTube, keeping a website up-to-date and sending out that newsletter all takes time. Though some of this might be necessary, even essential, it needs to be kept to a minimum because it takes away from what’s important, writing.

Beyond putting you’re work out there, self-promotion is only marginally effective, in my opinion, because it lacks a most important ingredient – credibility. However, an unsolicited* endorsement has the sincerity that can generate a word of mouth ground swell that spreads exponentially. I believe a worthwhile story told by a good writer can do this, and will ultimately prevail over all the hi-tech gimmicks and new age marketing chicanery.

Naïve? Unspohisticated? Old-fashioned? Out-of-touch with reality? Maybe, probably, but I’ve learned the hard way that  you can fool some of the people all of the time, but in the end the merit and true value of what you’re doing becomes apparent to almost everyone (except maybe yourself), and what you’ve sacrificed blowing your own horn is dignity, self-esteem and character.

Perhaps a certain amount of self-promoting has to be done but surely it can be done graciously and with humility. As we build confidence in our ability and our work, hopefully the need to applaud one-self in public will diminish.

If not, we’ll be the ones avoided at social gatherings.

As Emerson said; ‘A little integrity is better than any career.’

*Unsolicited as in without conflict of interest. Anyone that stands to gain either personally or financially in supporting your writing is suspect including; your publisher, agent, publicist, spouse, friends, family, etc.

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Rod Raglin
I am a author, creative writing coach, journalist, photographer and avid environmentalist living on the west coast of Canada
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