It’s true. I have a confession to make: I hate self-promoting. I do. I really do.
In fact, I hate it more as I get older, and accrue more and more years of having done it for the sake of my books, plays, articles, photographs, screenplays, band gigs, etc., etc. As much as I understand the need, and can professionally frame it as “absolutely necessary to the success of (fill in the blank),” it never fails to make me feel like that needy little girl jumping up and down, waving arms to demand, “Pick ME!! Notice ME!!”
Maybe it’s being one of eleven kids. Despite my placement (third), and personality inclinations (funny and/or charming), I actually felt I had to jump up and down to be truly noticed. I mean, really noticed, in that one-on-one way children require.
Leave it to me, then, to pick a “look at me!” career and stick with it long enough to arrive at the point where artists can no longer be “just artists,” and the act of waving hands and jumping up and down is now requisite behavior!
That’s because we are now, in this not-so-new digital age, unequivocally tasked with promoting and marketing ourselves with the same verve and skill set of the “helper people” but without the protective shield of their professional connections, entree, business acumen, objective skills, and laser focus. Despite occasional successes and winning results, and since we’re in confession mode, let’s be honest: It’s exhausting, expensive, time-consuming, even sometimes painful. I miss my helper people.
Oh, I’ve had them throughout the life of my career, and, when I did, it was freeing, unburdening, and glorious. Then I got older, careers shifted, culture changed, the Internet democratized everything (good and less-good). Every medium of art and communication became saturated with every kind of art and artist, and those very helpful “helper people” got harder to find, engage, and sign on the dotted line. You either hired skilled publicists—wonderful when you could afford it; I could only briefly—or you become your own designated “helper-person.”
And I don’t wanna be—that’s my true confession. I too often feel like Irene Cara warbling, “Out Here On My Own,” and I don’t have the benefit of Fame! But I do the job to honor the work I’ve put tremendous effort and vigilance into making as good as it can possibly be. I’m proud of that work, and I really want you to find and enjoy it. Not because I need accolades or exclamations of “you’re such a good writer!”, but because these stories and their characters and themes mean a lot to me; they contain ideas, concepts, and existential musings I want you to read and ponder and share. The only way that happens is if you hear about it, find it, and obtain the work. The only way that happens is if I, despite my whining and recalcitrance, make you aware of it.
So I do. Reluctantly but earnestly do.
But finding the right balance is tough. Sometimes you get it wrong; you worry about people’s eyes rolling. Your small publisher can only offer so much, some in media don’t want to hear directly from the artist, and sometimes responses can be downright cantankerous. For example, this example:
Since all three of my novels are literary fiction that fall neatly into the “book club” genre, I started researching book clubs. I found several, sent out polite private messages and emails, and, when I found a viable one on Goodreads, went to their page, saw a drop-down menu with “suggest a book,” and wrote, again, a very polite introduction of my latest book with pertinent links, awards, and information. So far, so good.
I was then stunned when the book club leader tersely responded: “I removed your book suggestion from our site because we do not [emphasis hers] allow authors to self-promote their own books”… like I crashed their party & hogged the karaoke mic.
What struck me was the wrist-slapping tone of her note, with its presumption that I was a boorish amateur spamming their club, rather than a respected writer who truly thought her book might hit the sweet spot of their particular club’s book sense. Though I did not sent this particular response, I should have:
“Dear Book Club Leader: Please be aware that it’s hard out there for authors. Given the fluctuating status of our industry, many talented writers are on their own, trying to get good work into the marketplace as creatively & graciously as possible. Don’t assume they’re hacks. Don’t assume they’re spammers. Be open. Like any good gatekeeper, you don’t want to miss the gems because you’re too quick to slam the door. If an author suggests her book to your club, maybe check it out before you slap her wrist. It just might be your group’s perfect ‘next book.'”
Then, as I was figuratively trundling home to return my books to their shelves, I was introduced to NovelNetwork, an organization with the following mission statement: “NOVEL NETWORK is a global space dedicated to connecting authors with avid readers, an expanded professional network, and published peers. NOVEL NETWORK was created to help authors find more innovative ways to connect with readers and promote their books to wider audiences.”
Yes! That. Perfect. Huzzah!
Imagine how delighted I was when, after submitting my materials, I was invited to join with all three of my novels en tow. I suddenly had “helper people”@ And look, all three of my novels are tucked into their recent holiday promotion below and I had not a thing to do with it… Merry freakin’ Christmas!
Before I wrap this divulgence, let me add this: While I might cringe at the demand to persistently blow my own horn, please know how much I appreciate those in my circle who never seem to tire of my promotions; who’ve taken the time to leave reviews because they know how important those are to writers; who continually help spread the word and encourage others to give my books a read. I cannot tell you how very much this reluctant self-promoter appreciates every bit of that… THANK YOU.
And Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate and however you do. Just remember: if it’s an occasion that involves gift-giving, keep this equation in mind:
Books+Love=Perfect Holiday Presents!
(Lookie there… I did it… shameless self promotion!)
NOTE: From NovelNetwork: “Good news for individuals who do not have a book club home – you can still join NovelNetwork – simply register as a book club member and list ‘NovelNetwork Book Chat Group’ as your book club affiliation. We’d love to welcome you! Visit NovelNetwork.com to activate your free membership!”
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.