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The Most Stupendous Blog Post You Will Ever Read!

March 10th, 2011 · 41 Comments · Uncategorized

Self-promotion sucks. Maybe you’ve heard a writer or two say that before. This is because, for the most part, writers want to write, they don’t want to sell. If they wanted to sell, they’d get a real job pushing iPads at the Apple Store or Civics down at their local Honda dealership.

It isn’t that we’re filled with self-doubt. Despite all our well documented insecurities, deep down inside, most of us firmly believe that what we write is better than all that other dreck out there, and you should be reading us instead of that other guy right now.

But how to express this opinion without sounding like a narcissist in a bragging contest? That’s the trick.

Some authors know how to soft-sell their work to perfection. Their self-promotional efforts state all the positive facts relative to their writing (”award winning,” “bestselling,” critically acclaimed,” etc.) in a professional, straightforward manner that achieves the desired effect of drawing a reader’s interest, rather than his ire.

But the delicate balance between confidence and hubris isn’t an easy one to strike. Many authors either err on the side of humility and do next to nothing to publicize their work, or they say far too much far too loudly, holding up their every four-star review and glowing cover blurb as proof of their indisputable genius. When members of this latter group go on the self-promotional attack, their ads and online announcements hit you like a mallet-head to the skull. There’s more subtlety and nuance in a car bomb.

Self-published authors have always run this risk of bombastic self-promotion because they’ve got no one else to handle publicity for them, and, left to their own devices, they over-sell. Say what you will about the value of a big traditional publishing house, but most know how to create an effective print ad or press kit that doesn’t read like something put together by Charlie Sheen for Charlie Sheen.

However, with e-books fast becoming the default way to publish, more and more authors, with and without the support of a traditional publisher, will be dabbling in their own promotion, and so will face the dilemma of balancing plain truth with bravado.

On one of my favorite writers’ blogs, I recently came across an ad announcing a forthcoming short story anthology produced by twelve very smart and competent crime writers. The ad was graphically striking and professionally executed. But the copy featured the following descriptive flourishes:

Wickedly clever

Frightening

Exhilarating

Sizzling

Master storytellers at the peak of their powers

Unforgettable

Pulse-pounding

Shocking twists

Breathtakingly original

Gale-force suspense

Writing so sharp that it will draw blood

Now, once upon a time, a reader could see an ad like this and think, “Wow, that publisher’s really in love with its author — but damn! That sales pitch is way over the top!” All the blame for the copywriter’s rather comical bent toward overstatement would be reserved not for the author in question, but for the overzealous publicity department of his publishing house. In other words, the writer would get a free pass.

But what happens when such ads are the creation of the author himself, as they increasingly will be when the product in question is an e-book? With the curtain yanked aside to reveal the writer behind all the hoopla, are readers likely to be as forgiving of ad copy so blatantly self-aggrandizing?

I wonder.

Does the chest thumping carnival barker approach to advertising still work? If so, wouldn’t Hollywood still be selling movies that way, with trailers chock full of supers and voice-overs promising “The Most Incredible, Fantastic, Awe-Inspiring Experience in Cinematic History”? I suspect it would, and that the reason Hollywood doesn’t is that times have changed and the innocence that once made filmgoers susceptible to such bold, grandiose claims to greatness no longer exists. Filmgoers (and readers) are a more sophisticated bunch these days, and they don’t have the affection for hot air advertisers used to rely upon.

Aside from how effective the “Hyperbole On Steroids” method of self-promotion is in selling books, however, there’s the question of what such ads say about the writers who compose them. Personally, I believe everything an author writes — from his laundry list to his Tweets — offers clues to the quality of his prose. If Bob’s Facebook posts tend to be cogent and thought provoking, the chances are good his books are much the same. Conversely, if the announcements he posts on blogs and online message boards touting his latest novel are reminiscent of an old Texaco Star Theater radio commercial, that to me is a strong indication that said novel will probably not remind anyone of Raymond Chandler writing “at the peak of (his) powers.”

Getting your work noticed in an e-book world that’s becoming more competitive and glutted by the day is no simple matter. And there is plenty of truth to all those idioms about squeaky wheels being the only kind that ever get greased. But there is also a good deal of truth in the expression, “All things in moderation,” and among those things, in my opinion, should be the bluster with which an author promotes his own work.

Unless, that is, he doesn’t mind leaving readers to wonder if he isn’t just trying to sell them a Colossal! Stupendous! Fantastic! Astounding! bill of goods.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • Bill Crider

    Brilliant post! Sheer genius! Both colossal and stupendous!

    The e-book community seems convinced that blurbs like that, along with garish covers, sell the most books.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Bill:

    I definitely agree that colorful blurbs and creative cover art have an impact on sales. But in this particular case, and maybe I didn’t articulate this point as well as I could have, I’m wondering how readers will feel about such blurbs once they realize they’re all coming from the writer himself, and not from whatever publicity machine might be behind him. I think it’s one thing for Big House Publishing to make over-sized claims about the brilliance of Filbert Crimewriter’s next book, but for Filbert to do it himself? I dunno. Will readers be able to separate Filbert Crimewriter the advertising man from Filbert Crimewriter the writer? Will they understand that when he’s writing ad copy for his own stuff, he’s deliberately exaggerating the level of his genius, or will they think his ego has simply run amok? And if it’s the latter, won’t THAT have a negative impact on sales?

  • Fred Zackel

    I self-publish. I don’t blog and I am not on Facebook and I don’t tweet (except maybe in my sleep.) As a fool, as a chump, I trust in serendipity, that my stuff can be “discovered” without me doing anything. Once a month I panic and think, Oh, I better do something! Then I erupt into one (to me) overly loud bleat of blatant self-promotion — and I spend the next thirty days cowering in darkness and shivering in shame. I hate myself for being so blatant. Salesmen are never embarrassed. But now I must go cower.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Fred:

    I don’t endorse doing nothing just because pushing your own stuff makes you feel guilty. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. You wrote it, you should be proud of it, and you’d be doing your work a disservice by standing by with your hands in your pockets while the world passes your stuff by. But “loud bleats of self-promotion,” when they include declarations of how “thrilling” and “sizzling” and “wickedly clever” YOU are, are just a bit over the top, and I don’t think such efforts send the right message to prospective readers.

  • Rachel Brady

    Great post, Gar. I feel so validated after reading this because I might be the suckiest promoter ever to write a book.

    Few of us love talking about ourselves. But it’s really hard to ask others for the favor of a blurb too. What if they read the book and don’t like it? Now there is the awkward possibility you’ve put them on the spot.

    I don’t like talking about my books in my real life (day job, social circles, etc.) because I feel like it is drawing attention to myself and gives the impression I’m in love with myself. At the same time, I’m sure my publisher is disappointed and forlorn because I don’t shout out about the book at every turn…

    You are right. It would be so nice to simply write the book and then get started on the next one.

  • Gillian Roberts

    Great post. Tis my humble opinion that a writer should say in self-promotion only what feels comfortable and natural (which personally means next to nothing). That lets the potential reader know what sort of person–if not what sort of writer–wrote the thing. For myself–unfairly or not, I don’t read the work of anybody who annoys the hell out of me with self–promotion. Life is short and he/she already has an avid fan in him/herself…

  • Warren Bull

    What a wickedly, breath-taking, blood-boiling blog.
    It is sizzlingly, gale-force difficult to someone else to gush about your work who is your grandmother. And you sound like a total prig if you do it yourself.
    The other problem is, if you don’t deliver what you promise, you’ll make critics who will never trust or read you again.

  • Warren Bull

    I meant someone who is NOT your grandmother

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Gillian:

    The annoyance factor is a major one, but for me, the bigger issue is, if an author shows this little restraint writing ad copy, how much is he going to show in his prose? I’m a big believer in “less is more,” and when I see an author I haven’t yet read blowing a gasket just touting his stuff online, I’m given no reason to expect his latest book will be any less bombastic.

  • Timothy Hallinan

    Great take, Gar. Of course, that’s what I’d suspect.

    There are a few writers out there who literally make my flesh creep. You know them; they turn every online conversation to their book: “Speaking of the thousands dead in Japan, I’m sure the lights are out in Tokyo right now, and in my book SOLID DARK I dealt with a similar situation in Monrovia, California.”

    You’ve read this stuff.

    But what I like best are the people who go on Goodreads and give their own books five stars. Everyone who reads the digest reads it: Wilma Cassidy gives five stars to SOLID DARK by Wilma Cassidy.”

    Okay, it’s a little embarrassing to be shucking on one’s own behalf, but at least try to do it well. Maybe we should make a deal: you shuck for me and I’ll shuck for you.

  • Peg Herring

    Well said!
    There are authors I will NOT read because they’ve told me a dozen times that their books will make me laugh out loud. (I’ll be the judge of that.)
    I’m tired of authors who think that because I’m signing at the next table at the conference, I’m a sales target.
    And I agree that a person’s sales tactics are likely to be a clue to their writing.
    Yes, we all love our own work. And my children are prettier than yours, too!

  • Linda

    My favorite self-promotion is the kind of intentionally over-the-top comic writing that used to appear more frequently in the DorothyL listerve from authors like Lev Raphael, Parnell Hall and Burl Barer. But while their BSP showed wit and writing skill, did it sell books?

    I dislike and scroll past BSP from authors who think of themselves and their writing way too highly, and expect you to value them at their own estimation. And nearly as bad as “speaking of tsunamis…” is the favorable comparison of oneself to another author. A poster on DorothyL once asked for suggestions of authors who write humorous books like Sarah Caudwell. An author responded that her own books contained humor. Well the divine Sarah wrote like a cross between Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde; this author…doesn’t. Bad enough if some clueless beginner did something like this, but the author in question is established enough not to be trying so hard, and letting it show.

  • CJ West

    Gar,

    Loved this post! Subtle as a car bomb and Charlie Sheen on Charlie Sheen. Maybe you should try writing some humore for a change of pace.

    It is true that there really is a glut of writers publishing e-books and it is becoming harder and harder to stand out. The temptation is to shout. I hope to find a balance somewhere between Fred (2nd commenter) and the carnival barkers and used car salesmen you speak of.

    @Tim, too funny about the authors giving their own books 5 stars on Goodreads. I’ve seen it and it always makes me chuckle.

    CJ

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    CJ, I think you, in particular, do an exemplary job of self-promotion. Everything I’ve seen you do to make readers aware of your work has been smart, creative, and blessedly low-key. You strike just the right note, IMO.

    My sense of all this is, when promoting our own work, we authors should live by the same code as doctors (only different):

    “First piss no one off.”

  • Daryl Wood Gerber

    Gar, great take. You made me smile (as did most of the responses). This is not a case of any publicity is good publicity. Being subtle, classy, and tasteful while trying to sell our work is a fine balancing act and requires constant vigilance. Thanks!

    ~Daryl

  • CJ West

    Thanks Gar!

    “First piss no one off.”

    Words to live by. Too funny.

  • LJ

    Not an author but a reviewer. I agree with so many of the things mention, the author giving their own books 5 stars; boy have I seen that one. As a reviewer, I also love the people who want to “friend” me on good reads into order to promote their books. It would be nice if they bothered to see whether I even read books in their genre.

    I think I many have just seen the most appalling idea yet. One author who excels at turning any conversation topic into into a push for their books just suggested that authors take the titles from Amazon 5-star reviews, and use them as blurbs because, after all, Amazon is a public site. So where I gave a 5-star review to Suzanne Alleyn’s book “Palace of Justice” and entitled my review “Alleyn is a remarkable writer.” he’s saying it’s okay to than post that (without consulting me), as a blurb saying…

    “Alleyn is a remarkable writer.” 5 Stars – LJ Roberts, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer.

    I cannot tell you how angry I’d be if an author did this. Yes, it may be legal, but ethical? Very questionable. It would certainly ensure I’d never read that author again.

  • Jenny Milchman

    This is the most incisive piece about publicity I’ve ever read–a subtle analysis of issues we’ve all thought about.

    Now–was I being tongue in cheek there? Offering hyperbolic praise like one of those bloated blurbs? If it sounded more genuine than that–I hope it sounded more genuine than that–I think it might be for two reasons.

    1) I was talking about your work, not mine. I’m not sure the writer can ever talk about his or her own work, self-published or not. Isn’t that tantamount to, as another blog post put it, staring into the mirror and saying, “Man, I’m lovely?” Or like the condo development I drive by every day that has a huge banner proclaiming “Awarded Best Community to Live In 2010!” But try as I might to find the fine print on the sign, it doesn’t look like anyone actually gives out that award. This doesn’t mean independently published writers are out of luck–it just means they need to seek out praise and endorsements from others.

    But I think there’s something else about the well–deserved praise for your post I offered, and that’s that it’s specific. A dozen hyper-accolades don’t necessarily mean much–or say much, even when a string of them appears on a book jacket. But one specific comment like “the creepiest villain you will ever snuggle up to” instantly draws the eye…and makes me want to read.

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

  • Holli Castillo

    I always tend to think writers who use over the top advertising probably use adjectives and adverbs indiscriminately in their works as well and would be hesitant to purchase something by them.

    My other pet peeve with promotion is when a writer’s message always seems to be buy my book, buy my book, buy my book. I can understand having a contest on Kindle to try to raise a book’s ranking, but I’ve seen writers who take this to an extreme, trying to strong arm people into purchasing. I’m not going to buy someone’s book on Kindle to feed a Guatemalan orphan. If a writer wants to feed an orphan or give away a book, they should do it whether or not their book makes it to number one on the Amazon Espionage list. It ends up feeling a little like extortion.

    Holli Castillo
    Gumbo Justice

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Jenny:

    Thanks for the kind words about the post.

    While I agree with you that, ideally, a writer should never offer an opinion on his or her own work, an exception has to be made for advertising of an author’s own making, because we’re going to see more and more of that as writers — even established, successful ones — delve into e-book publishing without the aid of a publisher. So the question becomes, “What is it fair to say in an ad promoting your own work?” Obviously, legitimate blurbs received are fine, as are simple statements of fact, i.e., if you were once a New York Times bestseller, by all means, refer to yourself as a New York Times bestseller.

    But when it comes to descriptions of your work that your ad implies are coming from an impartial third party . . . it just is not cool to boast that your book “gives new meaning to the word ’suspense!’”

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Holli, you nail it on the head when you write:

    I always tend to think writers who use over the top advertising probably use adjectives and adverbs indiscriminately in their works as well and would be hesitant to purchase something by them.

    That’s exactly my concern, as well.

  • Robert W. Walker

    An Indie author selling ebooks is also his or her own publisher; this means he has to do all the PR and marketing for the book. He is on his own, and he needs do whatever he can to promote his work — no one else is going out of the way to do so. Some reviewers, readers, other authors may feel confident in that this does not work, but tell that to Joe Konrath and any number of other indie authors now earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for their books. They do not have a Random House behind them. They do not have a department of public relations; they are the public relations for their books. Imaginative methods are in such want that there are whole chat groups like Murder Must Advertise devoted to it. Some Kindle boards are devoted to it.
    LJ is upset with me for daring to say that an author should use quotes from reviews for blurbs wherever you can place them. Is she afraid they will show up on a pornographic site? I don’t understand why any reviewer or review magazine like BookExplorer or Midwest Review of Books would not gladly want to see their “titles” or logos or attribution wherever a grateful author wishes to place them. If the review in online and or in print, it is nonfiction and public. I give attribution to a review or blurb and I see nothing wrong with that, and I find it rather silly to find fault with that.

    As for intervening in a conversation. When the conversation is about the sinking of the Titanic or a mystery aboard a ship, and an author has just written a novel on the sinking of the Titanic…what fool would not leap in with that fact? What kills me most about this whole topic is how those with no sales mokey believe those of us who do are failing. I do not at all feel so, and my sales numbers speak for themselves.

    Rob Walker

  • Robert W. Walker

    Another thing….I meant Mocksie in that last note. But one more thing. I began a thread at Kindle Community first of Feb. and the thread title is What Sends Kindle Books off Shelves? I have had 6,300 views from ebook authors seeking help on the matter, 139 comments stretching to 10 pgs. I share what has worked for me there. I point this out to demonstrate the hunger for such information and the need for it.

    Rob Again

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    First of all, Rob, I want to reiterate that I have no problem whatsoever with a self-published author busting his ass to promote his work. He’d be a fool to do anything less. But I think there’s a line an author can cross in doing so that can lead readers to both shudder at his over-inflated sense of self-worth, and wonder if his prose is as over-the-top as his advertising copy. Restraint is a vital part of good writing; the capacity to use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, for example. If a writer can’t demonstrate that ability when promoting his own work, why should a reader expect him to do it in the work itself? Your self-promotional efforts are your calling card; what that calling card says about you can either pique a potential reader’s curiosity about you or send her running for the nearest exit.

    In the example I cited, the message sent was nothing short of a deafening shout: “Hey, we’re great! We’re fantastic! We’re masters writing at the peak of our powers! Our stories are thrilling! Sizzling! Pulse-pounding! Never will you read a collection as exhilarating as this!”

    Would you buy a wristwatch from a guy selling them on the street like that and expect it to hum like a Rolex?

    I don’t think so.

    Think of self-promotion like a dating service profile: Lay on the confidence too thick, and you’re gonna be rejected as too full of yourself. And show any hint of desperation and you’re as good as dead. That’s all I’m saying here.

    As for using what Amazon reviewers say about your books as blurbs, I don’t see the harm in asking first. As LJ has pointed out elsewhere, most reviewers are more likely to say yes than no. But frankly, meaning no offense to online reviewers like LJ whatsoever, I think citing a positive Amazon review is a lot like saying The Klondike Gazette once called a book you wrote six years ago “the best mystery about a one-armed sleuth we’ve ever read!” It’s nice to know, but its power to move books is probably negligible at best.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Rob, I applaud all you do to help other writers find success. I only commented on your Kindle Community thread because your title for it might have caused some to wonder what a man who thinks Kindle books reside on “shelves” could possibly know about selling them.

    I apologize for the levity.

  • Holli Castillo

    While I may question authors who advertise their own works with over the top description, I don’t see a problem with posting reviews of other people who may have reviewed it with an adjective or two too many, because the way the reviewer writes isn’t reflective of how the book itself is written.

    I also think it’s perfectly natural for an author to give his or her own book five stars. Not doing so to me is like a mama calling her own baby ugly.

    As far as writers using reviews for advertising, I encourage writers to take reviews or parts of reviews I’ve written and post them. The way I see it, my name may then show up on another Google search or someone may read my review and check into me, and that is like free advertisement for me as well. Or maybe I’m just vain and like seeing my name all over the internet. Either way, it’s a win-win for me.

    Holli Castillo
    Gumbo Justice

  • Kate Bulman

    Hmmm. I see and sympathize the dilemma faced by the unknown or less famous writer. Hey, Michael Connelly can write whatever self promotion he wants, I’m already an admirer of his books. I think the only truly successful promotion has to come through others. You need to concentrate on finding reputable reviewers/readers who will promote you. That is hard, to be sure. If the book(s) you write are truly good, they will. The catch is to persuade someone to do that. Saying your book is terrific isn’t the way to do that. Writing interesting, humorous or insightful things about anything else will. If you then use a simple sig line that tells me you have written a book or so in the genre, I will try one. And you potentially get promoted in the only way that counts. I tried Lev’s and Parnell’s books because I liked the way they post to discussions.
    Talent shows through.

    I also agree that asking someone for permission, even when the quote is “public”, is hardly a burden. Tim is right, do not pisseth your potential promoter off.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Kate, when your write . . .

    Hey, Michael Connelly can write whatever self promotion he wants, I’m already an admirer of his books.

    . . . I can agree with you only to a point. I think if Michael or his people started doing ads tomorrow that said things like, “I’ve just released another fantastic Harry Bosch novel that you won’t be able to put down,” you’d see people stop reading him whether they like his work or not. He can afford to lose a few hundred readers or so that way; mid-listers and newbies can’t.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Holli, why is it necessary to rate your own books at all? Who’s going to be swayed into reading a writer’s book by his or her own clearly biased judgment of it? It seems to me that anything an author does that can be construed as rigging the game in his own favor is ill-advised.

  • Terrill Lankford

    Michael Connelly seems like a pretty bad example of someone to drag into this discussion. There’s no problem finding thousands of legitimate outlets that sing his praises.

    Not sure why he was the go-to name here. I can think of many hundreds of better ones. Some who are already practicing this questionable art form.

    That being said, Mike, and all professional writers I know, do what they can to promote their work. I’m not sure that is “rigging the game” or not, but a lot of effort does go into book promotion. I know, because I do a fair share of it for him.

    TL

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Lee, I only used Mike’s name to point out that, regardless of how successful an author may be, he’ll wind up on the shit list of a lot of people if he starts promoting his own stuff with zero regard to humility. As anyone who’s ever met Mike can attest, he’d be the last person in the world to pat his own back, in any setting. And my mention of “rigging the game” was in reference to the practice of giving oneself a five-star rating on Amazon and elsewhere just to bump the average rating of a book. Again, something Michael Connelly is far too ethical to so much as contemplate.

  • Terrill Lankford

    I understand, Gar. It just seemed like a stretch to bring him into this conversation since he’s a guy who won the Edgar for his first book and has never had to hunt for accolades since. It seems this issue would be better focused on those who DO need that promo boost and might have trouble finding kind words out there for their work. I have a feeling that if Mike was hit by a meteorite tomorrow and it turned him into the biggest self-promoting zombie in the world he would still retain enough fans to get by. I can think of a few authors out there who seem to have survived the fact that they have all kinds of hubris.

    The real problem is for the new writers entering the big world of e-book sales, but they face the same problem all writers have ever faced. How do you get people to notice your work in an ocean of books? I truly believe this will be a water-seeks-its-own-level kind of deal and I think most readers are savvy enough to know when they are getting smoke blown up their chimney.

    I agree that modesty is the best policy, but tell that to Madison Avenue!

  • Holli Castillo

    I don’t see a writer rating his own book a single time as rigging the game, especially if he is honest and shows that he is the one rating it. For instance, I think it’s on Goodreads I rated my book and then put the blurb or a short description. (It’s been a while.) I didn’t go off on how great it was, and other blah blah blah, because I didn’t think it was appropriate, but I don’t see the need to NOT toot my own horn, as long as I’m honest about it. Readers can judge it how they wish, but if I can give other books I like stars I don’t think it’s a sin to do so to my own book, which I also like.

    One exception – I know authors (no names mentioned) who create multiple accounts under different names on various sites in order to rate their own books repeatedly, and that, I think, is rigging the game. Unless you know the writer yourself, though, you wouldn’t know they did it anyway, so maybe they are getting away with something. At least my way you know it’s me rating it and can give it whatever weight you choose.

    Holli Castillo

  • Holli Castillo

    To add to my earlier post, that should be two exceptions- I should clarify I would not rank or review my own book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or any other site where you can actually purchase the book. I get what Gar says in that regard about trying to bump up a rating on a purchase site. I don’t know if I would consider it unethical, but it would be kind of cheesy. The distinction may not make a difference to some, but I see rating my book and leaving a personal message from me on a reader’s site as different than ranking my book on a purchase site. (Even I am not that tacky.)

    Holli Castillo

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Holli, to be honest, I think you’re splitting hairs here. Granted, Amazon is a retail site and Goodreads is not. But either way, you’re giving your book a high rating to impress readers, who you hope will be impressed enough (not just by your rating, but by the book’s rating overall) to buy it. Your rating the book highly serves no other purpose, as no one would expect you to rate your own book any other way. That the rating in question comes clearly from you makes it less objectionable, true, but any way you slice it, by giving your own book five stars on sites where such ratings are meant to suggest to readers what books and authors are worth reading, you’re bumping the percentages in your favor. It’s stuffing the ballot box with only one vote, I grant you, but it’s stuffing the ballot box all the same.

  • Hitch

    I suspect, with the possible exception of LJ, that I see more self-published (or to-be self-published) books than most of you, due to the nature of my business. I am asked daily about self-promotion by “indie” authors. I understand the dilemma that you all face–in the inundation of titles emerging on the market daily, more than 170,000 in the last year, as contrasted to less than 10% of that 10 years ago–how to be heard? How to get your work seen?

    While squeaky wheels certainly get greased, the truth is that there is a discernible difference between hubristic chest-thumping and promotion. The former is annoying; the latter works. The former is you (generically) talking endlessly about your OWN books; the latter is getting OTHER people to talk about you and your books, enthusiastically. I don’t understand why the difference between the two is so incomprehensible to some people. In fact, I would say that the former is tell, and the latter is show, to use phrasing that might be familiar to some of you.

    None of us know how Amanda Hocking or Steve Carpenter, et al, captured that lightning in a bottle, although we all WANT to know. What I do know worked for them was social networking, not necessarily in a “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!!” way, but genuinely engaging others in discussions, posting about OTHER people’s books, sincerely, and not merely as a seque to talking about how much their own books were like “so-and-so’s” books, and they managed to catch fire. of course, writing engaging stories helped.

    Here’s the rub: effective self-promotion means working it. Pimping your book effectively. It means that you have to actually have an interest in other people’s books, and some writing talent, to come up with ways to keep yourself, and your books, in front of others. It means suffering through FB posts and tweeting and all that good, er, stuff. You have to slog from blog to blog and ask reviewers to review your book. This is the entire basis of SELF-publishing; yes, you get to keep the ducats, but you also have to do the WORK that your publishers and publicists did before. On a bright note, ARC’s don’t cost you like they used to, if you’re publishing to Kindle/ePUB/etc. It’s drudgery and tedium…but it can, and does, work.

    Personally…as a recreational reader, and not as an ebook producer, I’d at best ignore any “review” by the book’s author, regardless of where I found it. Unless it was unusually well-crafted or humorous, it would probably turn me off the author. Just bein’ honest here; not trying to denigrate the practice–simply my $.02. So, insofar as “stuffing the ballot box,” from my personal perspective, it would work the other way.

    And, Rob, Rob, Rob…first, no one ever accused you of lacking moxie, no matter how you spelled it. Secondly, when it comes to you, as always, res ipso loquacious. ;-)

  • Holli Castillo

    I guess I don’t see it as stuffing the ballot box with one vote, I see it as exercising the one vote I’m entitled to. It’s not as if I only rate my own book. If I’m rating other books to let people know I think they’re good, I don’t see the harm in rating my own the same way, to let people know I think it’s good. And I don’t see how anyone could object to that when I do it honestly, with my name and photo right there on the rating.

    Saying writers shouldn’t rate their own work because the ratings are to suggest to readers what books and authors are worth reading, is saying I can’t say my own book is worth reading just because I wrote it. While the logic seems to be writers can not be unbiased when it comes to their own work, pretty much anything you rate, whether your rate it five stars or one star, is a subjective opinion.

    I guess it’s one of those agree to disagree situations.

  • Gar Anthony Haywood

    Holli, I think you’re right: We’re at an impasse here. The final argument I would make against the practice of authors rating their own books is a re-articulation of one I’ve already stated. Since no one can see such a rating/review from a writer and expect it to be in any way objective, virtually everyone knows the sole reason for its existence: The author in question is attempting to improve the overall rating of his or her own book on the site. The self-serving intent of the exercise is completely transparent, and frankly, IMO, smacks of a depth of ambition that rarely has anything but a negative effect on potential readers, as Hitch has suggested in her comments above.

    You’re within your rights to do it, and there’s nothing underhanded about it, but I think rating your own work positively is the kind of thing that tells readers more about your need to sell more books than how well you actually write them.

  • Lisa Spangenberg

    There’s a thing that happens at SF cons where a neo pro, a writer with her first two or three books out, is on a panel discussion with other writers.

    The neo pro will prop up their books on the table in front of them, in a naïve effort at product placement. It looks awful.

    A better strategy is to have information about your own books on Amazon Author Central, on Good Reads, and on Library Thing, and to not only note what your working on, or that a new book is coming out, but to say true and positive things about the books of other people.

    You’re giving back, it gives people who don’t know you an idea of what kinds of books you might write.

  • Keith

    I think we’re entering a period during which the author and the reader are sitting in the same bar, and the author needs to be somebody the reader actually likes sitting next to.

    That’s it. We’re not up on a dais anymore. Be funny, listen as much as you talk, and don’t fart.

  • Lars Beckerman

    Excellent post, Gar. I stumbled upon your blog doing some research for a work I intend to self publish, so…thank you! God bless search engines. Launched my film blog nearly two years ago and it’s been every bit as rewarding as I had hoped, but I still am not doing the things necessary to “steer traffic.” I’m a writer, not an air traffic controller! Anyway, always so stoked to find a new voice that makes sense. Now, to dive in to your fiction. Keep up the good work.

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