I think romance writers have always known this... but it's even seeping into the literary world, evidenced by a quote by Margaret Atwood I recently read... which I really should look up the actual words... but to paraphrase, it was: "shameless self promoter" used to be an insult in the publishing world, now it's a necessity.
But what I keep wondering is: how far is too far? I mean, for me anyway, there are writers out there whose books I will NEVER buy because of their behavior online, or (for a scant few) how they refer to themselves in their e-mail signature lines.
Where is my personal line-in-the-self-promo sand drawn? It's ill-defined and drifts, I must admit... But some examples:
- weekly Facebook requests blasted out to everyone and anyone to buy a book or become a fan. Friend, okay. Fan? If I've never heard of you -- not so much.
- calling yourself "bestselling" every time you sign your name or write your bio (especially in venues with other writers who know what bestselling means in the industry) when in your case, "bestselling" translates to being in the top twenty books released, by your e-publisher in June, for two hours, one day when you got your husband and best friend to buy two books at the same time
- calling yourself "award winning", when the only award you've won was an obscure contest where you placed in the top 3 of 5 entries, or your book won an award for the most blatant man-titty cover
- being a member of a writing community, but never posting or answering any questions for over three years-- and then posting twice a day for the entire month your book comes out and drawing attention to your book with every post
- drawing way too much attention to a review from a site that rarely gives anything but good reviews (fine to celebrate a bit. fine to post it on your website. but especially around other writers, don't act like you got a starred review at PW, a positive (or even negative) review from Kirkus or Library Journal, or a DIK review at AAR -- if what you actually got was 4 butterflies (or whatever) at a site that gives 4 or 5 "butterflies' 90% of the time, or only ever posts reviews for books they liked. Face it, some of these review sites are in it for the free books. **Maureen braces for tomatoes**)
For example, I have no problem with people celebrating good news or telling me when their book's coming out through social networking sites or writers loops... Or sharing their first sale or first review, or a particularly great review, or contest wins (even about covers)... I actually love hearing all that good news and sharing people's joy...
But hear me now Self-or-Tiny-Press-Published-Writers-on-Facebook do you really think you need a fan page that YOU set up and have to ask people to join??? Aren't fan pages supposed to be by and for, well, fans? (Full disclosure... I have gladly joined fan pages for writers I've actually met/know of online, and/or whose books I've actually read.)
I think when you're asking social networking "friends", you don't even know, to be your "fan" it comes down to the wording. I'd have no issue with someone who's honest and says, "Hey, I've started up a fan page for my books, just in case people who've read my book, or are thinking about reading it, would like a place to interact and network, and so I can easily keep you informed when stuff's happening related to my book." That's so different from acting as if actual fans have set up the page, and then asking people, who don't even know who the hell you are, to "be my fan".
I just thought of someone who did this really well... Nadine Dajani's brother set up a "Buy My Sister's Book or Die" group on Facebook when her first book came out. I loved that. It was cheeky and funny... Actually, I think being invited to join that group was why I joined Facebook... Maybe it's just because I know and like Nadine that I didn't find that obnoxious... but I think it was entirely in the execution. I think I would have joined (or at least clicked on the link to) a group called "buy my sister's book or die" even if I'd never heard of Nadine...
J.D. Rhoades' "Gang of Hellions" facebook group is another example of someone doing it "right" in my mind. I don't know the guy... haven't read him (yet), but I did have people I knew who were in his group so gladly joined when I first got invited. And his messages to the group aren't frequent, and are always amusing... And he's generous to other writers--doesn't use the group solely for his own promotion... For example, he has this thing called "clinching" (named for Jon Clinch, author of Finn, who, I assume, was the first author they "did it" for. (And clinching rhymes with lynching, so it's funny... Because there's nothing funnier than lynching... I digress.) Basically the way a "clinching" works, is J.D. sends a message to the "hellions" group telling everyone to change their facebook status to "a fan of whatever-author-is-being-clinched". Great idea... viral marketing on Facebook that's fun and interactive and generous... So different from being bombarded with "be my fan" or "buy my book" messages...
I suppose, when it comes down to it, self-promoting is, at its core, social interaction, and like most social interactions, there's a line that 90% of people never cross... And the ones who do cross it, typically have no clue they've crossed it. (The bull in the china shop so often thinks they're an innocuous butterfly...)
Then there's the other extreme on the self-promo continuum. Like MOLLY O'KEEFE -- who never calls herself "award winning" (even though she should) and doesn't use this blog to mention huge stuff like:
- her latest release THE STORY BETWEEN THEM is out this month and got a 4 star review in RT,
- or that her last book THE SON BETWEEN THEM, not only got a 4 star review from RT, it also got a DIK review from AAR,
- or that she's won reviewer's choice awards from RT the past two years running!
- or that she won "best series romance" in the reader poll at AAR year before last!
- or that she's short listed for the readers' choice best series romance award again this year!! (go vote for THE SON BETWEEN THEM as best series romance. Now.) Update... voting has ended. **Pout** I hope she wins...
- or that she's up for a freaking career achievement award at RT this year????
How far is too far with self-promotion? Is there a line? Or is everything and anything fair game, given the highly competitive nature of the publishing industry? Am I riled up for no reason? Will I want to eat my words when it's me promoting a book? Have I just been friending too many people on Facebook? Are some of the pet peeves I mentioned fair game in your books?