Monday, March 14, 2011

Tell me! -- No! Shh, don't tell!

There is a lot of literature on the web about how to self-promote your writing.  Particularly how to build a platform and use it to shout across the web.  Sites like Kristen Lamb's Blog (which I find fascinating) explain how to use social media to your advantage -- effectively, she instructs you on how to do the digital equivalent of enunciating when you speak.  But for as much noise as the make-noise-brigade, um, makes, there is a quiet backlash of people who don't want to tell anyone that their publications even exist.

This weekend, Dinty W. Moore posted a fab little article on the blog of his online magazine BREVITY.*    Moore is also a faculty member of the Ohio University graduate program in creative writing.  He's noticed recently that he has students who won't tell people their work has been published.  It's not that they're shy wallflowers -- in Moore's story, he was the one offering to make the announcement, he just needed specifics from the student -- it's that they don't want to share.

I understand some of the backlash.  There is such a thing as overkill.  Or being tactless.  I don't want you to spam me about your new book, but I do want the opportunity to find out about it.  Publications are not CIA agents, they do not need to blend in and accomplish tasks that only a select few will ever know of.  But neither do we want our publications to be politicians or Paris Hiltons, always looking for the photo op or thinking about what they could do to get a sound bite on Entertainment Tonight.

Moore points out that Facebook can be nice, or it can lead to spamming.  It's all about tact.  I've read blog articles because someone has multi-posted the subject and link on Facebook and Twitter ... but I've also been put off when a find a person's entire feed is them posting links to blog entries again and again (as in, multiple links to the same entry, or suggestions to "catch up" on their old blog posts).

I got frustrated last fall when no one in the department knew that I'd gotten two short stories published because the publications had happened over the summer.  Their "not knowing" didn't bother me as much as them behaving like I was still unpublished.  I had an awkward conversation with a faculty member who told me I'd feel much better about myself once I got something published.  Awkward because I didn't feel like I could interrupt her to explain I was published, and awkward because I didn't feel any different before my publication than I did afterward.  But more to the point: we had that conversation because she didn't know.  In fact, she couldn't have known.  I wasn't cray-cray girl running around telling everyone that I had a story pubbed, but neither had I exercised the channels in place for department promotion.  Because, to be honest, I didn't even know those channels existed!  So run out and do that now: locate the person in charge of your department newsletter and find that email address.  A quick blurb will tastefully disseminate that information without being cray-cray girl.

To make it more palatable to those who would otherwise stay silent, Moore breaks it down into "sharing" vs. "promoting," with "promoting" being the creature that maybe you don't want to ride to the finish line.  He also points out that often publications (particularly independent presses and magazines) don't get bought without word of mouth sales.  "Sharing" your publications contributes to those publications audience base.

Here are Moore's six rules of sharing:

1.     Self promotion is when you spam all of your friends and those who are barely friends and repeatedly say “buy my stuff,” or “look at my stuff.”  We don’t need daily updates.
2.     Self promotion is NOT when you share good news with fellow strugglers (like grad students in your program, or the faculty who are rooting for your success).  That’s just being part of a supportive community.
3.     To my mind, even a link on Facebook, or on your blog, or as a signature line in your e-mail (subtle, not blaring), is NOT self promotion, at least not the bad kind that folks want to scorn and avoid.  Certain people wish to know your good news, or read your poem, or buy your book, so it is fully acceptable to tell them that the work is now available.  It is, in fact, inconsiderate not to tell them.
4.     Tell them once, of course, not fifty times, and give them a clean link rather than e-mailing PDFs of everything you’ve ever written.
5.     If you assume your friends would hate you for your success rather than be pleased for you, maybe it is time to look for new friends.  Or look at yourself.
6.     Writing is not bad.  Publishing your writing is not bad.  Don’t treat it as if it were.

If you're interested, I recommend the full article.

Oh, and btw, I just got a story accepted at Enchanted Conversation! (eeee!) That was an excited noise.  And I will be posting when the issue goes live.

* I love BREVITY's nonfic mini-essays ... I just wish they'd publish one of mine.

Photo credit: Sasha Wolff at SashaW


Deborah Walker said...

Interesting post. I like to blog about my acceptances because:

a) I love bragging.
b) I like to send readers to the published work, if it's online.

But, sometimes I hear writers saying that you have to have a platform to be successful. I'm not sure about that. For the first two years I was writing I didn't have a blog and it didn't hamper me.

I think, if you like promoting and sharing news with others, you should do it. I love reading about my friends' success and try to read their stories and leave a comment.

Michael Offutt said...

I just wanted to add that for me, if something of mine gets published in the future, I may or may not be torn on whether I want to talk about it with anyone.

The reason is simply that some (not all) of my writing is homosexual erotica (yes there is a market for erotica). In the correct places, I would want to proclaim "YES, I wrote this," because I'm not ashamed of who I am (gay) and I read erotica and you know, I find it enjoyable so I know others do too.

But a lot of my blog followers are young adult bloggers and have very strong Christian beliefs so I would feel uncomfortable even telling them that I published the book because they might condemn me for being evil or perverse. I know I'm a good person and there is a big line between fiction and the real thing. But I think some people will confuse the issue and just judge you as a dirty pervert without so much as admitting that hey, there is a market for this kind of stuff for a reason.

Deborah Walker said...

*checks bibliography*

Eileen, what's this? Is there something you want to tell us.

Something about a pro sale to Enchanted Conversation?

Huge congratulations.

kmullican said...

Thanks for such awesome links! I know as a writer who is blogging to build my platform...some days I find myself sitting with my head in my hands.

Summer Ross said...

Congrats on the acceptance and wonderful post. This has some great information and the links- yup I'll be taking a look. thanks so much! (I didn't feel any different after my publication either :))

Misha said...


I agree 100% that sharing tastefully is the best. Yes, scream from the mountaintops, but not everytime you open your mouth...

That's my feeling about it. :-)

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

@Deborah - Haha! I didn't intend for one to coincide with the other, but it so happens that the timing was perfect.

E.C. Smith said...

Congrats on the acceptance and awesome advice! Thanks so much for the links. I'm always interested in learning more about how to build my on-line platform...the right way! (:

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