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There’s a very fine line between promoting your books and writing tickets on yourself. It’s a moving line. What one person finds overly self promotery other people think is fine.
For instance, I was once told I had crossed the line because my Livejournal icons were of the front covers of my books. I thought that was nuts. I like the covers of my books. Why can’t I make icons out of them? Too pushy, I was told. It’s like you’re only on Livejournal to get people to buy your books. Someone else told me I shouldn’t mention my books on my blog because it sounds like I just want people to buy them and that’s the only reason I blog. On the other hand someone wrote wanting to know why there are no links to buy my books on this site. When I told them it’s because I think that’s pushy they said I was weird. (A definite possibility.)
I find it icky when authors blog about what voting awards (Hugo, Locus etc) they’re eligible for. To me it reads like they’re asking you to vote from them, which I find tacky. I mentioned this to some friends and they told me I was being crazy. That it is remiss of an author not to do that since the people who vote for these kind of awards often have no clue what’s eligible and like to be reminded. That it’s not about being self-aggrandising; it’s about giving readers information.
All these different takes on what constitutes being too self-promotery has led me to the conclusion that the only way to handle it is to do what you’re comfortable with. I am comfortable with icons of my covers. I am not comfortable blogging about good reviews of my work. (Or bad reviews for that matter.) Or skiting about being shortlisted or winning awards. (Not that it happens very often.) Because I honestly don’t think any of that has much to do with me. Reviews and awards are for readers not authors. I think the most important thing they do is help people find books that might otherwise have been overlooked. For me to engage with them is beside the point. So I no longer do.
I am comfortable (actually I’m ecstatically happy) blogging about the process of researching and writing my books, about the different markets my books have been sold into, the different covers the books get. All that fascinates me. As this is my blog I gets to write about it even if others think that’s too self-promotery.
What’s your take on all of this? I’d love to hear from authors and readers. What do you find too much? Are their authors you wish promoted themselves a bit more?
Posted by Justine at 13:39, 24 April 2009 under Publishing business, Writing life, Writing process | 28 Comments »
Malcolm Tredinnick Says:
Mostly agree. Lots of different work. Partly because we’re not overwhelmed by everybody doing the same thing.
I’d say it’s a matter of perspective, too. You live in the professional publishing world to a large extent, whereas people like me sample it via blogs and books. So I’m not surrounded by people talking about awards and release dates and whatnot; only when otherwise interesting bloggers mention it because it’s part of their life or their happy/sad/annoyed about something. It’s not something that might drive me to distraction.
I love that different authors blog in different ways and with different emphasis on the professional author bits of their lives. All are entertaining (well, some aren’t, but I don’t read those).
April 24th, 2009 at 2:26 PM
First of all, I *like* when authors use the covers as their icons. I find it unique, I can get a quick peak at the cover and it makes you stand out. So post your book cover on your LJ, Blogger, Twitter, whatever you use, every other author does!
As to those who mention awards, everything is a competition and authors are just as competitive. Actors lobby for Academy Award nominations. Why can’t Authors as well.
Plus all that information about books being sold is generally blogged by various people and is for public consumption. I subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace, so all deals come nicely to my e-mail.
To sum it up.
Sing it loud and proud, like I tell my 5 year old when she wants to sing Hannah Montana.
April 24th, 2009 at 3:01 PM
I like the business aspects of publishing that I have been exposed to, so I don’t mind when authors talk about rights sold and awards nominated for, as long as it is done in a non-pretentious way. Like you said, that line is tricky. I should add, I prefer to read about an award nomination or whatever as part of a general blog post from an author–written by the author. Sometimes it icks me out when an author has a website or “blog” maintained by someone else for the purpose of talking about how great said author is. If it’s just letting us know where the author is touring at any given moment, I find that less obnoxious, but still.. I like feeling like I’m part of an author’s happy little fan base on the internet (not in a creepy way, though, I hope), and having a publicist make announcements like, “Esteemed Author has been nominated for the Pretension Pride! Grovel before him at the ceremony on …” … well, that just dorks up my vibe, I suppose.
Anyway, I think as long as you’re friendly and don’t take yourself *that* seriously, you aren’t likely to alienate very many of your fans. Since I’m not published and I don’t work in publishing, I can’t speak as to whether you would alienate the pros… but seriously… seems a little ridiculous.
April 24th, 2009 at 3:11 PM
scott neumyer Says:
Coming at this as someone who works daily (for my day job) in PR and Marketing, I say you HAVE to do everything you can to pimp your own stuff. If it’s LiveJournal icons, putting links up, mentioning awards… ANYTHING. If people don’t like reading about it on your blog… they don’t have to read it.
There’s no rule that EVERYONE has to read EVERY post and love them all.
You have the right (and you SHOULD exercise that right) to do everything possible to get your name/products/books/etc out there. Naysayers be damned.
April 24th, 2009 at 3:19 PM
Note: I am mostly using “you” in more general terms. It doesn’t refer to Justine or anybody here, except where I am using rhetorical examples.
Here’s the thing: It always slightly frustrates me when I go to an author’s site to find out about books they’ve written and awards they might have won, and anything one might reasonably want to know about an author, and then to get nothing more than the back of the book jacket and the same list of books that appeared at the front of the novel I checked out from the library. (Not that you are guilty of this but it’s happened with authors before.) I mean, I came to the author’s site wanting to know MORE. Like what stuff is coming out next, and where I can find your books, and what other people think about it. So the self-promtion stuff does not bug me. In the sense that I want to find out more about your product (books! stories!) more information is not usually a bad thing. Have you ever looked up a product online, only to discover that the person who makes the product gives you no more information than you had before? It’s mildly frustrating.
So promotion on your personal website is not pushy. Being your own advocate on your own journal is not pushy. Pushy is going to other people’s websites or places not designed for self-promotion and linking up your work site unseen without any sort of narrative link whatsoever. (Like if you were discussing fairies in literature, and wanted to shoehorn in a quick line about your book, not too pushy. If people were discussing contraception in the age of Cleopatra, and Justine started going on about the Liar book, that would be weird. And pushy. But on her own website, not so much. Where else am I supposed to go to satiate my need to know about her books?)
I admit I like how Scalzi handles things, by also promoting other people’s work on his blog, which is both gracious and canny. Justine occasionally talks about the works of the Maureens and Diana Peterfreund, none of whom I’d really know of without her blog.
I think expecting an author to turn off all signs of authorness, particularly in the presence of readers, ie. book sites, cons, fan community fora, is counterproductive. I would like more books. More books are made possible by the author selling the books they have out. In fact, the more books the author sells, the likelier they are to be able to quit their dayjob (if they have one) and write fulltime which will produce EVEN MORE BOOKS! Which is my end goal.
So…um…to make a long story short (and yes, too late): On your own site and within reason in literary venues, PROMOTE AWAY!
(I do like the writing process posts too.)
April 24th, 2009 at 3:34 PM
David Moles Says:
I don’t get irritated till I feel like I’m being conscripted (implicitly, usually, but) to help with someone else’s self-promotion.
(Which is odd, in a way, because I can always be counted on to help ice the beer for a book launch party, or arrange canapés, or whatever.)
April 24th, 2009 at 3:42 PM
You are right on target. You cannot satisfy everyone, ever. There is no right or wrong on what constitutes excessive self promotion and what’s just information your audience is interested in. So, be yourself. I read your blog everyday because of that one simple fact. You’s interesting!
Which reminds me of the second reason I read your blog. I love your easy, conversational, often non-grammatically correct way of blogging. I feel like I’m sneaking a peak at an email you wrote to someone else. Who doesn’t like to be a little nosy at times?
April 24th, 2009 at 3:53 PM
Victoria Janssen Says:
I hate to be pushy. I do use my first cover as an icon because it is beautiful, and easily recognizable–people on twitter or wherever will know who I am. I like to blog, but not in a promo-y way, because readers don’t have to read it unless they want to do so. However, I waver on the issue of emailing people with news. I have done so for people I’ve met, but other people, whom I only know online…that feels weird and too personal.
April 24th, 2009 at 4:02 PM
Lauren McLaughlin Says:
Self-promotion completely icks me out. I don’t mind when other people do it and I know I have to do it myself, but I do not like it one single bit. I’d much rather write my novels, blog about stuff I care about it, and leave the promotion to others. But that’s just not how it works. So I’ve had to desensitize myself to the ick-factor. Usually, I just hold my nose and do it. But there’s no sprezzatura to it. None at all.
April 24th, 2009 at 4:03 PM
Self-promotion is good. In my experience women worry about this much more than men, and I think we should try to get over it. Also, I am perplexed when an author I know or whose blog I read gets a great write-up in a magazine, or something else good, and I don’t hear about it from them. Toot your own horn.
April 24th, 2009 at 4:54 PM
I have picked up more books from authors I never even knew existed because of the blogosphere this past year. I read your blog specifically because you do blog about the writing process. Although I’m a terrible writer, the process fascinates me to no end and I love to hear about it. From Stross, to Bear, you and Rucker, to Anderson I just soak up as much as I possibly can in the length of time I have to devote to it each day. I also think that blogging about the fact that you have been nominated is fine too. Although most of the general sites like SF Signal, Boing Boing and others print the list, I myself knew nothing of the voting process until I read a blog about how it works.
I think each person has to draw their own lines. If they move them forward on day then move it forward. If you bring it back the next then do that. Doesn’t bother me one bit, and if it did I wouldn’t tell you. Who am I to tell you what you can and can’t blog about? If I don’t want to read it I’ll go read Stross’, or Bear’s, or Rucker’s or Doctorow’s, or GalleyCat.
April 24th, 2009 at 4:57 PM
I think for me it’s more of how they talk about their books and not that they talk about them. I know of some instances where I feel like the self-promotion is going too far, but most of the time I just accept that they want people to read (and buy) their books because they love their books and want to share them with as many people as possible. If they are promoting for that reason, I cannot find it irritating.
April 24th, 2009 at 5:00 PM
13. Justine Says:
LaurieA-B: It’s not just gendered, it’s also cultural. Australians don’t as a general rule write tickets the way, say, USians do. Obviously, that’s a general rule. I can think of many Aussies who are astonishing self promoters and many USians who hate the whole thing.
I also think it’s not just being uncomfortable with “tooting their horn” as you put it (sounds kind of rude to me) but finding it really boring. I don’t do those kind of posts: “Hey, look So&So just wrote this thing about the wonder of me!” because they’re dull to write and even duller to read.
April 24th, 2009 at 5:01 PM
I like it when authors use the covers of their books as icons. I don’t mind self promotion on blogs either, I guess you have to do all you can. If it doesn’t interest me, I just click away. I like the links to reviews and things as I enjoy reading other peoples takes on books and I’ve found some great book blogs that way. It would only bother me if every post was like that, then I’d stop reading.
If I was an author though I’d be hugely uncomfortable self promoting, which I think is a very British thing. Although I can think of a few British authors who are beginning to annoy me with the links
April 24th, 2009 at 5:26 PM
I think you have the right of it, Justine, in terms of authors posting what they’re comfortable with. Speaking specifically about blogs, I love to see the book covers, especially when it’s hardback vs. paperback, or covers from other countries. If an author wants to use one as an icon, I don’t see how that’s bad. Contests and awards, especially those readers can vote for ~shrugs~ I don’t mind it, though I prefer they don’t dwell on it.
I visit a lot of author blogs, and they’re all different regarding what they will and will not talk about. I just enjoy seeing deeper into what makes people tick, how they think, their experience getting published. I’ve found a lot of new books by following links and getting sucked into someone’s blog to the point that I thought their book had to be just as good or better.
April 24th, 2009 at 5:38 PM
Mary Elizabeth S. Says:
I don’t mind at all when authors promote their own books on their blog, provided that’s not *all* they do. If a blog is nothing but promotion, then that’s boring, and sometimes irritating. But when the blog is just a blog, about whatever the author likes to blog about, and then they mention their books, too, I like that. And when they talk about the writing of their books, I *LOVE* that, because to me it’s like getting a behind-the-scenes peek at said book.
And approach is important, too. When an author talks about events and shortlists and reviews as a part of what is going on in their world, that’s interesting. When they just list stuff out, it’s dry info, and not appealing to me.
April 24th, 2009 at 5:56 PM
I like when authors blog what they feel. something they found cool, something they did, something they r nervous about, etc. if it involves the book, good. if it doesn’t, good. i just don’t like it how some people go out of their way to promote their books. i have no problem that your icon is your book cover. unless u r actually trying to promote your book by doing it, i have no problem. what ever makes u happy. besides, u can almost always tell when somebody is promoting themselves
April 24th, 2009 at 6:11 PM
J. Andrews Says:
I never heard the phrase ‘writing tickets’ before.
I have a personal preference against book covers as userpics. I don’t mind seeing the pictures in other places on a blog — in an entry, on a sidebar. As a userpic, you’re sort of saying you are your book. Or.. ‘this blog is the book talking’. I think userpics should represent you or your mood, attitude, or thoughts, as they relate to the blog in general of that post in particular.
All those other things you mentioned, I think writers should be doing. In a tasteful, humble way, perhaps. Or at least in a tactful way. As a net denizen, you should know when you’ve crossed the line into annoying spam.
When it comes to awards in particular, I think the best way is to say ‘hey, my work is eligible’ or ‘my work has been nominated’, to let people know they can nominate or vote, but that of course it’s entirely up to them if they’d like to. You can highlight other works that are up for the same award. You’re more than promoting yourself when you do that. You’re promoting the award, other stories/authors, and the industry in general. It helps everyone.
It only becomes problematic when someone with a large blog following manages to get fans voting for their work in droves. But hey.. if it’s a popular vote, then that sort of thing is going to happen.
April 24th, 2009 at 8:06 PM
The only time I got squicked out re a fellow author and awards was when someone had her first story in print, and promptly (before it even came out) started bombarding people to nominate it for a Nebula. Personal letters, with an expectation of a response. Since I didn’t think the story was Nebula worthy, I felt really on the spot.
The quizzes and “I’m eligible!” and so forth don’t bother me–I just skim past. I don’t do it because I had imposter syndrome pretty well ground into me; I agonize for days, waiting for the (deserved) slapdown the few times I’ve asked for pimpage, so I decided not to do it any more. But I certainly don’t think poorly of someone who does those things.
I do have terrible envy issues with those who get mondo publicity. I wouldn’t want to take it away from them, just, I wish I got it too.
O well, back to the salt mines!
April 24th, 2009 at 9:25 PM
Self-promotion on a site is fine (that’s what they’re for, although there are more and less imaginative ways to do it). Self-promotion on a blog is not very interesting to read if that’s all there is. I think you get the balance just right Justine. I confess that I haven’t actually read any of your books, but when they’re mentioned on the blog I don’t feel I’m having my arm twisted to do so, because these references are always related to a broader context of publishing or writing. But this is in itself good promotion! It’s not always about the hard sell. It’s about building relationships with readers or potential readers.
April 24th, 2009 at 10:09 PM
Harry Connolly Says:
For a short while, I had my book cover set as my default LJ icon, but after about three days, I began to feel antsy about it. Now it’s just one of my icons, and I choose it when appropriate.
I don’t mind authors who link to reviews or mention awards. What I dislike is “You read my blog for free and you don’t even buy my books?” which, yeah, I dropped that one.
And writers don’t have to respond to every single thing anyone says about their books. Anytime an author feels the urge to write “Sorry you didn’t like it!!” in a blog or forum they’ve never visited before Google Alerts sent them a link should take a couple deep breaths and have a lie down.
April 24th, 2009 at 11:20 PM
As a reader, my boundary of good blogging author vs. self-promotery-completely-up-themselves-author is… is it interesting?
A lot of it comes down to tone, too. An author going – oooh, someone liked my book, yay – is a lot more sympathetic than one pretending to have dignitas and just presenting the information. Often authors fall into the trap of preserving a formal, “professsional” tone on blogs, which is the Death of Blogness.
I do think that authors have a certain obligation to provide information about their releases, etc – not doing so seems a bit counter-productive and silly. I see absolutely no problem with livejournal icons as covers of books (obviously only the awesome covers). But the main thing is that the blog needs to feel like a conversation with the author/person, not a press release.
Hard to see how you can go wrong with the ‘what you’re comfortable with’ rule of thumb, though. Australians have such a natural self-cringe factor that I’m sure works in our favour – we’re far more likely to undersell than oversell ourselves.
April 24th, 2009 at 11:22 PM
As a reader, I don’t care how much authors promote their books. In fact, if it’s an author I like, I want them to promote it lots and lots! I want to know more, and even if it’s something I already know, I want other people to be able to find the info.
However, I won’t read a blog that’s ALL self-promotion, because that gets boring after awhile. So basically, for me, an author can have as much promotion as he/she wants, as long as there’s other stuff there to balance it out.
April 25th, 2009 at 12:49 AM
Julia Rios Says:
I don’t mind people self-promoting on their own sites. The people I follow, though, have to be interesting. Usually that means posting more than just the self-promtey bits. I’m happy to learn when authors I like are up for awards, but I also like to read about what they’re thinking about. The former without the later is not enough to keep me reading.
April 25th, 2009 at 2:02 PM
Despite (or perhaps because of) everything you’ve just said, I want to congratulate you on a great review in yesterday’s Canberra Times. Yes, I live in Canberra – I feel your pity! And it’s been raining for two days straight, which is just beyond comprehension. Also, on a trip to Borders in the Canberra Centre last week I was very pleased to see ‘How to Ditch Your Fairy’ on display out the front – the first book you saw on entering the store. Looks like you’ve hit the big time!
April 26th, 2009 at 1:26 AM
I think it’s a good thing for authors to promote themselves. If I read a writer’s blog that means I’ve propably read books from him/her and care about it’s reviews. Mentioning upcoming awards are good too because not one great book have I found that way by searching between nominies. I think it’s quite fair to give voice to anything you’ve worked hard with.
April 27th, 2009 at 12:16 PM
I never begrudge an author their self-promotion. It’s not that I’m never jarred by it — it’s just that I know too many wonderful works go out of print, and I think it’s problematic that so many authors (particularly female ones) seem so reticent to self-promote. It’s… I’m talking round myself in circles, I’m sure, but it’s the idea of writing as a job and a business versus this romantic lifestyle where readers come to you just because you’re awesome.
I wonder if it’s effective for an author to keep a personal blog and a strictly for promotion blog? It seems that kind of separation might take all the charm out of the promotional blog. If one is charming/has one’s blog-fanbase anyway, the occasional self-pimpage can easily be accepted.
All this babbling to say, I’m perfectly cool with authors promoting themselves and I expect it.
April 27th, 2009 at 1:44 PM
j-a brock Says:
personally, i enjoy reading about other writers’ experiences of the writing process on blogs. writing is a lonely business otherwise. but i also like to see what books an author has out there, so i don’t mind the icon thing. i like to celebrate the successes of friends who are authors or artists, and blogs are a good way of keeping up to date with that.
ultimately, it’s your blog where you can express your writing self how you’d like. go for it!
May 8th, 2009 at 7:08 AM
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