Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Self-Promotion: Walking a Line

I do read other blogs than Brooke Wonders’, honest, but every so often she will say something that I have an opinion on and I figure it’s good enough to go in a blog post. Anyway, she recently was tagged to write about The Next Big Thing (hers), which is a way to force authors to talk about what they’re working on, and she dutifully did so, remarking in that post and a later one that self-promotion makes her feel “like a dog being asked to tap-dance.”

Leaving aside how normal that image is in my world, I do think it’s a not uncommon feeling. You are entering this arena as a fan, and have gotten beyond the stage where you believe wholly and unabashedly in the brilliance of your work. You have learned enough to look at your work realistically in comparison to the work you adore, to say, “I can’t do what those people are doing,” or “I can’t do consistently what those people are doing.”

But you’ve also moved far enough along that, let’s say, you are writing stories that other people like. There are critiques, yes, and you can take those and learn from them. But other people like them, and will never get to know them if you don’t tell them.

Now, do you want to be That Guy (or That Gal), whose Twitter/FB feed looks like this: “My story is up at webstory.net!” “My story got a new review at webstory.net!” “Hey, if you haven’t read my story yet, check it out! <link>” “I am getting a new story ready, but meanwhile you can read the old one at <link>” … etc.? Answer: No, you do not. But when one of your stories goes up, or when you haven’t posted about your writing in a while, or when someone asks, you should be proud to talk about what you’re writing. People are Interested, after all! Someone asked!

For me, it often feels weird and personal, and I hate talking about stories because I don’t want to give them away, and also because the story might change, and I don’t want people coming back saying, “Hey, where’s that gay werewolf story?” and have to tell them, “Oh, it’s now a transgender shoggoth…” (“I just present as a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles!” and yes I consulted Wikipedia) But that’s also a failing on my part. I should want people to be excited about upcoming things, and one of the things I don’t do a good job of (even in my other life) is talking about the future. I have gotten better this year.

I think ultimately the lesson is this: it is not the case that when you are a fifth-level Writer looking up at the twentieth-level Writers, you are No Good. There will be a few people who find value in your work. The better you get, the more people. You do not wake up one day and suddenly have fans; you will accumulate them as you go, by writing better and better stories, by engaging with them, by telling them what you are doing. So if you have to start with your immediate family and friends and think of them when you’re writing the “this is where you can read/vote for my story” post, do that. It makes it less awkward, maybe, and eventually you’ll get enough responses from strangers that you will understand that self-promotion, in moderation, is something your readers not only tolerate and expect, but actually want.

Speaking of, you can vote for my Apex story in their best-of-2012 poll if you feel so inclined. ;) See how I hid that down at the bottom of this essay?

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