Friday, 19 November 2010

From Self-Doubt to Self-Promotion

I recently finished my piece for Nigel Bird's brilliant self-interview series on his blog, Sea Minor.  I'd been putting it off for ages.  Didn't know where to start.  Who would want to read about me?  In the end I made myself do it, conscious of overcoming whatever it was inside may that was shying away from doing it.

And it was one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done. 

I'm really pleased I did it and really want to thank Nigel for giving me the opportunity, but I hadn't bargained for the level of self-promotion involved.  Being a self-interview I was having to set the questions up in order for me to talk about myself.  It was all I could do to stay afloat in the murky sea of self-indulgence I'd thrown myself into.

And it got me thinking about a video interview I'd seen the other day on Jen Forbus' site, with Ridley Pearson.  He described how he'd written a book anonymously, and it had got to the number one spot in the New York Times Bestseller List.  In a very humorous way, he described his feelings about that - the only book he's ever written that's topped the list, and he's not even credited with it.  But there was a real freedom about how he described this experience.  The freedom of anonymity. 

Is every piece of writing we put our name to and submit drenched in self-promotion?  I mean, we have the choice.  I know of only two writers - my friend Sue W., and the fabulous Anon9, who choose to publish anonymously.  But it's never crossed my mind.  Never. 

Am I deluding myself into thinking there is not a part of me that'd like to see my name in lights, as it were? 

It took me ages to decide to set up this blog.  Ironically enough, it was Anon9, among others, that persuaded me of the necessity of doing it.  But I couldn't go the whole way.  I'm conscious of the fact I've ended up promoting the works of others alongside, perhaps above, mine as if I couldn't have the spotlight shining purely on myself.  And the photo.  That was taken by accident by pressing the wrong button on my laptop.  No way would I have a photo taken in any other way.  Anyone that knows me knows I've always refused to have my photo taken since I was a little kid.  Weddings, holding my new born children, and only over the last couple of years having my photo taken with the kids on holiday excepted.  Thats as far as it goes.  Then this slip of the finger on the laptop, and that's me lot.

But am I kidding myself?  Is it possible to make some sort of go of it in this writing game without accepting the self-promotion thing as a necessary component?  Is there a burgeoning Barnham inside bursting to get out?

How do you feel about self-promotion?  Comfortable with it?  And if you're not, do you think your reticence regarding promoting yourself holds you back in your writing ambitions?


  1. Most writers are, I believe, quite shy by nature. They hide away and write.

    But essentially, I do think self-promotion is necessary if we want to expand our readership. The most successful writers I can think of self-promote.

    One could cite J D Salinger to refute my argument. However, he had already gained success before he locked himself away. And then of course, locking himself away was a marketing tool in and of itself.

    Most writers seem to view it as a necessary evil though. As far as I have seen they would rather lurk behind their curtains.

    It must be remembered that Bukowski had some effective marketing behind him.

  2. I think you're right, mate. And I suppose the internet is the ideal tool for the shy writer who needs to self-promote but doesn't feel comfortable with the face to face stuff.

    There's a point where that has to change, I suppose, with interviews and readings and book signings, etc., but the internet is definetly a great toe in the water.

    Interesting you mention Salinger. I've always thought the same about his seclusion being a marketing tool in itself. And Bukowski's legend, the way he lived his life, like Kerouac, marketing tools again.

    But I suppose with the competition nowadays, and the bottom line approach of publishers and agents, that is no longer enough. The importance of a writer getting involved in all the media outlets available to them is more important than ever.

    Whether we like it or not . . .

  3. David Cranmer just directed me to your post, Ian. Thanks for mentioning me. Staying anonymous hasn't hurt from a promotion point of view, and I think self-promotion is overrated. That's just my opinion. The best promotion is what others say about my stories. Obviously, I don't have any control over what they say. All I can control is the writing itself.

    I just completed an interview for Nigel's "Dancing with Myself" series and it was a BITCH! I did it over a bunch of times. It's not going to be up until January, so I still have some time to pester him with changes. Serves him right for inventing that torture for writers. I HATE NIGEL BIRD! (Not really, but the statement does get your attention, doesn't it?) Now, who's self-promoting???

  4. Lovely to hear from you again, my friend. And you've given me a straw to clutch to. Word of mouth. That's how the internet works. That's what I sort of meant when I said to UV about the Internet being an ideal toe in the water of self-promotion for the reticent writer.

    I know from my chats with my almost daily chats with Nick Quantrill what a sort of self-promotion schedule seems to involve for the aspiring author - book signings, readings, Q&A sessions, etc. and the whole thing both appeals and repells me in equal measure.

    I felt the same whilst qualifying as a counsellor - the theory I was more than comfortable with, but the face to face, the unknown, that took some getting used to. Now I love it, the human interaction. The laying myself bare. Hopefully, if the situation ever arises, and it's a long shot, I know, I will rise to the writing challenge also.

    But without this wonderful online writing community, I would never even have been able to even contemplate such a thought.

    Keep well, my friend.

    Warmest regards, as always,


  5. Ian, I wanted to say I love the photograph you put up on the blog. It captures humor and a kindly expression touched with weariness which perhaps the overworked writer can identify with. I agree with you that the online crime writing community is a quality group of people. Some in our ranks are already gaining success in the "real," paying world such as Frank Bill, who just landed his FSG deal. Doesn't this make it seem like anything is possible? Write on, my friend.