Selling Yourself

“You’re on Facebook, right? Twitter? And you’ve got a blog?”

So asks everyone in the industry when a writer speaks of publishing a new book. You’ve got to sell yourself, they say, because these days writers have to expect to do all their own marketing.

But when a writer markets a book via social networking, invariably her personality becomes part of the package. It’s not just about the themes in her novel, that one cool plot twist, that familiar archetype turned on its head–it’s about where she went on vacation, what kind of cheese she prefers, how she dressed as an obscure manga character for Halloween. It’s a funny video she made about her addiction to post-it notes. It’s a link to an online photo album of her iguana.

In short, a writer who uses “social marketing” ends up selling herself.

So it’s no longer about that new book.

Is this a problem? Is all this talk about post-its and Halloween drowning out the carefully crafted noise of a well-written story? Some writers make it point to avoid publicizing their personalities–they want their work to speak for itself. But that’s not necessarily the “right” way to be a writer, is it? It’s not as if Mark Twain holed himself up and let his work “speak for itself.”  And who would want him to??

Some writers feel comfortable in the spotlight. They like connecting with their readers on multiple levels–through their stories and through online platforms. Some writers feel like they’ve said everything they meant to say right there in those two hundred plus pages of their novel. So perhaps this is a matter of respecting each writer’s bent toward extroversion or introversion.

Are you annoyed by “social marketing” or does it draw you closer to your favorite writer? Does a writer’s online persona (or lack thereof) affect your reaction to her writing?

Parker Peevyhouse hopes you will tweet about this post and mention it on your Facebook page. Couldn’t hurt to do a vlog response to it either.

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7 responses to “Selling Yourself

  1. I feel like a pimp somedays. “Looking for a good time? Check out my book!” For me, I had to figure out where to draw the line between me personally and me professionally. It’s hard to do when you really are selling yourself, and by extension, your writing.

    But social media can be overused. It’s a balancing act, like everything else. How much does the public want to hear? If all you do is blast ads for your book, people will dump you online. If you moan about health problems or the weather, same thing. I do my best not to talk about my kids because they are not part of my public persona. They exist, but they have a right to their own privacy.

    If anyone finds the secret key to selling thousands of books, please share! And my personal preference? I’d rather just read the books. Unless the social marketing actually has something to do with the books, I really am not interested.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

  2. Every author has to find the formula that makes him/her comfortable, though certainly we’re all under pressure to be witty and personable and that can matter for book sales.

    My own approach is to think of myself not as someone marketing my books but rather someone simply involved in the conversation and celebration of books and the art of writing for young readers.

    I talk about other folks’ work more than my own, but if it comes up, I’m honored to share this or that professional news with an audience who’s happy to hear it.

    That mindset–considering it a conversation, an exchange–for me changes everything.

    I may chat a bit about spending a couple of days this week at Disney World after the Florida SCBWI conference…in the same way that I might chat about it if I sat down with a group of, say, writers, teachers, librarians and booksellers and someone asked, “What’s new in your life?”

    But I don’t get too personal and will fairly quickly steer the conversation back to books/writing, the topic that brought us all together in the first place.

    • I think Cynthia has the model for having SM work both for marketing and for participating in the writing/book community — and the latter, IMO, is both more important and more fun (and probably easier to be successful with). As someone who is single and lives in the boondocks, I love FB/SM just for the ability to connect with people more than I otherwise would. I also will say I resent the pressure on authors to do something that used to primarily be the publisher’s job, because of points raised here, but things have changed.

      I also have been completely turned off to one or two writers based on the personalities that come through SM, so that is a danger. But I think I can dislike (and hide or unfriend) them and still be objective about their work, some of which is very good.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      I like the example you give about chatting online the same way you would in person.

  3. Natalie Aguirre

    I like reading author’s blogs, but don’t feel I have to have them sell their personality to enjoy their book. I’m shy by nature so haven’t plunged into setting up a blog yet and don’t have time with working for Twitter. I know one of the hardest part of being an author if I ever get publishing is the “selling yourself” part, especially the public speaking. I like Cynthia’s approach too and it makes it feel like something I could handle.

  4. Well, let me answer the question from my own POV — I find that I don’t mind blogging — I enjoy it. I know that the world of blogs has fifteen billion other stops in it, and mine is a very small, remote corner of that world. That’s okay. That’s great. I can inhabit that. It’s small, it’s personal, and even though it’s public, it has the intimacy of a 1:1 conversation.

    I am not a part of any other social networking groups. I dropped Facebook. I hated it; I felt exposed, and weird, and since I’m both shy and introverted, it was just. too. much. I felt like I was being pelted with people who wanted to be my “friend.” It felt false, and I felt stretched too thin and like I was just getting soundbytes of the lives of people with whom I wanted to connect, and that I had to create interesting soundbytes of my own. And I’m just not that interesting.

    That being said, I would hope that no one would not read a book of mine because I’m not available on FB. That doesn’t even enter into it for me — maybe I’m just not hip with the technology yet, but only AFTER I’ve read a book do I sometimes do a desultory search and see if the author has more books – basically that’s the only reason I look, and a good bookstore site could tell me the same thing.

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