Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writer Self Promotion: Career Requirement, a Necessary Evil, or Just Plain Crass?

Image result for self promotion

I struggle with this aspect of writing, self promotion. Sister Mary Gerard made it clear to me in first grade at Our Lady of Lourdes, Chicago, that I was not her only student when she made amazing announcements like, "Miss O'Shaughnessy you are not my only student." She had a gift for stating the blatantly obvious.

My mother often followed suit by reminding me, "You're not an only child Madame Butterfly." Her point was this; just because the heels in my socks were in absentia, it did not mean I would get new ones before any of my five siblings.  I'm not sure though what she meant by the Madame Butterfly reference, but I'm only 57, still plenty of time for more exploratory therapy.

The moral of my story. Thou shalt not shine the spotlight in ones own direction.

Funny thing was, I never took this advice to heart. My freshman year of high school was spent stunt-falling out of my chair. Always good for a laugh, not so good for my lumbar vertebra. In college (the first time, I attended college many times over the decades, can you spell S-L-O-W ?) I gleaned attention via major rule breaking: underage drinking, poor class attendance, vehicular joy riding, and all around trouble making.

I had no issue back then with drawing the wrong kind of attention. Now, I'm older, quasi-wiser and staring a new career. So what kind of attention should a writer seek? When should it be done and how often? Can a writer have a successful career without blowing their own horn i.e. is it possible for the quality of their work to speak for itself? Or, is it expected that a writer will work as hard or harder than their publisher and/or agent in sharing news of recent work? And where does Social Media 2016 fit into the scheme? Is Facebook the gold standard now that blogging has become commonplace or should similar effort be directed via  Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Swarm, Flickr, Meerkat etc, etc.?

The multitude of Social Media which is evolving daily, reminds me of the perfume industry of the 80's when "layering" was all the rage. It was deemed inadequate to buy only the perfume, as the marketing moguls pressured consumers to also purchase the same scent in cologne, after bath spritzer, powder, solid perfume, shampoo and lotion. Many women walked about in hugely toxic clouds of Channel Number 5 and Jean Nate rendering a passer-by nearly senseless. God help the relative who had to endure a close hug from Aunt Magnolia wrapped up tight in a stifling cloud of Tabu.

It was all, too much.

So when is Social Media too much when all you desire is to promote your recently published novel, your award winning fiction, your long-listed poem about dead raccoons in the road? I have absolutely no idea. I am still new to this writerly world and slogging my way through, one muddy step at a time.

 The dilemma of self promotion hit me personally this past month when I was notified my poem, "Waiting for the Coroner," was chosen for the Dermot Healy Poetry Award at the Five Glens Festival in Sligo, Irealnd.  I was very surprised as I am an emerging poet (note, I did not say young poet) with no other published poems. I was also thrilled, humbled, excited, and I'll say it again, thrilled. But, should I be advertising the fact?

Too late. I just did.

These are the pros of self promotion as I see it.
     1. Readers are made aware of your existence.

These are the cons of self promotion as I see them.
     1. Readers tire of your existence.

So what is an up and coming poet slash essayist slash short story writer to do? The irony of my asking about the value of self promotion while blogging about the issue (bloggers are the leaders of self-promoters) does not escape my beagle eye. I've always preferred dogs over birds.

Tell me what you think, to promote or not to promote, and to what degree. Specifically, which venues have worked for you and why and which do you find over the top and why?

While you are contemplating these issues please take a moment to share this post with everyone on earth you might know. Thanks a million.