Monday, July 2, 2007

On ShamelessPromotion

"...but enough about me, what do you think about me?"- I'm willing to attribute it to Bette Midler, unless someone knows better

RO: In an online group of which I am a member, there is currently a thread of discussion which started out being about query letters and has (d)evolved, as they sometimes do, into a discussion of BSP. I had never even heard the term BSP - blatant self-promotion, until last year when my book was sold, but every author from JD Salinger to JA Konrath has a position on it, whether they articulate it or not. We all do..okay, maybe not Salinger, but 99% of us do. Why are some of us so conflicted about the fact that part of the job of being a published writer is helping the publisher sell the book?

In high school, there were the insufferable braggy people who always got straight A's and had to tell you about it. Leads in the play, every time. Teachers pets. The majorettes who got to wear lipstick and pluck their eyebrows. The ones who had lots of dates and bought their grosgrain-ribbon trimmed cardigans from the too-expensive Roderick St. John. (You see my own personal demons from back then.) Anyway, no one liked them, I didn't at least, because they were always puffing about their successes and their prowess. That was BSP, and it was unbearable.

Fast forward, though, to now. I must say I love to hear what's happened to other writers. What awards they win and what they sell. How they write and what they think and who they love and why they do what they do. I say: just tell me. Their successes? Whether it's selling a short story or a novel or winning an Edgar. Tell me about it. I love it.

How am I supposed to know about it otherwise? And success is better shared. (You can't have a champagne toast without at least two people..) And when something wonderful happens to me (for instance, well--ok. You know.) It's fun to tell the people who will understand. And they know I'll love hearing the same from them.

There is...excess, of course. We all recognize that. The sneaky stuff that sounds like it's about someone else when it's really about them. That's not bsp. That's just boring and needy. But hey, we can laugh.

Flashing back to high school...and it's scary how often that faves were the ones who said ..."I did terrible on the test....I only got a 95."Made me want to rip off their little circle pins. Anyway, I'm a grownup now. Everyone in publishing seems to agree you have to go out there and promote yourself, and writers decide for themselves where their comfort level is.

Fresh back from a four day trip to California, where I did nothing but sell myself, I have to say for the most part, I hate selling myself. It's odd, because I actually enjoy public speaking and meeting booksellers -- and with Hank sharing the sales burden as well as media escort Ken Wilson making the introductions in LA, it was a painless and rewarding trip. Still....I hate this need to always be promoting myself. And there is a tiny part of me that feels that when I give someone a signed copy of my book as a gift, it's along the same lines of giving them a framed picture of myself as a gift. It's all about ME. ME. ME. And at some point, even I am getting sick of ME.

(Ro's note...WE're not. I personally don't hear nearly enough about you, you, you.)

(Hank's note: Hey, wasn't it about me a little bit too? Kidding.)

JAN:I always thought it went back to Catholic CCD, where we learned that if you do a good deed -- it must remain pure. In other words, if you brag about the good deed, not only does it negate the good work, you actually get one of those venial sin check marks that muck up your soul. (At least until your next confession.)But now that you mention it, the unwritten rules of high school definitely reinforced the bragging ban. And everyday life does, as well. Probably the worst thing you can do in middle-ageddom is brag about your kids. In fact, it's probably worse to brag about your kids acheivements than it is about your own. So no wonder, I find this whole BSP thing pure torture. In fact, sometimes I fantasize about giving up writing and selling something other than myself. Like leather couches at a furniture store. Expensive luxury cars on a highway lot. Maybe I'd be good at selling ad space on the Internet... hmmmmm....lots of possibilities for a BSP-free career!

Omigod, high school and Catholic school in one blog...two of my worst nightmares made real again... is this what I have to look forward to, when I go on tour? BTW...say hello to Emmy...she's the doggie with the Jungle Red nails! (FYI, I did not do this in a shamelessly promotional moment, someone sent me Emmy's pic because I am looking for dog pix for a book proposal, but I thought Emmy's pic was appropriate.)

Well, Ken Wilson was a genius, and made us feel not so pushy and not-so-aggressive for oh-so-sweetly making sure people knew about our books. I'll be the contratrian here. I had a great time in Los Angeles and San Francisco. (And I know Jan would say just the same thing.) We met wonderful people at so many bookstores--M is for Mystery, The Mystery Bookstore, Mysteries to Die for, and Book 'Em Mysteries. Endlessly beautiful and enthusiastic Borders and Barnes & Nobles. I admit I bought waaaay too many books and t-shirts, waaay too many lattes, and loved meeting everyone. And I bow to their devotion to mysteries and authors and readers. And they love new books. I'll continue to be the contrarian--I loved the tour. It was exhausting, it was high-adrenaline. But you know, I poured my heart into Prime Time. And today I finished the copy edits of Face Time. I'm wiped. But I'm happier than ever.

Many tour stories to this space!


  1. "that if you do a good deed -- it must remain pure. In other words, if you brag about the good deed, not only does it negate the good work, you actually get one of those venial sin check marks that muck up your soul."

    Oh, my God. Is THAT where I learned this?

    I honestly didn't know. But your words, exactly as you said them are burned into my brain.

    It MUST have been the CCD classes. Thank you.

    -katiebird (by way of Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life blog)

    Follow the blogrolls and you will become enlightened

  2. And you thought you weren't listening! I thought I'd done a pretty good job of torturing the poor CCD teacher and not paying any attention. But I think that must have been AFTER confirmation (which in those days was fifth grade). In those vulnerable pre-communion days --when you'd give anything to wear that white veil-- and the nun was still at the helm, the teachings got through to you!
    For good and ill.