Writer, promote thyself II

Whaddaya think?

My writer-friend Susan Gabriel, author of the breakout novel Seeking Sara Summers, pointed out an interesting article in the New York Times about the long and perhaps tacky history of self-promotion among writers. —See, I did that right. I got in two cross references in the very first sentence.That’s what “social media” is supposed to be about, they tell me. Gary Vaynerchuk would be proud. —See, there’s another! However, having checked out guru Gary’s blog, I can’t see much of anything except obvious social networking advice and lots of plugs for his own wine business.

Anyway, this carnival-barker stuff, at least in one respect, is apparently nothing new.  As the Times article points out, even the great Hemingway sold his mighty name for a brewski. Imaging getting tweets from Mary Shelley or Tolstoy of their vacation pics. Thoreau on roughing it. Dickens blogging about his childhood. Poe’s favorite libations.

I discussed this same topic in an earlier post. While all this social networking advice sounds good in the abstract, the real issue for me is the obvious one, the one I haven’t seen any of the social networking gurus discuss except superficially, which is how do you get yourself noticed when everyone else is doing it too? It isn’t enough to simply state, “Have interesting content and they will come.” They won’t necessarily. I see many interesting blogs and other online sites, and oftentimes even bookmark them, intending to return. But I don’t. No matter how interesting a site, there are only so many hours in a day, and the number of media outlets vying for our attention is growing astronomically.  In fact, any way you look at it, it is America’s largest-growing industry. (Except no one ever looks at it that way.)

And all this comes when we’re supposedly working harder and longer in our jobs than ever, because the companies we work for laid off the worker to our left and then the worker to our right, and we’re next if we’re caught looking at Lady Gaga’s tweets while at work.

Yet, as sites such as TMZ aptly demonstrate, it’s the self-promoters, the, let’s face it, whores, who get most of the attention today. Busy people simply don’t have time to go out independently seeking what’s good. We like to think we make discoveries ourselves, but with most of us, the content is placed in front of us for us to “discover,” whether we realize it or not. The trick is figuring out how to do it.

Ernest Hemingway ale ad

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I actually emailed Gary and asked him how one stands out using his social media tips when everyone else is doing it as well. How do we swim like a champion when everyone else in the pool is Michael Phelps too? Perhaps not surprisingly, he never answered. Whether he’s too busy with his many speaking engagements or just doesn’t have an answer I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t find anybody with an answer to this question, other than some version of “Try harder,” which to me is sort of the Anthropic Principle of blogging.

I’ve already noticed a few things regarding readership to this blog: it’s better to post on a Sunday or Monday, because people are more likely to read Monday when they first arrive back at work and are trying to put off starting the week.  Posting on a Friday, especially a Friday afternoon, is deadly. Don’t post on travel holiday-weekends either.

What do you think, reader? What are some good promotional ideas for Entertaining Welsey Shaw? I’d serious consider anything breakout and not just the usual “Tweet, blog, stir, add salt if needed,” because that’s what everybody’s doing, all 500 million of us. (See, I’m really getting these links in like crazy. Thanks, Gary, you’re the best.) Tell me your thoughts, tell me what you notice, what you’re sick of; I’d love to hear your perspective.

Incidentally, the full New York Times article on writers and self-promotion can be found here.

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3 responses

  1. Dana

    Isn’t that the way of all “experts” – to give the easy obvious advice and not be able to answer the question that shows the huge flaw in their ideaology?

    May 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

  2. Thanks for the mention, John. You’re becoming a whiz kid with this marketing stuff.

    I think the elephant in the room, however, is that first and foremost we writers have to write a really good book that readers may actually want to read.

    As novelists, I think we have to write a really good and compelling story. That means something really well-crafted and leaving nothing to distract readers from the story. Our books still may not sell as well as we want, but at least we know we did our jobs to the best of our ability, which is to write.

    May 2, 2011 at 8:18 am

  3. Maureen Owen

    There are always gurus out there dying to tell you their secrets. If they really had them, they wouldn’t be sharing.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

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