There seems to be a great deal of young to mid-career writers online discouraging each other from engaging in self-promotion. This is a serious mistake–a deleterious form of group-think equatable to self-sabotage. Most successful writers will tell you, from experience, that you must FIGHT for the recognition of your artwork. Rare is a spotlight that picks one young writer to be the season’s new precious. The rest of you will have to dig in, work like hell, write in the wee hours, & then PUSH that shit into whatever shop will sell it. The truth is relationships with other writers help. Relationships with critics & reviewers help. Teaching helps because you have built-in buyers. Being funny on Twitter, apparently, helps. If you’re not good at making friends, & you don’t teach, & your humor is a bit dry, you have to ACTIVELY search out readers elsewhere. You can try meeting folks in writing forums, you can take writing classes & meet people with interesting ideas there, you can attend readings, you can try blogging or writing articles or reviews for a website. This process will make you feel tired, frustrated, alienated–but you’re not alone, & you’re doing it right. Understand, though, that this never stops. You will be self-promoting for the rest of your life. Famous writers on Facebook do it all the time–I just opened Facebook & immediately found seven blog posts by writers touting their wares. They may not be asking me to buy their book, but they’re certainly asking me to read & engage their latest work, even if it’s how they feel about pregnant hairless cats or the mysteries of gelatin-based food products. It’s very important for you as a writer to push yourself into areas you feel EXCEPTIONALLY uncomfortable being anywhere near. That’s the game– sorry. You’re the one that wanted to create a meaningful world out of nothing. You’re the one who felt you had something special to share. It’s difficult to move beyond the thinking of haters & naysayers, but if you don’t, & try your hand at CormacMcCarthy-ing yourself into Oprah’s open heart in your seventies, you’ll most likely find yourself near-dead & unread, & wishing you’d tried a scary thing a bit earlier on.
Also, I was reading Allie Brosh’s comics since they first went up on blogspot–she’s hilarious, & truth-seeking, & even with the promise of failure seemingly forever on the horizon, a self-promoter. Despite depression. Despite all the fears she shares with the rest of us. She was here in Brooklyn reading at WORD & I totally missed her because of a certain fear of my own, a medical one, ridiculous in its own way. & look where it’s got me. Not meeting Allie Brosh.
EDIT: I wanted to add a little something I mentioned on Facebook, answering the question of what particular threads might have prompted this post: “Several posts [on Facebook] over the past week, aggravated today by certain “conversations” in TheMillions comment section. Just a growing awareness of vilification of effort, which feels to me both disingenuous on the part of trolling rebutters (those who wish to quiet the self-promoters by promoting themselves as They Who Know Best) & scarily close to the “mask your intelligence” BS we inferred as kids in a southeastern town. As a younger writer, I engaged in a bit of magical thinking regarding how books are chosen, & how literary writers find success. I am now very familiar with how writing & writers find their audience, & if you don’t have a famous mentor carting you along, you’re probably going to have to bust ass just to squeak a whisper into someone’s ear. There isn’t a day I don’t work to promote either my own work or BAP. & I’ve seen the effect on sales promotion (or lack thereof) has on books & careers. This is a typical grad school complaint…I have a Masters & no idea how to sell the thing I love doing. It is a difficult place to start from…but the question should be a starting place, not an ending place.”