I see it all the time these days. Writers commenting on blogs and forum threads while including a not so subtle reference to their latest book or their latest blog post or their latest signing.

I'm guilty of it myself -- although I try to go the subtle route. Notice, if you will, that in this post I won't ever mention the name of my own book. Yet some of you will undoubtedly click over to my CrimeSpace page and there it is, in living black and white (or white on brown).

Not exactly blatant self promotion, but some of us don't seem to hesitate to practice the craft.

The question is, is it really necessary? Should we sound the trumpets or is it better to simply contribute semi-coherent, thoughtful blog comments and forum posts and hope that the readers will discover you've actually written a book or two or three?

There's a certain no-shame factor that kicks in when sounding the trumpets. And it requires a gene that I don't really possess.

So, tell me, what's a poor humble idiot to do?

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Donna and Sandra have pretty much nailed it -- it's about degree and about how much the writer participates in the crime fiction community. I always remember Donna's excellent description of 'drive-by posters' -- those who never contribute to the general debate on a list, but are there in a flash when they have something to publicise.

As a reviewer and reader, I find some of the BSP makes my head hurt :O), and there are some writers I will never read because of their approach. My loss, maybe, and I understand that writers do need to publicise their books. But there are a load of people I delete unread on DL, because I can't abide the way they bring every discussion round to their book.

A judicious and brief sig line with a website link means I will often go and explore.
I vote for the subtle route, Robert. Nobody likes being clobbered by infomercials on sites--me included. That "degree" Shaz mentioned is crucial.

So I vote for renaming what we do as GSP: "Gentle Self-Promotion." This kind of self-promotion is crucial to our careers, good for readers to let them know what we're doing on their behalf, and keeps me up on what my hundreds of different colleagues are doing. GSP isn't in your face and braggy like Blatant Self Promotion. It's calm, reasoned, gentle, informative. Plus there's usually cool one-liners involved.

Is the Big Brass Band of Blatant Self Promotion necessary? Wish to God I knew. I'd prefer not to BSP even a little bitl--it's so damn hucksterish.

Problem is, I don't know what works and what doesn't in terms of getting readers to know my work. I'm not convinced anyone really knows the answer, even if they charge you heavily for assurances that they do. So we throw all the proverbial oatmeal at the ceiling at see what sticks.

Thus, GSP.

Good discussion. Thanks for starting it.

I like that, Shane. GSP. Works for me.
Great discussion. Thanks for the post. I did plenty of BSP when my first novel came out. My next one is out in June and I very consciously chose not to go the BSP route. I'd considered doing an author blog again, but I can hardly read them any more, let alone writing one about my next novel, which, for the sake of not self-promoting, we'll call #2. So I couldn't stand the thought of blogging about #2, always finding innovative ways to talk about #2, giving helpful hint to new authors about the process of #2, ruminating about the pain of the first pass of #2, or even the smell of #2, (even though my #2 smells good.)

Somehow with #2, the whole BSP thing just seemed too anal to me.

So I decided: screw it. I'd write about what I really loved, which is the feast of information I digested to create #2. I went with my passion and started a blog about what really interested me, the outsourcing of national security. To date, I haven't promoted the book on it, other than one line in my bio, but the benefits of it have been tremendous. I have a regular readership in the Pentagon, CIA, State Dept, Homeland Security, among the heads of private military and private intelligence corporations (which is actually pretty scary) and among journalists from places such varied places as the NYT and al-Jazeerah. I've made some great connections and even some friends and I've been threatened. One of my strangest experiences with it was a SEAL fight. I've helped journalists (actually giving things I didn't want attributed) and last week I had an hour long interview at the DC NPR station because of the blog. (The show host was a loony tune, but that's another story.)

I don't know if any of this will sell a single book, but it's paid off in many other ways. That is, if it doesn't get me killed. ;)

Moral of this post:: It can be fun and rewarding in unexpected ways when you let go of old shit. And BSP gets to be old shit real fast.
Hi Robert. I'm not a published novelist YET-- but feel that WHEN the day comes, I'll be such a BSPer that I would alienate everyone! No not really, just kiddin'....(I think)

I agree with the varing opinions here. And torn between the two. The marketing publicity has been laid on the author's shoulders nowadays. And with that being said, the author should be selective about his BSPs. Why promote in a romance or fantasy venue, when your book is crime/mystery/thriller/whatever? Selective, targeted promotion is the only method that possibly works. (speaking as a non-experienced writer simply observing)

Shouldn't there actually be TWO approaches to BSP? Those two being separate BSP package types? One to present to readers in order to grow your fan base and sell your book(s), and the second, to professionally present your writer presense in the professional world, whether in forums and blogs, signatures in emails and discussions? All done with non-tooting-your-own-horn approach though. (just IMHO)

So my answer is "yes" it is necessary, but feel it should be done selectively and with class. It all depends on who you're targeting and what you're trying to accomplish with the BSP. If none, then omit it. I don't think Crimespace is a venue for it, although as writers, it's perfectly acceptable to display our books and websites on our profiles, because that's who we are. On all forums, the selective BSP approach is justified and warranted.
One thought on the BSP thing (Blatant Self-Promotion). If the author doesn't do it, who will in any large measure without being paid for it? Unfortunately, very few. Like most things, if the individual is obnoxious and truly blatant about promoting, it probably ends up as a "turn off." Self-defeating. And considering the whole wide web, I suspect that most self-done promotional efforts by print authors, reach just a miniscule audience. However, if they like to read crime fiction ....

Pat Harrington
Ahhhhh sweet BSP.

Here's a different angle for ya. Let's say that you're trying to get your writing career off the ground, and you're using short stories to get some cred in order to get the right agent/editor/guru to pick up your stuff. Let's further say that you find a writers' group on the web (thank you Yahoo for hosting) that is devoted to the discussion of the writing and publishing of short mystery fiction, and is thus populated by (you guessed it) budding writers of short mystery fiction.

Eureka! You think! And you immediately subscribe. Then, wonder of wonders, you read the discussion threads, and realize that there aren't just postings about the writing and publication of short mystery fiction, but there are what many would consider "knitting circle" threads, such as "Which is better? Takesus, or Tennessee?" AND that most of those who post to these knitting circle threads have sig lines that read something like this:


Bozo D. Clown

Visit my webpage at www.bozoscomin.com
Enter my latest contest at www.bozosfreestuff.com
Read my writers' blog at www.bozosjournal.net
Read my latest short story, "Pale Bald Guys With Red Hair and Big Red Noses"
online at www.itsafreemysteryzinefromwhichididntmakeanickel.org
My latest novel: I WAS A REFUGEE FROM INSANE CLOWN POSSE, published by iUniverse is available at Amazon.com"

This happens a lot.

The kicker? In the case I satirized above, the group is a *short mystery writers' group*. So it's BSP to the competition, not to your readership. I understand the idea that writers are readers and fans as well, and that it's nice to get another author saying something nice about your book, that networking is important, and all that.

BUT most writers I know aren't going to go hit www.itsfreeandthewritersdontmakeanickel.net to read stuff by novices or by people who can't get paid for their writing. I'm not trying to be unkind. I'm trying to show that people who post this sort of crap in online writers' forums are frequently novices, and always wasting their time.

This brings us to the question: "If I'm going to spend any time/effort promoting my work, what is the most efficient use of my time?"

There are a myriad of potential responses to that question. None of them involve schlepping your short mystery fiction to other people in a writers' forum.

I think in the end, you're selling yourself. Like a politician or an actor, you're selling a product, a brand if you will. How? By being interesting, by being engaging, by being charming (anyone who has ever shared a room with Barry Eisler, who is all of the above and *sincerely so*, knows what I'm talking about).

So write good, interesting, engaging posts on your writers' forums. Ask probing questions on Dorothy-:L (and I agree that there's nothing wrong with having one's webpage listed in one's sig line. A one-line sig line these days is novel in its brevity), *be* engaged in the subject matter.

Oh, and once you've sold something, and you're hitting the cons, if you score panel time, be all of the above all over again. Many's the writer I've met at cons like B'con and LCC and come away from the experience thinking I wanted to read their book. That goes double for someone who is both an interesting and gracious panelist (as opposed to a boorish mic-hog or a seat-warming non-entitiy).

I find most of the above easy to do (I do have to remind myself not to hog the mic, a sin I'm sure no other writer has ever been guilty of!), because the people I meet at conventions do tend to be interesting, interested, funny, engaging. Many of them are even nice away from cons (but that's a train of thought for another thread). I find that the true professionals are able to be all of the above while being sincere and gracious, and I am even more likely to give their stuff a try as a result.

However, if, for example, you can't hold your liquor, and you think that being loud and boorish, swearing lustily at the people around you as part of some grand "joke" that only *you* get is funny/rewarding/good self-promotion, rest assured, it'll be a cold day in Hell before I spend a nickel on your stuff, and you might even get told off in the bargain.

One other thing: if you look at my page, you'll see that I've written a lot of stuff. I've got four books (all non-fiction) and one edited anthology (GOD was THAT a lot of work!) under my belt. The only one I mention in my mystery writing circle stuff is the one I wrote on Lincoln. I do so A) because it was my first, and it's still my favorite, and B) I write historical mysteries, and my MA in 19th century American history is likely to be something people will want to know about (and that's a blatant appeal to authority) when wondering about reading my fiction set in 19th century America. Why no laundry list? Simple: who here is going to give a rat's ass that I wrote THE EVERYTHING TEACHER ORGANIZER?

So be on point when you're promoting yourself.

Because that's really what we're talking about here: promoting yourself. When you do it well, it's PR, and it can't help but sell your work by association. When you don't do it well, it often gets disparagingly labled as "BSP."

Your Mileage May Vary-

A certain amount of self publicity is expected, such as in signatures in e-mails and on e-groups, but overly long ones are ridiculous and get in the way. We have to get our brands out there somehow and if it's cheap or free, we need to go for it. I don't care for the in-your-face stuff, although at a first introduction to a group I don't see anything wrong with listing accomplishments, etc. After all, marketing these days is the author's job, unless one is elite enough to have a publisher back you. That doesn't happen often.
Morgan Mandel
I'm certainly not for Blatant Self-Promotion. God forbid. But I'm all for self promotion. If a writer is pushy, that's going to turn me off. But I want to know if you've written a book, and I'd like to see a sample of it. Isn't that part of the fun?


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