Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Self-Promoters Attack

I have to confess, I’m the furthest thing from a promotion genius. I habitually forget my bookmarks when I go to events and booksignings (I’m actually lucky if I remember a pen), don’t update my website as often as I should, and sometimes have to fight the compulsion to apologize to people who have read my books for the third book in the Mission: Family series. (I just had a baby—I was tired.)

But after attending countless conferences, here’s what I do know about self-promotion: it can really, really, really backfire on you if you don’t do it right. By all means, buy ads; invest in a cute bookmark or labeled trinket; volunteer to speak and mention your work. Tactfully bring it up in conversations with other writers, too, if you want. But do not, I repeat, do not go too far, or you will forever burn yourself into potential book-buyers’ psyches as That Annoying Asshat Author Who Won’t Shut The Eff Up About Her Book.

Trust me, being an AAAWWSTFUAHB has the exact opposite effect on your unwitting victims as you would wish. You want them to buy your book, but pelt them with one too many personalized emery boards, recite your website URL once too often, self-promote too rabidly, and readers will sense the waves of desperation coming off you like blood in the water. Act like an Annoying Asshat Author, and these potential readers will not only not buy your book, but they will go out of their way to grab random strangers in their local bookstore to tell them how much you suck.

(OK, I’ve never actually done that. But I know I’m not alone in having fantasized about doing just that when being accosted by one of these people….)

So how do you avoid crossing the line from building healthy awareness of your magnum opus to being the living embodiment of fingernails screeching down a chalkboard? Don’t worry—I’m here for you. (Did you doubt I would be?) If you are promoting a book at RT, RWA, PASIC, NINC, or any of the other writers conferences out there this year, please (I'm begging you) keep in mind my …

Top Ten Strategies for Promoting Your Book at a Conference Without Being an Annoying Asshat Author Who Won't Shut the Eff Up About Her Book

1) It’s good form to at least pretend to be interested in the other person when you are having a conversation. If not, you risk rapidly getting to the point where even if the other person somehow had the choice between a horrible death by wood chipper and buying your book, she might just take her chances with the wood chipper. I know there have been times when I would! (Because, after all, I couldn’t be arrested for assault if I gave a wood chipper a good swift kick and then ran away screaming.)

2) I don’t want to hear about how your e-publisher or single-title publisher is so much better than Harlequin. Do I really have to explain this one?

3) If I start pelting you with garlic and holy water, and chanting at you in Latin, it probably means I am tired of hearing about your book.

4) Telling me you think your own book is “SOOOOOOO good” will make me point and laugh at you. Which is always so awkward.

5) Do not blah all over everyone you meet about your book within the first few minutes of meeting them. Every conversation should be a two-way street, and if you’re doing all the talking about yourself, and everyone else looks like they’re about to projectile vomit on you, that’s probably a good sign that you are a rabid self-promoter.

Seriously, if someone makes me feel like a hapless buyer on a used car lot while I’m standing in line for the conference bathroom, there’s no better way to ensure that I will never, ever, EVER buy her book. I WILL, however, remember her name forever, and not in a good way. I will take pleasure in walking by her again and again during a booksigning, repeatedly picking up her book, and then going, “Mmmmmmmmm, no.” I will dart across the bookstore aisles in which her work resides for years to come to avoid so much as BREATHING on her book. Why? Because it’s perversely fun, and sometimes I get a little bored.

Judging by the snarky comments I’ve heard from friends after their run-ins with rabid self-promoters, I’m guessing I’m not alone.

6) If you’ve mentioned your book title more than, say, 3-5 times in a five-minute conversation, you may have a social disorder and should check out some self-help books on improving your conversation skills or not causing unsuspecting strangers to accidentally lapse into a coma.

7) If, while you’re talking to someone (like, oh, ME), your eyes glaze over like a card-carrying member of a zombie horde (uuuuuuuunnnnnhhhh!) while your mouth starts reciting your back cover copy (:::arm flail:::), I WILL know you’ve mentally gone on auto-pilot. Trust me.

Once again … social disorder. Go have a drink to loosen up, and then find a mirror and practice saying, “So, tell me, what do YOU write?” and “What’s your favorite part of the conference so far?” and other two-sided conversation starters into it until you mean them.

8) Unless I have expressly asked you to add to the already monolithic stockpile of author bookmarks, magnets, postcards, book covers, and buttons that are sitting in a closet while I try desperately to will them back into trees, please do not force your promo material on me. I don’t mind you asking if I want one, but to just shove one in my hands while I’m talking to someone else, or eating breakfast, or, say, rapidly running away from you is rude.

9) Saying, “Oh, I’ve read your books” to another author and then not following up with any sort of commentary appears like a lie at best, condescending at worst. Shoving promotional material into her hands after that kind of crap behavior? Even worse.

If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. It’s totally okay not to have read someone’s books. It’s not okay to mess with someone’s head. (I'M FRAGILE, TOO, OKAY?!?!?!?!)

10) If I seem to be deep in conversation with an old friend I haven’t seen since the original Beverly Hills 90210 was on primetime, do not, I repeat, do not interrupt with some fake-ass question and then immediately segue into an endless drone-fest about your book. Because I will probably punch you in the face—or at least be fighting a strong compulsion to do so until you stop flapping your mouth at me and go away.

BONUS TIP: The best way you can promote yourself to other writers at a writers’ conference? Be nice. Be helpful. Be genuine. If you're presenting, give a good speech and don't talk about all the jewelry and cars and clothes you bought with your (alleged) giant advance to a group of struggling writers. I firmly believe everyone has it in her to do all of the above (except, perhaps, for those who really do have a social disorder)—so have a glass of wine, r e l a a a a a a a a a a x, and just be yourself!

(And say it with me, “So, tell me, what do YOU write?”)


Cathy in AK said...

Great advice, Tracy. I will commit it to memory and practice for future encounters. (So, what do you write? What do *you* write? What *do* you write?)

Plus, I know you and Sharron will kick my @$$ should I ever get near being an AAAWWSTFUAHB

BTW, I HAVE read your books and love them. Even the third Mission:Family ; )

Angryromancegrrl said...

Word. You CAN self-promote to much! And for those who do online drive-bys and think no one notices...um yeah...we do. Now knock it off!

Tracy Montoya said...

That's the nice thing about us--we have our own system of AAA checks and balances. : )

And thank you, Cathy. I appreciate that.

Tracy Montoya said...

Sharron, I agree. Stupid drive-bys.

Michelle Monkou said...

I love this. I must remember to be a pain in your a$$ at RWA.


Tracy Montoya said...

I doubt if you could, but you can always try, Michelle!

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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