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The Art of Blowing Your Own Trumpet

May 20, 2010 2 comments

With hundreds of author-created books, DVDs, CDs and downloads coming onto the market every day, and everyone trying to publicise through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WordPress (ha, ha) etc., it has created a media Tower of Babel—millions of voices fulfilling Warhol’s prophecy and screaming: ‘I want my 15 minutes now! By any and every means!’ Clearly some find this trend annoying. Recently on Amazon a poster started a discussion thread to complain that the forums were being hijacked by authors self-promoting their books. Immediately those very self-promoters waded in to defend themselves, no doubt seeing the thread as yet another avenue for their public exposure—some even posted product links!

As an independent author I self-promote my book at any opportunity, but I have ambivalent feelings about the process and doubts about its efficacy. I’m reminded of the words of Groucho Marx, who said he wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. And indeed who would want to buy a book whose author had to resort to standing on a street corner like a town crier singing its praises? There is something inherently down market, degrading and off-putting about self-promotion, which cannot help but reflect on the product itself… But then self-promotion is better than no promotion at all.

Every good solipsist knows he’s created a masterpiece, but he also knows nobody else knows and never will unless the trumpet comes out. So what to do? I have come to the conclusion that whatever it is do it subtly, obliquely and not the in-your-face way. So it’s not a good idea to post product links on Amazon threads and Facebook pages that are meant for discussion and information sharing. You will be viewed as a spammer, and you might even create a negative backlash against your product, in the manner of a really irritating TV advert. It’s also not good to join a discussion thread, make a perfunctory comment and then go on to talk about your book, which deals with this very subject in terrific detail, was recommended by So and So and is available here (product link).

Much better to talk more generally in a conversational way, contribute something of actual value to a discussion that is likely to get peer group approval, and leave a trail—a website or blog address—that will lead to your product. Many established professionals do this and some have become experts, seeking out just the right platforms from where they will attract the most attention. It’s not an easy process and it’s also never-ending. With so much media circulating in a dizzying howl-around fashion, it’s very hard to get heard and very frustrating when people appear not to be listening. But nevertheless, don’t resort to blowing the trumpet too hard or too close to your audience’s ears. Remember: the soft sell wins over hard the sell every time.

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