If you spend any time at all on mystery listservs (or any listserv where writers hang out), you're well-acquainted with the concept of BSP -- blatant self-promotion. If you're a writer, you've probably done your share of it. I know I have. Like the weather, it draws plenty of complaints but no suggestions for practical remedies.
We're supposed to promote ourselves, right? We're supposed to talk about our books, make people want to buy them and read them. Get online and promote, promote, promote! Trouble is, the more we talk, the less people want to listen. It's entirely possible for writers on the internet to talk readers out of buying their books.
I've seen it happen again and again. I've felt this reaction to some writers myself. They're the people who show up on the listservs only when they have something to sell -- or, even worse, when they want conference registrants to give them an award. They don't contribute to discussions, they don't offer helpful advice on any subject, they don't talk about anything except themselves and their products. "I want you to buy my books and give me awards, and that's the only reason I'm here" -- this is their underlying message. It's not surprising when such an approach produces exactly the opposite of the desired result. The offending authors would probably be amazed if they knew what people were saying about them privately.
So what's a writer to do? How do we promote our work online without making enemies or boring people to tears?
I can't tell adult professionals how to behave, but I can tell you what I, as a reader and book-buyer, respond to favorably and unfavorably. If a writer contributes to a discussion with intelligent comments and shows that she's interested in something other than herself and her own career, my heart will warm toward her. If an author has complimentary things to say about someone else's writing, I'm going to like him. Through discussions and recommendations, I'll form an idea of what a writer's work will be like, and if it seems appealing, I'll go looking for it. If I get hit over the head every few days with BSP ("Guess what wonderful thing has happened to me NOW!"), I'm going to develop resistance to both the writer and the work.
Sure, I like hearing that a new book has been released. But I don't want to hear about every single review and every single interview and every new print run. I think all writers should stop before we post such information on a listserv and ask ourselves, "Who besides me really gives a darn about this? How many people will I be annoying if I post this?" Some information belongs on a writer's personal web site or blog and nowhere else.
I am on one list, the e-mail discussion list of the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter, where BSP is freely allowed because the entire purpose of the group is to help people get published. Each achievement is a validation of the group's worth. Even there, though, some members complain about being inundated with BSP. It's not surprising that they would hate it even more on a list with a broader purpose.
I know that many people share my distaste for excessive BSP online. I know because I've discussed it with them. Yet it continues unabated, like junk mail, everywhere we look. That makes me think that either (1) a majority of people just love reading BSP, or (2) a lot of people would rather quietly unsubscribe from a list than complain loudly enough about its content to provoke a change.