Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Enough about me. Why do YOU adore me?

by Sandra Parshall

Bear with me. This isn’t just another blog about social media, although it may start out sounding that way.

Recently I “unliked” someone’s author page on Facebook. This person hasn’t done anything to me personally, but I’d had enough of the “look at how many people love my book and look at all the wonderful things that are happening to me and just look at all the praise that’s being heaped on me” posts emanating from that page. It’s a fan page, and I assume the author’s non-writer fans eat up that stuff. I will happily leave it to them. I haven’t checked the number of “likes” the page has, but I’m sure it’s staggering.

My own author page on Facebook (Sandra Parshall Books) had a grand total of 222 “likes” the last time I checked. I accumulated that many by, basically, begging, but that got old fast and I quit doing it. Although my personal page has 4,803 “friends” (and I keep the number below the 5,000 cutoff mark by frequently culling people I don’t want to have any further contact with), I assume the 222 are the only people on Facebook who are interested in my books.

I should probably post more often for those 222 fans. Maybe I should push myself to boast nonstop, although I’d probably have to do some real digging to find all that much to boast about. I’ve quoted from reviews and promoted interviews and blogs. But the truth is, I don’t care for the one thing above all that writers are supposed to do, the one thing that seems even more important than writing good books: relentless self-promotion. Which often amounts to boasting. Bragging. I hate having to do it, and I am turned off when others do it.

Oddly, the least offensive boasters, to me, are the ones who just put it out there: I worked damned hard on this book, and I’m glad to say it’s getting the praise it deserves. That's annoying enough, but it's so much less obnoxious than fluttery, breathless, gushy false modesty. I try to observe the latter and regard it as material for characterization in my books. And I try to stop listening/reading before I’m tempted to say something I’ll regret or do something, like brandishing a gag, that could get me arrested for assault.

I have stopped reading certain authors' books after enduring too much of their boasting, whether it’s the outright bragging type or the “oh my goodness, I am so humbly honored that the whole wide world adores little old me” type. Sometimes a book is easier to enjoy if I don’t know too much about the writer.

Authors aren’t the only ones, of course, who are so impressed with themselves that they can’t keep quiet about their wonderfulness for a second. However, in the internet age we do seem to be the only ones who are loudly public about it, day after day. Singers promote themselves by singing, not talking or posting about singing. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I don’t think many lawyers and doctors are on Facebook daily gushing over  the latest praise their work has drawn. Actors, who tend to be an obvious and rather endearing mixture of ego and self-doubt, have to be careful because every piece of work they do is an ensemble project, and their careers depend on being widely liked and/or respected as professionals. They learn to be team players or they learn, as Charlie Sheen did, that they can be replaced.

Writers work alone. We don’t have daily contact with our editors, who are our partners in the publishing enterprise. When we break out of our solitude long enough to promote our work, I guess it’s not surprising that some of us don’t know where to draw the line between effective and obnoxious. Some go way overboard, and other authors begin describing them, sneeringly, as relentless self-promoters. Some writers, like myself, loathe the whole self-promotion thing to the point that we cringe when we do it at all.

How do you feel about this? How much boasting turns you off? Has an author's intense self-promotion ever made you decide against reading that person's work?