She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers' Mixers and her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking. She's the author and co-author of ten novels, including An Uncertain Refuge, Hemlock Lake, The Big Grabowski, and Sometimes a Great Commotion.But if you really want to know about her, go to her website. You’ll find she’s led a very interesting life and is really funny.
Please welcome Carolyn J. Rose.
Getting Past the Messages of Childhood
Whenever I plan promotional events or prepare an on-line post about a particular book or my thoughts on writing, those messages from childhood come blaring through my brain.
The same rules that enabled me to “work and play well with others” and earned me good marks in grade school can be barriers to successful promotion. So, a little modification is in order.
For example, a prime message was, “Don’t be pushy.”
If I bought into that 100%, I’d never ask if I could be a guest blogger or have my book listed on a particular site. I’d probably never post on a forum. Heck, I probably wouldn’t even admit that I’m a writer unless someone took me to a stark basement room and beat the information out of me with a rubber hose.
So I’ve spent a lot of time considering the difference between what’s “being pushy” and what’s “promoting your work.”
Pushy, I’ve decided, is cutting in line, taking someone else’s seat, or monopolizing a conversation. Pushy is being all about yourself at the expense of others. Pushy is demanding.
Promotion is presenting. It’s suggesting. That suggestion may be strong and it may be slanted, but it falls short of pushiness.
Another message was, “Don’t compare yourself to others.” The secondary message there was, “Never act superior or better than.”
I try to toe the line on that secondary message (although I’m only human) but comparisons are a tool of the writing trade, a form of shorthand, and a way to allow readers to connect quickly.
And then there was, “Don’t brag about your success.” That’s a tricky one because the definition of bragging, I’ve found, depends on the perceptions of those being bragged to.
Simply mentioning that I have a new book out might prompt some people to play the “you’re bragging” card. But not mentioning the book closes the door on promotional opportunities. So I try to seek venues where mentioning is appropriate, expected, encouraged, and welcomed. (Like, for example, Helen Ginger’s wonderful blog.)
Then there’s the message I find myself passing on to the high school students I deal with as a substitute teacher, “It’s not all about you.”
It’s tough to defend flaunting that rule—like I’m doing now as I write about myself—so I amend it to read, “It’s not all about you, it’s about the book, the characters, what you’ve learned about the writing process, and what others might find helpful or interesting.”
That shifts the focus just enough that I can shrug off the self-centered, self-conscious feeling and rev myself up to write a news release or answer a blogger’s interview questions or volunteer to teach a workshop at the library.
Finally, there’s this message, “It’s not polite to talk about money.”
Words to live by, then and now. I adhere to that message by making an effort to refer not to books sold, but to readers connected with. That makes promoting feel less like, well, panhandling, and more like getting acquainted with someone who happens to share my table at a coffee shop.
So, hey, let’s get a cup of coffee. And while I’ve got my wallet out, let me show you a picture of the book I just released.
Thank you Carolyn!
If you’d like to buy or see Carolyn’s latest book (isn’t the cover great!), check out An Uncertain Refuge on Amazon.
And you can get more acquainted with Carolyn and all her books on her website.
This was a very interesting post. Carolyn addresses what most of us wonder about - how do we promote our books without sounding haughty. After all, we think our books are fabulous and we want others to think that as well, but if we say that or push too hard, readers can be turned off. She’s told us how she accomplishes this feat. Do you have any advice you can contribute? Or you’re invited to ask Carolyn a question or two. She’ll be dropping by.