Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Guilt of Self-Promoting

Happy BookI'd be the first to say that over-promotion is a bad thing. I don't want social spaces to turn into a string of spam. I want people to recommend others (which is why I make lists and post my nominations in public). But one announcement for each new story or piece of news, and one roundup at the end of the year, is not exactly drowning out everything else. It's easily missed.

Yet during award season, this isn't how such criticism is framed. It's aimed squarely at anyone who posts a roundup of their work that year. Context doesn't matter. They could spend the rest of the year recommending other people. It could be the only self-promotion message they posted all year. But they posted a message about their work and that's unacceptable.

It might be the ones doing the criticism mean to say it in context. They may mean, "Don't promote yourself if you don't promote others." Or, "It's one thing to post a single post with your stuff, but not to campaign to get people to vote for you." But it's rarely said that way, and if it is, only after someone has challenged it.

Think about the sort of people who post a single list of their eligible work. They're not people who promote a lot. They're considerate of how too much self-promotion kills the conversation. They want to promote others too, because it's a good thing to do. Basically, they're socially aware.

Think about the sort of people who over-promote. They don't care what others think or they'd have stopped years ago. They may be promoting so much it's harming their sales, but that doesn't stop them either. They're not socially aware.

Who is going to be more likely to react to a sentiment of all self-promotion being bad? The person who posted once. Not the person who is running a dedicated campaign to get votes. The result is it's precisely the people who rarely get heard who decide they mustn't self-promote anymore, because those criticisms must have been aimed at them. They'll just add their new work to their bibliography and hope someone finds it. Meanwhile, the over-promoters, who people knew about anyway, will keep on at it.

The silly thing is, I know some of those complaining don't disagree with me. It's just they didn't think they needed to explain what they meant. They thought it'd be obvious they didn't mean authors should be completely silent. They thought everyone knew they were talking about AuthorX, even if they didn't name names.

It's not obvious. I know that because when I see an author worrying they went too far, it's almost always someone who didn't. It's often at times when I missed their promotion, because it was so small. They're often thinking of going to zero promotion, because it's the only way to reduce what they're doing. Chances are high the people complaining had no idea this was happening, because this wasn't who they meant.

So here's a call for explaining and context. It takes a few more words and a bit more time, but it avoids shutting up a person you never knew existed because they already felt guilty about whispering.

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