Push It! (just not too much)

Today I’m going to talk about pushing it.

…Um, no, not that kind of pushing it. (Though competence and efficiency are indeed good things.)

I attended a small conference a couple of months ago to hear talks by several fiction writers I respected and admired. A lot of other up-and-coming writers were at the conference for the same reason, including several who were in the same boat as me — books forthcoming, success hopefully imminent, now in the unenviable position of having to promote themselves and their work. Since my book won’t be out for countless, interminable months (well, OK, seven, but that’s what it feels like), I kept it low-key, giving out my business card when I spoke to people, introducing myself where it seemed appropriate or OK, etc.

Another writer was, hmm, less circumspect. At the conference’s intermission, he circulated through the crowd, handing out glossy flyers and chatting up everyone he saw to promote his forthcoming book. He caught me while I was having a conversation with a fellow writer about where we were going to eat lunch, and interrupted us to give his spiel. Wasn’t exactly interrupting a conference on world peace, granted, but it was an interruption. We took his flyer, listened politely, then tried to leave. He walked with us for several steps, trying to finish the spiel, until we pointed out that the intermission was only 1 hour and we were really hungry. That finally shook him off.

But later, after the conference had resumed, the same gentleman came up to the audience microphone to ask a question of the panel we’d all come to see. I don’t remember his question, because he used the opportunity to pitch his book again for ten minutes. Though he clearly had his own street team in attendance to show support, I could see many people in the audience rolling their eyes and squirming. The conference organizers kept looking at each other, as if trying to figure out which one of them should shut him up. It can’t have been comfortable for the panelists, who were forced to politely listen. It was horrible.

After the event, I found the guy’s lovely flyer in my bag, and very deliberately threw it out.

Maybe that seems like an extreme reaction. But I think it’s also an illustration of something I’ve heard other writers speak of, in regard to self promotion: your personality is your best advertisement.

Not to say we all need to have +10 Charisma, but it certainly helps to not be an annoying asshat. Which was how that guy came across to me: pushy, and unprofessional. But more than that, I can’t help but wonder whether any writer who’s that tone-deaf to other people’s social cues is going to be savvy about characterization, dialogue, and all the other ways of depicting social interactions in fiction. It may be an incorrect assumption on my part — I’ve known some socially-inept writers who were phenomenal at writing people — but it’s still what I’m likely to think. Especially given that this guy’s problem wasn’t just ineptness, but rudeness.

I’m still wrestling with the issue of self-promotion, trying to come up with promo ideas that suit my personality style — I’m ridiculously shy in some circumstances — and which won’t rub my potential audience the wrong way. (I’d welcome any creative suggestions here, BTW.) But I do know one thing: I’m going to be hypersensitive to how hard I’m “pushing it” in the future.

Though I suppose I could always try bringing a boombox to the next con… I can dance better than those guys, too. Hmmmmm.


3 Responses to “Push It! (just not too much)”

  1. July 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I bet the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms need cell phone service … You may have answered your own question with this post. Corporate sponsorship!

  2. 2 rachelaaron
    July 3, 2009 at 5:45 am

    This is one of my self promotion nightmares, that I might be horribly annoying someone if I talk about my book, which is why I generally don’t, even when I’m around other authors. It’s clear this guy knew exactly what he was doing, and was doing it because he thought this is the way you play the game, but still… burrrrr.

  3. July 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    My one question (based on my own experiences): was he self published?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: