Except I’m not actually going to humblebrag. Not here anyway. Instead I’m going to have a (hopefully mini) rant about one of the most difficult parts of being an author – self-promotion.
Readers might not realise it, but publishers do really hope authors will do quite a bit of promotion of their own books. After all, publishers publish so many books throughout the year, and while most of them receive some marketing budget, only a few of them – the ‘big’ books (or ‘lead titles’ as they are called) will get the ‘big’ budget, with lots of promotion, like book tours and extensive proof mailouts and adverts on the underground and fancy launch events, alongside the normal things such as online advertising and social media support.
As the writer, the person who cares the most about your book is you, and this also means you’re the best person to promote it. After all, you know it best. You know who your potential readers are. You know the storyline in and out. You can happily wax lyrical about it for hours.
So it would be a bit crap if you didn’t at least try to give self-promotion a go.
But oh my god is it hard. I’m not sure why – I’ve had a business before and I found it pretty easy to promote that. I was more than happy to shout about it to anyone and everyone. But promoting my books is like pulling teeth. Every time I tweet or instagram about them, I feel like I’m standing on a table in a busy room shouting ‘Me me me, everyone look at me!’ It’s so uncomfortable.
I wonder if it’s because, deep down, I still believe that writing a book is a pretty arrogant thing to do – it’s so personal, and yet it’s assuming that this personal thing is so important and worthwhile that everyone needs to know about it. Everyone needs to read it. It doesn’t help that I grew up in the UK in the 90s when ‘showing off’ was not cool, nor was foisting your opinions about things on any unwitting bystander (I still wish this wasn’t cool. While I understand the motivation behind them, the endless political rants on Twitter don’t half bring me down). And sometimes that’s what it feels like, promoting your novel. After all, when you write a novel you’re trying to convey a theme or deeper message – something that resonates with you and bugs you enough to make you wonder about it at night – but who’s to say that that ‘thing’ is as important to others as it is to you?
How very dare you!?
These are the voices in my head that I battle with whenever I tweet about my books, or share a nice review. Having talked to other writer friends about this, I know that many of them feel the same awkwardness when they have to talk about their books too.
But there are also other authors who are unashamed in their self-promotion, who go ‘all out’ to sing their own praises. And I have to confess that I look upon these people with a strange combination of admiration and horror.
Where is the line drawn between self-promotion and bragging? Is bragging even a thing anymore? Do I just need to get over my Gen Y upbringing and get on board with the self-love?
Is there a ‘good’ way to do it? If you caveat it (which I often do) with some kind of disclaimer - ‘I know I’m showing off here but this review made my day’ - does that make it better? Does self-awareness cancel out the negative side of bragging?
It’s just I’m conditioned, when I see people telling the world how great they are, to wrinkle my nose in disapproval, and then I wonder if I’m the only one. Do readers mind unabashed confidence in novelists? Maybe, like enthusiasm about anything, it’s infectious – maybe the self-belief rubs off and the readers then also feel convinced of your greatness. Or do readers see tweets like that and think, huh, get over yourself love, I’ll be the judge of how good your book is!
Either way, I suppose it gets you noticed. Which is the main aim after all. To stand above the crowd.
Another thing that interests me is whether or not this is just a British thing. I don’t know. I remember the fascinating interview with the American author Jessica Knoll on The Cut about her income. Again, my cognitive dissonance was off the charts. I massively admired her for her confidence, while also finding it a bit distasteful. The reactions to that interview were fascinating.
What do you think? I’m genuinely so interested in whether people mind authors ‘showing off’ (I know it’s not showing off really, but that’s how it FEELS to me)? Or do they like it?
A few years ago there was a hashtag on Twitter that was pretty popular - #humblebrag. I was pretty fond of that one. It allowed me to ‘show off’ whilst also acknowledging that I knew I was showing off and that it made me uncomfortable to do so - neatly incorporating an invisible plea not to be judged too harshly for it. I haven’t seen it much lately – perhaps I should try to bring it back?!