You’re probably aware of Philadelphia-based best-selling novelist Jennifer Weiner. You may love her books or you may hate them, but chances are you know who she is. Why? She’s not only a popular writer, but she’s also a relentless self-promoter (RSP) who aggressively spreads the word via social media about everything she writes.
And she has a sense of humor about it. When Jonathan Franzen included the phrase “Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion“ in an essay about what was wrong with the modern world, Weiner didn’t pull back from the self- promo.
Instead, she switched her Twitter tag to: “engaging in Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion.”
So what’s Franzen’s beef with a writer who wants to tell the world about her work? You could argue that getting the word out isn’t a writer’s job, that it’s the job of the publisher and/or editor. That’s true, but most editors need all the help they can get. Which is why it puzzles me that so many of my fellow writers just sit on their hands when a new story of theirs is published, expecting that the world will somehow manage to discover it.
Hide and seek
“This little light of mine? I’m going to hide it under a bushel.”
Why not shout it to the rooftops? Tell everyone you know? Hire a big brass band? Maybe even a little skywriting?
Why not make it easy for readers to find you?
I’m proud to be a Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promoter. When I publish a new essay, I’ll post the link on my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/writerrozwarren). And on Google Plus. I tweet about it. And I send out the link to my mailing list.
Not only am I supporting the site that published me by bringing them traffic, but I’m making it super easy for family, friends, and fans (yes! I’ve got fans!) to find and read me.
Everyone’s a winner!
And while I’d much rather spend my time writing than promoting my writing, when relentless self-promotion does pay off, it can be a thrill. Like the time I tweeted a link to the essay I’d just written about her to Carole King and she posted it on her Facebook page. Not only did that bring me thousands of new readers, but I got high on all the upbeat, affirming comments her fans posted about the piece.
And when I had the bright idea of posting a humor piece about library work on an American Library Association Facebook page? Five thousand of my fellow librarians “Liked” it. How cool is that?
A while back, my pal Deb wrote a great humor piece. She didn’t tell me about it. Instead, I stumbled over it months later. “I loved that piece!” I told her. “Why didn’t you send me the link when it came out?“
“I don’t like to toot my own horn,” she said.
Perhaps she expected a compliment on her modesty, but she didn’t get one.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” I asked.
Is it arrogant or obnoxiously pushy for a writer to spread the word about newly published work? I don’t think so.
I know that people want to read me. When I post my work on Facebook, they like it and share it. Some have even taken the trouble to email me about a particular essay. “It made me think,” they’ll say. “It made me smile.” “It consoled me when my Bichon was facing major surgery.” “It made me laugh.” “It made my day.”
And that, of course, makes my day.
Writers Marion Winik and Anndee Hochman send out regular email blasts. Joyce Wadler and Gina Barreca always post new work on their Facebook pages. And everybody with any sense uses Twitter. This all makes it easy for fans like me to enjoy their work.
What’s wrong with that?
You don’t want to be perceived as smug, self-satisfied, or overly pleased with your work? Sorry, but you’re not kidding anyone.
All writers are self-involved narcissists. It goes with the territory. You assume that what you have to say is worth writing about, spend hours redrafting to get it just right, then send it to editors, and if they turn it down, send it to other editors until somebody finally recognizes how fucking brilliant you are and publishes it?
You’re not humble. You’re a writer. And writers need readers. So get off your butt and follow Jennifer‘s lead.
I’m not a great writer, but I’m a good one. And I want people to read me. So if there’s anything I can do to get my work to readers, I’m there. I may never be as popular as the writer of In Her Shoes and All Fall Down.
But it won’t be for lack of trying.
For Alaina Mabaso's response to this piece, click here.
For Bob Levin’s thoughts about a writer’s self-promotion, click here.