The pitfalls of self-promotion is–unfortunately–a subject I’ve been forced to think about lately, so when author Jim Hines wrote a parody song that explains the nature of this particular animal, it rather crystallized some notions that I’d been turning over myself. First, to set the mood, I think it would be a good idea to sing along with Jim on this, so go here first and then come on back. I’ll wait.
Right, then. Some of you may remember an animated TV show from the 90’s called The Critic, starring Jon Lovitz as the voice of “Jay Sherman,” the movie critic of the title. In one episode a book tour goes horribly wrong because Jay’s publisher has an animatronic bookstore display of Jay holding his collection of movie columns and repeating “BUY MY BOOK!” on an endless loop. It not only kept the customers away, but at least one of the store managers was alleged to have committed suicide. Of course it was a exaggeration, a parody of the hard-sell, but not as far removed from reality as we’d like to think. Especially lately.
Now then. I’ll grant you, it’s possible to go too far the other way. In his introduction to Hereafter, and After, Andy Duncan quoted screenwriter Ben Hecht as describing a shameless publicity hound as “a cross between a Ferris Wheel and a werewolf,” to make the point that I wasn’t one. And it was true. I wasn’t. I pray I am still not, but what I was at the time was the other extreme—completely self-effacing (hard to believe, I know, but it’s true). I wrote the stories. I sent them out. They were published or not, but either way that was pretty much the end of it, so far as I was concerned. Then I published my first collection, then the fist novella chapbook, then the first novel, then my second and third collections, and somewhere along that line I finally copped to the obvious truth that hiding your light under a bushel is not a game plan.