Monday, June 27, 2011
When Shameless Self-Promotion is Shameful
Last month, I wrote a blog about shameless self-promotion. You can read the full thing here, but essentially my point was this: if you have created something, why be ashamed to let others know you did it? Sometimes we are hesitant to say we have a new book coming out or that we've started a new business because we don't want to sound like we're bragging, but in reality, if we don't tell others what we're doing, we are missing the boat in expanding our endeavors.
As people stopped by and left comments, the conversation turned to a discussion of, "Yeah, but what about times when it really is inappropriate to self-promote?" I promised a follow-up blog, and at long last, here is that blog.
Yes, I'm all about taking every opportunity to self-promote, but I'm also going to be the very first to encourage you to choose your moments. Let's take a look at some completely made-up and over-dramatized examples.
The Right Way:
1. Standing in line at the grocery store, you overhear someone say, "Oh, these awful tabloids. I'm so tired of reading this mindless trash. Why, oh, why can't I find a book that is intelligently written, reaches my inner core, and makes me think about the world around me in a new and different way?" And you hand her your card.
2. Walking down the aisle at the library, you spot a lady with a wistful, lost expression on her face, and she sighs, "I wonder what I should read next." And you hand her your card.
3. You are at a class reunion and the person who broke your heart comes up to you and says, "So, what are you up to these days?" After mentally taking note of just how much they have let themselves go since letting you go, you hand them your card.
Seriously, if you are looking for opportunities, they will present themselves to you. Just don't be afraid to open your mouth when they come along.
Now, let's take a look at The Wrong Way:
1. Your best friend calls you up on the phone. "I'm getting a divorce," she says. "Oh, I know how to cheer you up," you reply. "My new book is on sale at Deseret Book! Go buy a copy. You'll feel better in no time."
2. You are walking through Barnes and Noble and you see someone approaching the register with Robison Wells' new book in their hand. You dive in front of them. "Excuse me, you don't want that book. You want this one instead," and you shove a copy of your own book into their hands, then kick Robison Wells' book under the counter.
3. You are at the reading of Great-Aunt Mildred's will. Each person there was left the paltry sum of $20.00, and the rest of her vast estate was given to The Brotherhood of the Bunny Rabbits Who Wear Purple Pants. You stand up and say, "Twenty dollars? That's great! Now you can all afford to buy my book!"
Seriously, there are times when you need to hold back, and obscure religious cults don't always have to be involved.
Last April, I was given the opportunity to sign at Women's Conference. My table mate was Tiffany Fletcher, author of Mother Had a Secret. Read my review here. It's a nonfiction memoir of Tiffany's childhood growing up with a mother who had multiple personalities. As people came by our table and we gave them the rundown of our books, they seemed to need to hear what Tiffany had to say. Many of them had grown up with parents with mental illness, and she was able to bear them her testimony of how the Atonement helped see her through a rough childhood and bring her closer to Christ. Often, they left the table in tears, thanking her for what she'd said. Was I going to interrupt that and try to sell them one of my books? Absolutely not. Those women needed what someone else had to offer. As a result, I sold about five books, and Tiffany sold fifteen - all the store had in stock. Was I disappointed that I didn't sell more? Of course. But the fifteen people who left that bookstore with Tiffany's book will be uplifted as they read her testimony, and why on earth would I begrudge that?
I believe in karma, that when we do good, it comes back to us. I believe that when we are patient and wait for the right moment, that moment will come. It's good to be actively seeking marketing opportunities, but it's good to be sensitive to the situation and to know when to be quiet. You'll get another chance later. It's how the universe works.