The Thin Grey Line

In my best Blog persona I think I’m going to let out a stream of consciousness post about self-promotion. Who saw that one coming? Ok, probably everyone.

I’ve read a few things on promotion in the last couple of days/weeks/months – it’s a hot topic for indie authors. The thing is, on the one hand it’s virtually impossible (but necessary to try and attract a few readers at least) and on the other it goes against the grain so much with the kind of people drawn to writing that it physically hurts. I’ve never been one for shouting “I’m great, I’m great”. I left a good job because the corporate structure of the place meant that career progress depended on doing just that. I’ve always preferred to do my job, put work out, and let it speak for itself – good or bad. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a big self-doubter, so shy away from committing myself to an opinion about me in case I end up looking stupid.

The thing is, without a publisher, I can’t really do that with my book. Well, to be more accurate, I CAN, but word of mouth has to start with at least one person knowing the damn thing exists. I’ve put up some non-committal promo threads on Amazon and even while doing that I felt like a stereotypical film cliche prostitute from a Vietnam movie “mister – you buy book, you love it long time”.

Yesterday I had one of my ‘great’ ideas. I’d write a funny promo thread. It would be a bit tongue in cheek about the perception some readers have of self-published writers (a perception which in some cases is spot on because there ARE some terrible self published writers). I’m a big champion of all things indie, but there’s no point hiding from the fact that not everyone is great. I just think it’s a shame that, as is human nature, the good ones get swept up in the generalisation. So anyway, I put up this thread titled ‘Promo – Woud anyone like to reed are books?’ and satirised myself by mangling a paragraph from ‘Oblivious’. I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, I admit, but it seemed funny to me at the time. I obviously then pointed out on the thread I was joking and put the real text in as well as a pointer to some other good indie books I’ve read. Oh dear, I think it’s fair to say it divided opinion.

Within about 10 minutes I’d been voted down by the equivalent number of thread readers. Which is fine, I don’t have a problem with people expressing their opinion. I’ll admit though, for a moment there, with the No votes stacking up and no other comments, I felt like a stand-up comedian being silently heckled. As the day’s gone on, luckily a few people have seen the funny side of it so I feel slightly less out of step with the world, which is nice 🙂

The most bizzare thing is though, my sales have rocketed today. I know it sounds strange to say that wasn’t my intention, but I kind of thought maybe one person would give it a look and the rest would mildly chuckle or roll their eyes at me and move on. Instead, I think I touched a bit of a nerve. Oh god, not sure I’m happy with putting myself out there like that. The first response to the opening post was me again, kind of half embarrassed and kind of wryly laughing at myself that I’d been voted down 3 times in as many minutes. It wasn’t a sarcastic or challenging remark, it was what I always do in slightly awkward situations – point out the elephant in the room and laugh at it. When that got massively voted down as well it had people vowing to check out the book to get back at the people who didn’t agree with my thread. At this point I had visions of lightning flashes and endless copper tubing and me standing prone in a sudden wind “MY GOD, I’VE CREATED A MONSTER!!!” I like my movie cliches today don’t I?

I think I may stay away from the Kindle forum a bit today. Hopefully the thread will experience a brief existence and a pretty quick demise. I do really appreciate the sales, obviously, and thank you to anyone who decided to give ‘Oblivious’ a go – I hope you like it. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more promo threads for a while though. As happens so often in my life, I’ve spent some moments in the last 12 hours wondering “what the hell was I thinking?” 😀

2 thoughts on “The Thin Grey Line

  1. Iain Manson April 9, 2011 / 8:01 am

    Why no link to your promo thread?

    Still, I found it, and it interested me. Quite a reaction you got. And yes, I think it probably was the appalling title that did it. Don’t we all just love to gloat over the illiterate?

    It also interested me that you felt you had to say at the start that you were only joking. And of course, you were right. Irony has become dangerous, and many people would have taken you at your illiterate word. No way of knowing what the effect on sales would have been if you’d risked the post which I suspect you had in mind.

  2. Neil Schiller April 9, 2011 / 9:04 am

    Iain, it was initially a link but I removed it yesterday. Primarily because an argument between a few different people seemed to be breaking out on the thread and I then felt guilty for ‘facilitating’ it. So I deliberately bumped the thread down (which is unusual for a self promoter) by posting on a lot of threads that were beneath it, deliberately getting it onto page 3 where I figured fewer people would see it and it might now sink.

    Essentially I just thought it might me mildly amusing. Satirising myself and acknowledging some readers’ opinions on self published writers. Especially with The Greek Seaman fresh in people’s minds (which I dithered about quoting from, but eventually went for it). And I did fully expect the ire of people I’ve seen before who go on the attack when some threads have been started by people promoting their new ‘ebook promotion business’ or ‘ebook publishing idea’, the initial posts often littered with typos and errors. I knew their pent up incredulity would have to go somewhere when they realised they’d been denied their opportunity to vent. I just don’t think I expected to encounter quite so many of them. And maybe I even hoped they would see the funny side of it. Ah well, now I have a better idea of where that thin grey line is, I may be able to better avoid upsetting people in future.

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