Some days, my Twitter stream seems to be so full of other authors touting their #kindle #amazon #books that the thing might as well be called BuyMyShitter instead. If that didn’t make it sound like a kind of niche clone of Craigslist for people wishing to sell second-hand toilets.
These are, of course, fine and interesting people - if you check my ‘following’ list here you can be confident that the writers there are all worth tracking in their own right. We all secretly or publicly want people to Buy Our Shit and you can’t not make mention of it when you have New Shit to sell. It’s just that at times there’s a convergence of such announcements and we all sound like yammering ad monkeys.
I’m nervy of what’s traditionally (and somewhat tweely - the term dates from a simpler time of mailing lists and forums, not the constant live streaming flow of today’s social media) referred to as ‘BSP’ - Blatant Self-Promotion. I’ve mentioned whenever I have New Shit For Sale, but basically only the once each time, and I always feel soiled for doing it. Cheap. Tawdry. Like waking up next to Steve Mosby after a drunken night out. Sure, maybe everyone got what they wanted, but you know you can’t respect yourself afterwards. There are people who, and it’s entirely their right to do so (no one’s forced to follow anyone on Twitter, after all), make mention of their books on a regular basis, weekly or more, in case anyone’s forgotten that they’re on #kindle for #pocket #change, or to remind them that they’d been planning on buying the thing and just haven’t gotten round to it yet. And if you’re also mentioning a lot of other things and generally making lots of other contributions to the Great Internet Conversation, all fine and dandy.
There are also those - and I’ve started picking up more and more followers of this type, presumably scouring Twitter for anyone with “writer” in their profile - who do nothing else. Some have what’s obviously a “quote of the day” script that posts, once a day, a quote by some famous person to their Twitter account. Otherwise, all they do is, once a day, post: “Have you bought MY BOOK? Just $some.price on #kindle! #amazon #ebooks #awesome!!!!” They are followed only by bots and others like them. I’m sure I’m not alone in collecting them to me, like moths round a cash-laden flame.
These writers, who I’m sure are lovely people, don’t seem to understand the medium they’re trying to advertise in. Twitter, Facebook and their ilk are like being in a gigantic bar at a convention. A weird convention for lots of entirely disparate people. A bar where you all have magical cybernetic ears and can pick and choose whose conversations you listen in on, and to which you can then try to contribute to yourself. No one has to listen to you. And if you don’t join in, and don’t have your own non-advertising things to say (even if it’s just what you had for lunch that day - not that I know anyone who only shares that, but the point stands), no one will. These people are in that gigantic convention bar, standing alone and isolated by the corners, rocking back and forth and muttering psychotically to themselves: “I have shit for sale. Buy my shit. Buy my shit.” Around them, the world moves on, unaware.
Whatever you think of him, Joe Konrath - and I’ll digress to say that I’m aware that mentioning him, or Hocking, or Eisler, in any discussion touching on ebooks and self publishing has become rather a Godwin. In fact, I now propose “Cregan’s Law”: anyone citing Konrath, Hocking or Eisler in an argument on ebooks has already lost - Joe Konrath holds a conversation. Even way back before the Kindle and the millions of sales and all the rest of it, he’s had a mostly soft-sell online presence. Sure, 99% of his “newbie’s advice to writers” (to paraphrase his blog title) boils down to “you should buy my books”, but at least it’s generally dressed up as something else and you can pull the odd nugget of interesting information from it, and at least Joe is always involved in the backchat afterwards. He understands how to work social media to his advantage.
So if any of those psychotic loners are actually reading this, rather than just auto-posting “Buy my shit”, maybe you should stop muttering. I’m sure you’re interesting people and all, so why not reveal yourselves as such?
Also, did I mention that you might want to buy my shit?