297. Shameless Self-Promotion

Today I attended my first class in university in almost half a year. The lecturer, whom I presume to be an American-born Russian, did the usual round of introductions, and this went down when I was introducing myself to the class of about 20 people:

ME
Hello guys. I’m Joseph; you can call me Joseph. I’m majoring in Management and Finance. I’m from Taman Tan Yew Lai – it’s this little place just off Old Klang Road, in KL. And, uh, what else do you want to know about me?

GIRL (whom I’d later know as Ravina)
What do you like to do?

ME
When I’m not in class, I’m usually writing.

GIRL
Oooh! Poems?

ME
Not so much of poems. If you add me on Facebook, you’ll see a whole bunch of short stories that I’ve written on Notes.

LECTURER
And for more information, log on to http://www.joseph.com! Thank you very much, please sit down.

Well. Screw you too, sir.

(I mean, we were having a moment there, she and I. It could have been a life-altering conversation, and you just had to go ahead and ruin that!)

But not really. He was a reasonably fun person, and an exceptionally fun lecturer to have, especially when the subject at hand is Managerial Accounting. But enough about the presumably-American-born-Russian lecturer whose name I didn’t even get, because I was out having breakfast when he was introducing himself.

(don’t judge me like that. It’s the most important meal of the day!)

Let’s talk about shameless self-promotion.

When my eBook (Death And Other Things, if you’d like to look it up) was published early 2013, I did my research on book promotion. How can I get my book out there? What are the ways to gain as much visibility as possible?

After reading, like, 3 sites, I think I qualify as an authority on the subject matter. It is apparently a unified opinion that as far as marketing is concerned, social politeness should be the last of your concerns. The folks on Writer’s Digest said so, Mr. King also said so (except in a different context, but still about the same). Get your material out there. Send it to reviewers. Give it to friends, family members, and old teachers. Tell all your Facebook friends about it. Tweet about it. Heck, go onto Myspace and talk about it there, just in case someone is still hanging around.

Except I’ve never really been comfortable about doing self-promotion. Self-depreciation, I do plenty. I mean, just look at that author’s bio I wrote for Death And Other Things (I suspect that’s one of the reasons for the poor sales). I cannot, for the life of me, say good things about myself without feeling like a total sham.

(unless it’s telling people that I think I am, beyond the shadow of a doubt, irresistibly cute)

I think the problem has its roots with me finding it difficult to say anything nice about anything. For every compliment I give, I have 10 reserved criticisms. It’s not that I hate things, don’t get me wrong; but it just comes more naturally to me to see the areas for improvement than the areas that are well-built.

I don’t know what the publishers were thinking either, putting the promotion of my book into my own hands. Man, if I was any good at doing marketing, you think I’d be a writer?

Last year in September, during the car ride from the airport to Sharon’s place, I was talking to her about the same thing: my inability to give any praise to myself. And she had this gem of sagely advice to offer: “Since you can’t, you know, give qualitative remarks to yourself, try quantitative?”

After half of the first lesson, we had a half-hour break. In that time, one of the other students (who was my group mate in a previous semester) came up and asked how was my writing doing. I stiffened at first, but Sharon’s advice kicked in, and I said:

“Well. I had a short story published in Esquire earlier in March. So that was great.”

And she flashed me a smile with two thumbs-up.

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