This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco
Book Promotion in Times Like These
I am having trouble acting lately. I can only react. Respond to an email. Answer the phone. Click on the notification. The reasons are obvious—news overload, stress, burnout—choose your fighter. I am ok. I am beyond privileged and lucky. I am not impervious to stress, but save your worry for those who really need it. My worry is existential. Not visceral.
For those of you at any point on this scale (but not in the direct path of danger), it can be difficult to know what to do. There’s do in the sense of make an impact, like give money or vote or deliver food or otherwise raise awareness. But then there’s do in the sense of how to go on. Do we keep going on our stupid little walks and do our stupid little jobs? And does anyone really care if you published a book? Does it matter? Should you bother? And is it wrong to ask people to preorder or tweet or click or leave a review or ask a librarian to stock your book in times like these?
The answer is: it doesn’t matter. Not that your book/career/personal interests don’t matter. But your tweets don’t matter. They won’t change the world. They will not stop megalomaniac dictators or global warming. They might, however, let someone know about something that might bring them joy, or information or enlightenment or whatever it is they are looking for in a book. Your tweets aren’t going to change the world in a larger sense because the people who can change the world are not reading your tweets. Honestly. Think about who is reading your tweets. People probably like you in some ways. (And if you’re a big deal, please, by all means, tweet at the people who can change the world.) You can absolutely share resources that they might not know about, fundraisers, voting information, local school board information, etc, etc. You can share anything you want! You can tweet anything you want!!! It barely matters! Do it anyway!
I think what worries some is that others might think you’re wrong/bad/gauche to be tweeting about your book in times like these. I mean, ok? Who cares what they think? Because we’re still talking about social media, right? We’re talking about how our online personas are perceived online, and avoiding the appearance of being “wrong” at all costs. I know things can snowball on the internet, especially Twitter. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Someone tweets something. Someone else takes it out of context or deliberately misinterprets it, or the original tweet was just badly phrased!, or whatever, and then all of the sudden you’re the Main Character of the day. But also, that’s probably not going to happen to you because you tweeted “5 days until my book comes out!!!!”
Should you promote your book in times like these? Yes. Is it gauche? Probably not, but do consider the context of what you’re putting out in the world. Most books are not related to literally what is happening this minute, hour, day. Some are, and if that is your book, you already know what to do because you just wrote a book about it. But it probably doesn’t matter if you tweet about your mystery novel while everything is going to shit across the globe. Not because your book doesn’t matter. But because nothing hinges on Twitter (or Facebook or your newsletter or whatever) and many things can be true all at the same time. Things are bad out there. You have a book coming out that you are proud of. One doesn’t negate the other. You can promote a fundraiser for transgender kids in Texas and invite people to preorder your book. It’s not one or the other. We’re all doing a million things at once.
Maybe don’t schedule a reading the same night as a huge candlelight vigil in your small-to-medium sized town, because you might want to go to the vigil yourself. That’s ok. You can reschedule your event. You can choose to change or stop or go forward with your own promotional plans according to what feels right to you. (You may or may not be able to change your publisher’s plans but you can surely talk to them about it.) Be sure that you are changing them because of how you feel about them or because of how your intended readers will or won’t be able to respond to your message, and not because someone might think you’re a jerk on the internet. You cannot control what the jerks think on the internet. They can do whatever they want. Let them and ignore/mute/block/report them as necessary, if it’s even necessary.
Marginalized people are targets of intense harassment online, and if you worry that’s going to happen to you just because of how you exist in the world, by all means, pull back. Don’t tweet. Ask for help. Ask for others to spread your message so you aren’t the direct target. I know my suggestions of just ignore it!!!! do not help in these situations. I’m sorry. The internet is the worst. I’m sorry that seems to be the primary focus for author’s promotional activities. Ask your friends/colleagues/publisher for alternative suggestions. (I’m sorry you have to do this legwork, too.) Take a break, if you need it.
How do you promote your work in times like these? With care. But you’re still allowed to. You aren’t wrong to. You might not have the personal bandwidth to do so, and believe me, we all understand. Tweeting about your book is not a referendum on your thoughts on current events, as in, just because you’re tweeting about other things (too!) doesn’t mean you don’t care about ~important~ things. Make sure you are choosing your words and your actions in response to what you want to happen (people to preorder your book! to register to vote!) and not in response to what you think they will say about you. One of those is advocacy (for yourself! for causes!) and one of those is performance.
Advocate for what you believe in. You can believe in yourself, too.
SPEAKING OF BOOK PROMOTION: I’m so happy to wish Kelly O’Connor McNees a happy pub day for THE MYTH OF SURRENDER! This stunning novel takes place during what is know as the Baby Scoop Era, where unmarried pregnant women were forced to carry their babies to term and coerced into severing their parental rights. (Talk about timely, unfortunately.) Kelly writes with heart and empathy and vivid, gorgeous prose and ugh, I just love this book. Buy it here or wherever books are sold. In audiobook, too! Join a book event here!
Please stay safe.
I just love this. And I also think that reading/watching/listening to content not related to the (mostly) depressing news headlines is quite healthy.
Promoting a book NEVER seems tacky or gauche to me, no matter the times we live in. Promoting overpriced yoga pants and bliss balls on IG because you're an "influencer" (read: manipulator) is another story and feels vapid.