For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Self-Promotion

Teesta Rangeet
This month I was delighted to be asked to submit some of my poems for inclusion in Teesta Rangeet, the new poetry journal based in Sikkim, a small, north-east Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. You can find them here in issue 4. I was also pleased to find my work referenced in that issue's excellent editorial. My poems have only rarely appeared in poetry magazines before as I can never be bothered to send them. Also I think I would get dispirited if I received a run of rejections.

As many of you know, I've been writing poetry on and off since I was young, and I thought it would be fun and a good learning experience to design and publish a book of my poems. This I did recently using Amazon's CreateSpace software. The collection, Raining Quinces, was the result. I was reasonably happy with the finished product, considering it was a first attempt, though the odd typo did slip through.

All of which brings me to thoughts about marketing and self-promotion. And I must admit I find it easier to promote the work of others rather than my own. When I launched my own online poetry magazine, The Passionate Transitory, in August 2012, I found it quite natural to solicit contributions, to approach existing writers, to enthuse about their poems, to promote their work through two Facebook pages, my blog, The Solitary Walker, and other media. (A professional background in publishing sales probably helped in this.)

However, now I have my own book to promote, I'm finding it a much more difficult task. I'm doing it, but I have to force myself. You need to have a lot of self-belief and a thick skin, for, of course, not everyone will be as positive about your book as you and your friends are. And most people are going to be plain indifferent, as we all are to the vast majority of books which are published. There are just so many, and the number increases year on year. And poetry books, well, who reads them anyway? Poetry has always been a minority interest, and always will be.

Nevertheless, I've forced myself, and I've now got a feature coming up in the local village magazine, and my book's on sale at the local post office. The local library is promoting it, and has asked me if I'd be willing to do a reading (oh my God, I've never done anything like that before!) I now need to approach the town newspaper. I've designed a poster and worded a press release. Poetry Cornwall has promised a review.

But I don't find it easy to promote myself like this, and I secretly hope this promotion of my book, this self-promotion, will come across in a gentle and modest rather than an egotistical and self-congratulatory way. It's the way I am (though I do realise there's sometimes a thin dividing line between modesty and false modesty).

It's the same when I regard the work of others. I'm always drawn to the less obvious, more retiring flowers rather than the gaudy and brash self-advertisers. It's the same too with blogs: the blogs I read and enjoy, the blogs on my sidebar, are blogs which, yes, of course, incorporate the personality, often the strong personality, of their creators, but are essentially about other things — the self is there as part and parcel of the whole world, not as a preening, solipsistic ego.

Similarly, I've always felt uncomfortable in interviews, though you'd probably never guess it from the outside. It's all that praising yourself and your achievements, all that bigging yourself up that I don't like. I mean, godammit, can't everyone see I'm a nice, useful, desirable employee/person/human being without my having to pretend I am? :-)

10 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I know exactly how you feel Robert. Our local writers group have just published their second volume - Flights of Fancy (in aid of Air Ambulance) - the first book - Trains of Thought was for Wensleydale Railway and we sold over three hundred. But it is hard to self promote - you need cheek basically.
I have bought your book through Amazon and I absolutely love it - well worthy of publication and I would love to hear you talk about it - so bite the bullet.

Rachel Fox said...

Do that reading at the library... I bet you'll really enjoy it. It's easily my favourite part of the whole poetry process and good for the poems too. YOu entertain on blogs regularly - you should be a natural at keeping an audience listening.
x

George said...

Enjoyed this post, as well as your two poems about your life in poetry. As for self-promotion, I know your reluctance. By the same token, I don't think you should be hard on yourself. Art, by definition, is both an expression of oneself and a form of communication with others. It's quite natural, therefore, that the artist want to draw attention to his or her work. It's a way of keeping the conversation going long after you have begun the creative journey. In my view, that's neither solipsistic nor narcissistic.

ksam said...

I think you'll do wonderfully. Really. Your offering to share some joys and experiences you've had. What could be nicer? Here's a thought, how bout "reading" and putting it on Youtube. Then post it here. Perhaps a way of breaking the barrier of reading your own works. You could even use pictures or a slide show from say a Camino, rather than sitting facing the camera? Just a thought.

pilgrimpace said...

Thanks Robert - I know exactly how you feel and also that shameless self-promotion is important too sometimes. Am enjoying your book - will post something on it when I get a chance. I still think "How dark the soul in the dead of night! But how bright the morning sun!" is the best line on solo pilgrimage

Andy

Ruth said...

Clearly, many of us are in the same boat. No one who knows you would ever be troubled by any over-ego at play. You simply bear enthusiasm for your literary mag, and for your poetry book, and because it is great, we will all benefit from it. You encourage others far more than you self promote. Case closed!

:-)

A suggestion for the reading is to have Carmen or someone videotape you in practice. This does wonders! Don did it for me, and I realized I was not "performing" enough. When you're reading it's easy to feel cautious and quiet, but readings are best received (I think) when the poet's enthusiasm shows. You will see and hear if you match your standard immediately on video!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for these wonderfully positive, affirming and encouraging comments. You've really come up trumps. I may test out some readings on you before long... you are warned!

Ewan said...

Congratulations on getting your poetry noticed and published.

Well done indeed!

Dominic Rivron said...

Good news, that - though did have a sneak preview. I remember thinking at the time I know what you mean about reading a poem one day and not rating it and reading it another day and thinking it wonderful. Same with music.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Ewan and Dominic for your comments.