On many writing websites and blogs I’ve seen exhortations for marketing our “brand” as writers. We’re told to have a blog, to tweet, to have a writerly presence on Facebook and Google Plus and Linked In and every social media platform we can find. We should have cards to hand out and we should keep a high profile at conventions and readings. And I’m sure there are more instructions for marketing ourselves, but I have turned my head away from all of that because it just feels unseemly to me.
Sure, I’ll concede that this kind of hustle might work for some writers in some cases. It might get them more read or better known at least. But does it improve the actual writing? How many of us can compartmentalize our creative selves, devoting a given fraction to writing and a given fraction to self promotion? How many of us are solitary, asocial types who are uncomfortable in the public sphere at all, much more so in the world of hustle and charm? I know I’m not the glad-handing type with a sparkle in my toothy smile and a not-so-hidden agenda to push my wares on the helpless and unsuspecting.
And yet, for years I have engaged in a kind of guerilla marketing of my stories, and this week was the first time I received actual confirmation that it worked (at least one time). I carry small strips of paper in my wallet that list my story title and the name of the online publication where it can be found. “Travel Light – read it online at Penduline Press.” I leave these in unlikely places where they may (or may not) be found later. Between the pages of library books. Between the pages of bookstore books (especially airport bookstores for some reason). Inside little jars and wooden boxes at craft fairs. (This is especially pertinent for my “Velvet Elvis” story.) Even pinned to public bulletin boards. I leave these notes and go on my way and never know if they reach a target.
Except that someone did find a note I’d left between the pages of a local travel guide in a bed and breakfast where I had stayed two years ago. The note referenced my story “Moron Saturday,” which is now no longer online, but the person reached the version of it I have posted on this blog and left a comment saying he or she had found my note.
I think it’s a benign sort of marketing ploy. It’s not crass or in-your-face. It’s not even all that arrogant since I don’t include my name on the note. A finder can pursue the link if interested or toss the note if not. I suppose the libraries and the bookstores and the crafters might object to my piggy-backing on their audience, but I don’t think they’d object too much.
No, I’m not a hustler, but I can do this kind of anonymous promotion of my stories and still respect myself.
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