Self-Promotion is a necessary evil of being a writer. It doesn't matter if you're traditionally published or self-published. Some people like to draw a line in the sand and state that independent authors are extremely guilty about self-promotion, but the honest trust is, the writing career is one that involves connecting with fans and the community.
That, in its own way, is self-promotion.
Some self-promotion is a positive thing. Too much, however, and your audience (both target and otherwise) may become annoyed. If you post a variety of other content they like, be it updates on your life, information about the story craft, or you just being you, most are willing to forgive and forget. Will they look at it? Who knows. Probably not.
People often don't.
This doesn't change the temptation to post often, especially when there is a reason to be excited about what you're promoting. This can be anything from a stellar book review, approaching the end of a fundraising campaign (guilty as charged), launching a new book, and finding people to help beta read a new novel. There are lots of things that make authors want to speak out about their work.
This isn't a bad thing, but it's very easy to abuse. (Also guilty as charged.)
In a way, I shouldn't even be talking about this subject. (See the comments in () above.) I don't know an author who doesn't participate in this in one way or another. However, I do think there is a fine line between good promotion and bad promotion.
So, what are these lines? Can overstepping them be avoided? At what point does someone turn from an active, interesting member of the authorial community to a promotion robot? How much is too much?
Overstepping the boundary between good self-promotion and bad self-promotion is really easy to do, but I do think a balance can be struck. For me, I want at least two solid, strong posts of something that makes me interested in the author to begin with — things about their personal life, writing advice, interesting blog posts. Something that makes me connect with them. I'll forgive a lot of self-promotion, if those gemstones are there. But, in addition to these two solid posts, I also want to see a sprinkling of the mundane. What they had for lunch. A whine. (Yes! Whining about life is OK… in moderation.)
I hesitate to say this, but even posting cute pictures of kittens and puppies and otters is OK too! Pets are a great way for people to connect to each other, and I totally believe that forming connections is what you really want to be doing when you self-promote.
Book sales are nice. As a debut author, book sales are often few and far between. That's to be expected. My novel could be doing better, but it is, for a first-timer with no track record, doing surprisingly well.
I've learned a lot from my first book. I will avoid making a bunch of mistakes for the second book. I'll keep getting better and better at avoiding mistakes, until I'm producing books I can be truly proud of. And I'll go back, fix what I didn't get right in editorial in the second edition of my first book, and move on. I know what to expect, and I have a much better idea how to prevent the problems I had with my first novel.
I hope to do better with my second novel, and even better with my third. Then, I begin a several-year-long journey of completing two different series, releasing one book a year per series. I'm sure I'll be throwing in the occasional standalone novel. It'll be a hard schedule, and I hope I can pull it off.
I digress, though. All of my plans, my desires, and my career are dependent on reaching people.
This is my life. This is my career.
Of course I want to promote it.
When promoting, I don't think just about the money. I know, it's tempting. We all need to eat, we all need to pay the bills, we all want good food on our table. However, think about the people you're promoting to. I do. I'm really aware of the people who have supported me. I want to make the experience special for them, too. I want them to know I appreciate what they've done. That is why, in part, I try to add so many goodies with my fundraising campaigns. That's one way of me saying ‘thank you!!' to everyone who has supported me.
But, think about what you're doing when you're self-promoting. More importantly, think about how you react to others when they promote to you.
Do you like it when authors do nothing but spam you with reviews? With desires for your money? I don't. I'll read posts from people who do promote, and if I feel the person promoting has done a good job of balancing self-promotion, I'll even boost their promotions and share the link with others. Especially if it is a project or book I would buy or invest in. But, if all I see from an author is a constant resharing of reviews they've received, I won't be following them for very long. It's a fine line to balance.
And yes, I'll even support authors I want to get involved with, be it via time, money, or services.
At the end of the day, I'm a person. I want to be treated as such. I don't want to be treated as someone who is just there to give other authors money. And, let's face it, I do want to give other authors money. I may be a little picky about the books I want to buy, however. I grew up in an era where the gatekeepers did their best to provide entertaining stories. Gripping stories. There is a lot more chaff to dig through.
I want to be one of those writers who produces stories people can't help but fall in love with. Am I there? No, I don't think so. Will I ever?
Only time will tell. But, in order to have any chance at all of getting there, I have to reach my target audience. I have to connect with the people already interested in me.
Where do you think the line is? How much are you willing to forgive just because someone is an author?