Shameless Self Promotion

I was recently contacted by a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer regarding Poem Sparks and online workshopping.  As a volunteer moderator at www.poets.org (Academy of American Poets discussion forum), I was asked about my impression of the Internet and its value to poets and poetry.  To my surprise, much of what I said made it into the article

There are a few things I like about this article.  First, I like the idea that a nationally recognized newspaper is including articles about poetry at all.  Poetry has long been absent from generalized reading material and it’s terrific to see it being featured in this venue.  Second, I like that my comments are in it.  Who wouldn’t?  But I also really appreciate the mention of The Externalist

When Katie Haegele asked me if she could mention that I edit The Externalist, my immediate response was: PLEASE DO!  Now, most of my reasons for really appreciating this article are entirely selfish.  My name as mentioned as an important part of an online poetry community and the journal that I edit is mentioned as part of that community as well.  This brings me to a philosophical question: Is shameless self promotion a valid and ethical marketing practice?

The humble, modest person in me wants to say, “No!  You should let the audience promote you!”  But in a world where good exposure is relatively difficult to come by, the value of being humble and modest has decreased substantially.  Perhaps self promotion is the best marketing technique.  After all: How will people know you exist if you don’t let them know?  How will people know what you do?  In the end, the worthiness of promoting is still determined by someone else, right?

Historically, many poets, writers, and other individuals have self-promoted and been well-rewarded for it.  Consultants and public speakers make a living (sometimes a really good living) by self-promoting their expertise and/or experience.  Maybe humility can be found in other ways. 

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2 thoughts on “Shameless Self Promotion

  1. What a conundrum, to talk to the press and tell them your story, and prompt for questions or avoid contact entirely? It seems to me that part of your responsibility as a moderator calls on you to talk about the poetry board and Poets.org. I suppose a way to think about what becomes promotion (self), and what is honest conversation and comment is to decide what boundaries and areas represent your role in the matter. You aren’t so much in control of this kind of situation, though, since the reporter from the press (Philadelphia Inquirer is a big deal) is going to lead with questions and probe some.

    Can you avoid spin, hype, and other forms of promotion that aren’t so appealing to the high minded poet? (Aren’t we all?) Well, I suppose this is a matter of tone. I am not writing criticism of what you said or how they handled the interview (I will read it shortly). I want to add my two cents to an important issue.

    Now that I am going on at length, I will add attitude, as where does business start and where does statement start? Some people want to do business, and others want to say something about theirs and others work. Since this is an opinion kind of thing, I opt for the latter of saying something, which I interpret as representing or making a statement that has integrity by its willingness to represent views.

  2. Excellent comments, Peter. The difference between business and making a statement is something I didn’t really approach in this little article and probably should have, particularly since that is the primary focus of my own writing. One of the things that makes that so difficult, though, is the current state of writing itself. Most writers, even good writers, don’t make enough money to survive on. The only way to increase their income is to “shamelessly self promote” and hope it sticks. Unfortunately, this drives some writers to “make a statement” all the time in hopes of garnering enough controversy and conversation that the subject itself becomes self-promotion as well. A good look at Hubbard’s Dianetics is the perfect example of this kind of “false statement” as a method of “self-promotion.” It’s tricky business for writers in all genres. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to respond. 🙂

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