Honk if You're Blowing Your Own Horn

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



            I’ve been working on a press release for my second book signing, and it made me think about wind instruments.

            You see, I was brought up to think bragging is bad, and modesty is good. Not false modesty: The real kind, where you don’t blow your own horn and you’re embarrassed when someone else does. It’s not a concept understood in Washington or Hollywood, and it seems to be going out of vogue pretty much everywhere else.

            Here I am, continually getting into situations where I have to blow that horn, or at least a kazoo. In July I held a signing for my first novel, Storm Chaser, and sold 15 copies (which is good for a book signing, especially for a first time novelist). Overall I’ve signed over 100 copies, sending some to other states and a few to other countries. Awhile back I signed a copy of the Albion New Era next to my column, as a surprise for a fan in another state.

            A fan. Can you believe that? I have fans. At least one.

            So now I’m getting ready for a new book signing, On December 3rd at the Brick Ark Inn here in Albion. Not only that, but there’ll be another signing on December 9th at Freedom Acres near Cromwell (https://www.facebook.com/search/results.php?q=freedom%20acres&init=quick&tas=0.04937849009249162#!/pages/Freedom-Acres/191818937563511?sk=wall ) and still another in late January, at the Noble County Public Library. I don’t expect to sell as many copies as the first time – all my relatives who read have already bought a copy – but it’s nice to get out and meet readers, and it’s nice to support local establishments.

            But I’m not supposed to be nice. I’m supposed to be bragging.

            I can brag about being modest (there’s a contradiction for you), but I keep getting myself into situations where I have to sell – myself. Writing, running for office, proposing to my fiancée … all involve asking people to affirm I’m a guy worth having around. Most recently the answer from the voters was no and from my fiancée yes, which I much prefer to the other way around.

            Writing is an inherently egotistical business, which makes it especially odd that writers are often shy and unassuming. At one time they could afford to be; but these days, with publishers doing less promoting and self-publishing becoming more popular, writers have to force themselves to toot that tuba. Even before that they had to work hard to sell themselves, if only to agents and editors.

            It took me decades to sell my first novel, which was hard on the old ego and tended to keep me modest. Now I’m a Professional Writer with my own website and business card, and I even have a short story collection coming out next May. Think about that. What am I saying?

            I’m saying, “Look at me! Look at me!”

            Gah. I hate that. But I’m going to sit there and hand out free copies of a short story, which I wrote as a – what? Reward? Treat? A thank you for showing up and touring the Inn? (Do tour the Inn, by the way – it’s beautiful.)

            Okay, I could see people picking up a two thousand word Christmas story – it’s free, after all. And I can see people reading my column, because it’s there in the paper anyway, and don’t we need a few smiles? What freaks me out is the idea of people wanting to spend their hard earned money and a couple of weeks of their time reading a novel written by … me.

            Really?

            Okay, I’m going to throw away any shred of modesty and tell you people are raving over this book. It got nine 5-star reviews on Amazon. It got five 5-star reviews on GoodReads and four 4-star reviews. (What, you shorted me a star? How dare you!) It’s a nice affirmation, because I don’t know if it’s any good – I have to take other people’s word for it. Every time I do something for publicity or promotion, a little voice in my head screams, “Seriously? You think people want to read your stuff, when there are 70 cable stations? They’re just being polite.”

            I keep expecting angry readers to figure out I’m a fake and show up with tar and feathers. And not nice quill pen feathers, either.

            Yet I’ve actually signed copies for people who don’t know me. I keep warning them that it might affect the book’s resell value, but they ask for it anyway.

            If I plan to someday be a full time writer I’m going to have to hit the brass section harder and tell people I’m a talented and interesting writer. Or at least tell them my writing’s interesting; in person I’m dull as a January overcast.

I don’t even own a horn.

I live for the day when I make enough money to hire a publicist, so I can go back to writing and let them handle all that stuff. (Most writers never make that much money, so don’t bother submitting an application.)

            The irony in this case is that the innkeeper of the Brick Ark Inn – there’ll be room for me in the Inn this Christmas! – is way more humble and unassuming than I, and deserves the publicity and business way more than I do. So maybe I’m going about this the wrong way: maybe, when it comes to doing a book signing at a business, I should blow their horn and just be there to take advantage of the tune.

            Yeah, I like that. Forget the rest of it: come to the Brick Ark Inn’s open house on December 3rd and Freedom Acres on December 9th! I’ll be there after 1:30 for the former, and from 5-8 p.m. for the latter … and if I’m not, it only means all this ego stuff finally got to me, and I couldn’t fit my head in the door.

10 comments:

  1. Good luck with your signings, Mark!

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  2. Thanks, Kelly! Guess I'll be an old hand at it by the end of winter.

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  3. Modesty, not bragging? Well, you must be from the Midwest. lol That's what I was taught too.
    James Patterson is egotistical and look where it's taken him.
    Hard to shout out about yourself, but in this day and age, if you don't you lose.
    You'll have to let us know how your latest signing goes.

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  4. Everyone needs to do a shout out to themselves from time to time! Good luck with the signings!

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  5. A wise-guy I used to work with always told me that the "Squeaky wheel gets the grease," so I started squeaking albeit not too much, but enough to start my ball rolling! Good luck Mark!

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  6. Oh, there are braggarts in the Midwest -- they just don't like to talk about it. ;-) But you're all absolutely right: We have to shout it out, these days, whether we're comfortable with it or not.

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  7. I'm from the Midwest, too and know what you mean. It was hard being a reporter because no one wanted to be featured in the newspaper because they thought it was a form of bragging. Good luck with your book signings!

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  8. Thanks, Deb! I guess there are worst things to say about people from a whole region than that they're modest ...

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  9. Mark, you'll do great. You've written an excellent book that has made me actually like Romantic Comedy, which I never liked before.

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  10. Mike, it's people like you who make me nervous about making sure I get the sequel right!

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