My humiliation will be shared momentarily, but first I will explain why. In life I hold one obsession above all others, and not the written word. It's coffee. When a friend phoned and suggested I submit my "Ode to Nescafe" to a contest to be published in a coffee table book about coffee, I jumped, hit the send button, and tweeted my submission...a few times. And then a few more. And...
Writers must promote their own work. Dispense with any delusion that one day a publisher knocks on your door, asks you if you happen to write, and offers to publish your work.
Comments surged on my poem and the feedback was all positive. But then in a sad twist of fate, a close relative of mine, whom I've always admired, made some poorly timed meant-to-be-private comments which worked their way back to me. Whether in a Freudian way he meant for me to hear it, I cannot say, but the message was clear and it hurt. My work wasn't the issue either; I was. To compound my humiliation, I signed into the website offering the contest with disqus and all my "HEY - READ MY POEM!" tweets were instantly posted below the original comments about the poem itself.
In fact, you can see them all here at A Word With You Press
From the moment I submitted, I knew the editor wouldn't choose based on comments or even popularity alone. I promoted my poem, because I love my poem. When I lived in Santiago, I drank dainty cups of instant Nescafe coffee until the wee hours at my friends' homes and then snored my way back to my apartment on the public transportation-ah, fond memories. And as a revered poet from Chile wrote odes about mundane objects such as tomatoes, I followed his example. The result was an ode that shares my uncommon love of instant coffee.
All said and done, you must self promote if you want to put your work in the hands of readers and social media offers an excellent platform to achieve this. I've laughed many times at people tweeting for followers on twitter. Self-promotion I'm not interested in, I ignore. I would never advise anyone to stop having a silly night begging to round off your follower number to the nearest hundred or letting people know that no one read your blog post *hint, hint.*. That's priceless and endearing behavior to some of us.
After my relative took offense at my coffee poem, his mother gave me this advice: don't worry about what others think. This advice balanced with the ever timeless advice, DON'T SPAM, reveals a golden mean of social media wisdom.
Her reminder also prepared me for another phenomena. Tweets and messages about spelling and grammar errors. I went six months without a single one once...
I have enough experience to know that some mistakes are actually INVISIBLE. I know the grammar rule and I'd see it when I read other people's work, but on my own it's INVISIBLE. My eyes pass over it and it does not register. LIKE MAGIC.
Though I consider this coffee poem experience my personal shame, I wasn't deleted, blocked, or reported for spam. I just annoyed someone who mattered and I embarrassed myself. Now wiser, I can speak from personal experience both as the victim and the perpetrator of shameless self-promotion.
And I will share my DOs and DONTs of promoting yourself on social media:
- DO use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your work
- DO start promotion BEFORE any work is complete
- DO tell friends and family about your work
- DO ask for feedback, reviews and comments
- DO allow the people you know to invest in you
- DO reciprocate
- DO keep track of how frequently you post
- DO EDIT YOUR WRK MORE THAN ONCE
- DON'T use social media ONLY to promote your work
- DON'T promote where the receiver cannot delete or unsubscribe
- DON'T forget that different generations use social media differently
- DON'T FORGET TO EDIT YOR WORK
- DON'T take most correspondence personally
- DON'T forget that anything you post online can and will be seen by everyone.
Not everyone you care about will be supportive. When they see your tweets... or receive a bulk message... They may feel less important to you. That can be the unintended consequence of having your family, your former classmates, and your online contacts communicating through the same medium. But don't stop sharing your work over negative feedback, it comes with the territory and only makes you a better writer.
By the way that contest ends this week! （ ^_^）o自自o（^_^ ）