There is an art to advertising...and most writers and authors cannot conceive of it, let alone pull it off. It's torture, really...websites, blog tours, press releases, internet connectedness, book signings, public speaking, interviews...the list is endless. It takes a certain something, a bit of flair that tends to elude us. It's like requiring a housewife to go out and pick up men; you have to whore yourself the very same way if you hope to ever sell a book.
Take a writer who spends hours and hours alone and staring at a computer screen, and then ask them to advertise themselves. Uh...FAIL.
There are many things a writer can do to self-advertise - I'll talk about them in another blog entry - but the question here is how to cope with your own self-promotion. The answer is the same as coping with a bad review: prepare yourself.
Self-promotion is in many ways shameless. You're prostituting yourself to sell your book. You're giving away bits of personal information trying to connect with readers. You're slowly transforming yourself into a multi-level marketer, first hitting up everyone you know to buy your book, and then hitting up everyone they know, and so on and so forth until it sells. It's painful, and you will undoubtedly manage to alienate a few friends as you push your paper (or ebook) on them.
But you must. It's advertising. And if you do it so that your excitement trumps your insistence - and give up at the right time, which right time is waaaaay before they delete you from their facebook friends - it becomes forgivable.
Shameless works for some, but those are the people who are used to prostituting themselves; some of us just have a knack for it. Most writers don't. We have fewer friends than your average citizen because we spend more time on our own projects. To be shameless, or even seen as shameless, we risk losing our associations.
To be forgivable, then, you must: Quit while you're ahead. Be more eager about your book than about your sales. Respect your audience; advertise to those you know will like your book...or those who will like being able to say that they "knew you when". Be casual when you mention your work. Make sure your writer blog, facebook posts, twitter tweets, and other bits and pieces of you online are about things, hobbies, and experiences unrelated to your book. Ask friends who love you AND your work to drop your name occasionally on their online accounts. Shut up and listen for a change.
Is self-promotion shameless or forgivable? It all depends on how you handle it. It's a challenge, but it is also a manageable one. To quote Dr. Laura: "Do the right thing." Good luck.