Three years ago to help my publishers promote my new book, I emailed a message to 400 influential members of a projected core audience. Many responded with a thank-you, a congratulatory note and a promise to look into it.
One, however, asked me to remove his name from my contact list. “If your book is worthy of merit, it will get noticed,” he said. “Pushing it this way robs you of authority and dignity.”
Although my decision to contact him was certainly well intended, and although I believe there is nothing inherently unethical or unsavoury about self-promotion, I agreed to do as he asked and added: “There will be no more intrusions.”
On the one hand, I can understand his objection. All of us are bombarded daily with an ever-growing deluge of unsolicited emails, text messages, mobile phone calls, video streams and blinking banners that threaten our ability to concentrate and contemplate, distract us from our own work and undermine our sense that we have any privacy.
On the other hand, I wish that my correspondent’s assertion that a good book will draw attention to itself solely on its own merits were correct. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, the world doesn’t work that way. The reality is that many very fine books go quite unnoticed, despite the high quality of what lies between their covers. The reality is that, without a concerted and active programme of promotion in today’s marketplace, even the best book can sink like a stone.
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