Agent Colleen Lindsay posted on her blog recently about authors who don't want to do the self-promotion necessary for literary success.
We pause to ponder the irony of artists who must dip their hands into the filthy swill of commerce in order to gather unto themselves enough filthy lucre to be free to pursue their art.
Okay. Pause over.
Colleen's point, illustrated with at least one actual example (Tad Williams), is that no matter how much you hate self-promotion, you must do it. I'm certainly not going to argue with her about the necessity of self-promotion. But for many of us, self-promotion remains something monstrously unpleasant and maybe even impossible. I don't think that's because we all think we're above such grubby concerns and the world should see the brilliance of our genius shining in the darkness and come to us instead of requiring us to catch the world's attention. I think that for most of us, it's simply a matter of personality.
We were the serious kids in school. We thought about things, we read about things, and usually we wrote about things. We were bright, even brilliant, but in the vast majority of cases, we were not outwardly notable. Meanwhile, the beautiful but not brilliant kids were capturing the world's attention by virtue of their surface. Some of us - okay, many of us - okay, most of us - kinda sorta resented that. A lot. We did tend to think that the world should notice our inner beauty. Damn that world! It refused to! A lot of us tended to make a virtue of not being showy. Given our personalities, most of us couldn't have been showy even if we had to.
But now, years later, we learn that we have to be showy and on display in order to sell our books. Holy cow! We're still in high school! Those who are able to smile and shake hands and push themselves into the limelight will succeed, and the rest of us will continue to be ignored! It's just not fair!
I'm sure I'm exaggerating. Somewhat. I've done a bit of the book-publicizing thing, and it was hard. In some cases, it was more than that. For one book, I approached a number of writers I know, mostly local people whom I've socialized with for years, and asked them for cover blurbs. They were all kind enough to supply me with the blurbs. They were understanding and friendly about it. I was squirming inside with self-loathing the whole time. Couldn't help it. I still feel embarrassed at the memory. What was/am I embarrassed about, exactly? I dunno, it's just, eeew, you know? When I run into those writers at local events, they're friendly, but I keep thinking that they must be thinking, "Oh, hell, he's here. I hope to God he's not going to ask me to blurb another book!"
(Curiously, I've occasionally been asked to provide blurbs, and I was always pleased and flattered to do so. Impostor syndrome at work there, I suspect.)
I forced myself to do it, anyway. But I still want one of my novels to become a humongous bestseller all on its lonesome, with no promotion required on my part. That's wildly unrealistic, but I can't help wanting it anyway.
In conclusion, I have no conclusion, except to say that it's not immense ego and an overblown sense of self-importance that makes writers dread and avoid self-promotion. No, the avoidance is caused by precisely the shy, retiring, inhibited, introverted personality that made them gravitate toward writing in the first place.
Ironic, as a writer might say!