If I were to take a poll, I'm willing to bet we all know at least one person who is "that" guy. The one who only pops up on reader forums or Twitter to say, "Buy my book!"
Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with self-promoting. Indie authors must do it to survive, and even traditionally published authors should be able to promote and increase book sales. You've worked hard and you should be able to reap the benefits.
But . . . I guess what I'm asking is this: Is that ALL you do? Or do you also take joy in promoting the work of others? Is it all about you, you, you, or is it sometimes about [insert dramatic pause here] SOMEONE ELSE?
There is something . . . call it a necessary skill, call it a natural gift, call it a learned pattern of behavior . . . that benefits everyone at a cost to no one.
S.K. Anthony and her critique partner, Brandon Ax, call it "backhaving." If you're a backhaver, you know exactly what this means. It means being supportive. It means commenting on a blog. It means sharing someone's cover reveal. It means retweeting their links, or even hitting that +1 button to share without having to type a word. It means sharing something on Facebook, such as their book release or Amazon weekend sale. It means reading each other's work, whether it's a simple blog post or a full-blown manuscript. It means being a critique partner or beta reading. It means maybe even buying their book and reading it AND reviewing it.
Granted, no one person can do all those things all the time. And no one should feel pressured to try. But there is a line that begins to draw itself when a person is never, ever a backhaver. Here are a few of the signs:
- He "doesn't have time" to interact on forums, whether something like Goodreads or other give-and-take conversational places, for the sake of becoming part of the community
- He only goes to the forums when it's time to self-promote
- He doesn't visit blogs and therefore doesn't interact by commenting on them
- He doesn't click the "share" button on Facebook to promote another's work or post
- He doesn't give a shout-out or promote his editor or cover designer on writers' forums to help their businesses grow
- He may post progress reports on a Facebook author page, but only to promote his own work
Those of us who are backhavers can't imagine how anyone wouldn't be. Of course we share in the joy and successes of others, because we realize it doesn't hurt us to do so. It costs nothing to share someone else's post, promo, or announcement of something good. In fact, it gains you something: community, support, goodwill and more.
Being an independent anything is hard work, whether you own your own plumbing business, make jewelry, are a freelance artist/editor/photographer or whatever. Being a writer, whether self-published or traditionally published, is as much work as anything else when it comes to getting your name out there. Social media is a great tool that costs little to nothing, and is a very effective way to not only get your name out there, but keep it in the forefront of people's minds. It's a lot of work that sometimes pays off. And it's that "sometimes" that keeps us working at it.
I don't know about you, but the people I follow on Twitter, for example, are those who share a little bit of everything. There's the occasional personal tweet that may be funny or ironic, and a mixture of self-promotion and other-promotion. If a person constantly spews political hatred (on either side of the aisle), I unfollow. If a person posts their own books and nothing else, roughly four to five times per hour, all day, I unfollow. (And yes, there have been a few who tweet with that constant kind of bombardment.)
But the backhavers . . . ahh, the backhavers. I remember their names, because I see them when I visit from blog to blog, and on social media in general. They comment. They promote. They have guest posts on their own blogs.
They support. And that's why I know their names, and why I'll most likely buy their books AND read them AND review them.
You may have heard it said that we make the time for that which we deem important. On a related note, if your readers and fellow authors/editors/cover designers/small publishers see you only ever promoting yourself, they'll quickly come to the conclusion that you see only yourself as important—and if they're not important to you, there's no reason for them to support you.
Are YOU a backhaver? If not, it's never too late to start!
For those who have read all the way to the end: I'm working on a future post and need your help!
What is the best and worst writing advice you've ever received?
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell me what it was and how it affected your writing.