Who Knew?

Posted on November 25, 2011


At the urging of a few fellow bloggers, I’ve put together and published a book of about fifty posts from the past eighteen months. I was going to say that I did it “by popular demand,” but that’s a weird expression that always makes me think of mobs of people in the streets waving torches and screaming something terrible, like “Kill him!” And I’m pretty sure that isn’t what happened. At least not yet.

As a freelance writer for more than thirty years, I’ve written the copy for a lot of marketing materials. Assuming I believe in the quality of the product or service, I have no trouble finding superlatives to describe my clients and their business activities. When it comes to doing the same for myself, however, I get kind of squirmy. This isn’t just insecurity at work, although that’s a part of it. It’s also that I think the best praise comes from an impartial source; otherwise, it’s just bragging. I never believe anyone who tells me how great they are. I always think, if you’re that tremendous, there should be other people saying it for you. And I assume anyone would have the same reaction if I tried to persuade them to buy my book by insisting that they’ll really like it. One of my kids once told me that I’d really like a sour candy called Warheads, and the producers of Cats said the same thing about their Broadway show. Neither claim turned out to be remotely true. The candy squeezed my face inside-out, and the musical caused me to go home and lock my own cat in a closet for two and a half hours, with a fifteen-minute intermission.

So I tend to avoid selling myself, especially in ways that involve aggressive hyperbole. This leaves me in the ridiculous position of publishing my own books, then hoping someone will buy them as the result of pleadings that I’ve sent out in the form of telepathic messages. In my wildly successful fantasies, that person tells a few friends, and suddenly word is spreading like mad. Book sales are soaring and I didn’t have to squirm a bit. But here’s a strange thing. There seems to be another force at work, and it opposes and contradicts the first one: When you’re reluctant to engage in self-promotion, prospective customers back off, sensing your hesitation and interpreting it as a reason to keep quiet — and to refrain from buying.

This has always been an issue for me. I’m uncomfortable with attention, and that causes others to look the other way. It’s as though, in most areas of my life, I’m sending out some kind of signal that tells people to ignore me. In high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Slip Away Unnoticed.” As an adult, if I walk past a store window, I’m sometimes surprised to see my own reflection. I imagine myself, at least at times, to be invisible, or even non-existent.

When I look at the cover of this new book, then, I’m surprised that it exists. I had no intention to start blogging. In fact, for twelve years I dismissed the concept as something I’d never do. And yet, here I am, with a printed collection of fifty-two essays, out of the 145 I’ve published online. The book is called Who Knew? and is available for $14.95 on Amazon.com. It’s softcover, 116 pages, and has about seventy-five cartoons. All of the interior images are in black and white, and even though the original illustrations were in color, they still look surprisingly good.

How do I promote the book? I don’t. I’ve let you know about it, and that’s all I’ll ever say again. But I suspect there are others out there flirting with the idea themselves. Some of these people have been blogging far longer than I have, and may possess enough material for two or three volumes. If you’ve been entertaining such a notion, I’d like to use my book as a way to inspire and encourage you to publish your own. (This approach, by the way, came to me as a suggestion from Melissa of Play101, and was enthusiastically affirmed by Priya of Partial View. Because I trust their judgment so deeply, I chose to go that route.)

If you decide to produce a book of posts, you may prefer a different size, style, or format. The possibilities are nearly endless. But I just wanted to let you know that it’s not as difficult as you might imagine, or as expensive. I’d be happy to discuss the details with you if you’re interested. And we can have that discussion either in the Comment section or in private.

I look forward to hearing what you think — as long as you’re not waving a torch.

Posted in: Self-Publishing