Love to the very awesome Kristopher Zgorski for having me over at his site, BOLO Books. I always appreciate his kindness.
That said, I’ve got something on my mind – the strange tightrope act that is promotion.
I’d like to say that this isn’t necessarily about self-promotion, but ultimately this game does boil down to that. What are the decisions to make when the long term goal is raising one’s stock. What kind of weird shit do you have to grok and agonize over for a return? I don’t think I’m off base when I say that whatever move a serious writer (and when I say serious, I mean the type of person looking to make a little cash or grow their influence, so really EVERY writer) makes in regards to their “platform” is entirely colored by these questions and more. Building that promotional platform as a marginalized writer makes it even more haphazard.
I know this because I agonize about plenty of my own promotional decisions. My focus, though, might be difference than most writers. A lot of that having to do with the fact that yes, gasp, I am a marginalized writer. I am of a group that it can be fashionable to boost and have an ethnicity that I can absolutely exploit to my advantage.
And like I said before, it becomes a weird tightrope act. One that I believe is navigable by beginning to really understand that while, yes, there are certainly selfish reasons to build your platform on representation and boosting of marginalized voices, there’s a level of honesty that must come with it or else it’s entirely performative.
I can’t in good faith exploit my background. I’ve spent too long self-loathing and willingly detached from that world. I’m also keenly aware that there are plenty of others who will judge me or exploit me because of that very same background! It sucks, but it’s true. So what do I do? How do I make up for my own inadequacies while doing something I believe AND ensuring that my own efforts to become something I love aren’t wasted?
Simple: be honest. I can only do so much, but I can do something. I can boost the voices I know and I can work to expose myself to others I don’t (in a completely legal way, hardy-har-har). I can make sure as many voices as possible rise up with me or celebrate when they pass me by a country mile. It’s OK – all the boats will rise in time.
We also can’t succeed on the backs of others. Simply chasing those further along the road isn’t a path to success. While it’s nice to celebrate and boost those who do well, we have to think about our motives. Are you shouting out that writer who landed an awesome deal because you’re happy for him/her or are you looking for a blurb? Are you cool with boosting your platform with tissue paper? Because that’s what you’re doing if your intent is the latter. Quid pro quo is nice (and sometimes entirely realistic) but if you’re planning on basing your career on it, good luck. You’re sort of getting the Death Star plans with none of the details that way (oh look, there’s nothing on those hand-me-down schematics about exhaust port issues, ah well).
I mean, look at what can happen when you depend on performative people to help boost your stock. It’s a disaster.
I think it’s important we craft a community that better understands that idea. That performative wokeness or working for the benefit of the individual isn’t supported. That mindset is why we’re so woefully under and misrepresented still. We are not in this alone and we can’t continue acting that way.
Success isn’t going to be found with our lips on a boot or our nose up anyone else’s ass. Nobody wants to hang with anyone who smells like butt. WHY DO YOU WANT TO SMELL LIKE A BUTT?
Promote other writers. Promote yourself. Remember to own your reasons why and remember that the road to hell is paved in good intentions.