Enough About Me. What Do You Think of Me?

My husband Thom is a modern-day globetrotter, a hardcore business traveler who lives in hotels, airports, and conference rooms. In the past 6 weeks, he’s been to 12 cities on 4 continents. He can pack a suitcase more efficiently and do jet lag better than anyone I know.IMG_0890

It’s a grueling way of life, but with it comes all sorts of frequent traveler’s perks, which has allowed him to meet some high profile individuals. On flights all over the world, he’s chatted with politicians, professional athletes, even his childhood idol, astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Most recently on a flight from Los Angeles to Beijing, he was seated next to a B-list Hollywood actor, who broke the ice as Thom perused the movie options. This actor was eager to point out his role in one of the flight’s featured films. Since the movie was one of our daughter’s favorites, Thom’s interest was piqued. Introductions were made, and then a tedious, one-sided conversation ensued.

Thom’s a pro at striking up small talk, but he was no match for this guy, whose favorite words were I, me, and my. His preferred hobby, aside from talking about himself, appeared to be name-dropping. And he had a distinct talent for circling every topic back around to himself.

Few people enjoy being on the receiving end of this type of interaction. Yet in this do-or-die age of self-promotion, it seems increasingly more common, particularly in social media.

Take the newly published author’s blog I discovered some months ago. I really enjoyed her writing style, so I subscribed to the blog and followed her on Twitter. Big mistake.

I was inundated with spam: newsletters, giveaways, drawings, and an onslaught of “buy my book!!” tweets clogging up my feed. The only thing these shallow tactics earned her was one less follower and a guarantee I’d never buy her work.

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I follow all sorts of blogs, but I’m most drawn to those of authors, and writers who hope to become authors. I enjoy following the journey of another writer, and celebrating when goals become reality.

But those who take the time to be human, to make a connection with their readers, are my favorites. I like when my attempts to interact are reciprocated. I like knowing there’s a real person behind the words, and that I’m valued as a reader, not just a potential buyer. Besides, I’m more apt to whip out the credit card when there’s a two-sided relationship.

In this era of anonymity and cyberspace, that’s more important than ever, don’t you think?

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49 responses to “Enough About Me. What Do You Think of Me?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Writing has always been about creating a relationship with the reader, but never before have writers had such an open and immediate opportunity to take that to a personal level. Now it’s not just through words on the page and a vicarious relationship with the story’s characters. And wouldn’t you have thought writers would be the best at taking an interest in other people? As I was saying to Hemingway and James Joyce just last week when they popped over to tell me how great my latest novel is ;)

    • Wow – you bring up some great points here. Writers should by definition have a good feel for what makes people tick, what with creating fictional characters and all. I think lots dream of making a living as a writer, which is much easier said than done. Maybe that’s what compels so many to go for the hard sell. But to me it will always be a turnoff.

  2. Everything you said is spot on. Nothing is more annoying than a name-dropping wanna-be, unless the name that’s dropped is his own. I’m much more impressed when a talented person allows others to appreciate his/her art, rather than be told what to think. (Kind of like good writing.)

    • Thanks, Joe. I’m much more impressed with humility, too. I should have mentioned in my post that the majority of the celebrities my husband has met in his first class travels have been down to earth and manage to keep it very real. This actor wasn’t and it made for a pretty long flight. Hope all’s going well with your relocation plans. You guys had a lot to celebrate this holiday weekend.

  3. There’s certainly a fine line between taking an active role in promoting your books and spamming your follower’s with “BUY MY BOOK” blog posts, e-mails or Tweets. Obviously the writer you mentioned is clueless.

    My pet peeve is on Facebook. An author I’ve never heard of will send a friend request and if I accept, I’ll get an emails to “Like” their author page or book. Do they honesty think I’ll “Like” something I haven’t even read? What if the book goes against my beliefs? When I have a published book, I want readers to like my book or Tweet about it because they actually read it and enjoyed it, not because I hounded them.

    The reality is if you’re a writer and you want to sell books, you must take an active roll in the self-promoting. They’re responsible for their own success, but do it with some class. I buy books that are written by authors who interact and share a bit of their personal life with their readers. I’ll always be a repeat buyer when they take to time to respond to an e-mail I’ve sent them letting them know how much I enjoyed their book. It’s a two way street.

    How cool that your husband met Buzz Aldrin, Gwen! :)

    • Asking someone to “Like” a Facebook page when you haven’t read the work is really brash. What a turnoff. You’re right – writers today need to take charge of promoting themselves and their work, even if they are traditionally published. How well a book sells could impact whether a future contract is offered. It’s a cutthroat business, but I think there’s a right and a wrong way to go about it. That’s probably why so many of the craft books advise writers to get busy establishing a platform years before they have something to sell. This is the point I continually circle back around to — do I really want to attempt to take my writing to a more public level? Do I really want to get involved in all that sales and marketing? I just don’t know if it’s in me, and I wonder all the time if it would suck all the joy out of something I love.

      Yes, Thom almost peed himself when Buzz Aldrin was just a row or two ahead of him on a flight (the magic of first class travel…) When he sent me a text to tell me he had a conversation with him, I thought he was pulling my leg! Unlike Mister Actor, he said Buzz was a really down to earth guy.

  4. katiewritesagain

    We’ve always had the Narcissist among us, but I really believe that our Cyber age has produced more than normal. Maybe because so many people live and work in front of a computer (I know, I know, I’m in front of a computer!) and they interact less and less with live humans. At least, it seems like a good theory.
    Maybe we should all step back and watch ourselves for a while in our own interactions. How much time do we spend actually listening to another human? And I don’t mean on the phone, in a text, email or chat room. I mean with real people. It reminds us there actually ARE other people out there and they count just as much as we do.
    I have caught myself, on numerous occasions, wishing the other person would hurry up because of what I had to say. Shocked, I’ve stopped myself and just listened, never getting around to saying what I thought was so important. Every time, every single time I’ve done that, I learned something. And my relationship with that other person was richer, even if it was only temporary. Honest.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    • You always bring up the best points, Katie. It really starts with ourselves, doesn’t it? I’ve certainly been guilty of wanting to get my two cents in at the expense of someone else’s thoughts. Thanks for the great reminder.
      I haven’t had notification of any posts from you in a long while. Is your blog still active?

  5. Gosh, what a good blog. Seems some writers and actors or others can’t distinguish between marketing and desperation.

  6. I can’t believe some of the tactics people use on Twitter to promote their products. Like you, I’m not one to follow them, and if I do, I don’t put them on my private lists which are made up of those tweeps I know enjoy interacting over marketing.

    Sounds like your husband had quite the plane ride. A very, very LONG plane ride… ;)

    • Full disclosure here, Carrie. Last week I read Kourtney Heintz’s reblog of your first year as an author, and it got me thinking again about your list of things you’ve learned. Something I think you’ve done really well is connecting with readers. Your blog has the right blend of information, promotion, and humor (perhaps the most important factor, since it lets your voice shine through and shows you don’t take yourself too seriously – wins me over every time). It’s what attracted me to your blog in the first place, and after some months, made me decide to download and read your book. So you are largely the inspiration behind this post! I wish more authors could learn from you on how to do it. Maybe you should mentor authors instead of returning to medicine ;)

      • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You’ve made my night! The thing is, I’ve enjoyed every second, and I don’t really think of it as marketing. In fact, I’ve learned so much about this process from other bloggers and social media friends that I feel I’ve been given a gift. It will be difficult to face the real world again–I’m loving my freedom. :)

  7. Well said Gwen. Like you, I follow a variety of blogs – writers,poets, artists, humourists – but they all have one thing in common: we have two-way dialogue. My belief is that if someone has taken the time to read your blog post and comment on it, the least one can do is to respond in someway. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow them back – I follow a few people who don’t follow me, but that’s fine too because I don’t think we can all follow so many blogs that it gets confusing, or they becomes a chore to read. Your poor husband – what a ghastly trip that must have been – I imagine that actors are probably the worst at the me me me thing!

    • Thanks, Jenny. The two-way dialogue is a must for me, but I also need to feel a connection to the blog author’s writing style. We couldn’t possibly follow everyone who subscribes to our blogs, but then I think I have a lot of “phantom” followers too. People who click “follow,” but then I never see them again. I suspect they are only trying to drive traffic to their own blog… but that’s a whole different topic.

      Yes, it was a long and tedious flight for Thom. Eventually he told the guy he had to get some sleep before landing in China. Fortunately he was kind enough to leave him alone for a few hours.

  8. Ugh, can’t stand those nonstop self-promotional twitter spams. I’m with you Gwen. I’d rather spend time with someone interesting to say, like you!

  9. Well said. I agree that all the spamming does nothing more than guarantee you DON’T buy their book. Be a human first is always a better policy :)

    • The mystery to me is why some folks think spamming will generate readers. Do they really think being an annoying pain in the neck works? In my mind it’s no different than telesales. When those people call, I avoid answering or ask them to stop bothering me.

  10. I think there’s something kindred about writers following each others journeys, sharing each others learnings along the way, our failures, successes. It makes the process less daunting, and less lonely. And you’re absolutely right, some blogs you bond with quickly, building a connection with the people behind them and gaining an interest that’s genuine and special. Exactly how I feel about your blog! Great post x

    • I could say the same about your blog, Gemma. It was one of the first I followed when I ventured into blogging. I’ve learned a lot from you and look forward to every post. Hope you’ve got your hacking issues under control. I’ve missed you.

  11. It can certainly be tempting these days to dive into shameless self-promotion, especially when it comes to marketing. I think there may be some markets where that sort of thing would work, but I doubt that that works when targeting authors. And nobody likes spam!

    • I think some markets go for blanket coverage, hoping if they hit everyone, eventually something will stick. Self publishing has changed the landscape of the book industry. Now that anyone and their uncle can publish a book, readers are more reluctant to take a chance on an unknown author. Building a relationship with readers needs to be a part of the equation. Otherwise, why would anyone bother?

  12. I wonder if your twitter author is the same one I follow. I’m okay with self promotion but every five seconds (or second tweet) is a little much. I mean for me, my stories are about the people in those stories not me.
    Dying to know who the B grade actor was but I know you wont tell me
    xo

    • Haha! First, on the author – there are lots of those kinds of authors. I was unfortunate to have connected with one. Only took a few days before I clicked “unfollow.”

      Yes, my lips are sealed about the actor. I’m not in the business of slander. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, he just didn’t know when to stop talking about himself!

  13. So well said, Gwen. It’s a good reminder for anyone, whether they’re in the business of marketing themselves or not. But not everyone has the social skills and self-awareness to recognize this tendency. Which is all the more why I appreciate this post. It made me step back for a second and evaluate how I’m doing on putting other people (and readers) first. It’s hard when you’re a storyteller sharing stories from your life in order to inspire and encourage others to balance that sharing with listening. I think keeping tabs on how I’m serving my readers will be one of my goals for the new year. Thanks again!

    • Well I feel honored to have given you something to consider, Lara. I think sharing stories from one’s life and connecting it to the theme of the post makes the writer come alive for readers. You certainly do that, and do it well.

  14. Wonderfully written as usual, Gwen. And as one of those writer’s you refer to, I do believe in karma and the dogma of what goes around. And I see we do have something else in common, as my husband also does a lot of world travel but perhaps being more introverted than your husband, he has limited stories of celebrities he has met during his travels. Anyway, I had better go ahead with posting a blog as I have not done one in ages and can never remember out how to do it. Found an amazing editor BTW, if you ever need a recommendation.

    • Thanks for stopping by again, Karen. I hope you get around to a blog post, too! If you want another pair of eyes to take a look at your manuscript, early 2014 is looking much better for me than this fall was.

      • Thanks, will take you up on that offer for my second novel. I want to get stuck into it come the new year and I think you will be good at giving me deadlines to work towards. I am happy enough with this first one and you have to stop at some point otherwise books would never get published.

  15. A one-sided conversation is a total turn-off. I have met some self-absorbed people in my life and I have wondered how they manage to make and keep friends. It must be so sad and lonely for these people who are so full of themselves that they can’t make an effort to learn about other people, or to even see themselves from other people’s perspective.

  16. The opposite has surprised me – I expect anyone vaguely famous to be awful but was surprised when I saw Mark Haddon at a literary festival by how warm and responsive he was to others. Also have read about interviews with Lionel Shriver and Jojo Moyes where the interviewer was taken aback again by their warmth and genuineness.

    • I considered including in this post the number of celebrities he’s met that have indeed been down to earth and quite interesting to talk to. They certainly outnumber the self-absorbed ones. But I cut that part in the interest of word count and sticking to the theme of the post.

      It’s great that you’ve had the opposite experience. I once attended a book signing for best selling author Jodi Picoult, and I was amazed at how humble she was and the level at which she engaged her audience.

  17. I’ve always been what people called a good listener and believe me, that trait has meant I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous monologues where I found myself wondering if the other person would ever stop talking. Not fun, for sure. Being a self-published author trying to build a social media platform in order to connect with readers can feel like entering a twilight zone where I become that droning voice going on and on about myself. Honestly, it gives me nightmares. The only way I get around this is to try and be as transparent as possible – tweet in real time, blog about my real life, post things up to facebook that make me laugh or I find interesting. Just try to engage. But the whole thing is a fine line to walk. Great post, Gwen. The comment stream proves that you engage your readers :)

    • I think you handle the balancing act quite well, Fran. One of the things that attracted me to your blog many months ago was how clearly your voice comes through in every post. Even when you’re writing a promotional type post, I can still hear you. I think you’ve done a great job of keeping it real.

  18. This is a very poignant article. A close friend of mine is an (aspiring) actor and we have to tell him to knock off the self-praise and self-promoting when he’s around us and we’re just out for a few drinks and trying to have some fun. Incredibly frustrating! I agree that a two-way relationship is essential in this respect.

    • There must be something about people who find a career path in the arts that makes them compelled to self-promote. I understand the need, but there’s also a right and wrong way to go about it.

  19. I agree with you whole-heartedly, Gwen! I’ll be a horrible “self-marketer” in the sense that I won’t want to bore people with news someday that I’ve published a book. Asking someone to buy it? I’d rather spend my day at the doctor’s and dentist’s offices!

    Some people do it well—quietly, modestly, and in a friendly manner. (Oops, look at all those adverbs!) They’re the ones who share good and bad experiences and talk about things other than “buy my book, buy my book, why haven’t you bought my book?”

    Connecting with others is far more important to me. And a writer who’s good at connecting is more likely to find me reading his or her book!

    • My husband oversees a global sales and marketing division of a multinational. He’s great at what he does, but I don’t know how he does it. Knowing what writers must do to get their work in front of readers makes me constantly question how far I want to go with my writing (assuming my skills ever become good enough to market something). And I wonder at the same time if it would kill the joy in something I love to do.

      • I think a lot of it will depend on the writer’s goals. If that’s to make a living as a writer, then self-marketing is a must. But if the goal is just to get the stories “out there” and be happy with a small audience, then marketing may be no more than word of mouth from family and friends. I think I could be happy with that. ;)

  20. So true! Connecting within the media is like dating. Just be yourself. It’s when you try too hard that you turn people off. Great post! Love how you tie your posts into your daily life.

  21. fransiweinstein

    Oh I totally agree. We gave become so self absorbed. I really feel sorry for your husband — to be stuck with a bore like that on such a long flight!

    • He really can talk to anybody, as it’s a necessary part of his job. But this individual wore him out. Eventually he popped in his earbuds and told the guy he needed to get some sleep.

      • fransiweinstein

        Yeah, that’s what I would have done. That’s the worst thing about being on a plane when things like this happen. Where are you going to go??? You’re captive.

  22. I can’t really take monologues. They are draining to listen to.

    Oh I hate when I follow someone on twitter and am immediately inundated with buy my book, follow my blog, write a review, do my laundry. (Well, not the last one, but it sure feels like it) I usually unfollow the person. It’s so obnoxious.

    • Agreed. I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, because there seems to be an abundance of these types of folks on this platform. Every now and then I discover a few gems. Guess that’s what keeps me coming back.

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