Towards Less Icky Self-Promotion

Here comes awards season!

Pro writers have been given a great resource in Mary Robinette Kowal’s post at the SFWA Blog “How to deal with self-promotion and award season”

Let’s talk about self-promotion and how it feels icky.

Yes, self-promotion is awkward to do the first time. Yes, it is very easy to do badly. But–it is incredibly important to your career.

She offers eight effective strategies to help writers advance themselves for awards in a more civil manner.

What about fans? I think there’s something for them in her post, too.

We fans don’t have careers, per se. We’re supposedly just here having a good time. But let’s be honest. It’s common for fans to seek attention and validation in any number of ways – throwing renowned parties, headlining a filksing, publishing the best art, chairing cons.

And awards? Some crave that kind of recognition, even if many are happy to let the chips fall where they may. Whether awards genuinely meet any inner need is a subject for another day (my quick take – they don’t). That said, as long as events like the Hugos, Nebulas, etc. are central events of the sf community, plenty of people will dream of writing or painting something that earns them a place on that stage. Expressed in those terms it’s a great dream to have. Only beware of turning the dream into an irritating campaign.

People who will put up with being nudged to vote for a Worldcon bid will often bridle at the same kind of campaigning for an award. Maybe it’s the gift psychology at work – it’s rude to demand a gift. Or perhaps it’s a twinge of ethics – awards should go to the best work, and soliciting a vote may also imply a solicitation to bypass the process of fairly evaluating the competition.

It’s hard to keep the ickiness out of self-promotion. Anyone who sent out barefaced vote-for-me e-mails during last year’s Hugo nominations period should promptly enroll in Kowal’s charm school. And (here’s the carrot) it will undoubtedly improve any chance they have of reaching their goal.

4 thoughts on “Towards Less Icky Self-Promotion

  1. I think things like John Scalzi’s thread where people can pimp their work is a good idea (you can remind folks of stuff they may have missed) and there’s a big difference between saying “Hey, I’ve got a zine out and you might wanna take a look at it” and “VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME!!!!!” which, as you know, if only appropriate in Fan Fund races…
    Chris

  2. Self promotion can be best summed up by an old Australian saying, you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter.

  3. Were those old North Australians by any chance? They know what they’re talking about, that’s for sure.

  4. People who will put up with being nudged to vote for a Worldcon bid will often bridle at the same kind of campaigning for an award. Maybe it’s the gift psychology at work – it’s rude to demand a gift. Or perhaps it’s a twinge of ethics – awards should go to the best work, and soliciting a vote may also imply a solicitation to bypass the process of fairly evaluating the competition.

    I always thought it was perfectly clear why campaigning for awards is bad: because the more we find it acceptable, the more people will engage in it, and therefore the award holds less and less value as people begin to vote in response to how effective the campaigning is, rather than the work.

    So if people aren’t individually discouraged from campaigning for their own (or their BFF’s) Hugo/Nebula/Whatever, either the other contenders also have to arm up, and everyone will have to continue escalate their campaigning (buy those full page advertisements in the sf mags now!), or we should just rename the awards to “Best Campaign To Win A Hugo For Short Story,” etc., since that’s mostly what we’d been rewarding.

    Also it’s just fracking tacky beyond words.

    If people like your work, they’ll vote for you. Discreet mentions of eligibility are fine. Significant campaigns lead, essentially, to the Destruction Of The Commons of the given award.

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