Self-Promotion for Chumps and Hos

Times may be tough, but it’s a great time to be in the self-publishing business. That is, if you happen to sell some variant of snake oil meant to transform an unknown writer into a best-selling author. Book ads. Virtual tours. Paid Tweeting—the possibilities are endless. The only catch is, these marketing devices can only deliver on one promise: To keep our fantasies alive while quickly emptying our wallets.

If this sounds a little like prostitution, there are definitely parallels between the world’s oldest profession and this relatively recent one. Think about it: If no one likes a man enough to sleep with him, he can either pay for sex or masturbate in shameful solitude. It’s the same with authors: If enough people won’t buy our books, there is someone out there who, for a fee, will dangle a carrot just inches from our noses with the promise of a score.

Once a self-publishing virgin myself, I have officially attained “ho” status in the two years since releasing my first novel. You might not know this, but the purveyors of promotional smut have a rating system for self-pubbers like me (similar to the detestable rating system boys use to rank girls on a scale from 1 to 10). They call it “SPH” (for Self-Promotional Ho-dom). Each number tracks how many hundreds of dollars we chumps have spent pumping our books and chasing our dreams. (Right now, I’m about an SPH-55 over the course of two years and four books.)

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