I frequently hear the following being said at writers' club meetings: "Hey, I know that I'm a shameless self-promoter." Other writers in the group laugh and then listen as a writer begins to brag about her latest book, her successful book signing, a talk she's scheduled to give, a prize she had just won. As she's whipping herself senseless with praise, the writers in the group are smiling politely but they are also strumming their fingers while they're thinking, "Damn, I can't wait until I accomplish something so I can brag about it to the rest of us like she's doing right now!"
There's nothing wrong with any of that. But when we become shameless self-promoters outside of our little circle of writing friends, we get into trouble. I learned this the hard way when I first started bragging about my first novel Sissy! I'd tell people that my book won the J Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award (who cares?) or that this is my first novel (yawn) or that I will personally autograph the book (big deal). The trick is to appeal to them directly with a challenging question (Example: What would you do if a young angel appeared at your bedside tonight? or Ever wonder how many women fought in hand-to-hand combat in the Civil War?) Questions like that tend to stop them and force them to struggle for an answer. And while they're struggling, you give them a one-sentence grabber they can't resist. (Example: People tell me that page 142 of my novel Sissy! made them cry.)
Some writers say they don't like to brag about themselves. But it's not themselves they're bragging about--it's their book. And it's not bragging if they're trying to appeal to the emotions and curiosity of a potential readers. Besides, if you don't talk about your own book, who will?
Yes, we writers are shameless self-promoters and proud of it--especially when you think of folks like John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, or Ken Follett. We follow a long line of self-promoters!