Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the Necessity of Extreme Self-Promotion (Part One)

Modesty is dull.

If you publish poems, you have an ethical obligation to The Universe to believe in them as useful, necessary. Time may be arguably the most valuable commodity. To ask someone to read your work, you better believe it is crucial for human survival, or at least, Unmitigated Pleasure. If it isn’t, then why steal someone’s Time, our precious mortality?


This was one of my solutions for increasing sales of my memoir: through Facebook, I contacted as many people as possible from high school as I could.

Just in case they didn’t know, I was still alive.

In our underground high school newspaper. I was voted: “Most Likely to Die of AIDS.” I was famous then and now.

In an individual message, I told each high school contact they were in my memoir, All Screwed Up. Which was available on for $16.95.

None of them were in the memoir. I never wrote about anyone from high school. Except for one person. This is how I justified the lie: as a writer, each character in their own way becomes a composite of everyone you’ve met in your life. Your memory makes them one.

Very Buddhist.

I knew that if they bought the book, they would look for the parts about them. When they realized there wasn’t any, it would be too late. The package was open, the damage done. They’d be stuck with the book.


Don’t trust anyone who claims that they’ll buy your book. Ask them to send you the proof of purchase. If they laugh, tell them you’re not joking. Say, “I want to hang the receipt of the first copy sold. Would you mind sending it to me?”

If the book’s been out for awhile, say, “If you buy the book today, you’d be the 100th person purchasing my book. Would you mind sending me the proof of purchase? As silly as it may seem, this is an event that means something to me.”

If they don’t offer you proof, quiz them. For example: let’s say your memoir was about your mother, an ex-trampoline champion. Don’t mention that fact. Say to the potential liar, “It was really difficult writing about my mother’s job. She was a welder, as you know.”

If they don’t contradict you, don’t let on that you know.

Just never buy their book. If someone asks you what you think of it, say, “I wanted to like it. But it was shit.”


There’s nothing more kind than someone having read your work. Critics treated my book of poems Blind Date with Cavafy with, if anything too much generosity. Way too much. I never expected anyone to read it. I don’t write that in fake modesty.

How do you show gratitude?

Isn’t there something unattractive in showing thanks to someone who recognized you?

This is what you seem to be saying: “You're so special for recognizing that I’m so special.”


  1. But when you read something you enjoy, that moves you, I know you want to express it yourself. I've seen you do it! Maybe not directly TO the person, but you promote the work you've appreciated. :)

  2. I wanted to like it...(ha!) I'm enjoying it. Especially the parts about me.

  3. I'm pretty sure I dated a writer only so I could mine his work for references about me. Of course, your books are really about me.

  4. With the new meme that all taste must be anonymous-- that actually knowing anyone makes you part of a nepotistic subculture-- I'm always afraid to send a thank you for a positive review. But I don't think it's bad to be(come) friends with people you like and whose work you like-- I mean, when you got a funeral, do you want strangers there to anonymously evaluate your life, or do you want the people who loved you to explain why they loved you? I'm rambling. I'll stop.

    But the bottom line is that polar praise or blame are both useless. A good review is analytic. Or 80% analytic / 20% judgment. But praise feels nice, and I think feeling nice is underrated.