Day 7: Being Unselfishly Selfish

WorldBefore I learned to think globally, I pretty much only focused on my own books and how could I get them some press, or get the word out on my work in general. It was definitely more difficult to promote other books as easily as it is now, what with “like” buttons, the ability to retweet someone’s good news, and other technology, but no excuses! I bored my own self after a while, and I’m sure I bored other people way before that point!
When I stopped being so selfish and began looking outward, I started making deeper connections and that led to more professional fulfillment and in my personal life. Ironically, it created more opportunities for me. For example, I’d been invited to go on a local morning program, Good Morning, CT, about a new book I had at the time, Kindergarten Rocks! It went well, so I sent a proposal to the producer for a regular segment to recommend children’s books. She liked the idea, and now I appear monthly on the show.
Here is how doing this is “unselfishly selfish”:

  • I feel good spreading the gospel of children’s literature and supporting literacy (that could go under the heading of selfish because I am the one getting the benefit, but since other people are too, I’ll selfishly list it here!)
  • Great books are getting some public lovin’.
  • Other authors are being promoted, and hopefully they link me up, or review my podcast app in iTunes, or recommend me in some way.
  • The show generates videos that provide SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for my site.
  • Appearing on television has not only boosted my confidence in my ability to speak publicly but has led to paid speaking engagements.

“Connecting with people” rather than “shoving your book in someone’s face online” is the guideline to remember. Maybe you don’t need reminding—but I did, and sometimes still do. Again, I will stress how important being genuine is. That is, be who you are, but also be genuinely interested in the people you’re connecting with. Don’t follow someone just because you hope he or she will get you something. That goes for anyone you “friend,” whether it’s an editor or agent or another writer or an illustrator you admire.
At the same time let’s not be naïve. Making connections online is a way to further your career. Just be honest about what you’re doing and don’t be a used car salesman (apologies to used car salespeople everywhere). For example, I was in a Twitter exchange with Kate Messner (or as I like to call her, the Skype Goddess—more about that later) about how we’d see each other soon at a book festival. Someone tweeted me in the middle of it, “Bummer. Went to DM you but could not.” A DM is a direct message, in other words, a private tweet, available only if the recipient is following the sender. So, thinking this person wanted to give me information about the festival, I followed her asking, “What was it you wanted to tell me?” She wrote back, “Nothing important! Only that I can’t make any promises but if you followed back I’d try to go on being witty.”

Not cool. Though it did give me content to include in my presentation about a major no-no! What she did was a bait and switch. It made me angry—even more so because that person was not witty in the first place! To my way of thinking, she has no interest in making a real connection, or even having an honest dialogue.
Just remember to take the effort to think of others. If someone links you, link them back.
If someone does something nice for you, or for your book, thank them publicly. No one, I don’t care how big you are, gets too many thanks or compliments. Saying something nice makes people feel good. How can that be a bad thing?

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