In a nutshell -- as someone who had to FIGHT DESPERATELY, tooth and claw, for DECADES, to promote my books (which were given absolutely no publisher support, and worse, were neglected or detrimentally held back by publishers) on my own dime, through misfortune and hell, with self-promotion as is the ONLY TOOL at my disposal... going to superhuman efforts to be polite and do it with class, and STILL hearing relentless criticism from others all throughout (how DARE she even mention or, God forbid, promote, her books?), I am now an expert on the subject.
And as an expert, gone through the fire, I WILL NOT tolerate crass methods from others.
Promotion is a fine art.
Done right it is pleasant to all, invisible as such, and achieves its means.
Unfortunately most of it does not fall under the ideal category. Due to varying degrees of ignorance, laziness, or disrespect for other people, those who engage in self-promotion choose to take little-to-no effort to make their methods socially acceptable.
This is especially true now, when everyone is suddenly doing it, and those of us who have been in it for a long time are faced with raging cluelessness that can adversely affect all of our precarious reputations as solid respectful professionals, and harm our collective efforts through this influx of poor habits and lack of skill and basic human tact.
Yes, this is the age of publishers reducing (and in many cases cutting off entirely) their allocated resources for promotional support of their mid-list and non-bestselling authors, when publishing itself is undergoing grand change, with the advent of ebooks and internet distribution. Authors both new and established are self-publishing in droves, releasing originals and re-issuing their classic backlist. And... "promoting."
Promotion is no longer a dirty word but a sad, Limburger-"smelly" necessity. But, why is is "sad?" Because we still think of promotion as fundamentally evil...
...when it doesn't have to be.
Indeed, the decades-old ingrained stigma remains, and eats at us, reinforcing poor habits by people who think "it's all crap anyway, so it all does not matter how I do it."
For that reason, now is more important than ever to re-think self-promotion and give it respectability and a 21st century facelift.
After all, this is not your Grandma's Self-Promotion. This is now "The Way We All Sell Books."
But, how to achieve this rehabilitation when so much in the way of poor promo habits still remains, and comes pitifully knocking on our social networking accounts with horrible "requests," like a poor little girl scout selling those damned cookies?
Furthermore, because of the oh-so-many poor habits (or lack of awareness, and even lack of will), ALL self-promotion is still perceived as crass and revolting by the population at large, and often for good reason.
This hurts those of us who want to do the right thing and promote with our hearts, not our greed.
Let me introduce the metaphor of the fancy restaurant chef HATING fast food. Why does a chef hate fast food? Because it's all in the METHOD.
Note, a chef does not hate FOOD; indeed, she or he LOVES and values it it to such an extent that cheap, low quality, or poorly prepared food, is an OFFENSE against everything the good chef stands for -- against everything they worked years to achieve and perfect (sometimes with hands tied behind their back by lack of resources, but always thinking of the purest, best ways to practice their art).
A shoddy, crappy method of food preparation and presentation is the equivalent of low-level self-promotion.
Poorly done self-promotion is MORE offensive to those of us "chefs" who take pride in our promotion efforts than to the average person who does not engage in it.
As you can see I am very passionate about this subject.
I've practiced my art, with hands tied behind my back by dire circumstances. Over the years, I have also written how-to articles, given talks, gladly shared my experience with others, and run a Yahoo List "Publicity and Self-Promotion for Writers."
In my time I have run the gamut of "making mistakes" to "going wild and out on a limb" to "doing things perfectly right," but I have always acted with CONSIDERATION for other people.
And that's the one true secret of classy promotion.
How to know what to do and what not to do?
Simple: think. Use your instinct. And use your heart.
Put yourself in the place of the recipient and think how it would affect you on the receiving end of any such promo.
Now, go out there, learn everything you can, be subtle, gentle, yet relentless, and then self-promote to your heart's content, but remember -- use your brain for logistics, but use your heart first, for everything else.