Should Authors Praise Their Own Work?

So I was happily browsing the internet this morning when I came across an article on the Independent website, all about Stephen King mocking James Patterson for praising his own work. It’s old news, I know, but when I read the headline, I was expecting it to be about a gushing James Patterson going around telling the world how simply amazing he his, how he’s better than all other authors, that he does nothing wrong. That would be uncouth at best, certainly unfair, and perhaps even a little despicable. Upon reading the article, however, I found it was nothing of the sort. In fact, it all came about as a result of this:

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That’s it.

He said he thinks this is his best work in twenty years.

The debate over whether Patterson actually writes any of his own books, and even whether or not they’re any good, are neither here nor there – they’re topics for another day. Personally, I prefer King to Patterson, and Patterson may have been a little heavy-handed in the promo of his new book, but has he actually done something wrong? Is it wrong for authors to praise their own work?

Okay, these blurbs you find plastered to the front of the book, these mini-critiques by fellow authors, are supposed to be just that – by a fellow author. Writing one for yourself is certainly a little odd, especially for such a famed author as Patterson who could get someone else to do it. That said, other than being a little crass, perhaps, or unrefined, I’m not sure he’s really done anything wrong. So he thinks this is his best book in twenty years? So what?

1200px-Paris_-_Salon_du_livre_2012_-_R._J._Ellory_-_001It’s not like he followed RJ Ellory‘s lead by posting gushing reviews of his own work – and attacking the work of others – all under an assumed name. Patterson’s being honest about it, at least, and keeping everyone else’s name out of it.

If there is anyone that James Patterson fans trust, it’s James Patterson, right? So who better to promote the new book than Patterson himself? Besides, in saying this is his best book in twenty years, he is not putting anyone else down, he’s not saying it’s an objective truth, he’s just giving his opinion – and in doing so, he’s showing a certain level of honesty (let’s not forget, after all, by saying this is his best, he is inadvertently saying that other one is not as good). If you can’t be proud of the work you’ve done, how can you ever possibly promote it?

Is it really that bad to say you think one of your books is better than another? At the risk of being uncouth, I honestly think my second book (currently undergoing editing) is better than my first. I’m not saying my first is bad, and I’m certainly not saying my second is the most amazing book ever, the best thing since sliced-bread. All I’m saying is, in my opinion, it’s better. Should I be mocked for saying that? Or are there different rules for me, the unknown author, and for Patterson, an authorly Goliath?

As an author – especially a self-published one – one of the things that’s really difficult is promotion and self-promotion. It’s hard to talk about your books as it is, there is a certain level of discomfort when it comes to praising yourself (perhaps after many childhood years of being told not to ‘brag’), and there’s that fear the people you’re talking to will get that glazed-over look. And now, if authors can’t even say their work is good without being mocked, what chance do they have?

As a reader, would it put you off if an author praises their own work?

9 comments

  1. I think it is a bit self promoting of an author to lambast another writer for making a personal comment about his own work – even if said comment may well also encourage existing readers to buy it. I quite like the fact that Patterson has the enthusiasm left to feel this way, but the cynical side makes me wonder if the two authors have devised a clever bit of reciprocal publicity 😉

    1. Yes that’s true, I never thought of it like that. I really hope they didn’t, that is really disingenuous. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being proud of your own work.

  2. I’ve never read any of Patterson’s books, I did pick one up once, saw it was written WITH someone else and THAT put me off! I wouldn’t be put off if an author just said ‘This is the best book I’ve written so far’ at least it would show the writer was not just churning them out to a formula.

    1. I can see why that would put you off. I’ve read that Patterson comes up with the plot ideas, then someone else writes them, and then he comments of their draft, so I think that puts me off a bit too.

  3. I think commenting on your own work is not the same as boasting. I don’t think my last novel is my best, but it is different to the rest. As you pointed out, he ‘thinks’ it’s his best, and that shows pride in his work, more than anything else.
    As for using that as promotion, doesn’t every other salesperson do this? So, “This is the best shampoo ever,” but don’t you try to con me that this is YOUR “best book ever.” We are being told what we can and can’t do by nincompoops.
    Actors give interviews on how the “Bald and the Ugly” movie 27 was the best he or she has ever done. Much better than the previous 26. That’s okay too LOL!
    I think that people are just secretly in awe that he doesn’t cower. Is it a bit crass? By silly standards, yes … but is it really? As you said it, who would know better than the author.

    1. You’re right Jo – it’s so accepted in other industries that it seems ridiculous to say this about publishing. King’s attitude reminds me a little of a sort of posh, snooty idea that we don’t talk about ourselves in public, and that’s just ridiculous.

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