Everyone's got a story to tell, and I'm not just talking about the ones in your self-published books. As an indie author, you also have your own personal story of tragedy and triumph. If you use that to sell more books, are you marketing yourself...or exploiting yourself?
Walking the Line
The question is a hard one, and I know because I had to face it head-on. I was randomly following people back on Twitter one day when I caught one profile that stood out. It was an author (I get followed by a lot of authors) who mentioned, in the same sentence, a terrible personal tragedy and a book she wrote about it.
Now, all authors draw from personal experience. If you write a book about your own personal tragedy, you're within your rights to promote that book for what it is. But you have to be sensitive about the way you choose to promote. Because if you start out by hitting me in the face with your tragedy, it feels a little insincere. It reads a little like "My daughter was murdered -- buy my book!" and that's not the greatest marketing message you can put out there. Take a more sensitive approach. That's hard to do in a Twitter profile, I know...but there's no rule that you have to announce your tragedy in your Twitter profile. When you do, it does begin to feel a little exploitative.
Take a more subtle approach with your marketing...or at least with your tragedies. Sometimes, in-your-face isn't the most effective means of selling a book.