Sunday Soapbox: Marketing

>> Sunday, January 3, 2010

*Steps on soapbox*

Ah, my one day a week where I'm allowed, nay, compelled, to bitch.

I mentioned yesterday that this was a good year for me for writing. I finished and then revised one novel, then started and finished another from scratch in what, for me, was record time. I now have three "completed" novels. One in "finished" form, one "close to finished form" and one still in the first draft. And I have a dozen or so short stories to market.

And that, boys and girls, is my beef today. I love to make stuff. I love to accomplish tasks and do research and solve problems. I love to review things and analyze things. I love to write and sing and make jewelry.

I hate selling things.

I hate selling a point of view. The data should speak for itself. The facts should determine the right path, yet, all too often, the better spin and song and dance, the politics of the situation determine the path instead of physics, reality, hard data.

I hate marketing my work, not because I can't take rejection (though, of course, that's not fun), but because I don't know how to sell things. If someone's willingness to read my work is dependent on my ability to make it sound like fun, I'm doomed. I hate not knowing why they didn't like it (letter, paper, the fact I use long sentences like I do in real life)? I hate the lag and the waiting. And I read so many things that are just so bad. Talk about being able to market something.

I only make jewelry for friends and family because I don't know how to market it and don't want to try to sell it.

I don't like having to convince people I'm worth something. Shouldn't my work speak for itself? You may have noticed that my barely trafficked blog is sans advertising.

But, it's not just the needs I have to market things, it's the absolutely insane ability to control people using advertising that I don't understand. How can people buy the stories, the nonsense, the spin, the garbage? Why do people eat up the nonsense and stories and spin and garbage? People use this advertising, no matter what crap their peddling, because it works. Why is that?

Why is it that people are so blase about being lied to or having exaggerations tossed to them, that the eat up lies served by the same dorks time and time again? Why is substance not important? Why have people given up on getting the best deal and the truth and doing the research to get what they really need instead of just taking whoever has the best song and dance?

How long are we going to let the appearance of substance be more important than actual substance?

*Steps off soapbox*


  • Roy

    That's one of the things that bugs me about the art "industry" - you're not supposed to try to sell your work, you're supposed to sell yourself. Who I am is unimportant compared to what's on the pages of the manuscript (or photo portfolio, in my case). People aren't going to be looking at me, they're going to be reading the book, looking at the painting, listening to the music, whatever... But our commercial society seems to be addicted to this whole celebrity thing that nowadays you sell the artist rather than the art. Garry Trudeau did a whole schtick on that back in the '80s in his "Doonesbury" comic strip; for a week he had Mark interviewing a "celebrity" who had done absolutely nothing and had no clue what it might be that he was supposed to do; he was a pure marketing department creation.

    It's sad how far our society has sunk.

  • Aron Sora

    Roy, that's why I hope Seth Godin is right. If he is, social media will bring the end of traditional (Read: zergling rush) media and the beginning of meaningful relationships between companies and consumers.

    That's why you, Stephanie should not worry. You have built a base of, I would say, 50 loyal fans that would do anything to support you. That is more meaningful then having 100,000 people at coming here through a massive ad campaign who stay around for only 1 second.

    Yes, traditional media works for now, but that model assumes there is an unlimited consumer pool. Slowly, that assumption is turning false. If a company scam one person, everyone will know because of the internet. If a company puts out crap, people will know. The river of suckers is drying up.

    I'm really restating Seth Godin's work. You should read all of his books, especially Tribes and Meatball Sunday.

    Good content does not market its self. The good people behind the content are marketed, adding credibility to their work.

  • The Mother

    You've hit it on the head.

    How many people are truly talented at something, but because they don't have the talent, or ability, to whoop it up, we never hear from them?

    I do not share Roy's conviction that the "new" media will solve this problem. Look at Twitter and Facebook. Look at the proliferation of pseudoscience. I think it just makes it worse--at least if you needed traditional media, you had to find one other person who agreed with you. It's a poor form of peer review, granted, but it's something.

  • Project Savior

    When it comes to marketing my work I'm lost, which is strange as I have an extensive marketing background. I know in my brain that people like to have things boiled down to the simplest concept before moving forward. Which is way simpletons like Paris Hilton are great at marketing. They already are the simplest concept.
    Reducing my novels to 150 words is harder for me than writing them. I'm so close to the work that I want to stress everything, even though I know I have to only hit the main point.

  • Stephanie B

    The Mother, I think that was Aron's assertion, not Roy's.

    I'm also skeptical that new forms of media will readily solve the problem; but I'm not sure it doesn't have potentials. Crap is disseminated more readily, but, in days gone by, there were few if any alternatives to the propoganda provided. Now, more and more, the truth is out there, if you're willing to look for it.

    We may not have more looking for it, but those looking have more opportunity to find it.

    Still, it bothers me, as it bothers you, that the glitz and hype are given more credence than solid facts. Until that changes, people will continue to build on poor judgement and flawed decisions.

  • The Mother

    You're right, Aron. I meant Aron. I just didn't type Aron. It's like when I use every kids' name, and the dog, and still don't get the right one.

  • Quadmama

    People who are selling things hate it when they come across me. My journalism background has taught me to ask questions... and keep asking questions. If something doesn't sound right I ask even more questions. Hubby finds it quite amusing when we're shopping for big ticket items (think car, furniture, etc) because I actually listen to the sales person and overwhelm them with questions.(I know... slightly off topic). I still think you should sell your jewelry. Word of mouth alone from your followers would probably be worth it.

  • Stephanie B

    I'm a question asker, too. And, if they blow smoke, I'll call 'em on it. I like doing research.

    I just received some beads for Christmas. I thought I'd make some anklets. I like making the rest of it, but it's just a hobby.

  • Jeff King

    I have been on 20 agents blogs and read hundreds of post on how to format your query letter and of course the big one; how to format your novel... if that is not done correctly it is an automatic rejection, they won’t even look past the cover letter.

    I believe if you make a solid query that makes a person sit up and take notice, they'll ask for sample chapters and then it’s up to being formatted correctly and of course the content of said novel.

    I know you probably all ready know this, but if you want some links I have them. Just send me an Email. Either way best of luck, and I would be more than willing to read whatever you want to share. Thx

  • Relax Max

    Sometimes I think I will never understand you. I just feel like walking away shaking my head. And maybe I should. At any rate, you've put out too many different issues here to cover in a short comment, and you know how I prize brevity. :)

    But no, your book is not going to get up and sell itself. And no, just because it is good doesn't seem to matter to people anymore (but that is none of your business - your job is to sell books unless you are writing for a hobby.) And (Finally) if you want to make money, stay away from no-taste vampires. Ummmm... publishers, I mean. Do it yourself and keep all the money. $250 will get you one ISBN number and a listing in Amazon and Barnes and all the trades. You don't need a publisher's ass to kiss in this day and age. Stop writing for a while and start reading.

    But you have to want it and not just want to bitch about the unfairness of marketing and life. That is for losers.

  • Stephanie B

    I'm actually working on it, Max. That doesn't, however, preclude bitching about it. And doesn't change my frustration with having to sell me as opposed to having to sell my stuff.

    And it doesn't negate all the other times when glitz and politics overrode facts and common sense. In science and engineering, that gets people killed.

  • Phyl

    Yegods, Max. How very Calvinist of you.

    Stephanie, you're absolutely right -- it seems, these days, that in order for anything to "succeed" it has to be marketed, always in ways that essentially camoflage what it really is. You have to "spin," which automatically casts suspicion in the minds of any intelligent person.

    And I, too, think Aron is mistaken about the social media. Already there are handbooks on how to "market" yourself on Twitter, removing all the genuineness that made it attractive in the first place. In my view, marketers destroy the real value of everything they touch.

    I don't know what the solution is. I suspect it's kind of halfway between our view and the totally fake marketers' view. With that in mind -- you might be interested in a book I just reviewed, called "Don't be Such a Scientist," by Randy Olson.

    The point he makes is that you somehow have to get people with something that really interests them and gets their attention, while still not lying. He mentions several scientists who have managed to do that in the past (e.g. Carl Sagan, and I would add Brian Greene to that list too). He demonstrates that unfortunately, the facts don't "speak for themselves" to anyone but scientists, who are trained to think that way. Which means that most facts and statistics that it's vital for people to know just get shelved because they slide right past the awareness of a populace whose eyes glaze over at their dry recital.

    Anyway. I found myself reluctantly agreeing with his approach (after all, I actually GOT interested in science because of Carl Sagan), but I still haven't figured out how to implement it in marketing my own fiction or services. *sigh*

  • Relax Max

    Thank you for that, book promoter Phyl. I guess I have hung around all you liberals so much I am beginning to think I know it all. :)

    You must be talking about a different Carl Sagan than the one I remember. The one I knew of promoted himself shamelessly with every breath he took, to that glittering fake marketing spin-media we all hate so much. Thank god for "authentic" marketers like yourself, eh?

    Or were you under the impression that Carl was merely "discovered" due to his purity of spirit and wisdom, and THRUST to the forefront of the world science stage? Carl was cool, but let's not let our memories be foggy; he was a self-promoter. And good for him.

  • Stephanie B

    Phyl, I read that review some time back and I left a comment. I have a problem with it and explained why.

    As soon as we say marketing, glitz and showmanship are a required aspect of science, we open the door for the acceptance of science to be based on PR. That's a very dangerous thing (as the folks from the Inquisition). It's only a small step to twisting the science and skewing it when reality is as it really is.

    Carl Sagan is before my time. I know his name, but I've seen and heard about him only second hand. So, no opinion.

  • Phyl

    No twit filters here. Alas.

    I couldn't remember if you'd seen that or not, Stephanie.

    I actually incline more in your direction, but I've seen science ignored when it's "just the facts" so much that I tend to wonder if we're destroying the "good" in search of the "perfect." It would be ideal if people really paid attention to the facts alone, but somehow they have to be grabbed.

    I'm not talking about telling PR-style lies to get people interested in science. That wasn't what Olson was advocating either. The idea was that you *do* tell all the facts, but the way you tell them has to be a way that will allow people to hear them.

  • Sheila

    Have you never had a job interview? That is nothing if not selling yourself. Why should anyone invest in you (or your work) if you yourself don't invest in persuading them that it could be worth their while. You have to set yourself apart from the crowd in both situations.

    A writer should, I would think, be a communicator. So go and communicate with the people you want to read your work and tell them why they should.

  • Stephanie B

    I have indeed had job interviews, Sheila. I interview very well, because the people interested in hiring me are interested in the caliber of my work and my honesty. Both are readily demonstrated with objective evidence.

    And I come across very bright.

    That's entirely different to selling something that's a matter of taste. In my line of work, I have to separate people's vested interest in selling what they're selling from the objective evidence or people die.

    I can't peddle my work with assurance that it's good. I have no objective evidence and my own opinion (despite being a veteran reader and liking it myself) is not objective. It is very challenging, under those circumstances, to sell it or myself. I'm not saying it's not necessary; I just wish it wasn't.

  • Aron Sora

    What if you had an affiliate program for your book. Let other people sell it for commission. I'm sure entrecard bloggers would love to sell your book. But the sales might stay with in entrecard.

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