I was attending a Warrior Writer workshop presented by Bob Mayer last weekend and at one point he asked, “Who here actually likes to promote?” I raised my hand and since I was sitting near the front, I didn’t realize that all the chuckling was aimed at me. The odd ball.
I don’t hate promoting. I actually kind of like it. I like this whole author thing, really. (Stopping myself before I start sounding too Pollyanna.)
I know I’m supposed to hate promoting and networking and love the introverted writing part. Well, I do love the introverted writing part. I’m sometimes afraid that since I don’t babble enough about the angst of writing that people might think I don’t write, but who wants to hear about my day at the office? Well, maybe other writerly types might find it interesting, just like me and the techies like to go on sometimes about integration issues and data elements and message formats that only we understand–a day job aside there. Were you bored? I thought so. And writing about the introverted writing part makes me more angsty and introverted, and I can only take so much of that even from myself.
Maybe I like promoting because I’m too clueless to realize I’m supposed to hate it? Or too self-absorbed to really realize that it’s a scary and confusing thing?
Why don’t I hate promotion? Okay, why do I actually LIKE promoting?
1. It’s about business
I come from a corporate background and even though I wasn’t directly in marketing or sales, every time I talk (or type) to a customer, I’m representing my organization. I’ve been in positions where the bottom line was my responsibility and multiple people keeping their jobs was my responsibility and it depended on customers wanting to buy our product. Did I resent having to promote in this situation? Not unless I also resented my job and the customer’s needs and all the people depending on me. Promotion’s just a part of business to me. It wasn’t a “necessary evil”. It was just necessary.
2. It’s about presenting a good face
I used to teach high school and though there are some days now when I don’t want to be “at work” even though at work is in front of my computer and telephone. Well, there were some days teaching when I REALLY didn’t want to go to school and stand before 150 kids in a culture where it was cool to complain about teachers. (Need a thick skin quick? Try teaching.) There were days when my lesson wasn’t that solid and I wasn’t feeling so hot about it, but if I dared to step in front of my classroom with that attitude, I was a goner. I mean “books thrown at my head, students getting into fights” goner. That never happened to me. Because every day I stood in front of that class, and hell or high water, presented the best face I could.
“This lesson is AWESOME” — I conveyed with every word and action. “I’m here to be the best darn teacher you’re gonna have today.” Trust me, I stood in front of that classroom every day and sold each lesson harder than I’ve ever sold anything in my life.
The moment I didn’t present that face — mayhem. And I could tell. Then the angry looks and talking back and detentions would start and no one would be learning anything or having any fun.
So maybe I don’t like promotion, but you’d never know it. Ha! As they used to say where I taught: I got game for days.
3. It’s about Steve Jobs
I used to think writers just wrote. I remember having this conversation with my BFF after learning how much promotion writers were expected to do. Imagine you made the best chocolate chip cookies around. (We must have been eating cookies. This was literally the example I gave her.) It’s foolish to think just because I open a shop and start baking cookies that people will come and buy them just because they’re the best around. No one knows they’re the best. No one knows how to get to my shop. But I want people to know. And not just to hear the buzz that my cookies are the best, but I want them to actually try them. And like them. And share them with other people.
What do cookies have to do with Steve Jobs? Steve Jobs is my role model when I think about promotion. (Confession: Most of my initial impression of Steve Jobs comes from the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley which I showed in my technology class to teach the history of computing. Cause I could. Noah Wylie as Steve Jobs *smooches*)
When my hubby got me an iPod shuffle for my birthday, I looked at the little device in its clear plastic case and I turned to my husband and said in awe, this is really well done. I didn’t feel like I was just getting a music device–I was getting so much more. I was getting an experience. It was so wonderfully packaged and so sleek and sexy — I felt like I was better and smarter and sexier just being a part of this phenomenon.
Every time Steve Jobs speaks about his products: the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone. He’s not just selling. He’s not out there saying “buy my stuff, give me money”. He’s a true believer. He believes in the beauty and efficiency of the design and how it’s going to change the world. He believes that people will WANT his cookies.
That man is my kind of crazy.
It’s common for people to downplay their talents so they won’t sound egotistical. That’s why authors hate promotion. We know our writing is flawed. We know that some people will hate the story and it’s scary to still put your neck out there knowing that.
So why do I like promoting? Because it’s hubris to think my cookies are THAT good that people will magically know how to find them. And because when it comes to my stories, I’m a true believer. I have to be able to stand behind my product and even go one better: these stories keep me up at night, they inspire me, they make me think of things I’ve never thought before. And I want to share that.
One final argument into the ether: people often tell me they hate people who promote or over-promote. That’s very much true. It’s a danger. I might be hated for promoting. But I can’t operate out of fear of putting off people I don’t know. That’s not business, that’s a personal fear. That’s a playground fear. Same goes for the fear that people won’t enjoy your writing. As long as I don’t offend anyone’s family or kick their dog, I’m not hurting anyone. I can’t design a lesson plan around the students that hate having to sit in chemistry class. And no matter how good of a teacher I was, there were going to be students that hated me.
I trust people. I respect consumers for being intelligent. I know that if they don’t like chocolate chip cookies, they at least understand that other people do. And I have some really good ones to share. I’ve been working on the recipe since the first batch went out, tweaking it here and there, and the new ones are just coming out of the oven.
They’re still warm. Come have some. Bring a friend. 🙂
May 28, 2011 @ 00:08:34
Can I just say that I love your attitude about promoting. I’ll have one of them cookies you’re offering, thank you. 🙂
May 28, 2011 @ 06:17:56
I agree, I’d like to eat some of this cookie too! I’ve been thinking about the role of promotion in a writer’s life, and how it’s really unavoidable and shouldn’t be approached with a “why do I have to do this!” attitude.
May 28, 2011 @ 06:30:36
Hi Daz & Jon!
Thanks for the comments. I like to play head games with myself. If I think of something as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, things seem to fall into place a little better. I think promotion really is about creating opportunity, not about punching people in the head with an unwanted message. Grab a cookie and enjoy!
May 29, 2011 @ 10:13:36
Jeannie, thanks for a wonderful post! Promotion is part of it and I prefer to think of it the way you do as well, rather than some terrible chore we have to do in order to sell our books… er… cookies. 🙂