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RANT FROM NOVEMBER 2002
"Marketing Woes"
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     In this publishing game, marketing is a two-way thing -- we
try to do it, and we have it done to us.  Neither direction is
going well, at the moment.
     The Receiving End is especially miserable.  
     [1] TV ads.  If it weren't for the mute button on the
remote, we would not have the TV set on at all for more than few
moments at a time.  Just now the TV is selling candidates for
political office, using meanness, deception, trickery with images
and blatant falsehoods.  That stuff does not merit memorizing,
but it is repeated over and over until we're ready to throw up. 
Drug company ads, which interfere with the relationship between
doctor and patient, again with false images and false statements,
are worse, because they'll still be coming at us, after the
election is over.
     [2] Junk mail.  It now comes in such volume, I've become
concerned about the local landfill.  Our way of dealing with it
was hard at first, because the mail used to be a magic sort of
thing, but we have overcome that and nowadays I don't even open
most of it.
     [3] Spam.  Unsolicited e-mail messages, offering
pornography, gambling coupons, v*agra, genital enlargement,
mortgage rates, credit repair, political wisdom and perhaps viruses, 
come in such volume that I am afraid I may occasionally discard 
unread messages that I want, lost amid all that garbage.  It has 
taken away my enthusiasm for the Internet.  Almost anywhere you 
go there, you get tagged and receive dozens, or hundreds, of 
e-mails as a result.  They sell your e-mail address to other people! 
Some messages offer six million e-mail addresses, for a modest
fee.  We haven't tried using that out-going marketing method,
because we are so offended by the in-coming ones, we don't want
to be part of it in any way.
     [4] Shopper cards.  This is the current marketing fad for
retail grocery stores.  Publishers and writers need to eat, too, 
so, the idea is to register for a card, and use it for "better
prices," which gives the store tracking information on what you
are doing.  See Zelda Gordon's excellent essay, here on this
website -- "No There There."  In a word, the prices are not
lower, really over all, and you've given away information which
belongs to you.
     [5] Telemarketing.  It took a while to learn this, but
rudeness is the only defense that works.  Hang up.  You don't
have to listen.  You don't have to be polite.  You don't have to
say, "Goodbye," or even, "Have a crappy day."  Just hang up.  I
do say to those who want me to change telephone service, "We
don't discuss telephone service over the telephone," and then I
hang up without further comment and go back to eating supper.
     Being on the receiving end of all those marketing ploys is
mostly unpleasant.  But we also have things to sell:  books, and
unpublished manuscripts.  We sincerely believe that they are
excellent and are often told so, but excellence alone does not
seem to be getting the job done.
     The best single kind of publicity for a book is a book
review.  Many publishers have resorted to paying for reviews, but
we have not.  How can we get the major media, or the local media
for that matter, to notice what we are doing?  The only sure-fire
way is to gain some other kind of notoriety, probably as a mass-
murdering criminal, first.  We have not tried that yet.
     Distribution is very difficult for publishers of this size. 
Waldenbooks simply refuses to pay invoices owed, so we have
stopped selling to them.  Ingram's returns policy is so
ridiculous, ordering and returning the very same title on the
very same day, over and over, that we asked for "cash with
order," which stopped the process, with Ingram owing us, and
claiming that we owed them.
     Agents, and mid-size to large publishers, will not even read
our unpublished manuscripts, or even our carefully prepared
proposals, unless we pay a reading fee.  When we have paid it, in
desperation, we find it leads only to suggestions for really
steep and unneeded editing charges.  The publisher is nowhere in
sight.
     We came up with a thing called "Zen Marketing."  Forget the
old proverb about the world beating a path to your door, if you
invent a better mousetrap.  Invest only a little emotional energy
in the effort of selling.  Put it out there, but don't let it
matter much in your life.  Or, if you're really far into Zen,
don't put it out there at all, but let serendipity work on its
own.  Invest your emotional energy, and your skill and effort, in
WHAT IT IS, your mousetrap, your manuscript, and go on living.
     We have done that.  We have some remarkable results,
including  ANCESTRAL NOTES, HUNGER IN THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR,
UNDERCURRENTS, CHRISTMAS BLUES, AMERIKA? AMERICA!, and FREEDOM FROM
GOD.  See the catalog on this website.
     Sometimes the thought comes, "Maybe we should simply give
them away."  We hesitate, partly because this culture, which we
are part of, like it or not, puts a price on everything and does
not value at all what has no price, including things that are
priceless, like forests and whales and sunsets.  We fear that the
general culture, the public, the "reading public," would badly
undervalue our efforts and the results of those efforts, if we
tried to give them away.  So here they are, for sale, at a
bargain...
                            *   *   *
Copyright © 2002 Harry Willson

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