Not long ago I was persuaded to attend the ‘How to Write Good and Make Millions Doing It’ conference. After a day of workshops and talks, I was definitely ready for a break. So I decided to skip the panel on ‘Blood and More Blood’ and visit the exhibit booths. You never know when you might make some good connections at exhibits, and some of them have useful little products.
I was passing by one of the booths when the man who was staffing it called out ‘Hello!’ I smiled, said ‘Hello,’ and got ready to move on to the next booth. Then I noticed that there was a bowlful of little packets of dark chocolate almonds on the table. What choice did I have? I walked over.
‘Are you a writer?’ he asked as I picked up one of the packets.
‘Yes, I am.’
‘I’ll bet you’re not selling as many books as you’d like, are you?’
‘I think most writers would like to sell more,’ I said cautiously.
‘Exactly!’ he said with a big grin. ‘And we’ve got just the service to help you do that. Have a seat right here and I’ll show you.’
We both sat down and he said, ‘I represent Your Bottom Line, the most innovative marketing company ever. We’ve got a great new line of products that I know you’ll love.’
I was beginning to be a little concerned about this, even with the treats. But I thought I’d at least hear him out. ‘So you do publicity and marketing for authors?’ I asked.
‘That’s our specialty as a matter of fact. Let me ask you this. What sort of promo are you doing right now?’
‘Well, I have a website with links to what I’ve written. I’ve done a few interviews, handed out bookmarks and business cards, that sort of thing.’
He shook his head sadly. ‘That is never going to get you anywhere,’ he said. ‘You need a more aggressive approach.’
Now I was really beginning to wonder if I should leave, but he put a hand on my arm and said, ‘You are missing millions of potential sales because you’re not going out after them.’
‘But I hate the idea of being obnoxious. People want to read good books. They don’t want authors constantly nagging them to buy.’
‘That’s where we come in. We do the marketing, so you don’t have to. Let me show you what we offer.’
He pointed to a large computer monitor next him and pushed a button. Within a moment, one of the more popular entertainment news sites came up. As I watched, an animated book surrounded by hearts and flowers came dancing across the screen, grew bigger, and then faded out.
‘Ugh!’ I said with a grimace. ‘That’s just plain annoying!’
‘But it got your attention, didn’t it? Don’t you want to know more about that book?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Hmmm…’ Then he snapped his fingers. ‘I’ll bet it’s because you don’t write romances. Gotta be!’
‘Well, that’s true. I write crime fiction.’
‘Really? Well, we have just the product for you then. Look at this.’ He gestured towards the monitor again and pushed a button. Now a large dagger popped up on the screen. Inside it was another book with a large button labelled ‘Click here!’ The images got larger and then faded.
‘Isn’t that spectacular?’ he asked eagerly.
‘To be honest,’ I said, ‘I think it’s really obnoxious. I hate pop-up ads and I avoid sites that use them if I can.’
‘But they get people’s attention. You’ll get people thinking about you and your books. Isn’t that what you want?’
‘I don’t want people thinking what I’d imagine they’ll think if they see that kind of pop-up with my name on it.’
I was more than ready to get up and move on by this time. The sales rep noticed my restlessness and said, ‘OK, so maybe our pop-up package isn’t for you. That’s no problem. We’ve got plenty of other products.’ He thought for a moment, then said, ‘I think I have just the one for you.’
‘You do?’ I was very doubtful of this.
‘Sure do. It’s our Happy Holidays Package.’
‘Holidays? You mean Christmas? But it’s only halfway through November!’
‘Never too soon to start getting people in the holiday buying mood. I have writer clients who start using this package in August, to be honest.’
‘Of course. Let me show you how it works.’ He gestured towards the monitor again where the same site came up. In a moment a video appeared on the side of the page. The video showed a Christmas-wrapped package. As the package started to open, an overeager voice-over narrator urged us to buy the book being advertised. When it was over, the salesman asked, ‘So what do you think?’
‘You want my honest opinion?’
‘You love it, don’t you?’
‘Actually, I hate it. It’s loud, garish and annoying. I can’t even read the page with that video going.’
‘That’s the whole point! You get it! Once customers see the video, all they’re thinking about is your book. And we do all the technical work for you.’
‘But that’s just maddening! People aren’t going to want to buy books if they’re angry at the ads.’
He leaned back in his chair, templed his fingers for a moment and then said, ‘Well, maybe our online ad programs aren’t for you. But you might be interested in our auto-dial ad program.’
‘Auto-dial? You mean robo-calls?’
‘We don’t call them that. Too negative of a connotation. And they work. All we do is record your voice, and then millions of people hear directly from you. Doesn’t that sound great?’
I’d had enough. I stood up and said, ‘Thanks, but I really don’t think these programs are going to work for me. I’m probably better off just writing as good a book as I can.’ I picked up another packet of dark chocolate almonds as I got ready to leave.
‘Write a good book? Who wants to do that much work when marketing does the job for you?’
I really wish I hadn’t been lured by those chocolate almonds…