Philosophy

Your business is dumb but I like you as a person

The Internet has created a very unique, fast, and easy way for businesses to connect with their customers. In many ways, this is very good. But in some ways, this is also annoying and bad. The blog post focuses on the bad.

I don’t want to be treated like a customer until I decide to be a customer. For example, when I order food from McDonald’s, I don’t want the cashier to make chit-chat with me, ask me about my day or anything. I want to be treated like a customer: ask me what I want, tell me how much it costs, then give me what I ordered. McDonald’s doesn’t have to try to advertise the burger when I’m in the restaurant; I didn’t go there to browse.

When I’m not in McDonald’s, it would be extremely annoying to have McDonald’s employees giving me their cards and asking me about my fast food preferences and what I think of McDonald’s. This might seem absurd because the fast food industry tends not to do that.

But with the Internet, some businesses and artists promote themselves very much in this way. They get on Twitter and auto-follow people who mention “social media”, they search for blog posts on certain topics, and they encourage people to become their fans on Facebook.

SHUT UP ALREADY!

If I’m looking for a business or an artist, I’ll go out myself and find what I need! I don’t need or want to be found! (At least not through “personal connecting” … if you find me through a Google ad or a banner ad, that’s OK.)

And if you connect with me as a person, by either commenting on my blog or messaging me on Twitter, of course I’ll probably be nice. Being nice to other humans is a good and decent thing to do. But that doesn’t mean I think all business ideas are wise or my business preferences can be changed or influenced with simply a personal connection. Are books on marketing telling people otherwise?

If I rant about not liking a company, being contacted by someone in the company isn’t going to help much (unless trying to contact the company was what I was ranting about). The business’s goal should be to not cause those rants, not deal with them when they find them. Of course I’ll be nice and polite to another person, but a business is not a person. I can loathe a business but be kind to its employees.

So, to anybody out there who’s in or interested in marketing and branding: stop putting so much interest in making pseudo-personal connections. They’re “pseudo” because if you’re not truly interested in me as a person and are just connecting with me as a form of advertising, then it’s not really a true personal connection. If you want to make a real personal connection, you better not be doing it for your business.

That’s all, thanks for reading this post! I just want to mention one more thing, because I can tell you’re a reader with good taste: I’m a music composer, and I’m available for hire for all your music needs…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Fiction books

Self publishing is stupid

I was reading the following article on CNN.com: More authors turn to Web and print-on-demand publishing.  The article stated:

When she was turned down by several traditional publishing houses, Genova decided to follow a different route: self-publishing via Web-based companies

Turning to the Author Solutions self-publishing brand, iUniverse, Genova published her book for $450, a cost that included an ISBN — the International Standard Book Number that uniquely identifies books — and the ability to sell on Amazon.com.

Months later, after receiving positive reviews … and a favorable review in the Boston Globe, Genova’s book was picked up by Simon & Schuster and is in its 12th week on The New York Times Bestsellers List.

There are probably a few other success stories like these, where an author self-publishes a book, then it gets really published, and the authors sells a lot more.  But I’m sure it’s rare, probably more rare than just having your manuscript accepted by a traditional publisher in the first place.

So, no, self-publishing isn’t really stupid… what can be stupid is what people might expect it to do for them.  Despite the allure of the success stories, you’re probably not going to sell very many books to strangers.  (I imagine it’s much easier to sell to friends and family, who’s interest in reading your fiction would come more from knowing you.)  You’re not going to get it picked up by a traditional publishing house.  It’s not going to get a slew of good reviews from strangers.  It’s not going to make you rich.  (In fact, even getting a book published the old-fashioned way probably won’t make you rich either.)  Don’t expect these things.  And don’t say you don’t expect them while secretly expecting them.

I think it’s wonderful that print-on-demand gives everyone the opportunity to at least try getting their rejected material out there.  It’s nice to have that back door and to not have to completely depend on some editors’ or agents’ opinions.  But it’s stupid when writers put all their eggs in one basket, when they put all their dreams in one book.  Don’t expect your first novel to get traditionally published.  Or your second.  Or your third.  While you’re trying to sell one, get started on another and just keep going.

Another thing that bothers me is how some people market themselves (like following me on Twitter).  In general, here’s what books I buy:

  • books that are already famous
  • books by already famous authors
  • books by authors I’ve read and enjoyed before
  • recommended books from people or podcasts I trust
  • books with really interesting covers and a really interesting blurb on the back (very rare!)

Books by people I know is not on the list (people I know really well should give me a copy for free).  Books by people who are following me on Twitter is not on the list.  Books by former English teachers is not on the list.  Books with extremely bad covers, as if they are drawn by middle-schoolers, which they sometimes are, only encourage me to laugh at the book and open it with the expectation that it will be stupid and worthy of mocking.

So, if you’re self-publishing, be careful marketing yourself.  I hate it when authors use adjectives to describe their own work, like “A heartwarming humurous tale of a brave knight…” or “A magnificent surprising story of a poor girl…” or “An eye-opening philosophical mind-bender that will change your religion…” STOP IT!  Just tell me what the story is about and I’ll think of my own adjectives for it.  Why in the world do some writers think that for a moment I’ll believe their self-promotional adjectives?!  Leave that to reviewers.

Don’t directly invite anyone to read your text.  Only hint at it, and let interested potential readers explore it themselves if they want to.  That way they won’t feel like they’re doing you a favor, or some social chore.  And don’t take it as a personal insult if someone you know well isn’t interested.  No one should have to be interested in your work just because you know them well.

Lastly, consider giving your story away for free online.  Podcast it and put up the text.  Then, when (or if) people get into the story and they want a physical copy to keep, they’ll pay for your self-published book.  That way they know what to expect (and, again, they won’t feel like it was forced upon them).

DO look into a pro-artist for the creating a cover; don’t just get your niece who draws with colored pencils to do it or your friend who’s done some fiddling with PhotoShop… invest in someone who can really make it catchy and professional.  Also get someone to edit it, and be sure to ask strangers for critiques; there are some services online in which you can get free critiques.  Family and friends probably won’t be as objective when reading your bad writing.  I’m guessing the biggest reason first novels are hardly ever published is because the writing just stinks; writers need practice like in any other art.  (Another reason is the subject is probably stupid… if you’re not a celebrity, no one wants to read your memoirs.  I don’t know why so many writers want to write about their lives.  Of course things that happened to you will influence your plotting and writing, but use some imagination!!)

Anyway, I probably shouldn’t be talking because I’ve never even finished writing a novel in the first place, and I certainly haven’t been published!

I think I just get tired of dippy self-promotional marketing.

Random stuff

I thought David Lubar’s Guide to Literary Fiction was hilarious.

I agree with this article on how to recognize bad writing advice.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

Don’t know much about marketing

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I had a weird dream the other night in which I was in a used bookstore and was looking for some good books but I couldn’t find any. My siblings, on the other hand, were finding tons of books, some of them even finding books that I myself wanted, but they wouldn’t tell me where they found them. Finally I came upon the musical score for Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, only to open it up and find it was an arrangement for two tubas. What a horrible nightmare.

In other news, my parents came back from my uncle’s with a wonderful surprise: a foosball table! Yay! It’s what I’ve always wanted! So if you ever want to play foosball… get your own foosball table.

I am almost finished reading a boring book called The Marketing Gurus. It’s basically a summary of a bunch of other marketing books. Unfortunately most of the books it summarizes must be horrible. They’re repetitive and spend a lot of time making blatantly obvious points, “be honest in your advertising” and “know about your customers” … if you can’t figure that stuff out on your own, you’re a fool. I guess books on marketing are like books on writing fiction; there are some good ones out there, but most of them are just a waste of bundled paper. Some of the books it summarizes are a bit out-of-date as well, with little or no mention of the Internet.

Anyway, there’s one chapter that states that you should first find a niche, then create a product for that niche.

You don’t need passion … you don’t need a lot of creativity

I blogged about something similar in my Stuff I Found blog. This concept of finding a niche first and not needing passion seems backwards to me. I guess if you can pull it off, good for you, but I can easily imagine most people being unsuccessful at it; passion can be hard to fake. Although, now I kind of want to try it. But I don’t think I will, as it also seems much harder. Seems like you need even more creativity to find a worthy niche. It’d be easier to just think about what product I myself would want and then make that product, if I can afford it. For example, a blog in which I blather would be great. Oh look, here it is!

For a good and up-to-date resource on marketing, I highly suggest the podcast Marketing Over Coffee. Even if you know very little about marketing (like me), these hosts are quite thought provoking, and they don’t just state the blatantly obvious. The podcast also makes me want to eat donuts.

By S P Hannifin, ago