A long time ago, when I moved in to live with a boyfriend, my father said to me, "Why pay the cow, when you can get the milk for free?"
Okay, there was too much wrong with his offensive question, but . . .
I’ve been wondering about writers, money and the whole PR thing lately.
For years, I’ve been the poster girl for the "Everything-You-Do-Is-PR — Everything-You-Do-Is-Worth-It" school. I’ve gone to any event to which I was invited, simply because it was "good publicity." I’ve prepared talks, bought nice clothes and makeup, ordered promotional materials — just to put on a good show.
Yet, I’ve gotten the sense during the last few months that a lot of this effort has merely been a distraction (kind of like what J.T. wrote about internet social networking on Friday). It’s taking me away from writing and returning little of value professionally, socially or emotionally.
Worse, it may be damaging. If I’m willing to do all of this for free, how much are my time, words and work really worth?
These questions really hit me last Wednesday when I was a panelist at a professional women’s luncheon. The organizers were delighted with a much larger than normal turnout. We authors were a draw. We were given a paltry lunch (not even chocolate in the dessert) and had to sit through at least 30 minutes of oral ads and testimonials about the organization. And then, poof, we were the entertainment.
Few books sold.
Three hours down the drain.
What good came of it, other than making some nice women laugh?
Compound this with the compelling arguments I’ve heard from people I respect — people who are making money writing fiction — about how we writers should spend our time writing, producing product. Their view is that the business end of pr/marketing should still be the purview of publishers.
I’m flummoxed, bamboozled, confused.
When did we novelists begin to buy into the idea that we needed to spend our own cash to market our works? Has this model always been so? It’s incredibly counterintuitive when you consider how much most of us actually make. Go here to see romance author Brenda Hiatt’s impressive brass tacks info about advances and royalties at many publishings houses.
Then, I ran across this YouTube video with screenwriter Harlan Ellison. There’s strong language in it, but his point is well taken. Why do we writers give our words away for free?
Ah, the old refrain: "It’s good publicity."
These questions come at a lousy time in my career. Right now, the University of New Mexico Press and I are lining up out-of-state booksignings for THE SOCORRO BLAST. I’ve signed up for three conventions in ’08 and may go to more. I’ve ordered 5,000 postcards and have come up with at least as many new PR ideas.
Am I being stupid?
Should authors hop on planes, pay for hotel rooms, rent cars and sell the heck out of their books when these actitivies keep them from doing their real work — writing?
Have we backed ourselves into this corner? Is it a corner? Do we even want to get out?
Again, I don’t know.
The ego and social parts of me love doing public events and going to conventions. I adore making people laugh and think.
And then there are the friendships cultivated and nurtured through these on-site trips. They’re worth so much to the quality of my life.
But . . .
The business side of me — and my husband, the accountant — wonder what the hell I’m doing.
Should we authors spend so much time giving our milk away for free?