Before you grab your gel-point pen and stab me in the eye, allow me to explain this odd comparison.
When I was a penniless, homeless-bound single mom, I took the only job I could find. A commission-earning car salesperson. My other choice was to work outdoors on the corner of Dundas and Queen, however, I’m not really commercially attractive and look horrifying naked—even to drunk convention goers.
With a gazillion cars to choose from, Internet savvy car buyers don’t exactly drop into a dealership and buy the first car they see. They drive every car on the lot, want to see every payment option, cash, finance, lease, balloon payment, sunny-side up, fried, or scrambled ... wait, I think I’m talking about me now. I began my relationship with each customer sunny side-up and after days and weeks of dealing customers’ demands ended up feeling fried and scrambled.
Working alongside twelve other commission only colleagues, one must be very clever about marketing their services.
Don’t sell, don’t eat.
Now, back to the dealership we go.
We have already established to be a successful car salesperson, one must be a clever little marketer.
Contrary to popular opinion, the often abused salesperson does not stand around with a pen and a worksheet simply getting customers to sign on the dotted line by flashing their Ray Bans. They are not clerks behind the meat counter of a deli, although, I sometimes wish people would view them as such. I’ve yet to hear a shopper in line at the butchers arguing, “$2.99 a pound for ham! No way, go back and offer your manager $2.49. Not one cent more! Listen hear Mr. Scammer, there are five other butchers within three blocks of here!” Then mutter to themselves as they stomp out the door, “Criminal pig-hacking bast**s!”
Let us visit the typical Monday in the life of a car salesperson.
The sales staff shuffles in after their weekend off. Oops, already made a mistake. Car people work every Saturday and some work Sunday, as well. Joe Salesguy can’t take a day off since a customer may return to buy at any time. He’s already invested 100 hours with Mr. Snothouser and does not want to give his colleague, Jack Salesman, half his $300 commission for spending five minutes taking a deposit.
No matter what the success of the dealership that week, the boss will tell all twelve salespeople they better get their asses out there and get some cars “Over the curb and burnin’ gas.” They are weak, they are useless, and the Dealer Principal is tired of spending a fortune on advertising to get customers in the door only to have the “Ops” (pronounced “ups” secret code for opportunities) wasted when they go down the street and buy from XYZ. Now, the DP can’t be at the meeting because he is toiling away managing the construction of the $600,000 boat house addition to his five million dollar cottage.
After the meeting, all twelve agents race down the steps like a pack of starving Klondike coyotes to see if there is a customer waiting for help.
Poor, poor customer. He feels as though he is a 200 pound musky in the middle of a fishing tournament.
“I need to drive these three cars, see nine different payments, get my trade appraised, and hurry up. I only have ten minutes.”
You see, Mr. Customer has to get back to his office and shop on vacations.com to book those tickets to Hawaii in hopes his trophy wife will drop her hair straightener long enough to have sex with him.
I bet you’re wondering where I’m headed with all this.
With a gazillion books to choose from, Internet savvy consumers don’t exactly drop into a bookstore and buy the first title they see. They browse every book on the shelf/Internet, and want to see all of the options. Romance, self-help, memoir, horror, mystery, thriller, etc. They pick up the work and read the back, the inside jacket, the reviews and a few pages. Non-fat, no whip, soy latte in hand, they wander around and do the same thing to another ten or twenty titles.
Working alongside hundreds of thousands of other royalty-earning colleagues, one must be very clever about marketing their books.
Like car sales; don’t sell, don’t eat.
Contrary to popular opinion, the talented writer does not stand around with a pen and paper simply getting publishers to sign on the dotted line by flashing their English degree.
Let us visit the typical Monday in the life of a writer/publisher.
Writer gives himself pep talk. “Please God, get me a book deal!”
Meanwhile, at the publishing house, the executives shuffle in after their weekend in the Hamptons. (Okay, I don’t really know this to be true, but it sounds good).
Writers, however, are never off the clock. Their brains spin 24-7. Joe Writer can’t take a day off since the ideas in his head never shut up. He’s already invested thousands of hours into a manuscript and does not want to give his colleagues, a million other authors, all his royalties when they hit the market with a similar unique concept. (Side note-a unique concept only hits the market once—hence the word “unique”.)
There are a gazillion great writers out there, however, concept is King.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “Why doesn’t Joe Writer just tell potential publishers what his concept is and to hang on until he finishes his manuscript?” Yes, this is a wonderful idea, yet does not seem to be effective. Mr. Editor is a very busy man and has 1,000 manuscripts a month sitting on his desk and a three year contract to make a name for himself. If he is going to survive he needs the next big concept “right now.”
No matter what the success of the company that year, the publisher will tell his editors they better get off their asses and get some books on the New York Times Bestseller’s list. The boss is tired of spending a fortune publishing books only to see opportunities wasted because an author doesn’t know how to market himself.
After the meeting, all twelve editors saunter (academics don’t race) to their office to see if they can find the next big thing on the slush-pile. In this market, however, a book must have a 100 percent chance of succeeding.
Poor, poor writer. He wishes he were a 200 pound musky in the middle of a fishing tournament. Why he’s just begging to be fished out of the slush-pile.
“I need to see your thirty-page marketing plan and a mediagenic photo, and hurry up. I only have ten minutes to read 100 other manuscripts.”
You see, Mr. Editor has to get back to his list of currently well-known authors and get them to produce another commercially viable work so he can get on vacations.com and book that trip to Hawaii.
Gone are the days when great writing and well-edited manuscripts earned a publisher’s attention and sizable advances, even for new authors. This was a new era. The rules had been forever changed.
”PUBLISHERS PRINT, AUTHORS SELL,” is the new publishing mantra.
One must join social networking groups and refine their skills as a public speaker. Distribute sell sheets, create a website and book trailer, get reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, go on the road, hire a publicist and marketing company, all at our own expense.
The author is no longer a writer. The book is no longer a literary work, it’s a business card.
Marketed successfully, the ultimate goal of publishing a book is now to support other streams of income for a writer such as the lucrative speaking engagement.
Yes, my invisible Internet guests, an author has the same job as a used-car salesperson. Sell, sell, sell.