Goins’ presentation was a nice, long, sensitive way of saying “You’ll have to sell out quite bit but don’t think of it that way”.
His advice is great…for people actively seeking to write for money. As a low income/no income author, I know how tempting it is to use what you’ve got to try to make a living to take care of yourself and the things you care about–HELLO people, we live in a capitalist nation bent on subsuming everybody’s existence in the pursuit of monetary and material wealth. But going down that road just isn’t right for everyone and can cause more problems than it solves. (I would argue that it isn’t right for anybody honestly.)
What Goins’ is saying is that no one in the world has any interest in anything unless you maneuver it under their noses. Maybe its true to an extent but is that how it should be? His webinar and his book, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), is little more than the fluff of a stranger’s encouragement and marketing advice, a gentle-handed way of telling writers that they need to face the facts of the market, suck it up, and get in the game. I miss the days where I was incapable of falling for stuff like this.
These are the red flags every writer should watch out for to stop big business advice from getting in the way of their creativity, and each of them appear in the advice Jeff Goins gives in his book and his Four Keys webinar/seminar. Keep reading for 5 bits of personal advice from yours truly.
1. Giving something in exchange for something else.
“Give away something for free–like an eBook–in exchange for attention.” –from You’re a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)
Stressing that you should always ask permission first, Goins advises writers to build an e-mail list, one method being getting people’s information by offering them something, like a free book. Exchanging an e-mail for a book or an interview IS STILL AN EXCHANGE. If giving something for free is only defined by an exchange of money for goods or services, then we need widen the definition.
I like how free-online-novels.com puts it in their submissions requirements:
If any form of registration is required in order to be able to view the novel, then it is not free. It then becomes an exchange of personal information for access to your novel. A request for information or even a donation is acceptable provided that it is clearly stated that it is optional, and is in fact optional.
2. Spend money.
Jeff Goins writes, “Having a free account on some blogging service is nice for updating your grandma […] but its not enough for a professional”. He encourages people to monetize their blogs/websites, to purchase web domains. I did the research and I tried that, believing in promises of a “money back guarantee” without strings if I decided I couldn’t do it: I was cheated out of $21.99 that I couldn’t afford by Bluehost using fine print on that refund clause plastered all over their website.
At the end of the webinar, Goins plugged Tribe Writers–a very expensive writing program he started.
MONEY MONEY MONEY. Spend it to get it. Well, some of us don’t have it to spend, especially not the kind he’s talking about. The actual total of expenses or rough estimation Goins is pretty much suggesting that writers be able to invest is not mentioned in any meaningful way at all.
3. Use of marketing language and techniques
“Don’t misuse marketing gimmicks to trick your audience into believing something that isn’t true.”
–from You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)
So basically sell yourself and use the same sleazy marketing techniques as everyone else, only be classy about it.
Notice that Goins doesn’t advise against using marketing gimmicks, he just says don’t “misuse” them. Goins uses words and phrases like platform, branding, buzz/generate buzz, tricks of the trade, successful, assembly line, business, pitching is selling, salesperson/entrepreneur/marketer, play the game, meaningful connections, serving people. All of this is wrapped up in otherwise harmless anecdotes and encouragements. How can you be a marketer telling other writers not to do what other marketers do when marketing is the problem in the first place?
There’s a lot of you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back going on with what Jeff Goins is putting out there though he tries to phrase it in the most polite and thorough way possible to mask it.
After listening to the Four Keys webinar, I was prepared to try everything Goins’ advised–even though I knew it was wrong and it wasn’t what I would ordinarily do. I want people to know I’m there, I want to be able to support myself and my work and live in a better environment of my own choosing. It sounded so sensible and practical, so pragmatic and kindly offered. I know what its like to feel desperate and to have people tell me to “be smart” and “promote myself the right way”, get a job that pays even if it makes you miserable and your real writing can come later.
Here’s 5 bits of advice that came to me after a crazy week of getting sucked into Goins’ kind of advice:
- Don’t listen to anyone who is telling you to “act” like a writer or “be professional”. Write what’s in you to write, offer it in an honest way, and try to leave all that other stuff alone. Writers WRITE, so do it.
- Leave money out of it as much as possible. Don’t mix money and creativity/money and passion.
- Don’t let “getting noticed” consume you. Always create first. I am not an advertiser or a marketer for a reason and not just because it distracts me from my writing and crafting creativity–you may not be either.
- If the conversation starts off I’m-Not-a-Marketer-I’m a-Writer-Like-You but ends up I-Just-Told-You-How-To-Market-Yourself, then consider having yourself removed from that mailing list and spend some time deconstructing what you just gave your time to let this marketer worm into your brain. They’re little better than the telemarketers who spam your phone line. Don’t accept it–question it.
- If you offer readers your book for free, then give it to them FOR FREE. Don’t try to manipulate people into doing business with you. If they want to buy your book, they’ll buy it. If they want to have contact with you, they will seek you out. Its so much more profound when people come to you because they’re genuinely interested in your creativity. Perhaps its as Goins might suggest–it doesn’t happen like that often enough but I would argue that together readers and writers can transform and change this society which feeds on figures believed to be of authority to tell them what they want to read, this society where advertisers and marketers are working around the clock to get their products and gimmicks into your head and get the very last pennies you got.
Conclusion: Who am I? Some nobody no-income indie author with a cat licking her arm pit. But even if nobody ever reads this post, I’m satisfied that I’ve spoken a truth that others need to hear.