Thursday, August 13, 2015

When Free Advice Is Worth a Million $$$

When I was doing horoscopes for free for friends and those in crisis, I would spend hours pouring over charts and my books. I cast predictions far into the future, preparing them for the best of times and worst of times. I even made a calendar for one person so she could track the planets on a daily basis.

Guess what? People treated all my hard work like a parlor game. They lost their horoscopes and asked for a repeat. I didn't keep copies and at this time computers didn't exist to save my work.

Later, when I needed money, I started charging $25 for a horoscope. Pretty cheap when you realize other astrologers charge at least $100 and give what seems to me generic readings. But people VALUED the charts I charged money for, believing them to be worth more. They didn't lose them, referred back to them and paid for updates. I realized this was human nature: the more one has to pay for something, the more valuable it is perceived to be.

Today, I give a lot of advice on marketing. I'm passionate about the subject. Marketing books, blogs, websites, other authors is, for me, a big part of the joy of being an author. I understand that many don't share my enthusiasm. They approach it with a negative mindset. It's WORK. For the shy, it's calling TOO MUCH ATTENTION to oneself. For those who aren't computer savvy, it's CONFUSING.

Call me Mary Sunshine, Pollyanna, an incurable optimist (I even find things to love about being in dialysis). ATTITUDE is everything. If you approach something expecting to hate it, you're gonna hate it. If you hear others complaining, you're going to resist. So, all the wonderful tips I gather on the Internet and even my own marketing secrets I'm willing to share often fall on deaf or plugged up ears.

Yet I find that when people pay through the nose to go to writing conferences to hear an “expert” lecture on the very same subject, suddenly it's embraced. Not that the marketing takes into account the individual. Not that people are worked with on a one-on-one basis. They aren't taught how to tailor the marketing to their specific book.

Buying a book on marketing is the same thing. Information is usually outdated by the time the book comes out. Much is info compile from sources anyone can gather on their own via the Internet. But again, when it's free, it's worthless.

I worked in detective division of the sheriff's department for 11 years. I'm trained to dig up leads. When social media took off, I scoured websites of authors and investigated sites they listed as their favorites. I put together lists of reviewers, interview sites and sites looking for guest bloggers. I wanted to share all of this and spare beginning authors from wasting time hunting it all down. I created the Posse. Again, a free service. Is it valued? I can name off many of the people who never bother to check their email anymore. You can bet if they were paying me they'd be sure they were getting their money's worth!

The worst advice I've heard comes from the “big” authors who are signed with big houses, pulling in big advances and have publicity machines backing them. They urge new authors to “forget about marketing and social media. Just concentrate on your writing.” Telling people to delay marketing until they have a book out makes about as much sense to me as ignoring your credit score until you go to buy a house. In this day and age when the competition is stiff and anyone with a computer can self-publish it all comes down to this: “He who markets best, succeeds.”

What happens when reality sets in is that some authors frantically hire a publicist to plug them into the system. Again, this is pretty generic and I, for one, delete posts that show up on my screen hawking their client's books. What unseasoned authors don't know is that they will pay more for their publicist than they will ever recoup in book sales. Someone makes money, but it isn't the writer.

In conclusion, I've concluded that people only value what they pay for. They are willing to give money to anyone ready to charge them for a speech, a book, a promotion. Humans are stubborn that way. Like the old adage says “You can lead a mule to water but you can't make it market.”

Now, pay Novel Spaces $20 for the privilege of reading this post!


Charles Gramlich said...

As a psychologist, I know this to be true. As a human being I don't understand it at all.

Sunny Frazier said...

Me neither. Will somebody explain, please?

Patricia Gligor said...

Well, I for one, (and I know there are many others), value your "free" marketing advice via the Posse more than I could ever express in words. If it weren't for you, it would have taken me so much longer to find a publisher. I had no social media presence at all until you gently guided me. Now, I have four published novels and, again, I have you to thank for all that you've done (and continue to do) for me. So, in conclusion, thank you, Sunny Frazier!

Sunny Frazier said...

Patricia, you are exactly who all my work if for. I've loved watching your career take off!

Anonymous said...

Where do I send the check? Seriously, it's amazing. I've noticed the phenomenon with other things besides marketing (what springs to mind is buying $4 gift bags at the CVS thinking they're better than the $1 gift bags at the dollar store next door). But I think it's natural for people to think they're getting better advice if they're paying for it. I say charge more for those horoscopes.

Do you see a connection between what you're talking about and people being willing to pay through the nose for a book at a bookstore but unwilling to pay 99 cents for a book that's on sale through a place like BookBub? I think the same thing might be going on--they feel they're getting a better book because they're paying a lot more, but that's not necessarily true. Just my personal opinion.

Liane Spicer said...

I observed this same thing during my 23 years teaching high school. Some of the best teachers on the faculty gave free extra lessons because they were invested in having their students succeed. I used to shake my head as I observed their students ducking classes, watched these teachers having to hunt them down and herd them into the rooms. The teachers who charged for their extra time, however, never had to hunt down their students and beg them to come to class. And many of those who charged weren't the most capable teachers around.

I decided early that I would not ever give free extra lessons to students because they--and their parents--equated free with having no value.

PS: Thank you for all your marketing nuggets. I do read every email from you, although I don't always act on the advice therein.

$20 to read Novel Spaces? Yes! Maybe we'll be able to finance that Novelnaut Caribbean Convention after all. :D

jrlindermuth said...

Can't speak for others, Sunny, but I value your marketing advice more than words can convey. And, since I find marketing one of the harder chores of this life, joining the Posse was one of the best things I ever did. Keep on sending the advice. Maybe we don't tell you often enough, but you're often in our thoughts. I know the comment probably doesn't make up for not sending a $20 bill.

Linda Thorne said...

Sunny, you are so right. I can't afford a publicist, but I've heard enough for me to avoid one for now (someone who someone else knows or refers for good reasons).

You're free advice has always done wonders for me.

I got a gig on my own through a radio station in Biloxi, MS, but they've backed out 4 days after asking me to review my book set on the MS Gulf Coast. Something came up. I'm hoping they return for a similar offer

I enjoyed this post.

Mona Karel said...

I might be strange (HAH!) but I rarely value anything by the purchase price. As a purebred dog breeder I don't want my puppies in homes where care is according to the price paid.
If I go to an expensive restaurant and the food is mediocre I don't go back...more likely I'll go to the local Grille where the food is pretty much always good!
When it comes to book promotion I'll go to those seminars if I happen to be at the conference (not likely!) but in my experience what works for one won't work for all.
That said, I'm very willing to learn all I can about promotion since it really does go against my intrinsic preference not to seek out attention for myself though I'm very happy to promote others.
Okay, I am strange.

Sunny Frazier said...

Not strange at all, Mona. I'd say you're "right on the money!"

Kathleen Kaska said...

I was so happy to read your remarks about hiring a publicist and I agree totally! Thanks, Sunny.

Sunny Frazier said...

Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D had trouble posting, so I've inserted her comments for her:

Don’t know what in human nature values paying over getting something for free. Therapists with sliding scales never slide to 0, believing that paying even $5 is an indication of someone’s investment in the therapy process. On the other hand, my volunteer work at the First Responders Support Network has a different effect. Our clients pay for the retreat (minimal fee covers room and board). When they learn that all the staff work for free, they are very moved and I think it adds to their healing to know someone cares enough to take time away from their jobs to volunteer. The board once voted to pay the clinicians (who lose big bucks when they volunteer). Fortunately they scratched the idea after the first month. I didn’t like getting money, it changed my experience and took something valuable away from me to feel like an employee.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Sunny, I value your advice. I never had an idea about marketing, but your little nuggets have helped me some. Still I find myself reluctant to constantly post on social media, but I'm trying to increase my presence.

As for the value of free, I notice even kids when they see the same pair of shoes half the price, they assume that the 1/2 price one is not good. I think it may be the way we are socialized to think that anything inexpensive or free is of lesser value than what we pay a lot for.

On the other hand, there are some cultures that say, "anything free, take two." Liane might know what I'm talking about.

Liane Spicer said...

LOL, Jewel. I certainly do. :)