Monday, January 19, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Should you care about money?

You're a writer. You love words. You might walk around saying "kumquat" because you like the way it pops from your mouth. Or you might look for a way to use "shacking up" in a sentence because it's such a fun and evocative phrase.

But then you think about marketing. The words dry up. The sentences, chalky and anemic, sputter from your fingertips.

Ugh. You hate thinking about money. You hate asking for it worst of all.

Sisters and brothers, I feel your pain. For real.

I spent almost 10 years at newspapers, where I thought advertising, to put a spin on the phrase, was the enemy of the good. Sponsors pulled ads because of articles I wrote. I saw it as a badge of honor. My colleagues and I bragged about it, whispering conspiratorially between assignments.

And now I'm running a challenge to encourage you to market your work and your ideas? What gives?

It wasn't an easy transition for me, from idealistic journalist to freewheeling query queen. But it's amazing how quickly you can grow to love marketing when you have no savings, no prospects and the rent is due. And then I discovered something surprising: Marketing offered its own creative pleasures.

For instance: How to write short. How to grab a reader. How to, simply, get attention.

These are all things I've always loved about writing. I'm a big fan of the cartridge lede. And I might just cop to the fact that I am, as my j-school professor once said about the whole of the journalist race, a "shy egomaniac."

And admit it: There are some stories that get you so jazzed, so giddy, that you can't wait to tell your friends, your editors, and--dare I say it--your clients. That's all a query is.

It's bragging about your great story ideas for fun and profit.

The profit part is no small incentive. I have come to think of it this way:

There's one story idea I've had for two years now. Two years! It's brilliant. I love it. It's compelling and heart-rending and inspiring, and I can't wait to write it. I could probably write it tomorrow for a very small publication that pays 10 cents a word on publication.

I could even write it for free.

But what I want for this story, this creative baby of mine, is a wide audience. I want it to make a difference in as many people's lives as possible. It's not going to do that for 10 cents a word on publication. There's a reason that the big-name publications pay $3 and $4 a word. They have a broad reach and clout. They matter.

So does this story. I want the best for it. It deserves to shine in a bright light. It gets there through me pitching it to a place that's going to pay me well, also.

Here's another fact: The places that pay well? They also tend to have good editors. They care about your copy. They want it to be just as good as you do. You can learn something from them.

The higher-paying clients--that's where the action's at.

That's not to say there aren't some phenomenal editors at smaller publications. And that's not to say that some lower-paying publications don't have a wide reach, especially for niche markets. Aside from all the hard-headed business reasons in the world to market your work, the reason you should care about money is because it's good for your work and your craft.

Money, it turns out, isn't the enemy of the creative after all. Money in freelance writing is a barometer of how much some publications value writing and journalism, and a measure of their capacity to back it up. That's where I want my work and my career to go.

What about you? Does the thought of trying to sell your work mortify you? How do you deal with that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said about being persistent -- or downright stubborn -- about your pitching idea and price points. Heather's strategy of hanging in there until you get what you want reminded me the pitching process is simple, but that it just takes time. If you feel your work belongs in a certain publication for whatever the reason, you stay on that publication, month in and month out, year in and year out, until you get what you want. Heather is evidence it works.