I was talking with a recruiter recently who was telling me about a job they had posted. They wanted to recruit someone with five years of experience with software that had only been around for 12 years, and someone with advanced knowledge in half a dozen different things. I told him that he would never be able to find somebody that met the requirements they had written.
It occurred to me yesterday at the Mudhouse that I ought to make some sort of flyer. Something sleek and smart that I can have some fun putting together. I’m not going to get hired if no one knows I’m available.
When you’re at places that have flyers like that, advertisements that are a dime a dozen because they’re plastered all over the place, what catches your eye? What do you look for in a memorable ad?
I did an experiment a couple of months ago on Twitter, beginning with the following observations:
- I use Bluehost for my web host and really like them. They provide good service and are cheap.
- GoDaddy sucks.
- People ask via Twitter messages about web hosts.
Therefore, I wanted to see what would happen if I advertised Bluehost (using my affiliate link, of course–if someone clicks on it then signs up, I get paid) on Twitter. More than that, though, I’d target my advertisements to those interested in it by sending them messages through Twitter.
To accomplish this, I searched Twitter for the terms webhost and godaddy and specifically targeted those seeking a new web host or who were using and/or complaining about GoDaddy, which was a fair amount of people. I wrote a couple of Twitter messages with embedded affiliate links and then sent them to 10-15 different people.
The people I was messaging were appreciative, and while some of the normal followers I have on Twitter were annoyed at the spam (though they found it amusing when I told them about the experiment and it was no big deal), the biggest surprise came from “professional advertisers.” It had occurred to me that other people might have the same idea as me, but I hadn’t realized how territorial they were.
Just as I was able to easily find people who were writing about GoDaddy and web hosting, I was easily found by other advertisers. They didn’t just message those to whom I was advertising to give them an alternative. They called me out, messaging the people I had and telling them that I was using an affiliate link to try and make money.
I found this all kinds of amusing, because these disgruntled Twits were calling me out for doing the same thing they do for a living. They sit around all day and send messages on Twitter, and were perhaps understandably upset that I was horning in on their turf. But they didn’t contact me, and their complaint wasn’t that I was stealing potential customers. Rather, they were highlighting how I was doing exactly what they do.
It was then that I realized how incredibly public Twitter is. This isn’t a messaging service for me and my friends, where we communicate semi-privately. When I send a message to someone, it’s not just me and them. Twitter is like standing in a crowded public square and yelling as load as you can at each other. Other people will hear, and they will take notice.
The realization was a bit unsettling, but that hasn’t stopped me from using Twitter. It does make me a bit more cautious about what I post, however, and I have begun using direct messages (which go through Twitter but can only be seen by you and the recipient) more.
But in the center ring
I’m safe from everything except for…
Pie in my face
–Bozo’s Lament by Jonathan Coulton
I was reading a discussion on Writerface the other day where the poster wondered about getting published. He was having quite an ordeal, having received numerous rejection letters and the like, and as I read through the forum thread I received confirmation that everyone deals with the same issues. It has always been difficult to get published, but with the current state of the economy and the decline of print media in general, publishers are even more hesitant to put work into print, especially for untested authors.
Being the sort of Internet-junkie I am, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why people want to get published so much. Yeah, I fancy myself an author, or at least I will do once I finally finish writing a book, but I’m doing it because I like to write. As I read through the forum, the fight to be published was portrayed as a fierce struggle, but for what?
Why do people want to be published? I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who not only intends to self-publish but who gives his work away for free online, so my thoughts are probably more cynical than accurate, but I could only come up with the following two reasons.
1) For the money
Shakespeare got to get paid, son, and I recognize that. I also recognize that publishing companies have far greater marketing capabilities than an individual, and one shouldn’t expect any marking from a Print-on-Demand (POD) Publisher. It’s hard to get your name out there and get noticed, and having a real publisher pick up your book and print/advertise it makes a huge difference.
But I can’t help but notice all the independent online businesses that are doing pretty damn well, and in particular I look at webcomic artists for a lot of my business inspiration. They put their work online for free, sell art and merchandise, and I read a great many who make a living off it. But even if you don’t make a living from the work, you can at least supplement your income. They do their own advertising, their own work, and most of the webcomics I read have visitor counts in the tens of thousands every day.
2) For the recognition
Maybe it’s just gratifying for a publisher to select you for publication. I could see feeling like you’ve really made it as an author when someone gives you the external feedback of publication + money, and that pat on the head would go a long way towards legitimizing one’s work. After being published, you can be secure in knowing that you don’t just think you’re a good writer. You’re good enough that someone else was willing to pay you for it and stake their own name, money, and time on your writing.
Part of me can’t help but point out that you can get that same recognition by working independently, if that’s what you really want, but seriously… if that’s your motivation, you should probably close your laptop and stop turning out crap just to make people like you. Write what you want because you want to write it. Communicate something you’re passionate about, and if it’s good, people will read it. If it’s not, well, at least you tried, I guess. Maybe learn to write better?
Recognition will come if you deserve it.
There’s no Rhyme or Reason, or is there?
Part of me can see the following logic. You wrote this because you want to communicate something, so you want that to get to the most people possible, and a publishing company can do that a lot better/easier/faster than self-publishing. Most self-published work gets read by only a few dozen people due to lack of advertisement, so if you really want to get your words out there, you have to go through a publishing company. Self-publishing, either through POD or on the Internet, just makes your message part of the noise, and you’ll get lost in it.
That’s a valid argument, but I don’t think it’s true. There are more books published in a single year now than in all of history, so being in print doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get noticed. Obviously, advertising makes a huge difference (do you really think Twilight would have been a hit if it had been POD published with no marketing?), but there are plenty of examples of run-away-hits (such as The Shack, apparently) that spread due to word-of-mouth.
You can’t account for what Makes It and what doesn’t, so I’m inclined to think that good work will be rewarded. If what you write happens to be good and liked by people, you’ll get noticed regardless of where you are or how you’re publishing. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way and the rest will fall into line.