Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Great Writing Pyramid Scheme

One of the "soccer moms" from Owen's U8 team is a "consultant" for some jewlery/pyramid scheme company. Bascially, she arranges "parties" for folks to come buy overpriced jewelery, and she pockets a pretty profit from each sale. Not only that, but she earns a sales percentage for each new "consultant" she recruits...and for each "consultant" these "consultants" recruit. My head is spinning a little. Have enough "consultants" earning under you, and I suppose you could retire. The same works with Mary Kay and Avon. Other companies, too.

So Soccer Mom/Jewelery Lady shows at an 8:30 AM soccer match wearing at least ten pieces of costume crap (er...jewelery). Each time she corners my wife alone, the conversation revolves around coming to a party (to buy, buy, buy...)

Yuck, right?

But...isn't marketing a book a little like that pyramid scheme?

The more folks who know about you, the more chance you have to spread a little "word of mouth" and sell books, right? In theory, if the book is good enough, the pyramid continues to grow.

Well, this is where I fail. I don't mind spouting about writing online, but in person, with the folks I interact each day...well, I just don't talk about it. The other day a brunch, a weekly "family affair" our closest friends in Lawrence attend each week, one of them said, "Well Aaron doesn't like to talk about his writing."

Eeek. Wrong message, I think. Sometimes I feel so insulated in my "writing world", I just don't want to brow-beat anyone in the "real world" with talk of my work. Maybe I should.

A little.

Just don't expect me to show up to soccer with a stack of autographed copies, okay?


Barry Napier said...

It IS an odd thing...I've been at this new job for 10 months now and no more than 2 people knew about my writing...until two weeks ago when it somehow got out and now everyone asks me about it. I don't want to seem like I don't like talking about it but at the same time, don't want to endlessly talk about it and seem conceited and self-important...

brady said...

I don't think it qualifies as a pyramid scheme until you start asking us to sell your stuff for you.

I genuinely cannot stand talking about writing, and I'm not totally sure why. Plenty of people like to ask me about it ("How's it going?" "What're you working on?"), and I know they're just doing it to make polite conversation, which is why I feel pretty crummy that the only response I can manage is looking at my shoes and mumbling.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I've heard that books don't count in the pyramid scheme thing...

I can see where you're coming from with the self-promotion at outside of the house social events.

It's difficult, IMO, to pimp one's wares as a writer unless they are doing it full-time. My paying job is a draftsman and when someone asks what I do I tell them, "I'm a draftsman." (not a writer) I keep my writing business from my everyday friend/co-worker life as evident by my two Facebook pages. One for writers and writing, the other for family/friends/co-workers.

Robert said...

I don't talk about my writing to anyone in the "outside world" unless I'm asked. And even when someone does ask, I'm not apt to talk much about it. Terrible, I know.

Cate Gardner said...

I think your wife should take copies of your book and she can corner the jewellery lady.

The other girls on reception know I write (it's hard to hide when I'm typing away at stories while they're bemoaning boredom), but we don't talk about it because...they don't read!!!

Rebecca Nazar said...

I remain mum. Mum is good.

Shadow said...

I'm with Rebecca, Keep the trap shut. At lest for now anyway. I would hate to hear my grandmother shriek about what I write.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Nah...it's a totally different game.

Pyramid schemes are built on mutual greed--I made a wish on the cursed monkey paw for a sack of gold coins, but now have to pass it on to another sucker to get rid of the curse (and keep the gold). You'll take the paw from me because you like gold, knowing that you can pass it on (hopefully) to the next sucker--I mean affiliate. I don't care about you, I just want to rid myself of the curse.

What we do is totally different. We make a product that we hope others will appreciate (with their wallets as well as their admiration). We (probably) care about our readers, and we care about the quality of our work. You're not trying to make a living on the backs of others--it's all Aaron, and goddammit, you deserve to sell your product. You worked hard on it. It's artisan bread, it's chainsaw-carved totem poles on the street corner made from old dock wood.

And people enjoy sharing good finds with others--because they want them to enjoy it.

Self-promotion sucks, but so does not selling books. Just remember: bread, not monkey paws.

Aaron Polson said...

It's a fine balance, Barry.

Brady - Aw...and I had a box of books ready to send you so you could sell them. *stares at shoes and mumbles*

Alan - My neighbors moved six months after I told them what I wrote. Coincidence?

Robert - Terribly common. You have much to talk about, though.

Cate - I'm going to pretend the last bit didn't frighten me as much as it did...ack.

I like my mum, too, Rebecca. ;)

Shadow - I'm afraid mine would saunter back from the grave just to give me a good whack.

Jeremy - Man, that was well-worded. I like bread. I even like "monkey bread"; but paws...never.

Unknown said...

I have about 160 employees all in their twenties (cue headache commercial, aspirin, alcohol, and anything else that relieves the stress of managing 160 twenty-somethings - you think teenagers are bad!), and somehow I have kept it a secret for years. I'm surprised they haven't found me on the web. I don't even really talk about writing with family. I'm certainly living a double life. My stories, my reading, my interests, all of you people (even you Aaron) - you are all just a figment of my introverted imagination.


Bobbie Metevier said...

It's hard to talk to coworkers / neighbors about writing. I think there's this underlying belief that they won't understand. Inevitably they'll ask a question that plunges me into isolation--not the welcome kind I get while writing either. It's like becoming the elephant in the room.

(Where have you published?

Yeah, hmmmm never heard of it.

Does it pay well?

No, hmmm . . .

Say, have you ever written anything for that New Yorker?)

I always walk away feeling like a fraud for no reason at all.

I'm not saying that everyone is like the above, but when people find out I write, nine times out of ten those are the kinds of questions I get . . .

Fox Lee said...

I get shy around my family. Mostly because, deep down, I don't think my parents REALLY want to know the kind of stuff I write about.

Danielle Birch said...

I hear you. I get shy about my writing but more with acquaintances than close friends or family.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

For me writing is just a hobby and I talk about it like other people talk about their hobbies. I'm lucky, though, because I work in a writerly environment so pretty much everybody puts pen to paper and it's OK to talk about it.