Give It Away

Oh no. What happened? Three hours ago, I was feeling fine. And now I’m sitting here shivering, with my throat aching, my nose running. Sick with whatever was going around the family this weekend. I thought I had avoided it, but I guess I was wrong. So I’m writing this post now, before I feel any worse. Hopefully, it will make sense.

Several days ago I wrote a post on the need to market one’s work, and perhaps oneself as a writer. And I got some very interesting responses. One thing my post did not address was how one actually does it. How does one market effectively, without becoming boring or obnoxious? And I thought, there is a formula:

1. Do cool stuff.
2. Give it away.

Now, an important part of being a writer is doing cool stuff and then selling it. So the question is, what to give away? But this formula does make clear, I think, that marketing is part of being a writer, an extension of it, not something additional to it. You don’t write and then do something completely different. You just do what you already do – in a way that is more accessible. Usually free.

Let me give you an example from one of my favorite writers, Terri Windling.

I don’t know when Terri created The Journal of Mythic Arts. I do know that it was a labor of love. She didn’t do it to market herself as a writer. (I haven’t asked her, but that’s my guess.) It was a gift to the world of readers – filled with articles, reviews, stories, poetry, and the most beautiful art. All free. But it did showcase Terri’s talents and expertise. When I was growing up, Terri was fantasy, for me and for many other fantasy readers – and aspiring fantasy writers. They knew who she was, and if they didn’t, there was something wrong with them. Now that she’s no longer working on The Journal of Mythic Arts, she has what I think is an absolutely beautiful blog, The Drawing Board. I find so many things there that take me away to Devon, which is evidently synonymous with Fairyland. And that teach and inspire me. I go there to live, for at least a few minutes a day, in Terri’s world.

I don’t think that’s meant to be effective marketing, and if it were just meant to be that, I’m not sure it would work. I’m not sure it would have the absolute authenticity it does.  Rather, it’s an extension of who Terri genuinely is.  But it does work as marketing, doesn’t it? If I see Terri’s name on a project, I’m going to buy it, because I want to participate in the worlds she creates, in her imagination.

I think that you market to people in the same way that you do anything else, as a writer. You entertain, inform, inspire. Show people things they want to see, tell them things they want to hear about, just as you would in a story. But do it for free. And if they like what they can get for free, they will hopefully want to purchase what they can’t.

So marketing is not just about telling people what you’ve created in the hope that they will buy it. It also involves creating something, whether that’s a reading, a video, whatever. That’s what I think, at least. And in a way, I think that makes marketing more palatable for writers, who have a difficult time simply talking about what they’re doing, or asking people to purchase their work, or vote for them at awards time.

Be creative, and give stuff away.

If you can do those two things, you can market your work and yourself. Without having anything to be ashamed about.

I’ll end with three examples of what I consider effective, very creative marketing. The first is Catherynne Valente’s trailer for her novel Deathless:

The second is Seanan McGuire’s Albums page, where I can read the lyrics to many of her songs and listen to some of them as well. This is the page that made me want to buy her CD Wicked Girls, which I now play over and over and over again. It’s one of my favorites.

The third is Rima Staine’s blog The Hermitage, which makes me want to buy her art. And also move to Fairyland. I mean Devon.

I hope you’ll love these examples as much as I do and support these artists. And spread the word about them. There, how’s that for marketing?

Now, someone bring me some Ricola . . .

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3 Responses to Give It Away

  1. Grey Walker says:

    Absolutely. This is it, absolutely.

    Have you read The Gift?

  2. Grey Walker says:

    And I’m not going to give you “get better” advice, because that seems to be the instinct of anyone who hears that one is sick. I’m sure you’ve got lots of it, and you’ll do what you already know works. 🙂 But I do hope it works soon for you!

  3. Marigold says:

    Great stuff. Hope you feel better.

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