If you build it, will they come?

Today I’ve been thinking about marketing and advertising as I go about my morning tasks. That scene from “Field of Dreams” keeps popping up in my head–“If you build it, they will come.” It’d be nice if readers were like those baseball greats from the past who show up to play on this baseball diamond in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, but corporeal entities stubbornly keep insisting that you do more to advertise. I don’t even know if anyone will read this post unless I get the word out that it exists.

When I worked as a grad assistant for Women’s Services at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I was in charge of the programming and all the advertising that came with it. I did presentations to plug our workshops, flyers, posters, the whole traditional ad campaign thing. And there were a few times when NO ONE showed up, embarrassing and ineffective to say the least. Ugh, all that hard work for nothing!

The conclusion I’ve come to is that while I was wanting something from them (please please puh-LEESE come!), I wasn’t giving anything in return. The kiss of death when you want large groups of students to attend something! Large groups of anyone, really. What gets people to show up to things? It’s fun. There’s free food (not an option here). Everyone else is going. There’s free stuff. You like that person or their work, and maybe you’ll get their autograph or photo? In short, they’re offering YOU something valuable!

Takeaway lesson–offer your readers or visitors something useful or fun or cool. I like freebies and contests and swag as much as the next person and it motivates me, so why wouldn’t I give it away? So I am. Every month or so, I’m going to post free short stories on my site, and as I get things published, offer free swag or a free copy of the anthology or mag or book I’m in, maybe for those who visit and leave comments or get on my newsletter (when I have enough news, that is!). Part of me feels a little dirty using a carrot and stick to get traffic to my site, but hey, this ain’t Field of Dreams, folks. When I look at it sensibly, I can remember times that I’ve missed out on great artists and writers and musicians simply because I didn’t know about them. And that’s a shame, because we’re both losing out.

I’ll be posting my first short story on my website in the next day or so, and I’d love for you to swing by and play with me on my own Field of Dreams. Can’t wait to see you step out from between the rows of corn, bat in hand, and throw you the first pitch.

Have Patience…demand $5 million ransom

Patience. Not pushing the river. Letting go and letting God. Sounds good, doesn’t it? If only it was that easy! I seem to have spent what little I had during my training as a counselor. With my first published short story, “Tequila Sunset,” coming out this month in the War of the Worlds: Frontlines anthology, I’m all about the now–and patience is nowhere in sight. I have to practically sit on my hands to keep from sending my poor publisher email after email asking whether the anthology has been sent out for printing yet, has he received contributor copies yet, and when does it go on sale? In short, being an annoying nag that nobody wants to work with.

I don’t know that I can blame myself for being excited, though. I’ve dreamed about other people picking up something I wrote and being taken on an adventure, for a long time. I don’t care so much about seeing my name in print or the money, although my goal is to someday be able to support myself through only my writing and quit my day job(s). I get impatient for that, too. If you’re a writer who’s had his or her first taste of success, or maybe still writing and submitting and hoping for someone to publish your work, you can probably relate.

I’m thinking it might be helpful to use some of my knowledge from my past life as a psychologist-in-training and not only write articles about how to succeed and get published as a writer, but also on how to cope with the inevitable rejections without getting depressed or giving up, how to stay well, and how to keep on believing in ourselves. I mean, I can list resources till the cows come home on how to get published, but there are others out there who are farther down the road and know more than I do about that side of things.

So bizarrely enough for a dark fiction writer, I’m contemplating putting up wellness tips, exercises, and affirmations along with some of my stories under the “Freebies & Miscellany” section on my website, so maybe we can ransom Patience back without paying the $5 mil, and focus on writing instead. ‘Cause I sure don’t have the money to burn! Would love to hear what others think would be helpful.

Bloggity blog blog blog

I’m sitting here, staring at the blank space where I should be writing  fascinating things but mostly stuck on how to get my website to look less like someone wrote the XHTML code with their feet and more like an actual professional designed it. I’m wondering if I should have swallowed my pride and used one of those prepackaged websites instead, like someone watching smoke billow out of their kitchen as the Chicken Kiev burns to a cinder and thinking too late that a bag of Bertolli’s might have been a good idea.

But the thing is, learning something new takes time. No matter how bright or skilled you are, the harsh truth is that you’ll most likely fail and, very probably, make a horrible mangled mess of what you’re attempting to do before you get better at it. Have I blogged much? Nope. Am I making a mess of it? Maybe. Who knows?

I went to my first writer’s workshop a few weekends ago at Ball State University, ironically enough where I did my internship for my doctorate, and listened to published writers discuss how to get serious about writing. Kelsey Timmerman, one of the speakers, said something that seems incredibly simple, but makes a lot of sense–the more you write, the less you suck. What’s the takeaway lesson? Keep going. You, gracious reader, may also be a writer or follow a different career path, but I imagine you’ve had brushes with burnt lasagna or birdhouses that should be condemned or speeches that left you wishing for a portable black hole to escape into, and can sympathize. So I’m going to keep going, and I hope you stick around as this little site and I evolve over time. Maybe you’ll find things here to keep you going, too.

Thanks for coming to visit, and for being patient.