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.