Selling Shovels to Miners

file-sep-16-9-43-03-amThe carrier pigeons delivered my ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of THE EDGE OF THE BLADE yesterday!! Email my assistant, Carien at Carien at home dot nl (suck up spaces, replace words with punctuation symbols – you know the drill), if you’d like to get on the list. We just need you to review it somewhere, please and thank you, or my publisher yells at me. (Okay, they don’t yell at me, but they sigh at me and make these little squinchy faces.) You can also find preorder links HERE, if you want to skip the (implicit) obligation and go straight for the gold. 

Either way… EEEEE!! Can’t wait for you all to read Jepp’s book!

The other day someone on one of my author loops asked about a workshop she saw advertised that promised to teach participants how to increase their numbers of newsletter subscribers. It was being taught by a guy who also teaches workshops (and sells books) on how to maximize Facebook ads. This author mentioned that the workshop cost $600 and she wondered if it was worth it.

She noted a few things about this guy, which I’m going to list for you here:

  1. He’s an author, selling this marketing technique on that authority, yet hasn’t seemed to have written much in years.
  2. But he promised that participants would make that money back in profits.
  3. She feels a lot of pressure to improve her newsletter subscribership because “everybody” says that’s key.

Here are some things to think about:

  1. For any person selling writing advice – be it ‘how to write a bestseller’ to ‘how to make tons of book profits via Facebook ads’ to whatever – look at how THEY are making their money. This guy is clearly making his money off of writers, not off of books. If his marketing technique worked so amazingly well, wouldn’t he be doing that? Same for people who purport to teach how to write a bestseller. If they know, they’d be writing them, or all of their clients would be. Just saying.
  2. OF COURSE every one of these guys promises this! It’s one of those “guarantees” that sounds great and means NOTHING. If you don’t make back that money, whose fault is it? Why yours, naturally! It’s not their fault if you didn’t implement the information correctly. Meanwhile they have your $600 and you have no recourse.
  3. When the “everybody” who’s telling you something is key are the people who are selling the information on how to do it, take a step back and examine their motivation.

All of this comes down to that there a lot of people out there selling shovels to miners.

This is what happens in a gold rush. Yes, there is gold out there, and a lot of miners are finding gold in them thar hills. There is nothing wrong with being a miner and going for the gold. Nor is there anything wrong with the shovel salesmen. Miners need shovels. 

But the head of my agency (Fuse Literary), Laurie McLean, said something very smart. She said, “There’s a reason the streets of San Francisco are named after the shovel salesmen, not the miners.”

By this she’s referring to the fact that San Francisco grew up as a supply camp for the gold rush miners. Much like Denver, the city was first a supply camp, then grew up as more and more people made their livings around the ones digging the gold out of the ground. 

The metaphor here should be clear: writers are the primary sources, digging words out of the mines to make stories. The people who sell us the shovels to do this – from software, to agents, to editors, to Amazon, to marketers, and so forth – they all depend on us for their living. We need them, sure – but they need us more. Without us, they have no one to sell their shovels to, no primary source of income.

History, however, remembers who?

The streets of San Francisco are named after the shovel salesmen, not the miners.

That tells you who makes most of the money, keeps it, and uses it to become wealthy.

All this is by way of saying, be aware that these people are out there. I’m not saying don’t buy shovels – we need shovels! – but I am saying, be wary of the person wanting to sell you the Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovel. Especially if that person is telling you that the Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovel is key and all miners agree you have to have one.

Especially if that person used to be a miner and is now making their living selling Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovels. 

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