Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You’re So Vain, I Bet You Think This Post is About You*

will-ferrell-anchorman-258x130A little more than ten years ago I lost my job.  It was a massive layoff, and being new to the company, I was an easy choice for the axe.  It was rather devastating, since I had just entered a field I thought was pretty secure.  Anyway, I moped around for about two weeks and finally decided I needed to get a job.  I didn’t figure there’d be any openings in my field since about a third of company had been sacked and was out there looking, so I opened up the paper to see what else there was.

I answered one of those obscure “make up to $1000 a week” blah blah blah ads.  Turns out it was a company training people to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners. 

Yes, I was a vacuum cleaner salesman.  Sort of.

The Kirby Vacuum Cleaner is an amazing machine.  You could vacuum your carpet with the top of the line brand available in stores then have it professionally steam cleaned, and the Kirby will still find dirt.  If I remember correctly (and don’t quote me) it runs about $1400, and tightwad that I am, I still don’t think that’s overpriced.  In fact, I could talk to you all day about how awesome this machine is.  I could even demonstrate its wonders for you.  But could I sell it to you?

Hell no.

I can’t sell.  Period.  I’ve never been able to.  You could have something in your hand on the way to the cash register to pay for it, and I could say, “Hey, you should buy that.”  You’d probably put it back.  That’s how bad I am.  Naturally, my personal Willie Loman Experience died a still birth as I realized this simple truth.  Fortunately, two weeks later I found a real job.  A good one, too.

I won’t even tell you about my one week telemarketing career.

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons, at least one of the initial reasons, I started this blog and why a lot of writers have blogs: to sell themselves.  “Build a platform,” they say.  But a platform isn’t just about being seen; it’s about convincing people you have something to offer.  Another thing you hear a lot, a caveat, is don’t be vain.  Don’t let your ego run amok.  Be humble.

I’ve never been a “Hey, look how awesome I am,” or “Let me tell you about the time I did something amazing.”  I’m just not wired that way.  For people who spend time with me or who read my blog, that’s wholly a good thing.  An out of control ego is not something anyone wants to be around.  On the other hand, in our line of work, a little ego is a good thing, even a necessary thing.  Would I be blogging if I didn’t think I had anything to say?  I’m good at it, if I can say that.  I’m no master, but I think it’s worth the five minutes or so to stop by and check it out.

Selling is hard, though, and that’s what we are: salespeople.  Please buy my book, please review my book/interview me, please finish beta reading my MS before you disappear off the face of the earth.  We have to have egos; we just need to learn how to use them for good, not evil.  An acting teacher of mine said you have to keep your ego in your pocket and only pull it out when you need to, then put it back.  I think my ego pocket has a hole in it, or else my ego got ruined in the wash.  On the flip side, some people don’t have pockets at all, and their egos are always on display.  So where’s the line?

I think it starts with confidence, but it’s more than that.  I’m confident in my book, and in myself as a writer.  I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t.  But to shout my own praise from the rooftops?  That takes a kind of boisterous, extroverted confidence that maybe I just don’t have.  But since that’s kind of necessary to the whole selling-your-book thing, I’m going to give it a try.

So here goes:

My book is good.  I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve done.  When it becomes available, you should buy it.  I know you’ll like it.

I joke around on here a lot, and I like to keep the mood light, if not downright flippant.  However, I say this with complete honesty and zero snark: that was hard for me.

It’s not because I don’t believe in my work.  I do.  I love the world I created, and I think others will, too.  But I’ve always felt the product should speak for itself; if something is good, it shouldn’t need to be sold, right?  Also, I hate tooting my own horn.  My least favorite part of job interviews is when they want you to list your best qualities.  I’d rather just be myself and let my best qualities show through.  But it doesn’t work that way.  People want you to tell them why you’re so great, why your book out of the hundreds of thousands out there is the one they should plunk down their hard earned coins for.  It’s not enough to say, “Hey, here’s my book; check it out if you want, or not.  Whatever.”  People need to be sold.

That’s not me, though, never has been.  But then, if I want a writing career, I have to make it me, don’t I? 

I can do it, though, because I’m awesome.  Just ask me.

* Don’t you, don’t you?


  1. Oh sure I couldn't sell water to a man dying of thirst in the desert. The funny thing is that's why us writers need agents but nowadays to get an agent you have to be good at selling yourself! So it winds up being a Catch-22: I need an agent to sell my book, but I can't sell myself to an agent. So what we need is to hire an agent to sell the book to the agent to sell the book to a publisher!

  2. I want one of those vaccuums!

  3. You are who you are. When someone asks you what your best quality is, You should tell them thatyour best quality is not boasting about your best qualities; for example, You are so incredibly intelligent, and even though it shows in the things that you do and the way that you act, it in no way makes anyone else feel any bit inferior to you. That is just one of the many reasons that I love you so much.
    So put yourself in my shoes and tell everyone exactly what I think of you and if they do not buy it then just give them references of the manypeople who know and love you, they will back me up! by the way, humm humm that vaccuum please.

  4. i will totally buy your book. Fact

  5. Dan! I'm so glad to have met you! This post was perfect. And guess what? I DID think this post was about me! Because I could have written it all (except for the Kirby part because I've only been on the receiving end of that little presentation (I BOUGHT IT) but I'm just as suckish at selling stuff as you are).

    Dude, I will buy your book. Just because you told me I should. :)

  6. I think it's enough to say: 'Here's my book, check it out, if you like.' Give people the information and leave it at that.

    I don't mind people selling me stuff. It wouldn't stop me reading a blog, but I don't know if selling works.

    One of my writer friends tells me that the indie stories that sell most are the ones she's never promoted -- go figure. I find that reassuring.

  7. I'm not a boaster either. It's lovely that there are so many writers around the web willing to help us get the word out. There the social net rocks.

  8. How much? With so many authors in my face, I like the price of 99 cents. That way I don't feel it as much in my pocket when I am low on funds.

  9. I think that it's not about ego. In my opinion, it's about confidence in yourself. If you're truly confident, you don't have to worry about pushing ego down other people's throats. Ego comes from having to pretend confidence. Over-compensation, if you will.

    Real confidence means that you can say that you did some seriously good writing without cramming the fact down people's throats.

  10. cool, carly simon and arthur miller refernces.