Sunday, April 14, 2013

Am I a Writer? Or Do I Design Greeting Cards? Or Do I Do Both?

I used to joke about shameless marketing, but I have actually done it.  Visiting Heather King's excellent blog, Shirt of Flame, I noticed she has a picture of Bill Hicks and the quote, "By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you."

When I got done laughing out loud at the quote, I got quiet and said, "Oh."

I am kind of all over the place these days.  I have this ongoing love affair with doing graphic design using Photoshop CS5 and my various and sundry online greeting card shops are actually starting to make money.  Not a lot, but $100 a month without really trying. I design and sell greeting cards for clean and sober people.  I design and sell them for Catholics looking for non-ambiguous cards to celebrate the Sacraments.  I design and sell pet sympathy cards. I have a shop on Greeting Card Universe called Best Regards where I design and sell all kinds of cards.  I design and sell cards based on photos of Prince Edward Island.  I actually have a blank card featuring a bucket of bar clams we dug at Rollo Bay, PE with the caption, "Time and tide wait for no clam."  Shameless.

Which brings me to the writing bit. We had a visiting author come to our Writer's Workshop at the Granby Public Library.  The author of Luminous, Dawn Metcalf had us speechless with the amount of time and energy she had to spend on marketing her book.  Now, mind you, this book was not self-published.  She had an agent and the manuscript was accepted and published by Dutton Children's but she, Dawn, had to do the marketing.  The publishers don't do that anymore. Writers are now doing fly-by-night promoting ... tweeting, blogging, facebooking, pinning, tumbling, conferencing, networking ... to compensate for the dearth of it coming from the publishers. And somewhere in there, writers must write.

And the forums on Greeting Card Universe are full of advice for the artists to tweet, blog, facebook, pin, tumbl, conference and network.  And somewhere in there, artists must create art.

So here's the dilemma ... Bill Hicks was on to something.  I get calls all the time from Catholic Online to market my Catholic cards for me.  But they want money.  Last year, I actually took out a marketing package with them and got tons of visitors to my Zazzle site, but NO sales.  When I complained to them about not making any money, they retorted, "We told you we'd boost traffic.  And we did."


It brings up the uncomfortable notion that the traffic came and found my stuff wanting.  That's not good.

This is also my greatest fear with my writing.  But something else is seeping into my consciousness ... I am way braver and thick-skinned regarding my graphic artwork than I am with my writing and I'm a far better writer than I am an artist.  This is a little crazy.  I need to appropriate some of that courage about getting my writing out there.  Plenty will find it wanting, but how can that even happen if I remain scared?

I think the first thing that has to to go is my "inner-marketer."  Marketing is not like art, marketing is not creating something that has never been there before.  Marketing is about putting art to use, which is kind of an abomination for an artist or a writer.  That's why the publishing houses had in-house professionals who did the marketing (and still do for best selling authors.)  Marketing tries like crazy to convince others that they cannot do without things that they really don't have a need for, and therefore they must BUY those things.  That is not the calling of an artist or a writer.
 So, I'll be taking a break from the frenetic digital activity that is modern marketing and work on my book.  Hopefully, my humble little online stores will continue to keep me in printer ink and a chai tea latte every now and then. But R. T. Freeman as self-promoting-huskster must go for a while.

 You're welcome, Bill Hicks.

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