The Night I Learned to Enjoy Marketing

Keyboard with red heart on button, close-up
Keyboard with red heart on button, close-up

I had agreed to be a part of something called "Wine & Words." This is a yearly event held at a lovely outdoor mall in Issaquah, Washington, where for a nominal fee, folks could taste offerings from various winemakers, each of whom had set up temporary shop in a different store. Oh, and these same people could also meet local authors, who had also set up shop in the various stores. I was one such local author, and it soon became clear to me that the event should have been called "WINE & words." Free booze, it turns out, shines unnaturally bright in the mind of the average adult consumer.

The book I was promoting was called Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. This is a collection of short inspirational essays and stories about writing and the creative process. It's not a General Public kind of book. So I sat on my little stool beside my stack of books, watching a parade of friendly strangers shuffle past in a beeline for the winemaker's table, and then turn and make a beeline for the door and more free wine.

I talked to one of the employees until there was nothing left for us to talk about. More people shuffled in and out. Sometimes they would glance my way curiously as they left in search of more wine. Finally, just to break the boredom, the next time a guy glanced my way, I said, "You like to write?"

"Kind of. I was thinking of starting a blog for my business."

I picked up a copy of the book. "You might like this then." I looked down at the book and thought about what I'd like to say. I hadn't planned on selling the book. I'm not a salesman, after all; I'm a writer. But I did love this little book. Just looking again at its cover I was reminded how much I loved it and why I'd written it in the first place.

"See, every writer has the same challenge," I said. "They have to face a blank page and decide what should go on it. Everyone's page is equally blank. You have to have the confidence to know that what you want to share with the world is worth sharing. Everyone worries about this; everyone deals with doubt. Doesn't matter who you are. So each of these little essays and stories is just to remind you that all you have to do is know what you love and let the rest take care of itself."

I was getting up a good head of steam, which is to say I was enjoying talking about it. I was enjoying talking about it in precisely the same way I had enjoyed writing it. Which is why I was a little caught off guard when the guy interrupted me to say, "I'll take a copy."

And that was the moment I understood what people really mean when they talk about marketing. Up until that moment I thought I disdained it because up until that moment I had believed that marketing, and sales in general, was about either knowing what other people liked or somehow manipulating someone into liking what I'd written. I have no idea what other people like and I have no idea how to make anyone do anything.

But I do know what I like, and I do know why I wrote what I wrote -- and that, it turns out, is all I need to know. Marketing is just another opportunity for writers to connect with what they love to write, so they might share what they love with other people. In this way the real difference between writing and marketing can be strangely negligible. It's all communication, and the only way to reach another person is to get out of their heads and get into my own heart.

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