Jan 312015
 
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By Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a bookseller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous example is that of Hachette. Check out Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue.

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

Well-known erotic romance author Selena Kitt had this to say (and a lot more):

If you’re an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the “erotica” category, there are certain things that aren’t allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the “romance” category, it’s fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they’re often filtered and sometimes even blocked.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept 14, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39.

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price—$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ve taken down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

www.harlequinlawsuit.com  and scroll down to #9 at

absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194729–scroll.

So I’m going indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

Will Amazon destroy erotic literature with its changing algorithms and prejudices? Will Amazon make it impossible for some books to flourish?

Does Amazon threaten our freedom of speech and thought?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Jun 052014
 
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By Nobilis

There are a lot of things authors have to write that aren’t stories—and because they’re not stories, we often we have a hard time with them. If we are seeking publication with a publishing house, we have to write summaries and query letters. If we’re self-published, or writing for a small publisher without much of a marketing department, we often have to write cover copy ourselves, as well as bios. For some of us, even coming up with a title can be a trial. And, uh…some of us also write blog posts.

This is kind of weird when you come right down to it. I mean, we’re writers, right? Writing ought to be easy across the board, right? But for many of us, it’s not. Writing fiction feels different than writing all these other things. Fiction is fun, fiction allows us to live in that special place inside our heads for a while, the place where miracles are an everyday occurrence. Writing marketing material, however, is firmly grounded in the realities of the commercial world and our attempts to carve ourselves a place in it. We’re not writing from the inside, we’re writing from the outside. We’re focusing first on how the reader—now cast in the role of potential customer—will interpret the words we put down, and how those interpretations are going to affect our careers. There are real consequences.

It’s intimidating.

But keep in mind, we learned to write fiction. We can learn to write this other stuff well, too. With experience comes skill, with skill comes confidence, and with confidence comes accomplishment. We just have to DO it, remembering the three laws of getting sh*t done as writers:

1. Write.

2. Finish what you write.

3. Submit what you finish.

It’s that simple.

What? I haven’t hit my wordcount yet? Okay, alright…

Step one is write. That means put words together. Don’t worry about using the right words, don’t worry about style or spelling or anything else. Just write purposefully in pursuit of your goal. Don’t worry about whether it’s good, just write. This even applies if you’re trying to figure out a title; write one title after another, even the stupid ones, until you’re all titled out.

Step two is finish. That means not only writing through to the end, but also revising, polishing, and editing, almost always with at least three other good pairs of eyes looking at your work. It’s not finished until you’ve polished it—unless you’re Roger Zelazny, and you’re not.

Step three is submit. Chances are, if you’re writing something like this, it’s because you need to, so this step is pretty straightforward.

Okay, how are we looking for wordcount? Good? Alright, then we’re done here. Go write.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

 

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Apr 252014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Last month, we discussed media kits; as you may recall from that post, media kits are important for making that first approach to any writer or editor. When you initially begin a relationship with a new media contact, I don’t suggest that you immediately start giving them product for free. If you want to bribe them (and, in the context of getting people to write about you at all, bribery can be a good thing), then do so with something on which you’ll lose nothing, in case they hand it to some civilian, non-writer friend. And no, I don’t think “word of mouth” is worth enough to be handing over your copyrighted, produced-for-profit, material to just anyone; reserve your copyrighted product for writers who indicate a willingness to write about it (themselves, as opposed to passing it on to someone else) and hold off on sending review kits otherwise.

But once you have established that a writer is interested in giving your book a spin, it’s time to set them up with a “review kit”. Review kits can be very important for an author’s publicity campaign—good publicity is based on getting as many other people talking about you as you can. This is especially important with adult entertainment products, be they sex toys, print books, ebooks or adult videos. The consumer has no way to know exactly what the book, product or movie is about (or what it does)—and they certainly don’t know whether they’ll like it or not—until they can actually get their hands on it.

Since a lot of your books are sold online (and often there is no return or refund option for an e-book, or any book), giving an adult-media reviewer a copy—so they can offer their readers a third-party opinion and synopsis—helps you to make the potential consumer more aware of, and interested in, your product to begin with. In the mind of the consumer, the reviewer is going to have more credibility regarding the book’s worth than you are, so reviewers are an essential publicity force.

Review Kits

While a review kit is similar to a media kit, it will contain less information about you and much more about the book. A review kit must include the following, or you’re wasting your time and that of the reviewer:

A Copy of Your Book

Insert a physical sample of the book you are submitting for review. If you only sell e-books, for goodness sake, include a CD containing the book in an easy-to-open and easy-to-read format, such as a Word document or a PDF file; don’t just send them a link to some download. And I have to say, if at all possible, a printed book is much more impressive to a reviewer than only sending them a digital copy, unless you load it into a brand new Kindle or Nook.

An Art Disc

Include a CD containing all relevant artwork concerning your book. You will want to include the book’s cover art, but also include any images that you are using in your book’s overall marketing effort. Sometimes your publisher has created sales slicks or fliers, ads or other marketing tools, any of which may suit the reviewer’s taste, or fit into the layout of the review, better than the book cover does. (Be aware the media will not run ads without you paying for them, so we’re talking only about art to accompany the review itself.)

As with media kits, make sure the artwork you provide in review kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disc are all capable of being printed on paper at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches when set at an image resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) or higher. You will also want to include web-resolution artwork in your art discs, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 72–78 DPI, and all images should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, or your publisher has Photoshop files of your book art, include these in their original .psd format—including all photos, logos and book covers—saved as unlocked and layered. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Please be sure to label this disc as “Art Disc for [Title of Book] by [Author name]“. You should also write a list of the disc’s contents on its label, or as an insert into its case—this way, the writer can take one look at it and know they have all the art they need to complete their review.

To be safe, write your name and your phone number and/or email address on that label as well; if it gets separated from the rest of the package, or if there are problems opening any of the files, they can contact you quickly and easily and proceed with the review of your book.

A One-Sheet

For all book review kits, you should put together a one-sheet containing all the information the reviewer needs, outlined in a convenient and easy-to-read format.

The top of the page should contain the full title of your book. If you have a second line, or “kicker”, to the book title, such as Sex Slave: One Chick’s Journey into Submission, please make sure you indicate that so the reviewer won’t mistake it for two different titles. Sometimes a book’s cover design won’t make it clear that the book contains one novel with a kicker and not, say, two novelettes (though it should—but that’s a subject for another column), and it’s never a good idea to end up with a reviewer giving their readers the wrong title of your book!

Right under the title (or left aligned with it and all the following text, if you want to be professional) embed an image of the front of the book cover. Sounds odd, but especially if you are sending digitized books, the reviewer needs to be assured what they have in their hand is definitely the book you sent them to review.

Under the photo, include the date of publication, the author name (yours and those of any co-authors), the publisher’s company name, the ISBN number, retail price and any information on where your book is available for sale.

Don’t add in direct links to the book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the other retail outlets unless you know for a fact that the publication has an affiliate account set up with a specific retailer. If they do have an affiliate account, make it as easy as possible for them to find your book listing and link their affiliate account to it. Money makes the entertainment world go around, darling.

Next on the One-Sheet is a synopsis of your book. Please don’t just copy this from the back of the official book jacket! Make an effort to tell your reviewer the plot of your book in easy-to-understand words. You can be dramatic and a bit flowery, but save the “heart pounding adventure on the high plains” crap for the consumer market. Less “hype” is more with the press . . . they get spun each and every day, so they don’t need more spin from you. ;)

In your synopsis, spell out the names of all the principal characters, the location of the story, its period and timeframe (2014? Two hundred years into the future? 410, BC? This matters enough to indicate to a reviewer from the getgo, and will increase your chance of a good review.)

If you have strong supporting characters, or just a lot of them, it’s wise to make a list of their full names and character synopses, so the reviewer can reference this after reading your book. You’d be surprised at how often some minor character in your book ends up getting “star treatment” from a reviewer, when you always thought your leading lady (or man) was the star attraction. So make sure you cover all your bases, and list the cast of characters so the reviewer can easily locate each one’s name and part in the story line.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD with digital files of your One-Sheet! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disc but if you can’t, include a separate disc that contains them. So many reviewers copy and paste whatever they are writing; you want to give them something to copy from quickly and easily. It won’t hurt to include a digital copy of your book, even if it is available in print. You never know when a reviewer may lose the copy you sent—and it’s better for them to have a backup than skip the review all together.

Your Business Card

A review kit should always have a printed, actual, hold-in-your-hand business card. Most reviewers will end up requesting one at some point, so include one in your review kit (and in your media kit, for that matter). Who says print is dead?

You should also include an Outlook Contact Card on your art disc, or at least a Word .doc containing all of your business contact information.

Goodies!

Seriously, did you think reviewers do this out of the kindness of their hearts? Review kits should come with “swag”! You don’t have to go overboard and include the keys to a brand new Ferrari (that’s reserved for the music industry) or stacks of non-sequential $100 bills (that’s for political lobbyists), but it never hurts to bribe a reviewer to read your book, as long as you’re subtle. Look at retail stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots with an eye toward items that resonate with your book’s storyline and are easy to pack into a shipping container. Alternately, you can choose useful, everyday items that complement the book you are sending to your reviewer.

In the case of print books, it’s perfectly acceptable to include a beautiful bookmark (if you have some printed with your book title, send along a half dozen of those as well) or a small reading light that can attach to a book, shelf or airline seat. Just make sure that if you include a book light, you also include batteries for it, along with some spares—it’s always good to over-gift and never good to under-gift.

If you want to get more creative, go for it! If you wrote a western romance—how about sending along a bandana or a cowboy-hat-shaped keychain fob. For bondage-themed books, send along a pair of cuffs or some other toy (not a dildo!) featured in the plot. None of this grabbing you? How about a ceramic mug printed with your book title and artwork and a $10 Starbucks card or a box of upscale tea bags? Maybe you gave the reviewer an actual Kindle or Nook containing your ebook . . . think about adding a $5 or $10 dollar Amazon or B&N gift card to the package.

But please beware of sending along goodies that could backfire on you. Nothing ticks off a reviewer who is post-rehab, more than being presented with the object of their former addiction. Cigarettes, booze . . . anything that could possible offend someone should be discounted when choosing swag. That also goes for sending chocolates to someone with diabetes or muffins to someone with celiac disease. Unless, of course, you know a certain reviewer has diabetes or wheat intolerance and you send them something “free” of whatever their personal poison is—in that case, you don’t need my silly columns to be a damn good publicity agent for your books!

Looks Matter

As with the media kits, it cannot be stressed enough that the better your packaging looks, the more interest the reviewer will have in its contents. Be creative, and remember that appearances matter in all aspects of publicity.

This is a physical representation of your professional image—and that of your book—which you are presenting to the reviewer. This is not the time to reuse an Amazon packing box, or use Band-Aids as the shipping tape on a mailing carton. Unless of course your book title is Naughty Nurses, and then maybe the bandages would fit the theme—but really, it’s still better to keep them to the inside of the packaging so your media contact’s first impression of your kit isn’t “…What?!”

Bottom line . . .

Include every possible thing that a reviewer could ever need to go forward with their review of your book. If you aren’t sure what a specific publication needs, ask! And more importantly, write it down for future reference.

Your contact list should contain detailed notes on each and every publication (and each individual writer and reviewer) you are working with. This is part of that all-important relationship that a publicist (you) will build with your media contacts. This level of understanding and cooperation makes a huge difference to a reviewer as they decide whether to work with you or not. If you are willing to give them everything they ask for, and make yourself available for anything else they may request later, it will go a long way toward making them want to work with you as often as possible.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Mar 202014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Publicity does not start and end with a press release. It certainly doesn’t end with your social media feeds, either. The one thing that no one selling “social media marketing services” will tell you is that the press doesn’t go looking for Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to fill their publications with content. I can say a hell of a lot of bad things about “social media” as a marketing tool (and will in the future), but for now I’ll refrain and tell you about what does work to get press attention, namely media kits and review kits.

You send out a media kit or press kit to get the initial attention of media outlets and introduce writers to you—and whatever you may be selling. It’s a friendly way (and in the case of media kits, a proactive way) of saying Hey, I want you to get to know me and do a story on me, so your readers or viewers will get to know me too.

“Media kits” are a general term for a package put together by you to give to the media. It is a prepackaged set of materials distributed to members of the media for promotional use. Media kits should contain both printed and digitally formatted images, your biography, a fact sheet about your book or series of books, and a copy of recent press releases or some other type of document that tells the press about your most recent newsworthy accomplishments or activities.

There are two common types of media kits: the press kit and the review kit. There is a slight difference between the two, but they both have some things in common, so let’s look at each one individually. We’ll start with press kits this month and take a look at review kits in Part 2.

 

Press Kits

A press kit contains information about you and product. It should include a “sales slick” (a printed page with images of book covers, synopsis, distribution and price information) or a sales catalog of the various books you’re selling, and other items that help the media consider running a story, or arranging an interview, with you about your books.

Here’s a list of what items should be in your press kit and explanations of what they are:

A One-Page Biography Sheet

Think of this as a cover letter. You can include photos of yourself, and you should include a header or footer with your email address, phone number and mailing address. But overall, the Bio Sheet is intended to present the press printed information about you.

The bio and personal information sheet should include a full biography, touching on everything from your life story to why you originally started writing smut—and do include where your ideas for your book(s) come from. The more information you can offer about yourself, the better.

However—and this is an important caveat—don’t drivel on for three pages! Keep the content of this biography focused and in bite-size, easy to read and digest, “sound bite”-type statements. You really want to give your whole story in about four paragraphs—you’re not writing your memoirs. Don’t get sidetracked with the yellow crayon incident and how your best buddy pulled you back from the brink of destroying the world by re-telling it for you. (If you don’t get that reference, google it!—your pop-culture history knowledge is lacking. ;) )

Include a “Company Information” Sheet

This should be a separate sheet from your bio! Make sure that your Company Information Sheet includes all of your business emails, phone numbers, addresses and any other contact information the press could possibly need to get in touch with you and your publisher(s).

The Company Information Sheet is also where you can give the media your website URL, your social media feed information and information on anywhere else you “hang out” regularly online.

An “Art Disk”

A professionally packaged press kit always includes Art Disks, so the media has all the graphics they will need to complete the story or interview for publication. Art disks should have multiple, different, photos of you, your book jackets, your company logo and any other graphic elements you are using in your publicity campaign. If you are including any video or audio in that campaign, it should be included on the art disk as well.

Many people forget that all entertainment—especially adult entertainment–is a visual medium. Most websites and publications make heavy use of photos to attract and retain viewer attention.

Make sure the artwork you provide in press kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disk are all capable of being printed at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (the dimensions of a standard piece of printer paper) when set at an image resolution of 78 dots per inch (DPI) or higher (ideally 300 DPI). You will also want to include web resolution artwork in your art disks, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 78 DPI or less (generally 72), and should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, do include the .psd files of all photos, logos and book covers with all of the original, unlocked layers you ended up using in the final image. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD or DVD with digital files of every page you created for your press kit! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disk but if you can’t, include a separate disk that contains them. So many editors copy and paste for news stories, you want to give them something to work with quickly and easily.

***A Word about File Formats: Please make sure that all your files included in art disks and the digital copies of your other press kit pages are created and saved in standard file formats. And always try to include file formats that will work with both Mac and PC systems. So create your page copy in Word—and, especially, do your best to use a “compatible” version of Word, so if the person at XYZ magazine is still running Windows 98, they can open your file! Don’t assume that just because you’re sending the kit to a magazine, everyone at its office will have the newest software. Some writers won’t even be able to open a .docx file! Above all, never include a PDF of anything—it just frustrates your recipient.

The same goes for image files . . . While you should include images and logos that are created in Adobe Photoshop, don’t assume every reporter has Photoshop (or that their versions are up-to-date, if they do). You’ll also need to include JPG files of all the images associated with your press kit contents, so the writers can use the files no matter what software they have. And be careful about including PNG files, as lots of online publications have older software that can’t read them.

Supporting Evidence

If you feel you need to substantiate your place in the pantheon of erotic writers, you can also include photocopies of any publication’s reviews of your books, or other published news stories about you and your books.

However, it is best to err on the side of caution and include less of these types of enclosures than more of them. No editor wants to feel like they are out of the loop on a big news story other publications have already covered. There is also a natural feeling of competition between publications, which could make the editor receiving your press kit feel like you are comparing them unfavorably to a rival publication that already covered you. You want to avoid pissing off any editor you approach in all aspects of your publicity campaigns!

Making a Good Impression

Always package your press kits as if they are a gift to the person receiving them. First impressions are so important . . . you can’t afford to slack off on how the package you’re sending to an editor looks, smells and feels. While you may have a limited budget to work with, your press kit should be as beautifully packaged as you can possibly make it. This is the time to spend the $150 or so to have stiff, coated paper folders with your logo or other suitable images printed. Alternately, use one of the clear acrylic cover, sheet folder, binders that are available at all office supply stores. This makes a nice presentation for minimal cost.

Make sure you label your Art Disk not only with your name and book title(s), but also with exactly what is included in it. You should list things like “box covers”, “author photos”, “Bio in Word” and so on, so when they see the disk, they know what’s in it!

Put your Art Disk in a CD/DVD envelope. Whether it’s a “teabag” paper cover or a thin, plastic case. You may want to take a look at the local office supply store and purchase the plastic, stick-on, CD/DVD wallets to attach your Art Disk to the folder. Having everything attached together makes it more difficult for a harried reporter to lose a crucial piece of your press kit!

The outside of your package should look as good as the inside, so this is a great time to invest in specialty envelopes to enclose your materials. There are a wide variety of them available for minimal cost, everything from coated paper envelopes with full color images, suitable for sticking a mailing label directly on the front along with postage, to colored plastic envelopes that are opaque enough—and strong enough—to stand up to Postal Inspector standards. Be creative! A stunning packaging job arriving in the mail will get noticed among all the crappy flat-rate USPS envelopes.

And don’t forget—all press kit mailings must include your full name or company name, full address and a “regarding” line on the front of the envelope. Media members tend toward paranoid types, with good reason. Tell them on the envelope who you are, where this package came from, and write “[Author Name/Book Name] Press Kit with Art Disk Enclosed” on it. You’ll be much happier with the response your press kit gets if you don’t have Homeland Security knocking on your door because a reporter thought you sent Anthrax to their office and wants you investigated.

 

In the April WriteSex publicity column, we’ll focus on Review Kits, because while they are similar to press kits, there are some differences in the content you will need to include.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Feb 132014
 
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By Dr. Amy Marsh

As a writer and in my career as a sexologist, the situations I find most personally challenging are the “hurry up and wait” experiences. These are usually the times when I’ve found myself courted (often out of the blue), urged to produce something which will be published or presented in what appears to be a desirable forum, and then once I meet the deadline—nothing. Time and again I’ve experienced a flurry of communication designed to elicit my favorable responses—plus a solid piece of work—and then, somehow, there are no longer any reciprocal exchanges from the person or persons who so avidly sought my acquaintance and professional expertise. Even brief, patient emails a month or two later may go unanswered. Phone calls are not returned. The publication dates, or other matters which have an impact on me and my ability to strategize, bootstrap, and promote, are simply left dangling. And I am left to twist in the wind.

Have I been dumped after putting out? Am I just another notch on an interviewer’s belt or a social media website? Or has a cascade of life crises interrupted the process and the reporter, publisher, or agency representative really will get back to me as soon as the carnage clears?

Sure, “sh*t happens,” but why does it so often happen after I’ve turned in a piece of work?

It’s very hard to know what to do in this case. Do I “squeaky wheel” it, become annoying and persistent in a way that is frankly foreign to my socialization and inclination? Or do I assume a Zen-like exterior of uber-professionalism while patching up my slightly shredded self esteem in private? Or is it just that people have lost the art and etiquette of following up?

Writers need aftercare and check-ins, too! It’s not just for BDSM anymore!

Perhaps there should be a self-help book titled Writers who Write Too Much… and the People who Exploit Them. If there were such a book, I’d be most interested in learning how to keep my sense of plucky optimism while still waiting for all those blogs, books, and other promised projects to come to fruition. I’d like to learn how to professionally and constructively convey my desire to know publication dates and other key pieces of information, and to be informed about delays in a timely manner, so that I can—you know—twitter and blog and facebook about it. In other words, do my share of promoting the whatever-it-is, which usually also includes promoting and boosting the company, website, or whoever is hosting the whatever-it-is…

Did I mention that much of what I’m talking about are writing projects almost entirely done on spec? Sometimes with a promise of a modest bit of change coming along later (always welcome in my pre-divorce world)? Did I mention that it’s awfully hard to know just how to separate the truly wonderful opportunities, chances to collaborate with people who have struck my fancy as creative, marvelous individuals, from those who are simply out for as much free content as they can get? And instead of choosing me for my expertise, do some people see me as a reliable fallback because they think I’ve got nothing much else going on?

I have been operating on the assumption that acting professionally would elicit professionalism in return. Sometimes it does. A couple of writers interviewing me for books actually do send me a copies when they are published. On the other hand, that New York writer who wanted a free session in order to write about it has yet to communicate clearly about when his article is appearing in that hip, happening fashion site. And there are other matters left hanging out there, ones which baffle me in strange, painful sort of way.

To redeem this blog post as something other than my own personal lamentations and frustrations, here are a few cautionary words:

1) Don’t count on, or wait for, the publication of an interview to handily coincide with your self-promotional efforts. Occasionally an interview will come out just at the right time, and you can use it to promote your classes or create more buzz about your book—the operative word here is “occasionally”; even if the interviewing party has promised its publication by a certain date, don’t build your marketing or other schedules around that interview ahead of time. Create several different promotion strategies for your projects so that when the promised article fails to appear, you won’t be crushed or left without options.

2) Remember that everyone is far too involved in pushing their own agenda and advancing their careers to focus too keenly, or sometimes even care, about yours. Even people working in good faith will often have so much on their plate that memory lapses and communication gaps are an inevitable part of the process. Find a way to accept that gracefully, and again, create a few different strategies for dealing with situations on a case-by-case basis.

3) If you are able, try to find out as many details as possible before committing to create content, especially for people and organizations you don’t yet know and trust. Not every opportunity is a good opportunity; if someone wants a large chunk of your time for free, you may be better off investing that time elsewhere.

4) If you haven’t seen a response two weeks after emailing or phoning the person who courted you, you’ve probably been dumped or the project has been shelved. Pick yourself up and move on. Be civil if they actually do get back in touch at a later date. Any delays may not have been their fault. Maybe there really were extenuating circumstances.

5) Don’t become obsessive about checking the places where you think your interview or work may still be published. Just do it every now and then, and then forget about it (or try your best to forget about it).

There are probably harsh industry realities which exacerbate these problems for writers and other creators of content. And we—being on the outside—may never know what they are. All we can do is carry on, stay fresh and frosty, and above all, never become excited about something that looks like a big break. It’s probably no such thing, and you may be better off looking for the little breaks to be found with trusted professionals.

 

—Amy Marsh

 

Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, is a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor, certified hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, and an associate professor of human sexuality at the world’s most radical sex school. She is a former Carnal Nation columnist. Learn more at dramymarshsexologist.com or follow @AmyMarshSexDr on Twitter.

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