I’ve always been in business for myself. I owned an art gallery for ten years and another small business I sold in 2006. I learned a lot about running a business from the art gallery because it was in the tourist town of New Hope, PA and surrounded by other small businesses that catered to tourists, too. I also learned what not to do when running a small business.
Unfortunately, in the ten years I owned my gallery I saw dozens of small businesses come and go, and usually within the first year. People thought it would be fun to open their own business without taking into consideration you have to be there seven days a week, hold on to your money as if you’re holding on to you life, and carry merchandise that people want to buy not just merchandise they love. Yet people with no business experience would invest their nest eggs (or their mid-life crisis divorce settlements) into a small business that was their dream. Unfortunately, again, this dream wasn’t shared by their customers and they wound up going out of business in less than a year’s time.
It reached a point where I stopped getting too friendly with new business owners I knew weren’t going to make it (you can always tell). Especially when they started asking me to spend money on group efforts to advertise and market, sometimes a lot of money for TV commercials and magazine ads I knew were a complete waste of time. I always refused. I knew it would be a waste of money for everyone concerned. I was in a tourist town, filled with thousands of people from Monday to Monday, and I didn’t see the need to advertise anything other than my gallery, the merchandise I sold in my gallery, and how I presented my gallery to the public and treated my clients.
And I feel the same way about my work as a writer. I’m not against all marketing and promotion. I think on a grand scale, if you have thousands of dollars to invest in an ad in People Magazine it certainly can’t hurt. But if you don’t have that kind of money to invest on a grand scale, the good thing is there are plenty of ways to promote books on the Internet without investing any money at all.
In other words, if someone starts up a m/m romance blog, for reviews or just to promote m/m romances and authors, I will support them completely. I’ll contribute my time, I’ll write blog posts, and I’ll shout about them all over the web. But I won’t invest any money unless I’m absolutely certain I’m going to see excellent results. And most of the time I don’t think I’ll see excellent results. Most of the time I see a nice effort by nice people with good intentions who don’t know what they are doing. But that’s not what business is all about. And, in many ways, authors are business people whether they like it or not.
I will get involved in author events and donate time and money, where there’s a give-a-way to readers, like an e-reader or free books. I donate free pdf files all the time to these things. I believe in these types of promotions strongly. And I think it’s a nice gesture to offer free give-a-ways to readers as a show of appreciation. I don’t even care about the promotional aspects. I like doing this because it’s fun.
But when it comes to joining a group effort where I have to pay monthly or yearly fees (no matter how small they are), I usually pass. I know these things are done with good intentions and I know the people doing them are working hard. But I also believe I can market and promote in other ways that aren’t going to cost anything. Authors can pull together and come up with tons of ideas that don’t cost a cent. The Rainbow Awards is a wonderful example of this. Authors promote together all the time. And whether the promotional effort works or not, at least they had fun doing it. And, most of all, they didn’t have to take any money out of their pockets.