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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To Replace or Re-Invent Myself, That Is the Question

We were all younger once.

One day this past September I received an unsolicited e-mail offer that I read with very mixed feelings. I’ll quote the bulk of it here verbatim (omitting the company name and link at the end but including a few editorial comments) so you can see what I mean:

Pamela - If you’re not 100% happy with your blog, you may want to consider trying a new writer!  

The key is to find a great writer that [sic] also has a deep understanding of your industry [!]
 

The problem is, finding these writers [now we are looking for more than one?] can be a real challenge. 
 

To solve this problem, we use our award-winning _____ platform [I omit the name here, as it is no doubt trademarked) to search over 70,000 pro [sic] writers to find a handful of writers that [sic] we think will be a good match for your specific needs. Then, we have each writer write you [awk] the same sample article (title of your choosing). 
 

This makes it super easy [ugh!] for you to see which writer you like the best.
 

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, just click below to schedule a time so we can talk.

Interesting, eh? Here’s some of what raced through my brain in response: 

Why would I not be happy with my blog? Should I be unhappy with it? Is the sender implying that the writing is substandard? There are certainly writers in the world more talented than I am, but I doubt they want to work for me without compensation! Because I can’t afford to pay a writer to write for me, and I can’t afford to hire a company to find a writer to write for me!

And let me just say that I am repelled by the term “industry” applied to the world of books! Anyone who (who, not that) would apply the term “industry” to the world of writers and publishers and booksellers would probably also refer to the books in my store as “product.” 

Finally, who among these 70,000 “pro” writers for hire knows my life and the books I read and stock and my bookstore better than I do? My blog is not about some abstract “industry,” but about my very personal world!

Lest you think, however, that I was sputtering in outrage over this e-mail, I assure you I was more amused than offended. Did a “pro” writer compose the e-mail? My inner editor (who always slumbers lightly with one eye open) would have taken “that” out of “writers that we think would be a good match” and maybe moved “that” up to the previous one-sentence paragraph, using it place of the awkward comma, and that “super easy” claim did not impress me, either. Overall, I found the entire message uninspired and uninspiring.

Okay, I understand it was a sales pitch. But the message I received (besides envisioning a writer reaching way over her head) was that the sender had not spent any time at all reading my blog before trying to sell me her (I’ll use the detested word here) product. Know thyself and know thy market!

On the other hand, I’m sympathetic, I really am. It’s a dog-eat-dog world [No offense, Sarah!], and everyone is seeking an audience, making a pitch, feeling around for a footing and a handhold — in short, trying to survive. And I’m no different. I’m just (and this is probably my Achilles heel rather than any excellence of character) not single-minded about it. My little stories and snippets, travelogues, tirades, and vignettes are all offered at the same price I am paid to write them, and if they help my Dog Ears Books business in any way, so much the better. If not, I’ve had the pleasure of the writing and the occasional pleasure of a kind and/or thoughtful word in response.

Self-invention and self-promotion are touted as what we should all be about these days, and as wages race to an ever-lower and lower global “bottom” (for those jobs not yet lost to drones and robots), there are more and more people of all ages trying to figure out their next moves. I give a lot of thought to the question myself. What next? What if I’ve nearly run out my string with this bookselling gig? 

One thing is sure. I won’t be hiring anyone else to do my writing for me. So if you’re not satisfied with what you find on Books in Northport, you'll have to look elsewhere. At least you’ll have no trouble finding (here comes another buzz word I despise) “content” all over the place. It’s a big, wide, wonderful world out there, and, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s overflowing with words.

4 comments:

BB-Idaho said...

A blog ghost writer? That is downright blog spooky!
Were you as insulted as I think?

P. J. Grath said...

BB, the message was so impersonal, so obviously unfamiliar with my blog, that I couldn't be offended. I thought it was funny on one way, sad in another -- or both funny and sad for the same reason, i.e., because utterly incompetent.

But it's great to know you are still out there reading, and I wish you happy holidays!

Dawn said...

Wow. I never considered that someone other than the person I believe is the author would be writing a blog. The point, in my mind, of a blog is to express yourself and I can't imagine having someone else do that for me.

P. J. Grath said...

I know what you mean, Dawn. It seemed pretty funny to me, too. Obviously, the person making the pitch was looking at my blog as the marketing arm of my bookstore. (Ha!)