Most writers recognize, and utilize, the power of imagination for the creative side of the writing business, but not for the necessary next step-- the marketing of their creations.
How about you? Do you approach the job reluctantly, resenting the time it takes from your writing-- and then wonder why you’re not selling?
No wonder. Without enthusiasm we seldom succeed. If you are guilty, it’s imperative that you change your thinking, and make marketing interesting. When pre-labeled a “dullsville” job, the selling of what we’ve lovingly written is often approached haphazardly. Or put off indefinitely. But, if we consider it a search for treasure, the picture changes.
Of course new writers, who don’t receive assignments, must start their search for markets cold. And alone. But it should be with anticipation. Learn to apply the law of expectancy. Envision your piece accepted by every editor whose criteria it meets-- and insure that it does. Play the what-if game. What if this magazine buys it? Maybe it’s good enough for that better paying one. What if both editors like it!
Soon your mind is sparked-- your mind's eye is working.
While the professional may consider it a cardinal sin to write anything without a market in mind, for the novice, this is not yet possible. Beginners dream, then pour their hearts out on paper, and think about business later. But the minute the piece is finished, and polished, you’ve dreamed long enough. Now you must enter unknown territory. Time to buy a map, research, and prepare to explore every possibility. Get busy unearthing facts; dig deep, like the prospector who knows the gold is there--as is your treasure. Learn the land marks, read between the lines…maybe discuss “the possibles” with other writers. Brainstorm...
Brainstorming, according to my dictionary, is “a method of attacking problems by intense discussion and spontaneous idea swapping.” The procedure can also be effective within one mind-- between the conscious and the subconscious. Feed your subconscious detailed information as well as ideas. They will all churn together and later surface to help you determine a “likely,” which you will study further, re-considering every possibility, and all new factors. Maybe you’ll see something you missed before. Consider the magazine you saw yesterday in the doctor’s office, or that new one you read but couldn’t find in any market listing. Check the library, and every newsstand you pass. Soon your mind whirrs imagining potential publishers-- dream like you did when you first began writing,
Picture the layout of your article or story in print. Imagine the title on the cover. Conjure up readers engrossed in it, maybe responding! Harness the power of imagination for double duty, and you’ll begin to enjoy the selling as you did the writing. Also have fun analyzing your story. Is it about computers, politics, children, gambling,..? Consider the regional aspects: country, city, climate, and family situation-- every possible tie-in for reader identification. Or, change them if feasible.
When we brand marketing a job that fate forces upon us (if we want to see our work in print) we tend to go at it mindlessly.
You know correct manuscript mechanics, and follow guidelines methodically; but you may forget they only count when you submit to a fitting publication. And good writing speaks for you only to the right editor. The power of imagination will help you find both.
Perhaps you never thought of utilizing imagination for pragmatic problems; but when you do, it opens up new vistas-- and changes your attitude. Any action based wholly on rules and regulations is naturally boring (because we are restricted to the known).But soaring into the unknown opens up the higher echelon, the one without boundaries.
And entering that unexplored area is exciting, like big game hunting.
Next time you finish an article or story that you’ve been working on for months (and dreaming of selling) try to think of your market search as a hunting trip. Like the hunter, fully prepare yourself before the venture, determine exactly what you’re looking for, and stride out confidentially alert.
If the trained eye picks up nothing. if the trip returns no spoils, what does the disappointed hunter do? He re-traces his steps, reviews his mistakes-- every wrong turn, or unnecessary noise, every near miss shot-- and mentally pictures that perfect buck in his sights next time.
For further analogy, consider the treasure hunter utilizing the trick of “mind-picturing success into reality.” Propelled by imagination into one dangerous adventure after another, mentally seeing the buried gold, or crusted chest of jewels in a sunken ship (and the money they translate to) the treasure hunter is empowered for search, after search, after search….
How many writers search so intensely for their treasure? Certainly, we dream as much-- and thrill at the imaginative power we are creating, so why should we not recruit it for selling?
Recently, I read in The Wall Street Journal, “Freelancers get paid absolutely zero if they don’t produce.” That’s only half the story. We can produce reams and still get paid zero-- until we master the art of selling what we write.
If you’ve been having trouble selling, try imaginative marketing.
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Excerpted from THE WRITING WORLD, Living The Literary Life, © 2003. Delma Luben. Internationally published in both prose and poetry, and former contributing editor, Writers World magazine, is a frequent speaker at writing conferences