Accepting Your Role as Salesperson

EmilyAkin-headshot-croppedEmily M. Akin joins us today. Emily is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor. Her articles have appeared in numerous Christian periodicals. She is also a regular contributor to Hometown Magazine of the Ken-Tenn Area. She holds bachelor’s degrees in music and organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration degree. She has taught marketing workshops at Kentucky Christian Writers Conference and Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.

Emily is with us today to talk about the business side of the writing life. Let’s welcome Emily!

Accepting Your Role as Salesperson by Emily M. Akin

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.

These words jumped out at me in a workshop given by Lawrence Wilson, pastor and former editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House. This simple statement encapsulates the aspiring writer’s problem with getting published.

Artist or salesperson?

Writers see themselves as artists, resisting the idea of putting a dollar value on their writing. Perhaps you write because you are passionate about a particular subject or about writing itself. Once you begin the quest for publication, though, you have entered the realm of business. For any business to be successful, somebody must sell something to someone. In my experience, writers abhor the whole idea of “selling themselves.” You, the writer aspiring to publication, must sell your work to publishers who, in turn, sell their publications to the end user (reader).

Salesperson or marketing department?

Does the idea of selling your work conjure up images of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen or network marketing gurus? You’re not alone. Intrusive and manipulative sales techniques have given sales a bad name for most people. I think that’s why some prefer to call it “marketing” rather than “selling.” The term “marketing” suggests that you put your work out for people to see in hopes that someone will see it, like it, and buy it—like at a flea market.

Flea market or farmers market vendors don’t sell much unless they offer quality products that shoppers want. They must:

  • Know what the customer wants,
  • Know the customer demographics, and
  • Interact with the shoppers to convince them to buy the product.

As a writer, you do much the same thing when you submit your work to publishers. You find the guidelines (product specs) so that can craft your product for the customer, the publisher. Sometimes, publishers state the demographics and preferences of readers along with the technical requirements of the documents they are willing to consider. Still, you may need to “sell” the editor on your work. Extra-mile features will entice the editor to buy your work instead of someone else’s with identical specifications. For example, including sidebars and pull-quotes will make your article more attractive. For book proposals, mention an established speaking ministry or other platform for selling your books.

If you don’t sell your work, who will?

If you believe in the quality and value of your product, selling it is an honorable pursuit. You know you have information that certain readers want or need. Once you convince a publisher to accept your product, you’ll be providing that valuable information to a large number of readers—more than you ever imagined. You won’t sell every item on the first attempt. Many professional sales people will tell you that it takes a lot of activity to reach sales goals. Many of your prospects will say, “No thanks.” Don’t think of a rejection as a failure. Think of it as an opportunity to improve your product. Keep working on it according to industry guidelines, and eventually you’ll find a buyer. Giving up is not a viable option! Believe in your message and keep submitting.

Readers, do you hate marketing your work? What has helped you accept the fact that marketing is necessary?

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