Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unconventional Marketing Tip #1: Make An Ass of Yourself

Last night: My friend came over to pick me up. We were going to another friend’s house for dinner, but we had a little time to kill. So we had a glass of wine. ONE glass. (But it was kind of a big glass, and it was almost 7pm. And I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 11am.)

On the way to our destination, I spied a PetSmart. This reminded me that the little monsters were almost out of food, so I asked my friend to stop. And I ran in and grabbed some cat food and then I ran up to the register and plopped it down on the conveyor belt. Nobody in line. Fantastic: 30 seconds, and I’d be out of there.

Then I saw the sign, next to the cash register. It said: PLEASE LEAVE HAIRY ITEMS IN CART.

So, I asked the cashier: “What’s a hairy item?”

And he said: “What?”

I nodded at the sign, and I read it aloud, for his benefit: PLEASE LEAVE HAIRY ITEMS IN CART.

And he looked at the sign for a long moment, and then HE read aloud, kind of loud and slow—the way you might read to a small child, or an escaped mental patient: PLEASE LEAVE HEAVY ITEMS IN CART.

And before he was even finished, of course, I could see that the word was HEAVY, so I started laughing, and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t have my glasses on. And my eyes are fried.” I rubbed one, for effect. “I’m an editor and I’ve been working all day.” I shook my head at my own stupidity.

And he said, “An editor? Really?”


“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, really?”

“What kind of stuff do you edit? Fiction or non?”

“Both,” I said.

“I have a draft of a novel. Would you take a look at it?”

And then, because I am nothing if not a salesperson, I said, “For free?”

“Yeah.” He gave me a winning smile.

So I smiled, and I glanced down at the cat food, and I said: “Can I have that for free?”

“Point taken,” he said, and laughed. “How much do you charge?”

“Well,” I said, “it depends.” And I started digging around in my purse, looking for a business card—except that I don’t HAVE business cards, I run an Internet business—so I pulled out a notebook and flipped to a clean page and I wrote down my email address, and I was about to write down my web site, except . . . I drew a blank.

Then I looked up at him, and I blinked a couple of times, and I said: “I cannot remember what my web site is.”

And he raised his eyebrows, and said, “Really?” He smiled tentatively, and I started writing down permutations of what it might be, trying to figure it out. And then I started explaining, while I was scribbling—that “I never visit my own web site, and it’s in my email signatures, so it’s not like I type it very often, plus I have a couple of email addresses that have permutations of the web site in it, which is REALLY what is confusing me at the moment—and no, it’s not http://, that’s the beginning of my blog, not the website,” so I very firmly crossed that out, “and I only had ONE glass of wine, but all I ate today was two eggs, plus I just switched ISPs, so I have to think about the whole Netzero/Comcast thing, and I keep messing that up”—and then I made a big circle around and I said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s it.”

And I gave him the paper.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll email you.”

“Okay. Great.” And then I walked out the door.


About three steps out the door, I realized I didn’t have the cat food I just bought, so I turned around and went back in. He was holding the bag aloft, waiting for me.

Sunday morning. There is an email from him. He has attached a chapter. And it’s not bad. He can write. He wants an estimate for a line edit on a 120,000-word ms. That’s real money.

And the last line of his email reads: “Your web site is actually”