Presented by: Donna Messer
Hosted by: The MetroActive Writers Club
Sept. 28/04 OISE Building
Reviewed by: Robert Leishman
I hadn’t been in a conventional classroom for some time, and I usually associate OISE with training teachers. Nevertheless, Donna Messer proved to be a worthwhile business speaker. I had been expecting a presentation on how to market your book online, or directions to some new websites regarding where to go for advertising gimmicks, but instead we started with some basic marketing wisdom, succinctly put:
“People buy according to what they see, feel and hear.”
Letting us know that purchasing is a physical experience and that we buy Pepsi or Coke based on what our physical experience with that product, is. This reminds me of how some relatives of mine made money in real estate by purchasing poorly decorated homes. (Apparently, most people tend to buy houses the way they buy shoes or shirts, if they don’t like the color they move on.)
Donna brought several children’s books with her, which she referred to throughout her talk. I knew from my own experience, studying English Literature, that some of the most powerful messages, or themes in any culture, are delivered through children’s stories: a simple, straightforward message is often the most effective message. Mentioning that she once ran a food business, a line of herbs and sauces for pasta, she gave us her strategy: People don’t purchase the product, they purchase the story behind the product, the story they see on the label, in the presentation and so forth. Similarly, in book publishing, the appearance, the jacket and the campaign behind the product all count because they tell the story behind the product, which in this case is a story.
But, how do you apply this to the book business specifically? Donna gave two methods by way of example: one was by finding a publicist, or a spin doctor, a person who would make your work interesting for the target audience. The second was to find the kind of organizations who could market directly to the target market on your behalf. The gentleman sitting next to me, Sharif Khan, with his book entitled Psychology of the Hero Soul, was advised to seek out the organizations and associations, who could use his work as a training tool: people who had a goal in common with the message in the book. But, Baldo Minaudo, a gentleman sitting on the other side of the room, who turned out to be a banker with a heart, was urged to search for the kind of market which would be receptive to the kind of person he is. The best vehicle for getting your message out, about who or what you are, is networking.
Most networking advice, in my experience, is fairly superficial and usually involves tips on how to pass out business cards.
Instead, Donna introduced us to four factors of Networking:
• Rapport, to build Rapport with everyone who can help you;
• Information, to exchange information with those people;
• Solutions, to make sure that those people get where they want to go and
• Ethics, that you did not take advantage of anyone)
Then introduced us to a concept called “Flowing Point,” which is where Information and Rapport meet; where you would experience optimal communication.
In this scenario, according to Donna, something called Social Capital is important; that it isn’t just about who you know, but it’s about what you know about who you know. Secondly, networking is always about the other guy. When you are approaching someone, an editor for example, it must be in terms of what you can do for him or her. Finally, whatever happens, you must try and return the favor, you must in turn try to promote the other person’s interests. There givers and there are takers. Often people don’t realize that they are being takers instead of givers.
On the whole, I found this very informative and it broadened my horizons in terms of marketing and networking as well as communications theory. It makes me think of works like The Hero Within that discuss the uses of archetypes as cultural metaphors.