The door-to-door salesman of developmental marketing

When I was a teenager, we had a visit from a door to door salesman. It actually wasn’t a common thing, partially because of our location, which looked like an alley, and partially for reasons like below.

The salesman was young, very handsome, and very charming. No doubt, he expected to find the woman in the family at home so he could charm her into buying the bottled water he was selling.

He got my father.

That should have told him right away to leave and go onto the next house. My father’s first words were, “We don’t buy door to door.”

That should have also told the salesman to leave. The good ones will, once they realize they’re not going to make the sale. No sense in wasting time. Either this salesman wasn’t good or corporate policy was to be aggressive.

He wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Finally, to get rid of the guy, my father bought the water. Once he closed the door, he went to the phone and called the water company. He cancelled the order and told them why.

So I have a cynical eye when someone asks me for money. Even so, it started out tough as a writer. Much of what I saw early on was marketed to beginners who didn’t have any knowledge and didn’t know what questions to ask.

I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and got put on a mailing list from an agent. He sent me a four-page advertisement for his agency. It was impressive looking. On the first page was pictures of authors the agent represented, none of whom I had read or heard of. Still looked impressive.

It was a sales pitch. The agent said he would look at my manuscript for a reading fee of $500. I didn’t have the money, so I didn’t get taken, but if I had, I would have sent it in. The brochure said all the right things and made me feel special.

Of course, it should have been a warning that I was sent it at all.

Then there’s editing. That’s a big business, where people make a lot of money off beginning writers. When I first got on line, there was a big scam where agents were rejecting writers and referring them to an editing service. Since the agent had referred them and knew what he was doing, the writers trusted this and happily paid for the service. The agent and service counted on the writers not educating themselves and reacting emotionally.

When I was ready to go indie, I didn’t even have to think: I was going for copy editing.

Not developmental editing.

I’ve had writers predict dire results or tell me I was cheapening my writing. I even had a panel at a con try to embarrass me into getting developmental editing. I had shown up for the panel early, and they asked me what goals I had. I told them I was looking for a copy editor. In front of the crowd of people that finally showed him, they admonished me about not going for developmental editing. Granted, most of the panel was developmental editors, so it wasn’t hard dismissing the source.

It bothered me that a whole lot that people had their hand out for potentially thousands of dollars (one I looked at would have charged me two grand for a 40K novel) for developmental editing. It reminded me of that door to door salesman coming to the front door expecting to make the sale on emotion and not facts.

The facts are that developmental editing is essentially paying for an in-depth critique. The person may or may not be qualified to do it. Some writers will look at one or two published books as proof the editor knows what they’re doing. But especially after taking so many writing classes given by writers with that qualification, I found out how little they actually knew. Because I didn’t outline, I often ended up with a front row seat to their lack of craft knowledge.

Besides, why should I pay someone to tell me how to write?  Seriously, if I have a weak area, surely the money could be better served to buy craft books on that area, maybe take a really good class (not one of the ones above!), and spend the time working the skill.

That seems like a better investment of my money and time and would give me the most benefit.

3 thoughts on “The door-to-door salesman of developmental marketing

  1. Pingback: The door-to-door salesman of developmental marketing | Joy V. Smith

  2. Broad brush advice. Most writers can benefit from the right editor’s input, but finding the one can be near to impossible. A good editor for one writer, may be total disaster for another. Whatever they call themselves, the more they do apart from simple grammar correction, the more likely they are to do more harm than good. Editors is as individual as writers, and like writers, they are only as good as their last piece of work. Free help from friends and strangers in the writing community is often as valuable: beta readers, teachers, friends with an eye for grammar, feed-back from sites like Wattpad, and reading groups can be just as affective as $500 to infinity spent on an editor, all of which are by their nature self-opinionated, often arrogant, and invariable narrow-minded with their favourite bees- currently fashionable being for ‘active’ styles of writing. When you have the money for an editor pick one that has edited a book you love, even if that book was a friend’s ‘SP’ with a tiny circulation. The sales volume of a book is almost no indication of it’s quality.


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