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Pitching Agents: Throat Punches and Better Endings, Part 1

Madeline and I attended a Writer’s Workshop in Minneapolis this weekend and it was probably the most momentous, exhausting, oddly wonderful two days we will spend in quite some time. We’re back home now, settled back into the routine of our lives. Maddie is meeting with a guidance counselor to decide on whether to take honors Algebra II (naturally I’m in the strong “yay” column, but Maddie’s heard that the teacher will kill her, I think we can call that hyperbole). I’m sitting in my office, more or less alone except for the cat, who’s ignoring me because I’m nowhere near the can opener.

Embraer 175. Photo Credit: Bene Riobó via Wikipedia.

The first thing we noticed when we got off our Embraer 175 Jet and walked the gangplank into the airport was the insanity of our outerwear. We had packed our thick wool coats in checked baggage and left our rarely used hats and gloves back in Virginia. We shivered, giggled, and said aloud, “Wow, it never gets this cold back home.” It was about 13 degrees when we landed, and the wind bit through the thin aluminum frame that bridges the gap from plane to gate.

Neither one of us had much interest in exploring Minneapolis; although it was ten a.m. and the Friday before our conference, we opted to take an Uber to the Intercontinental Riverfront in St. Paul and lounge around the hotel most the day. I did make it out once, on a brave foray to the Walgreens four blocks away to buy cough drops and beanie hats, but that was the extent of any explorations either one of us did—at least outside the hotel.

Before I went on my tiny Walgreen’s adventure, we lunched at the Prime Restaurant inside the Intercontinental. Now, Maddie has this way of making friends with women that’s just built into her DNA. Even when she was a toddler, I’d have friends over and somehow she would hang out on the stairs until someone spotted her and waved her into our company. She’s got a cuteness and a way about her, or something that makes grown women pull her into their ambit and want to include her. So naturally, we made friends with the waitress (who wanted to discuss literature) and with the greeter (who wanted to talk about Maddie and then about her own grandchildren).

View from Room 1308 at the Intercontinental of Saint Paul’s

After lunch, we bought cupcakes from the bakery next to the Prime. “For dinner,” we agreed. And then we napped for a bit, I went off on my find a hat adventure, and then we decided to try and figure out where all the conference rooms were. “You know you’ll get lost tomorrow if we don’t figure it out tonight,” Maddie said with one of her smiles.

It took us several tries, but we found Governor 4, where the agent pitches would occur, on the lower lobby. I frowned when I saw the room. It was not cavernous, but it was large, and it was filled with rows of tables. At each table sat one chair on opposing sides. That’s when my training as a courtroom attorney kicked in. I over-prepare for every speech I give, in part because I’ve been caught unprepared in a deposition, but more because we were trained in law school to know everything about our surroundings, our clients, and the other side’s case. Naturally, we had been practicing our pitches all week. Madeline memorized hers, because that’s the only way she felt she could deliver it. I had made outline upon outline, and while I never looked at my outline during a pitch, I knew I’d have it there if I needed it, or if an agent interrupted and asked me a question that was outside my mental box. We had even videotaped our pitches, which had led me to completely revamp mine to cut out the excess.

“Maddie, let’s practice in here, it’s a big room, there will be lots of people pitching, it will be intimidating and distracting with all that, let’s practice here now.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay?”

“Yeah.”

We each went through our pitch once, and we chose one of the back tables because it felt safer in the back, out of the fray. We chose what turned out to be a fortuitous table, because our best pitch would occur at that very same table 24 hours later. After we practiced, I looked around for an extra chair, and placed one I found in a strategic place, just by the entryway, so that I would be able to grab it quickly when it was time to join Maddie on one of her five pitches the next day. I swear, I lost sleep over that chair. I worried that someone would move it, but no one touched it.

We went to bed early, like around nine or ten, but I kept waking up. I have anxiety, and I was anxious about being anxious. It’s not odd for me to wake up at three a.m. with a full-blown panic attack. So when I woke at three a.m. worrying about worrying about it (my husband says this is one of the ironies that comes with having anxiety), I took an extra Clonzepam and told myself for the umpteenth time that I was not going to let Maddie down. That, in fact, was my biggest fear the entire conference: how would Maddie do, and would I be able to protect her from what I often think of as the dogs of war?

Agents aren’t of course anything other than human beings. They’re gatekeepers, yes, and so far, we had done pretty well with Madeline’s The Third Eye of Cain. Out of about thirty queries, the first dozen or so of which were junk, we’d received a request for one full manuscript—and from a big New York agency. Be they gatekeepers or holders of the magic key or whatever (unless you self-publish), agents shouldn’t be viewed with fear. Some are wonderful. Some, not so much. And some just don’t care for the cup of tea you’re serving, or the material you’re offering. This is a truism I would repeat throughout the day in various forms to Maddie and also to myself.

The way the pitching schedule worked out put me front and center in the morning. My first pitch was at 9:10, followed by three more before noon, and one final pitch in the late afternoon. Maddie’s schedule was reversed, and I had worked hard with the excellent Workshop Coordinator to ensure we didn’t have any conflicts. After all, I’m not only the co-writer of The Third Eye of Cain. I’m the mother of a 14-year old, and you just don’t send teenagers in alone. As it turned out, Maddie had one pitch in the morning, and four in the afternoon. Which meant I could mostly focus on my pitches without worrying about mixing up our two fictional worlds too much—and then I could focus on Maddie.

The Intercontinental overlooking the great Mississippi River, near where it meets with the Minnesota River

My first two pitches didn’t go too well. The first agent (the only male we pitched to) was wearing a hat and had a friendly way about him. First he said he was kinda on the fence, and then said my book probably wasn’t quite his cup of tea. He gave me some advice, and handed me a business card. “Feel free to shoot me a line if you’d like,” he said, and shook my fingers rather than my hand. I still liked him afterwards.

I had almost no time to breathe before my next pitch. Each pitch lasts ten minutes, and the next group of folks files into the room and finds their agent. I found my daughter, and we felt what the timekeeper (a nice woman who is also a writer) later would describe as the Anxiety Hallway’s vibe and tried to shake it off. My second pitch was in ten minutes. The agent apologized for not shaking my hand. “I have a cold,” she explained, and I expressed sympathy and then launched into my pitch. She stopped me two minutes in. “This isn’t my cup of tea,” she said, after I explained that God appeared in person to help save the world in Off Grid (the novel I was pitching). I tried to pitch Shards to her, which is a political epic, and she cut me off after fifteen seconds. “Also not my cup of tea,” she said. “Okay,” I said.

“So you have more time, do you want to ask me questions?”

No, I thought, but I nodded and asked something bland. She launched into a lecture on why my book won’t get picked up by any agents. “Look,” she said, “If you’re going to choose to write about something quirky, like God, you’re better off self-publishing, agents can’t sell that, you should self-publish, didn’t you do that before, and maybe you should hire a publicist.”

I thanked her for “her time” and went out to find Maddie. “God’s quirky,” I quipped. “No one’s buying Him anymore.” We smiled. At that very moment, a man we had spoken to earlier came out with a big smile on his face. He was Hispanic I believe, maybe second generation American, and he had just pitched a work of speculative Christian fiction to the fourth agent we would be pitching to—and I guessed from his reaction that he’d received a full manuscript offer. I grinned at him and tried to say something intelligent, but what I think I managed was, “Thanks for writing about that, good luck, keep doing what you do,” but I also packed his success away in my mind and figured it augured well for later.

The only pic I could find of the special dress, taken in December, 2017

Before Maddie’s first pitch, she whispered, “Mom, one of the agents complimented me on my dress, I think we’re pitching to her later,” and sure enough, we were: me, just before lunch, and Maddie, just before the day ended. Maddie’s dress is special, by the way. It’s red and black checked, and it’s also what I wore to my sweet sixteen birthday parties. In other words, it’s thirty years old, and kinda almost a family heirloom. It also looks great on Maddie, because it brings out the copper highlights in her glorious auburn curls.

And with those nice words held tightly to her heart, Maddie walked into Governor 4 behind me, and together we looked for her first agent.

End of part one. Please stay tuned in for the second half of the story later this week.

 

 




The Confusion of Charlottesville

We live in confusing times. I keep turning thoughts over as I peruse headlines and spot pictures of men carrying sticks, pipes and guns while supposedly enjoying their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. I get stuck in weird places. Like I’ll be mid-sentence saying, “White supremacists in Charlottesville weren’t looking to peacefully assemble. You aren’t looking for peace when you don shields and firearms,” and then I read or hear someone say, “Yeah, so you think it’s right for Black Lives Matter protestors to wield sticks and pipes, to shoot cops in Dallas, to break windows in DC?” And I stop what I’m doing and loudly reply or think to myself, “No, no, it’s never right to bring weapons to peaceful protests,” and then someone else says, “But what about at Second Amendment rallies? Is it wrong for these folks to lawfully carry firearms while demonstrating their ability to bear arms responsibly and peacefully?”

Right there—I’m stuck. Stuck. So I think about it some more. I dig through the text of the Second Amendment; whoa, I get whirled around by the exact language I see. I turn over words and phrases:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note that it says Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peacefully to assemble. That means the federal government can’t make a law that prevents us from gathering peacefully in a public place. It doesn’t say a state can’t make such a law; nor does it say Congress can’t make a law that prohibits your ability to gather as a violent mob; indeed, when you march in D.C. or elsewhere, you must obtain the proper permits and follow limits the police and the authorities set on time, place and weapons. So when the Women’s March happened in D.C., we headed into town knowing we couldn’t bring sticks with our signs or weapons or much of anything other than our pretty pink hats and our walking shoes.

The Second Amendment talks about our right to bear arms. The text says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

When I read this, I wonder if the First Amendment trumps the Second because it comes first. Yeah, that’s not the most analytical of thoughts, but what happens if you want to exercise your right to bear arms, but you also want to do so while exercising your right to peacefully assemble? Do we think we can gather as a crowd to protest a statue peacefully while also being armed to the teeth?

See, I get lost in the minutiae sometimes. It’s the curse of the time I spent in Professor Belz’s Constitutional History classes at University of Maryland; it’s the side effect of surviving Professor Devin’s Socratic lectures at William and Mary. I turn it over in my mind until I get turned upside down; and then I search for an open door that will guide me out of the chaos that is public discourse in Twenty-First Century America.

Then I eat a tuna sandwich and receive a text from my daughter: Mom, practice is over at 5, you can pick me up outside the band room . . . and I come back to reality. I’m a mother, and Charlottesville harbors the university I want and hope this daughter of mine can attend in four years. UVA, after all, is a good university—and it’s seventy miles away from me. I look up to education. I view the hallowed halls of its campuses as sacred places, and sacred places should be safe ones.

But it’s not just my child that should be safe. And it’s not just universities that should be safe. All our children should be able to walk up and down a town square in safety—just as all our young adults should be able to walk to class without being threatened by weapons-wielding men and women.

Which brings me back to the headlines I keep perusing, and the questions that keep interrupting thoughts. And I realize, as I finish feeding the cat leftovers from the tuna can, that all of this is a distraction from the larger issue. Don’t get me wrong. Let me be crystal clear: no one should ever bring a weapon to a peaceful protest. And all protests should be peaceful. There’s no ifs ands or buts here. I condemn all violent protest. Period. I particularly condemn those who march under the aegis of rhetoric that is in and of itself violent: white supremacy. But those who march for Black Lives Matter should not carry weapons on their marches either.

But this is all a distraction.

From the bigger things that bedevil all of us.

Some of these things seem small, but they’re not. Like today, I asked my son how his lunch was, and he said he forgot it.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, I bought it.”

“You bought it?”

“Yeah, she said to bring in money tomorrow.” My son looked at me. He knew I was upset.

“That’s gonna cost me ten dollars,” I said. And I sighed and walked away. Because you can’t explain budgets in any manner that takes hold with an eleven year old. But any adult reading this, anyone who’s trying to raise a family in America knows what I speak of. What little we have doesn’t go far, does it?

A lot of us don’t have a lot. The top one percent of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom ninety percent. Which is to say: America is riven by inequality.

Desperation and separation act as the fuel for our violent civic dialogue. Families are saddled with debt, but during the 2008 Recession, and other times throughout our history, corporations, not individuals, were bailed out of financial ruin. Corporations poison the water we drink, the air we breathe; yet wealthy shareholders, rather than workers, reap the unholy profits sowed by these sometimes legal corporate endeavors.

Jobs are “outsourced” to laborers working in other countries under slave-like conditions; robots, not Americans, fill newly-created American jobs; and corporations are hired to run enemies down in countries near and far—all in the name of waging an endless war against terror. A war that has few boundaries and no stated parameters for ending is also a war that exhibits little sympathy for the lives of innocent bystanders.

Meanwhile, the oceans grow more acidic; the trees in our forests, more scarce. Our scientists warn that our use of natural resources is killing the very earth we live in and is threatening the future of our children and our children’s children. Our very way of living is a violent one that leaves destruction in its wake, and still we carry on and march for or against statues erected to honor men who died eight score and many more years ago.

And yet our elected leaders understand very little of this. After all, they serve with no term limits, nor do they observe any form of meaningful limitation on who can influence them. Corporations are not citizens, and yet they sprawl out across the political landscape like teenagers in a frat common area, grabbing what they can from those who represent us in Congress. Both parties are, in short, corrupt. Each of the two major parties serves the corporate lobby. Each keeps the War on Terror going; each feeds from the same vat that feeds the rich and powerful.

We, as individual humans, are better, more important, more precious, more beautiful, more meaningful—than any of our ruling institutions. We each have the light of God within us, and this light can and does shine no matter how dark our institutions turn. We must remember what unites us.

We are unified by love. We are unified by the blood that runs in our veins and by the light that flows like living waters through our souls. We must seek the light that each one of us, as sons and daughters of the One, possesses. And we must demand that our institutions serve us, as individual beings with light, rather than the non-human, inanimate monster that is the modern corporation. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by old statues, or by ignorant men touting Swastikas, or by angry but misguided minorities who bring weapons to the public meeting place.

We must wake up. And join together in love and in light. And once we do this, we must demand that our institutions follow us into the light and take a route that will lead us to live in peace and in harmony with ourselves and with the Mother that is our Earth.

We—and Earth—deserve no less.

 




When You’re Trapped Between Work and Family: A Writer’s Doubts

This morning, I really, really wanted to chew a head off, or at a minimum, a hand. This is the absolute bane of all small business owners, particularly artists and writers: setting up a new business. Yeah, yeah, it’s exciting and I’m grateful and, well, yada, yada. But when three children are yowling, busting heads and basically working through their Ophelia, Hamlet and Polonius routine and the man is conducting scientific experiments in the kitchen, the whole process of arranging a freaking PayPal button on WordPress becomes more a bloodletting experience than anything else.

Unsex me now, I’m screaming inside . . . aw crap. I’m mixing up Macbeth and Hamlet. Did I mention that my fourth grader has chosen the latter as her topic for a book report? And somehow, in this vast library of ours, we’ve lost all five copies of said Hamlet? Right. It’s completely disconnected to my efforts to install a freaking PayPal button on WordPress (for autographed, pre-release copies of Ripple), except that while glaring at JavaScript and Text Edit and related noxious, horrifying thingies on the Mac, the fourth-grader mentioned that maybe we could go to the library.

And no decent mom refuses to take a child to the library, right? Right, but only after I get my new page set up on WordPress: this one. But right now, I gotta confess something: I’m not feeling like a decent mom. I’m trying, but I’m also working as hard as I used to work when I practiced law. Don’t get me wrong: this time around, I love my job, but I’m getting too obsessed with line edits, double spaces after periods (damn my eyes, I’m switching to single spaces), proof copies, mailing advance reviewer copies, and a plethora of other small details.

Front and Back Cover

You see, even though I’m self-publishing, I refuse to compromise quality. I’m rolling the dice on my own name and reputation, and it’s not like I can blame a secretary or intern or junior associate or asshole client if anything gets messed up. This book must look as good as anything that is traditionally published.

And you know what’s getting sacrificed right now? Sigh. Yep. My family. Or as Helen realizes in Ripple:

 Excellence may not be about making beds and cooking brownies, but excellence was about more than rising to the top of your profession. She’d fucked up. She hadn’t meant to. She really hadn’t meant to hurt her daughter, but she had. Her own excellence had been achieved by sacrificing her family and now she was paying the price for it. No, now Phoebe was paying the price for it, she realized, and she winced.

 Sometimes fiction mirrors life; other times, life mirrors fiction. All I know is that I need to find a balance, somehow. It doesn’t mean that I should give up trying to create the best product I can, but I need to try harder here on the home front. These twelve and fourteen hour days, after all, are nothing to be proud of—not when those hours take too much time away from my children.

How do you all do it, your working moms and dads? Do you feel trapped between work and home? As if you constantly fail work or family at the expense of the other?




A Real-Life Banned Author: Stephanie Saye

Stephanie Saye is one of my friends. She’s also the author of Little 15, which tells the story of a high school girl who has an affair with her basketball coach. Little 15 raises a number of provocative issues, like: whose fault is it anyway? What sort of moral culpability, if any, does the teenager bear? What kind of girl gets involved with a married man? What kind of married man violates all moral and legal precepts by sleeping with a child?

The plot of my upcoming book, Ripple, does not shy from difficult subjects either; indeed, by chapter eight, the main character has killed her child-molesting husband with a golf club, and yes, friends, Helen Thompson would do it again. Why? Because he had it coming to him? Or because he had threatened to rape their daughter again? Did the main character act in self-defense? Could she have prevented the rape from occurring? How does a girl heal after having been raped? How does a girl overcome the pain and stigma of rape and incest?

Like Stephanie Saye, I write about subjects that are taboo–that make grown men cringe. When I first pitched my book to friends and acquaintances, many people gasped, winced, or simply stared at me slack-jawed.  Soon enough I realized that many people couldn’t get past my one-sentence synopsis. I know that Stephanie has encountered similar resistance. But you know what? If people can find the courage to read our books, and to delve into the deep issues we explore, they might find the tools they need to carve a path out of their own darkness.

But there’s the rub: our books must reach the public.  And so when Stephanie dropped me a line the other day to let me know that Little 15 had been banned from a private literary event in Houston, well, I got fired up and asked her to write about her experience here. Without further ado, I present–

• • •

Stephanie Saye:

Do you know what sometimes happens to fearless authors who write controversial books?

Their books get banned.

And that’s exactly what happened to my book just last week.

Long story short, I was uninvited to market and sell my book at a high-profile literary event this week in Houston.

I’m not going to tell you the event name, because I’m not devious and I don’t believe in revenge. But I will say this: the keynote speaker for this event is a best-selling author (I’m talking New York Times Bestseller list here), whose blockbuster novel was recently made into a hit movie.

Up until a few days ago, I was one of a handful of authors selected to sell books before and after the big name author’s speech, which based on ticket sales, is expected to draw a crowd of over 1,000. And for an indie author hungry for sales, that’s like striking gold.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked diligently back and forth with the event coordinators on copy and images for promotional materials, including the event program that would feature a write up on my book. I did exactly what they asked of me every step of the way. I made travel arrangements. My husband set me up for wireless credit card processing. I ordered promotional materials for my booth, along with a couple hundred copies of my books from my publisher, which were delivered to my door step in six separate boxes that have since taken over my living room.

Everything seemed to be falling in place for this event, until I opened up my email one morning and found the following message:

Good Morning Stephanie,

Thank you so much for signing up for the 8th Annual [HIGH-PROFILE PRIVATE LITERARY EVENT]. After further review with administration, we feel that your novel is not appropriate for our event. Due to the nature of the book, we just do not feel comfortable including it at the event. I apologize for the late notice and decision. We thank you for considering to join our event and again we are sorry to have to decline.

We wish you the best with your future endeavors!

All my best,

[Event Coordinator Person]

Are you kidding me?

The thing is, the event committee APPROVED my book almost two months ago. As part of the selection process, I was required to send a copy of my book and a sample of reviews. Shortly thereafter, I got an official letter inviting me to promote and sell my book at the event.

So here’s how the cookie crumbled. When the copy for the event program went up the ranks for approval, a chief decision maker apparently stopped on the description of my book and took issue.

Little 15—a riveting story about a girl, her coach and their torrid affair.

“This points to a major breakdown in our selection and approval process that we will be sure to correct moving forward so this never happens again,” one official assured me over the phone. “We are so very sorry, but given the nature of your book, we just aren’t comfortable having it at our event.”

Fine. I know my book is edgy. I know it’s risqué. But as I told the event official, my novel is intended to be a cautionary tale—one that is helping to raise awareness of an issue that happens all too often in our schools. In fact, if you look at some of the reviews for Little 15, readers have said that my novel has inspired them to sit down with their kids and talk to them about this kind of abuse.

I used that and other reader feedback as the basis for producing a book trailer for Little 15, which I scrambled to launch last week on the heels of having my invitation revoked. Psychologically speaking, it was what I needed to do to move my artistry forward in the face of what some might consider a failure or loss. But in my mind, having my book banned from an event because of the nature of its content underscores my purpose as an author: to write books that move me, no matter how off color my stories might be in the face of mainstream societal beliefs.

On the other hand, I understand how the topic of my novel could be offensive. Literary works of art often are. And that’s OK. I knew that going in. But to change your mind a week before the event? When I’ve already invested in promotional materials and 250 copies of my books?

Judy Blume: Banned Author

*Inhales* *Exhales*

Moving on.

So now, as I reflect on the events of last week, I find myself asking the question: “Is there a silver lining to all this?”

Oh yes, my friends, there sure is.

As it turns out, having my book banned puts me in a category with some pretty famous authors like Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou and Judy Blume to name a few.

All of these authors, and many like them, have had a book—or in some cases, books—removed from school or library shelves.

This sort of thing still happens all the time. I realize that my book wasn’t actually removed from a library or school, but having my invitation revoked to a private literary event gave me a taste of what censorship feels like.

In Good Company

To give you some background, each year the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were “challenged” (their removal from school or library shelves was requested).

Not surprisingly, J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series (which is one of my family’s all-time favorites) draws the most complaints, commonly from parents and others who believe the books promote witchcraft to children. Other frequently challenged titles include:

  • “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, for its use of language, particularly references to race
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, for the description of rape she suffered as a child

    Harper Lee: Banned Author

  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, for offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
  • Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer, for religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, for offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, for homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

That’s a pretty impressive list, if you ask me. And I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t aspire to be a part of it. So why this allure to be part of the banned?

Because to me, being a banned-book author is more of an accomplishment than a drawback.

It means not being afraid of tackling hard-hitting topics that might make people uncomfortable. It means not shying away from writing about real-life drama that sometimes exposes the dark side of our human character. And it means having the courage to write for one’s self instead of being driven by what people think.

That’s what I did when I wrote Little 15.

And that’s what I’ll continue to do over and over again.

• • •

***Stephanie Saye is the author of Little 15—a story about a high school basketball star, her coach and their torrid affair. When she’s not writing novels, getting a wax or spending time with her husband and two sons, you can find Stephanie on the street corner trying to hock the 250 copies of her book that she’s now stuck with after getting banned from a recent literary event. A recovering corporate suit and a native Texan, Stephanie surprisingly does not own a horse, a gun or even a pair of chaps.

To purchase a copy of Little 15, please click on the link HERE.

What do you think about censorship, banned books and controversial topics?




Why you Should Not Run Promotions on Facebook: Upcoming IPO

You see promotions all the time on Facebook.  Leave a comment on this status update and you might win a box of widgets.  Upload a photo of your pet lizard to our page and receive a box of crickets (yes, folks, lizards LOVE to eat crickets—just make sure the blasted things don’t leap out of the cage).  “Like” this post . . . .

I, for one, do not believe you should run promotions on Facebook.  You may wonder why.

By connecting us, Facebook has created something of value.  Over the last few years, Facebook has built a $3 billion-a-year advertising business by convincing major corporations like Ford, Kia and Procter and Gamble to pay for page space.  In turn, Facebook helps these companies generate buzz for their products.

Although still recovering from my stint as a big firm lawyer, I read the Wall Street Journal every day.  On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the Journal ran an article titled,  The Big Doubt Over Facebook.”  According to this article, $1 million buys Ford 125 million views or user impressions.  The same investment on American Idol would buy only 2 30-second ads.

Photo Credit: AutoGuide.com

Ford researched how social media campaigns boost sales.  By using Facebook instead of TV ads during the Super Bowl, Ford increased shopping activity for their 2011 Explorer by 104% instead of the customary 14% increase that follows a Super Bowl television campaign.  Ford makes a strong business case for Facebook advertising.

The big question investors face as the planned May 18th IPO approaches relates to valuing Facebook.  Is Facebook worth the $86 billion valuation it is seeking?  After all, Facebook has 900 million users.  It stands to reason that Facebook’s reach will result in a profitable advertising business—right?  Honestly, no one knows.  I will wager, however, that this question keeps Mark Zuckerberg awake at night.  After all, a recent Forbes article values his net worth post-IPO at $15.5 billion.

Forbes Image: Mark Zuckerberg

A lot of money is at issue here.  Facebook stands to gain or lose billions of dollars as a result of which ads its users view.  And Facebook alone controls how advertisements run on its pages.

Oh no, you cry: free speech!  When you are on someone else’s website, you must play by the website owner’s rules.  We play in Facebook’s sandbox for free.  In that sandbox, we are part of the greatest conversation the world has known.  Facebook has created tools to facilitate this conversation and it has cost the company a lot of time and money to develop these tools.  I know I have benefited immensely from the friends I have made and the thoughts we have shared.

In exchange for this, I know I am part of Facebook’s product.  Advertisers pay Facebook for a chance at catching its users’ attention.  Promotions run by a page divert that attention and dilute Facebook’s product. When you created your account or your Facebook Pages, you clicked “okay” after you skimmed your user agreement. In return, we agree not to do certain things.  Anna Gervai has written a helpful article on these rules as they relate to running promotions.  Personally, I have decided not to try to navigate these rules.  Instead, I will continue to participate in this great conversation.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?




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