About Shel: “Marketing consultant and copywriter specializing in affordable, ethical, effective methods. Author of eight books, six of them on marketing. I live in a 1743 antique farmhouse on a working farm in Hadley, MA (we don’t farm it but our neighbors have 400 cows).”
1. Tell us about your latest book.
Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers is a comprehensive one-stop collection of ideas, strategies, and examples to differentiate your book in a marketplace with over 400,000 books published a year, just in the US. While it has two chapters on the bookstore system, it also covers many nontraditional ways to market books, including methods to get them bought in quantity. Full of examples of press releases, marketing plans, pitch letters, and much more. Also, when people buy the book directly from me at http://www.grassrootsmarketingforauthors.com, it comes with two extra e-books: How to Write and Publish a Marketable Book, and Web 2.0 marketing for the 21st Century (as well as assorted other goodies).
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I like to say I became a writer because I’m interested in almost everything. I started writing as the token liberal for my high school’s conservative underground newspaper (they ran my stuff with disclaimers!) in 1971 or 1972, and I’ve been writing ever since. I thought I’d make my living as a journalist, but instead, I’ve been running my commercial writing service since 1981.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m usually at the computer by 6:30 or so, and then I work in short bursts with lots of breaks–mostly because the computer makes my eyes very tired. Usually I mix various tasks during the day, so I don’t burn out on any of them. So for instance, I’ll alternate among my own writing projects, client projects, promotion/marketing, and trying to keep current in the e-mail deluge.
4. Describe your desk/workspace.
It’s messy. Usually there are several piles related to current projects, a bunch of business cards from recent networking events, and of course my iMac. Over on my right I have a shelf with the books I’ve written or those I’ve produced for clients, some basic office supplies, phone, and my credit card machine. The best part of my workspace is the view of the farm and the mountain behind it, and the second-best is the family cat, who is often parked directly to the left of my computer chair.
5. Favorite books (especially for writers)
I have tremendous admiration for skilled novelists. I enjoy Alice Walker, Ray Bradbury, J.K. Rowling, Phillip Pullman, Mark Twain, Barbara Kingsolver, and dozens of others. I can explain how to do pretty much anything, but I have never succeeded with plots and characters. Nonfiction, I tend to read a lot of books on marketing and persuasion, including those by Mark Joyner, Joe Vitale, Jay Conrad Levinson, Dave Lakhani, Susan Harrow, David Ogilvy, Ted Nicholas, Claude Hopkins…and these have made a bigt difference in my 0own writing, especially in the writing I do for clients. I’m a voracious reader, usually have several books going at once. Of course, I’m a fan of my own books too, especially Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First–which I think could actually change the world.
6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
1. My wife, novelist D. Dina Friedman (www.ddinafriedman.com), and I met at an open poetry reading in Greenwich Village, NYC, in 1978—and it turned out we went to the same high school. There’s a picture of us in my yearbook, next to each other in a crowd of people.
2. I decided to be a vegetarian at age 12, but my mom convinced me (and I didn’t have the Internet to prove her wrong) that I’d stunt my growth. So I waited until I was a 16. Still a vegetarian, as are Dina and the kids.
3. Going to Antioch College, where every three months I was thrown into the outside world and had to find housing, build community, etc. in a very short time before returning to campus three months later–and also being a member of a homestay organization (www.servas.org) for the last 25 years, made me a very good traveler. I can hit a strange city and very quickly figure out where I should go, what I should do, etc.
7. Favorite quotes
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity” (Horace Mann)
“It is a sin to be silent when it is your duty to protest” (Abraham Lincoln)
“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right” (Henry Ford)
“From Pacifica, this is Democracy Now” (Amy Goodman)
8. Best and worst part of being a writer
I’m the rare writer who actually loves writing! When I write for myself, it’s a doorway to exploring anything I want, and when I write for clients, it’s a fun challenge to make even dull-appearing subjects fascinating. I’ve had to learn to be temporarily excited about everything from accounting principles (the excitement on that one, I confess, didn’t last long) to water rights in Nepal—whatever my clients need marketing copy for.
The worst part is physical: eyestrain, repetitive stress issues in my hands, and the occasional backache. Alexander Technique, naps, vision therapy, and better glasses have helped somewhat, but it’s still frustrating. I could get SO much more done if my body would play nicely with the computer.
9. Advice for other writers
Sit down and write, stop making excuses. Learn to take advantage of short bits of free time. Back in 1991, I wrote big chunks of Marketing Without Megabucks during my daughter’s brief naps, using a primitive laptop and sitting on the porch while she napped in the playpen; some of these were only 15 minutes before she was up again. I snatched bits of time on the deck of a cruise ship to write the first 10,000 words of Principled Profit, not to mention a very detailed travel journal. Recognize that the NYC publishing process is closed to most people, but you can make a success through other paths (I’ve helped quite a few writers set up their own publishing companies and produce terrific books). If someone asks you to write “for exposure,” say yes when it makes sense and no when it doesn’t. (yes, sometimes it actually does.)
10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.
A few years ago, I opened my e-mail and found an order for my $8.50 e-book on how to have fun cheaply—from Mark Joyner, an Internet marketing superstar and best-selling author of several business books published by John Wiley. When I acknowledged the order, I added a note offering to send a gratis copy of Principled Profit, which I thought would appeal to him. He loved the book and not only wrote a very nice testimonial but began a correspondence. He asked me to contribute an essay to his book The Great Formula, which I did–and which is one time that “exposure” turned out to be pretty decent pay, as that has led to some very good contacts. Then I asked him if he’d do a teleconference just for the members of my list and the listeners to my radio show, which he did. And then he asked me out of the blue if I’d like the contact information for his editor at Wiley. The result, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, will be published next year, co-authored with another superstar, Jay Levinson. That’s another nice partnership related to the deal. I brought Jay in because I thought this was a strong fit with the branding he’d already done for 20+ years, and I knew I could benefit greatly from association with the Guerrilla Marketing brand. Everybody I talk to about this book is extremely enthusiastic and eager for the book to come out.
Where can people buy your books?
I’ve just set up a portal page leading to all my books, websites, blog, newsletters, etc., at http://shelhorowitz.com