14 Ingenious {Marketable} Pinktober Products

Everyone wants to chip in for a good cause, right? So when you see those pink products with the breast cancer awareness ribbon displayed prominently, you might think: I should get this XYZ brand, because part of the price goes to cancer research.

Actually, sometimes not so much. Sometimes a little, sometimes less than that. Pinktober has become another way to make money off cancer. I’m a cancer survivor myself, so I pay attention to it. Everyone wants a cure for cancer. Individuals do anyway. Corporations, while they are made up of individuals, tend to view breast cancer as a way to increase profits.

The less-than-impressive amounts corporations give to cancer research, is offset by an increase in sales, because everyone reaches for the pink label whenever they can. If it’s pink, it must be good. Right?

It’s not so good, when you think about it.

This year, there is a campaign called “Set the tatas free” and declared October 13th “no bra” day. Take a look here at how a double-mastectomy cancer-survivor feels about it. This is a really good post, very moving, and I urge you to read it.

On with the list, in the order of least objectionable to most disgusting. It’s not just about tee shirts any more.

Chap Stick Chapstick. What’s not to like about this product? Nothing. Maybe it’s soothing for a cancer patient to use when her lips are cracked from chemo. I don’t often think much about chapstick, but when I googled it I discovered it’s possible to become addicted to it. I thought it interesting that even the most mundane of products wants more of the cancer-action.

Playing CardsBreast Cancer 15-Year Survivor Playing Cards. Do you really have to wait fifteen years? Can I have my playing cards now? This isn’t so bad really, but proof that Pinktober is everywhere, even at your euchre tournament!

Kitchenaid pink mixerKitchenaid Stand Mixer Cook for the Cure Edition. This lovely mixer “makes a statement of compassion while delivering the performance you’ve come to expect.”  Kitchenaid says they will donate a “minimum of $450,000 each year to cancer reasearch, but it doesn’t say how much per item. Still it is a generous offer, and can’t be condemned for anything other than charging $500 for a mixer which is, well, pink. But I suppose you could always cover it up.

SteamerJiffy Esteam Travel Steamer. For each product in the Awareness Pink Line, 10% of the retail price goes to support breast cancer research. This is also generous, but who would ever have thought Pinktober products would extend to clothes steamers? It gets better, read on.

Cordless DrillSKIL iXO Pink Cordless Drill. There’s a whole line of pink tools, knows as Tools for the Cure. Again, 10% of the retail price goes to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Personally, I have some problems with this foundation. First of all, there was the issue of the pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. That generated some bad press but what is worse, they have a near monopoly on the big business of breast cancer advocacy and as such, decline to let other charities use the phrase “for the cure.” Does this sound like an organization that is genuinely interested in helping women, or merely protecting the mega-cancer business that it has become?

Wilson Golf Clubs Wilson Golf Clubs. I wasn’t able to find out how much Wilson contributes, just that they do, to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This makes me wonder if perhaps Wilson is painting their drivers pink in order to get in on the profit-taking.

Avon Nail PolishAvon nail polish.  Avon slapped a pink ribbon on a bottle of pink nail polish and called it NAILWEAR PRO Nail Enamel in Pink Power. Unfortunately, the reviews weren’t good. Apparently it’s streaky, chalky, and “not pink enough.” Avon is the sponsor of many a breast cancer walk, which serves to use the disease as a platform for brand recognition, while promoting products which contain many of the toxic chemicals associated with the same cancer it seeks to eliminate. More than 140 of Avon’s products are classified as “high hazard” due to the presence of hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and possible carcinogens.

YoplaitYoplait. These are the little yogurts that have the pink lids that need to be cleaned before you can send them in for a whopping ten cents. Just think of all the yogurt you have to eat to reach even a measly $10 donation. Hardly seems worth it. Not to mention that this brand of yogurt contains added sugar (both real and fake, as in aspertame) and petroleum-based food dyes. Yoplait also contains rbGH (or recombinant bovine growth hormone), a synthetic hormone which no one seems too sure about, as to its impact on human health, including cancer.  One final note: The blueberry flavor does not list blueberries as an ingredient. Not so sure this is a healthy choice for anyone.

Campbells soupCampbell’s chicken noodle and tomato soup. Here we’re getting to the bad stuff. Is there anything in these soup products that in any way resembles real food? Maybe not but here’s what it does contain. High levels of bisphenol-A, which is an estrogen chemical linked to breast cancer. Estrogen feeds certain cancers, so breast cancer patients would be well-advised to avoid these products, as well as healthy women and children. That leaves men. Umm, umm, good, guys, eat up.

Quilted NorthernQuilted Northern bath tissue. There’s more than one way to support cancer research! This particular brand is known to be “soft and sturdy”. That is fine, but these kinds of products are clogging up our sewers and are difficult to process at the facility. Not harmful to the person, just harmful to the environment. No thumbs up on this product but it isn’t nearly as objectionable as the ones coming up.

SwifferSwiffer dusters. More junk thrown into the landfills. There’s a good alternative to using disposable dusters, and they are eCloths, which are washable and reusable and work great. I would urge others not to buy the polluting swiffers just because the manufacturer sticks a pink ribbon on the box. They, along with disposable wipes for every purpose, are deadly.

Buckets for the CureKentucky Fried Chicken. Okay, here we go. While I applaud KFC’s attempts to offer a healthier version of chicken by cooking up the breadingless kind, I don’t think it is too popular a seller. So the majority of people are purchasing these pink buckets of the original greasy trans-fat-laden chicken parts. We know these chickens were not “happy chickens” either. That is, they didn’t strut around the barnyard until some Farmer Joe decided to whack them. They lived the most miserable lives. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to be reincarnated as a KFC chicken. No really. I wouldn’t.

Mikes Hard Pink LemonadeMike’s Hard Pink Lemonade. Alcohol to promote breast cancer awareness. I can’t seem to get past the irony of this. We’ve been told that the only healthy alcohol is red wine. Whether that is true or not, the ingredients list of this particular adult beverage consists of carbs, sugar and fat. Not exactly the best sort of product to promote good health, would you say?

HandgunSmith & Wesson Awareness Pistol. And we come to this,the ultimate insult. We don’t have enough problems with violence against women in this country. Let’s use a cute little revolver to paint pink and PRETEND WE CARE ABOUT WOMEN’S HEALTH AND NOT PROFITS. Nobody will be the wiser, right?

At a Crossroads: Contrived Plots vs Quiet Stories

IntersectionDuring our lives, we occasionally have periods of lethargy, of standing still, as if on a four-way street corner wondering whether to cross the street, turn left or right, or go back home. And it’s fine when we come to these places, if we stop and ponder what to do next. If we really think about it, rather than just plod on doing what we’ve been doing because that’s what we do.

I’ve been writing for several years now, and I love to write, although I haven’t been commercially successful with it. In fact, the ink is red when looking at income versus expenditures. I’ve thought about quitting, about reentering the work force, about volunteering.

I am confused about all of it. I haven’t worked on a novel in nearly a year now, because I made the decision that I’d market what I have first. It makes it harder to get going in the morning, when faced with marketing. I’d much rather sit down and reread what I wrote the day before, and tweak it, which is how I work.

Marketing is just a swirling mass of stuff. It’s easy to get a book out there, in either print or electronic form, or both, and there are so many good writers and so many good books, that it must be like Halloween to a five-year-old. Where should I go first? Which should I choose? Which is better, best? Which is funnier or more haunting or has the best characters or the best plot or the best action?

With so much competition, and much of it so good, and dare I say, better than my own,  it’s no wonder it’s hard to get books in front of readers.

Sad 3D Man FreeDigital Photos Dot NetFor several months,  I’ve been waking up in the morning with a bad feeling. I’m not moving towards a goal. I’m like a fly at a picnic, I don’t know where to go next. What’s the best way to spend my time?

I think it’s because I’m not working on a novel. I’ve been thinking about another book, but the ideas have been coming slower than usual. I can’t seem to get it going.

The new one will be different from my other novels.

This might be the one. If I can pull this off, and can say to myself that this is the best I have ever written, then I can be satisfied I will have accomplished what I have set out to do.

Okay. So that’s decided.

Meanwhile, I saw a tweet (Twitter must work) from a woman from whom I have taken several classes. And they were mostly good classes — I learned a lot. This class is in story structure, which I thought I could benefit from. My novels are so character-oriented that this time, I want more.

After reading the description of the course, I decided to do it. It lasts for one month, the month of April. Online, very convenient, work at your own pace, and at your preferred level of involvement. Perfect.

Three published authors were mentioned in the synopsis who will contribute to the lectures.  These authors must have great story structures, right? Since they are offering up their expertise?

A good thing to do, thought I, in preparation for this course would be read a book by all of these authors, and dissect the stories and see how each story fits into the structure.

Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

By not mentioning the name of the course or the authors or titles of the books, I can protect their anonymity since I don’t intend to write reviews of either the course or the novels.

Book #1 was the best written of the three. It was funny, sarcastic, cleverly written. Wow, I thought to myself, I am really going to enjoy this book because I love the writing. Even though this is not my usual genre, I am going to really like this a lot. And I will learn so much from it because it will have great writing and I like the main character and the plot will be, like, totally cew-ell. About half way through things started to get confusing. Everyone double-crossed everyone else. There was so much double-crossing going on I was bleary eyed and found myself shaking my head and saying “wha-att?” In the end, there were five murders, IRS agents who were really assassins, an ex-girlfriend who was really a murderer,  murderers murdering other murderers, and the grand finale, the final double-cross by the hero. There was one character who turned out to be a double-crosser and ultimately a murder victim, which still makes no sense to me. It seemed to serve no purpose other than to get the hero (who was a nearly good guy) off the guilt hook.

Book #2 wasn’t so well-written. It started with one murder and one disappearance.  The alleged perpetrator was a character who was written as hugely malign. There wasn’t one shred of decency in this horrible man. Bad to the bone. Nasty, mean, vicious. Accused of the crimes, shipped off to jail. Years later, it was determined that Mr. Bad Guy didn’t really do it. Even though he was 100% evil, he did not commit the murders. So who did? Two murders later, we find out. What a contrived story that was. And the son of the wrongly-accused-yet-horrible-man alleged murderer and the daughter of the wonderful father never-did-no-wrong-to-anybody murdered guy, end up together in the end. Okay! Whatever.

Book #3 was worst of all. Interesting, that I read them in the sequence I did. What starts out as an accidental death on a park trail, (woman pushes man, man falls over cliff and dies) ends up with woman covering up the death because they were arguing at the time about whether to keep a sack of diamonds  which was found on another dead body they happened to encounter along the trail. The evil woman wants to keep the diamonds, the good husband (who recently found Jesus) says no way. This book contained no profanity (“he called me a name you would call a mean woman”) and interspersed throughout were Bible verses and references to being saved. Gulp. Okay, last chapter. The body of the husband was deliberately switched at the morgue with a John Doe. But wait! He wasn’t really dead! He was in a coma. Thankfully, he came out of it on the last page but that’s where the story ended. Oh, and the coma guy’s sister and the coma guy’s best friend got together. Ah.

It’s clear I can’t compete with this kind of stuff. Nor would I want to. I will continue with the class, but comparing my plot with some of the other students’ plots? No way. Let’s just say  — No puedo hacer eso.

I can’t do it. I’m sticking to my Quiet Stories.

3D Man photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

Are You A Twitter User? Check Your Tweets!

If you have decided to use Twitter as a marketing tool for your self-published novel (or for any other reason), check your tweets regularly. Because, if you don’t — You Might Miss Something!

Social media is the way to promote books, if you are an Indie author and/or publisher. That’s pretty much a given, but there are so many venues. Which one(s) to choose? I chose Facebook and Twitter. I have a Facebook fan page, where I post a link to a new blog article, and an autopost goes to Twitter whenever there is a new blog post published.

I checked Twitter faithfully for a long time and accumulated a few followers, and noticed that I would get this notification: “@xtrememarketing is now following you on Twitter!”. When I’d check out this particular Twitter user, often I wouldn’t know how s/he found me in the first place. Many of these strangers were following thousands of other people. I couldn’t figure out how they would ever see my particular tweets and anyway, why would they care about what I had to say?

Puzzling over this, I did a little research and found that what a lot of people do is check the list of followers for people they currently follow, and become followers of all those people. Twitter etiquette is more or less “you follow me, I’ll follow you” but what these mass marketers would do, is unfollow me as soon as I signed up to follow them. You don’t know when someone unfollows you, only when they begin to follow you. So now, you are following them but they don’t have to follow you.

Even if they don’t unfollow you, how can they ever find you, in the sea of tweets of thousands? There are lists that can be created, where you can follow the tweets of only the people you really care about. Again, what are my chances of being included on the A-list?

Bottom line, I forgot about Twitter. Didn’t check, didn’t have time, didn’t bother. Then one night I got the urge to tweet something so I downloaded Tweetdeck onto my phone and now started getting tweets again. This past weekend I got a notification (when someone tweets you directly) that I’d been nominated for a blogger award. But also on that list, was a tweet from one of my Boomers and Books buddies, that she had featured Perigee Moon on her Teaser Tuesday post! Great news, except it was back in June! I hadn’t even known about it.

Gah! I felt terrible.

I should have been on that post, replying to the people who left comments. But it’s too late now, it’s been four months.

Moral of the story: If you sign up for Twitter, people expect you are using it, and they assume you read your tweets. If you aren’t going to check them, disable your account. Otherwise, you won’t know what you are missing.

Many readers of The Tuesday Teaser post left comments. Most were positive, “sounds like a good read”, “will check it out”, etc. But here were three I found interesting:

Luke sounds a little bit spineless

Not sure if its for me though…I like stronger willed characters.

I think that Luke is going to be a character that I would like to shake really hard and tell him to get a life

Poor Luke has had this criticism before, that he can be pushed around, that he doesn’t think for himself, etc. I tried to portray him as a passive sort of guy, who keeps a lot of his thoughts inside and was able to be manipulated when he was younger. Sometimes it takes a little growth and maturity to become the person we were meant to be. It was so with Luke.

I know of a case where this Kate/Luke scenario actually happened. Not firsthand, but a friend of a friend kind of situation. Here’s how it went. The woman stalked him, sat outside his house and waited for him to come home at night, from outings with his friends and even dates with other girls. She wouldn’t go away. Finally, he caved and she got her man, and they’ve been married for decades. This is a happier ending than Luke and Kate but I found that story interesting and fictionalized their relationship on the idea that if one person wants it bad enough, sometimes she can convince the other to go along.

This is what happened to Luke. What do you think? Some of you baby boomers, don’t you think that was possible back then? I thought it was.

And now…

News You Should Not Notice!

“I have something, very, very big concerning the President of the United States.” Donald Trump, self-appointed highly respected political analyst, teased the Fox & Friends folks with this tidbit Monday during a phone interview. He is going to announce it sometime on Wednesday, he says, and “it’s going to be very big.”

DonkeyHotey / Foter / CC BY-SA

Just how big is that, Donald? When are we, as a nation who recognizes people such as this guy as somehow having something valuable to say (like “the job numbers are a lot of monkey business”), going to slap ourselves up side the head and recognize that maybe, uh, he’s a moron? Monkey business? That’s a phrase out of the fifties.

Remember, Donald, “The world rewards the appearance of merit oftener than merit itself.” (François de la Rochefoucauld) 

Appearance is the key word here. You only appear to be someone who matters. You really aren’t.

Distressed Lady Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art.

3D Man Photo courtesy of freedigitalprints.net

Marketing Woes and Roasting Turkeys

What a trying time it has been around here. I went back yet again (I must have read this post twenty times) to Peggy Strack’s blog post about new authors paying for reviews. Ms. Strack decided to do it, so I looked into the links she provided. Before I could decide whether I would approach anyone for a review, I visited their websites, clicked on links to authors, links to books, links to blogs, trying to decide if it could be a match. Often I ended up not knowing how I landed on a particular site, completely confused and at a dead end, realizing that I had accomplished very little, if anything.

And was I sure I really wanted to do it anyway? Here was my thought process:

After much consternation (a feeling of anxiety, fear, dread or confusion), I decided to go for it. But which reviewer should I pick? After comparing, I came to the following conclusion. Readers Favorite will do free reviews, and only if you wish to have it expedited (one to two weeks) will they charge $59 for it. I am still uncertain as to how I feel about paying for reviews, unless the reviewer has a reputation for writing them honestly, whether they have been purchased or not. A paid-for “guaranteed 5-star review” isn’t an honest review, not to me as the author who genuinely wants to know what those “in the business” might think of my work, or to readers. I want to pick reviewers who will give me a negative review if my book deserves it. Readers Favorite will post 3, 4 or 5-star reviews on their site, but less than that warrants an email with constructive criticism.

I got the expedited review, though, because I was very curious and hope doing that did not influence the reviewer. It received a 5 star review! You may not be surprised to hear this because you, oh wise readers, know that I wouldn’t be telling you I got the review at all if it hadn’t turned out well. You can read it here.

5 Star Reviews Kick Ass!

I think I may now go for a Publishers Weekly review. This won’t be as immediately gratifying because they select the books they will review and typically only 25% of submissions make the cut. The reviews they do are done quarterly and will be published next in December. They do charge for it but is that countered by the fact that they discard 75% of submissions anyway? The fee is refunded in those cases. So it might not even get a review, and if it does, the opinion could be: This book sucks, but not as much as the ones we didn’t even deign to review at all. In order to gauge whether my book might have a shot, I looked at some of the books they had reviewed in my (sort of) genre.

To indicate that they found a novel particularly good, they star (*) it (just star / no star). I wondered if mine could compete with a starred book so I downloaded one: Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World. I read it and it’s good, very good. What an interesting concept, interrelated short stories but the more I read, the more I thought of it as a novel. It was well-written, and interesting and I enjoyed it very much. The only complaint I had was the amount of semicolons used. I am a firm believer in using this particular punctuation sparingly, and I became obsessed with noticing how many there were.

Based on the quality of this book (i.e. excellent), I haven’t quite made the decision as to whether to submit or not but am leaning toward it.

Photo Courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

I had a dream, one of those frustration things this morning, early. In the dream, I was roasting a turkey, actually two turkeys and I was in an unfamiliar kitchen and the work areas were all cluttered and I couldn’t find anything, including my wine glass. There were others in the kitchen, three people I think, but none of them would help me. In the next room there sat a midget man at a high table, the Turkey Help Desk. He told me to crush potato chips and press them into the turkey skin using an oreo cookie. Okay. This is the kind of crap I dream. I’m pretty sure potato chips would not be the way to go with this. But I did like the oreo cookie part, interesting. Wonder where that came from?

In the dream I went from task to task, in a circle of uncertainty. I need to do Task 1. Before I do Task 1, I should really do Task 2. Then I move to Task 2, and find I need to do Task 3 before I do Task 2. It’s been like that lately with marketing. Going around and around in the interweb (thanks to my new Roadrunner connection I am back in the 21st century), dashing here and there, and forgetting from whence I came.

I don’t do marketing well. It intimidates me. I want to do the right thing, but don’t always know what that is. I can’t seem to focus on it. Woe is me.

That’s why I dream crazy stuff about roasting turkeys.


New feature! News You Should Not Notice!

Spotted! Mila Kunis Without Makeup!

Photo courtesy of some papparazzi – so sue me!

Are we serious here? This is a news story? WTF (that’s “who”) gives a farthing of a shit about this? First of all, who is Mila Kunis? I didn’t even know. OH! She’s the Sexiest Woman Alive 2012! Every year we have a new Sexiest Woman? What happened to the Sexiest Woman 2011? Did she (shudder) gain six ounces or something?

And another OH! Mila is the “rumored” girlfriend of Ashton Kucher. Sorry, Ashton, but Charlie Sheen, you are not. And a rocket scientist you are not. And a nice person you are not. I remember that dalliance with the bimbo in the hotel room. You remember that? When you were married to Demi Moore and that girl tweeted about what y’all were doing? She gives new meaning to “dumb blonde”.

This is not news. No one should care about this. But the problem is, we do. We don’t care about what’s happening to our country. No. We care about what Mila Kunis looks like without makeup.

And you know what? She doesn’t look that good.

3D Man Photo courtesy of freedigitalprints.net

Laughing Lady on Porch Photo credit: abbyladybug / Foter / CC BY-NC

4 Blog Updates, 1 Household Hint and A Song

(Originally I planned to include three updates to previous blogs. But then something really surprising happened, so it’s four blogs to update.)

Blog Update #1. Last week I blogged about the book on writing, Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotinik and Mr. Plotnik himself commented on it! In that post, I had noted twelve words, the meanings of which I wasn’t sure, from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. This week I am re-reading Freedom, Mr. Franzen’s most recent novel. Naturally, I’m finding more words that are I’m not familiar with, and since I am reading on my Kindle, I note it (handy Kindle feature) so I can look up those words later, and re-examine the sentences in which they appear.

As Mr. Plotnik says: “What if a word is likely to be outside the reader’s active or half-known vocabulary? Then even undefined it should lend some special aura, some majesty or exoticism, to the context.” So even if the reader couldn’t give the exact meaning of a word, the sentence in which it appears is crafted such that he still gets it.

This was a really big deal to me, that Mr. Plotnik commented on my post.

Blog update #2. I reviewed the excerpts from the finalists in the ABNA 2012 Contest in both the General and Young Adult Fiction categories. I did not predict correctly in the General category but in the Young Adult, I did.

A Beautiful Land by Alan Averill wins for General Fiction. It started out with a good hook but ended with a bad simile, the one about the Poe boarder.

But my pick for best Young Adult did win, On Little Wings by Regina Sirois. And the really exciting thing (to me) was that this author actually found the review and commented on my post. Think my post had anything to do with her winning? I doubt it, but I’m glad for her. It’s a good story.

Last year, I was 0-for-2. This year at least I got one right. Congratulations to both winners. What an accomplishment!

Blog update #3. Last October, I published The 24 Most Annoying Phrases for 2011 but I need to bump that up to 25. This phrase has been in use for a while, so it still applies to the year 2011.

Reach out!

This is how you make initial contact with someone in business-speak. You can reach out to someone in many ways: phone call, e-mail, instant message, or just bumping into the person who needs to be reached out to in the salad bar line at the cafeteria. Probably want to skip the rest room for any serious reaching out, but anywhere else is fine.

This phrase is so annoying that I made a solemn vow never to let these two words fall from my lips, consecutively, in the same sentence. Other assemblies of the two words in the same sentence are not considered offensive as long as there is at least one word between “reach” and “out”.

Alas. I was once upon a time on some sort of conference call and after much reaching out was being attempted by others, and before I had the proper amount of time to correctly formulate my thoughts, I heard the phrase “reach out” come out of my mouth. I had said it. Gagh! I have yet to forgive myself for it. I will go to my grave knowing that I once said “reach out” and meant it. (It’s perfectly okay to say it if you are being sarcastic or joking around, but if you say it and mean it, this is a vile happening indeed.)

One commenter on the post mentioned this phrase should probably be included in the list and I realized he was absolutely right, that this is one of the worst offenders and yet I had mistakenly omitted it. My apologies, Reach Out, for not including you, and kudos to you for being one of the most ridiculous, silly, meaningless buzzphrases of all!

Blog update #4. I once wrote a blog about marketing strategies that I didn’t think worked and one of them was the Jos A Banks “Buy 1 get 4 Free!” advertising methodology. They recently sent four coupons to my husband “in honor of his birthday”. How they got that information, I don’t know.  

Yippee! Each coupon was for $25 off on a $125 purchase. Okay, that’s nice. And there are four coupons remember. Or instead, says Jos, take $100 off a $500 purchase! But wait, that’s, uh, yeah, that’s 4 times $25 and 4 times $125… Got it! Obviously they think people can’t multiply. Come on, Jos, your customer base is buying cashmere coats and merino wool suits and silk ties. Which is a real good indicator that they aren’t Joe The Plumber and probably are educated and affluent and they can multiply a couple of numbers by 4. Geesh. It isn’t even insulting, it’s just stupid on their part.   

Household Hint. The e-cloth! Found in Real Simple magazine, this is a great way to clean up. These cloths contain millions of tiny fibers which supposedly grab on to all kinds of household gunk and remove it. You can clean anything with just water. Tile, showers, porcelain, glass and there’s even an eCloth for polishing your wine glasses. There are packs for the kitchen, for the bath, for the car, or “all purpose” eCloths. Dust cloths are used dry, all the others use plain water. No more chemicals. It’s fast and it works.

I have been trying to find a way to clean black granite for years – Voila! The eCloth was the solution. Highly recommended.

A great song. Coast by Eliza Gilkyson. It plays regularly on my Emmy Lou Harris Pandora station. Listen to how beautiful it is, how melancholy. Very moving.

Marketing That Doesn’t Work

Number 1 marketing scam that doesn’t work: I just got off the phone with The American Express Food & Wine Publishing Company. In order to speak to these oh-so-helpful folks, I had to call the regular American Express number, enter a whole bunch of numbers, make a whole bunch of choices (none of which were what I wanted), so I had to select zero in order to be connected to a customer service representative.

The representative had obviously been well trained in polite-speak and I could just imagine what she said to the person next to her after she put me on hold. She would have said, “Nasty bitch”. I told her what my problem was. That I had received a card in the mail telling me that (Good News!) I would soon be receiving the annual 2011 Food & Wine WINE GUIDE, which will tell me all about wine pairings with food and stuff. I buy big bottles of wine and as far as I know, it “pairs” well with just about anything.

If I wasn’t “delighted” I could return the book within 90 days and if I was “delighted”, for my convenience, they would be happy to charge my American Express account. I have a problem with this. I could return a card if I didn’t want to get the Wine Book (for which, of course I had to supply a stamp), but I do not want to be bullied into a credit card charge, simply because I am too lazy to return a book or even a card. I want to buy what I want to buy, and I don’t like this. I know the cost isn’t that great (only $12.95 plus 1.99 for shipping), it’s the principle of it that I question.

Maybe I’m getting cranky and all worked up about it but how do they figure they can just inform you that they are mailing you a book, without your having asked for it and bill you for it and make it kind of difficult for you to say No Thanks? I decided I wasn’t going to lay down for it (<– that’s probably a cliché but too bad).

Never mind how frustrating it is to get connected to a breather these days, why does the music they play while you are on hold have to be so God-awful? It hurts the ears, and is always accompanied by distortions that threaten to cause hearing loss. And they apologize profusely about why it is taking so long to transfer me to the Publishing Area. Finally Jason comes on the line, and he is from the Publishing Area, and he is so willing to help me with whatever my problem is. Sure! I can cancel you out of that! So sorry!

Why did I have to go through this? Aren’t there regulations these days about aggressive marketing techniques such as this? It doesn’t work with me. It just makes me mad at American Express for partnering with these people.

Jason likely turned to his neighbor after I got off the line and said, “Nasty bitch”.

Number 2 marketing strategy that doesn’t work: I call this the Jos. A. Bank marketing technique. Jos. A. Bank is an upscale men’s “furnishings” store. They sell cashmere sweaters for hundreds of dollars, expensive suits, nice sports jackets, silk shirts, beautiful ties. Anything the self-assured, confident, upwardly mobile male could want. They cater to a clientele that is affluent so guess what, they are usually pretty smart.

Their ploy is that if you buy one item, they will throw in a bunch of free stuff. Buy one, get one absolutely free! That doesn’t work? Buy one, get two absolutely free! I have heard them go up to as many as five (that’s 5) items free if you buy one overpriced sports coat.

The other day, they were selling jackets for $99. Just $99! But wait! Nothing free? Where’s my free stuff?

The point here is that the audience they cater to was not born yesterday (cliche alert), nor are their IQs falling off the low end of the charts. They are smart, and they can figure out that if Jos. A. Bank can afford to give away so much free stuff, and we know they are still making a profit in there somewhere, else they would not be in business, why don’t they just sell their products for a reasonable price, and stop with all the advertising of “free”? It’s pretty ridiculous, and if anyone ever bought anything in that store for full price with no free stuff, they probably need a brain scan.

Just don’t think you can fool us, Jos, because we aren’t Walmart shoppers here.

Number 3 marketing technique that doesn’t work: I’ve touched on this subject before. Cracker Barrel and the necessity to drag out the holiday cheer five months before we want it! I like the restaurant, the comfort food they serve, and the funny old stuff they hang on the walls, old calendars and pictures and advertisements. It’s a nice atmosphere, and you can be assured that Friday will always be “brown rice day” in any Cracker Barrel from Ohio to Florida.

Brown rice is the vegetable of the day on Fridays. It’s yummy, and combine that with some other vegetables and you’ve got yourself one good lunch. (Although I’m still not sure macaroni and cheese is a vegetable.)

The store part is questionable though. I don’t mind the old fashioned candy, and the candles, cards and even the country western CDs. But the holiday crap needs to go. Take a look at my picture of the talking broom.

Here’s a poor soul forced to wear a witch’s hat. If I were this lady, I would quit that job, citing “intelligence discrimination” as in –  Why do I have to wear this dumb thing on my head and look like an idiot just to keep this lousy job?

Here is the tackiest item I could find, a clock where the numbers are apples. Note how the numbers at the fifteen minute marks are half apples. Isn’t that special?

And here is a lovely platter, complete with tacky saying. You know the kind. “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best!” Meh. Barf. Wish this photo had turned out a little better, the TS (Tacky Saying) is “With a Heart that is true I’ll be waiting for You in the shade of the old Apple Tree”. Wow. Nice.

Does anyone really buy this stuff? And the fact that they get these awful items into the store at such an early date is deplorable. It’s two months until Halloween! It’s three months until Thanksgiving! It’s four months until Christmas!

Halloween is not a big deal anyway, it’s another marketing day, and an excuse to show Chainsaw Massacre on TV. Ooh! Frightful. No, actually, just a really bad movie.

No one really buys much for Thanksgiving, except food, and flowers. And maybe wine. Hey, you might want to try the American Express Food & Wine WINE GUIDE!

Blog Anniversary – Six Months Already

About a month ago, I went to Molly Woo’s Chinese American Bistro. I love it when they are called “bistros”. I know there will be lovely atmosphere, good wine, and servers who are young, good-looking, and condescending.

It was a hot day, and the gentleman (barely 21 most likely) behind the podium asked if we wished to be seated inside or outside.

“Inside, I think,” I said.

“Fantastic!” he said.

Really? Was that because it’s a pain in the ass for them to seat you outside, the servers having to come in and out through the heavy door? Was it because he was concerned about our comfort, on such a hot day? I was curious why he thought my decision to be inside was “fantastic” and pondered it all through the meal.

My fortune cookie said “A thrilling time is in store for you.

Great! That means my blog is about to take off? I’m going to get a call from Ellen? Oprah?

So far, nothing thrilling has happened, but then it’s only been a month.

Today is July 9, 2011 and the six-month anniversary of my blog. My first post was on January 9, 2011. I thought it appropriate to recognize this less than impressive anniversary.

The blog started out pretty well, I think a lot of my Facebook friends checked it out, and then probably found it boring. In February it tanked pretty well, but as you can see by the chart, it has steadily improved since then. June saw the same numbers as January. So far July isn’t too impressive though, so the trend may not continue.

I think a lot of the same people read it every time, and for that I thank them profusely. But I haven’t been able to attract many new readers / fans to my blog. It is disheartening sometimes, and when I check the stats and see a big goose egg (Sorry, no readers today!) I get mad and discouraged and vow to quit altogether. But then I don’t.

It’s what I have chosen to try and promote myself and my books so if I quit doing that, what next? I find myself getting lost in a circle of uncertainty, what’s the best way? What can I try next, without doing something that my introversive personality could never support?

Sometimes I spend a good portion of a day on one blog post. This past blog, about the bluegrass music, and WWII, for example, was time consuming, since I edited the chapter several times. When I got done, I still thought the story was pretty boring. No wonder the editor said to cut it out.

The time spent on writing a blog that has a small readership could better be spent on writing, but once another book is completed, if no one knows about me, they’ll never know it exists. Bah!

Vicious, vicious circles.

Surprisingly, the one post that has the most traffic is the one about Designing Your Own Book Cover. I could see that it was reached by a variety of Google searches and a lot of people read it. No one commented on it, of course, so maybe it wasn’t all that helpful to anyone. I find it difficult to get comments out of readers.

I need just one post to go viral and then people who read it may read some of the previous posts. It’s a long shot, but you never know when / if it will happen. I’m going to keep on blogging, but I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed if July doesn’t top June.

And here’s another ancient Chinese proverb: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

I take this to mean, it is better to concentrate on one thing than to go off in different directions. So I’ll continue blogging, at least for a while.