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18/11/2019: Opinion Blog: Exposure


A decade ago, in order to get some traction with book sales, new and existing writers were often encouraged to entice readers with a giveaway. These giveaways would pave the way for more readers to find you and, ultimately, your book with the hope it would lead to sales.

Of course, these loss leaders are ways to get yourself better known – essentially, you’d be doing it for exposure. A gig might look like this: Invited to talk to a small group for free for around 30 mins, after which they may look at your books which may lead to sales. Sometimes, however, no sales were made but you weren’t too downhearted because despite the travelling costs, the parking, the time out of your day and the time it took to write the speech itself, one member of the audience was part of a larger group who invite you to talk to them. Sadly, though, the next talk didn’t yield sales either.

This has happened to me far too many times, always hoping that the next gig yields money. You can argue often we are all too polite, too giving, too naïve. And you’d be right because we’re a business not a charity.

Sometimes it can work in your favour, but mostly, you’re simply giving away your work and time. Ask yourself who else does this? What other industry encourages this? Do you see Electricians giving you a handful of wires for free? A Plumber handing you a few pipes? Does a Banker give you all the money they have in their pockets? Sadly not. So why is it ok for a writer, an artist, an actor, indeed anyone in the arts to do it?

Over the years, exposure created two things: it showed audiences that you didn’t value your work and you became known for giving stuff away. Those who enjoyed freebies loved it but let’s face it, we’re not in this game to furnish the world with the work we sweat blood and tears over. Sarcasm alert…it turns out exposure doesn’t pay the mortgage, keep our cars running or fill our stomachs. A lot of writers including me stopped the gigs unless cold hard cash was offered up front – and quite rightly too.

I’ve noticed recently that Exposure has turned up again, defrosted and wearing a decidedly knowing smile. Also, it’s dressed differently, no longer in its 70s style used car salesman camel-hair jacket and dodgy moustache, now it’s more sophisticated with its long sleek hair and wearing a figure-hugging leather pant suit. It’s pretty sexy and can seduce you enough to be thankful to give a free talk. But, despite the attractive wrapping, once you know how ugly Exposure is on the inside, the outside doesn’t really matter.

It’s about being savvy, being on top of your game. It’s about knowing when to say ‘sure, I’ll speak for free’ and knowing when to pull back.

So the next time you’re offered a really good gig that’s dressed up as ‘oh it’ll be wonderful, so many people will see you’, you’ll recognise Exposure straight away. If you’re feeling flush, take her out for the night, maybe even buy her dinner but be careful, Exposure will draw you in.

The bottom line is…Exposure ,may leave you cold.

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