Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Performance Contest Marketing

Adrian Mitchell
     Let's face it.  Poetry is a tough sale.

     Nevertheless, it isn't necessarily an impossible sale.  Suppose there were a plan that could allow your tiny publication (let's call it "The Fleshlight Press") to produce the most successful verse tome of our time:  "The Fleshlight Poetry Anthology, Volume 1".  Would that interest you?

     We begin by examining what works.  Many literary magazines conduct writing contests combining entry and subscription fees.  For example, a subscription to BOMB or Rattle qualifies you for a significant cash prize if they select your poetry over everyone else's.  This "Contest Marketing" is moderately successful but suffers from a significant limitation:  it involves only poetry producers, not poetry consumers.  (There may also be legal considerations in jurisdictions where the need to purchase something in order to win a prize constitutes a lottery, which would require licensing.)  By catering to the [over]production side rather than the [as yet nonexistent] demand side, Contest Marketing typically results in a lot of subscribers who see no need to read the underlying publication.

     The brilliant Poetry Out Loud Performance Contest encourages the public's participation as aspirants (teenagers in their case) compete to see who can best perform poems that the organizers have selected.

     Suppose you were to combine these two concepts.  Start by raising some cash for a prize fund (and judges' fees?).  The good news is that you won't have to pay these monies out until well after publication.

     Now suppose you create an anthology of poems that, unlike many of the modern ones in Poetry Out Loud, have significant performance value (roughly:  excellent mnemonics combined with drama and/or humor).  You'll need to tell the authors of your plans before they agree to participate.  Some silly ones may object to having their poem performed by thousands of people all over the world.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #32
    You publish your compendium with contest rules on the back cover.  These are simple:  entrants videorecord a performance of any poem in the collection, post it online (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube) under the name of the book (e.g. "The Fleshlight Poetry Anthology, Volume 1"), and email you their contact information (i.e. name, email address, phone number) and the URL of their video before the deadline stated.  After the deadline passes your judges make their decision and the prize is announced.  No purchase is necessary;  one might find a copy of your book at the local library (perhaps after nudging their purchasing agent in that direction).  The rules are mirrored on your web site.

     Your biggest challenge will be getting the word out.  You'll need to use every tack possible:  social media, writers' organizations, the university presses (including student newspapers), blogs, online forums, 'zines, email, etc,

     From the potential participant's point of view this is a free shot at some cash. 

     "No entry fee?  No purchase necessary?  Just stand in front of a webcam, recite a poem, post it and send out an email?  What have I got to lose?  I'm in!"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
     From your point of view it could be a bonanza.  A significant percentage of respondents and lending institutions will purchase your anthology.  Vimeo, YouTube and other venues will feature your title, "The Fleshlight Poetry Anthology, Volume 1", on thousands of posts.  Every day, millions of people will see that title on "most recent posts" lists and web searches.  Your judges can screen the entries as they appear.  Meanwhile, you have already begun work on "The Fleshlight Poetry Anthology, Volume #2".

     Nota bene:  your local writers' group may be of great assistance in this endeavor.

1 comment:

  1. This is very basic, sometimes inaccurate information: Go to school, of a sort:
    Study Keats, Shelley,Plath,Kizer, Stafford,Marvin Bell,
    Jane Hirshfield,Jim Galvin,XJ Kennedy, Hugo,Theodore
    Roethke,Komunyakaa,Naomi Shihab Nye,etc...various lit lights.
    Find a reputable Writer's Conference...go JUST to learn. Read, read, read.Then? Send 3 poems to different magazines. Wait. Keep sending, studying and reading.
    Wait. Write, Write Write.Read.Repeat. Blessings!


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