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Marketing Questions For Writers

Updated on November 4, 2013

Lessons from the Past

My parents were teens during the Great Depression. One does not live though an economic disaster like that without having some pretty clear views on money. One of their views was that their only son needed to go to college so that he could find success and never have to live like they had to live. Understandable when viewed from their experiences; also understandable was their insistence that their only son major in business when he went to college, for big money followed big business, and to them big money spelled success.

So their only son majored in Marketing while in college, and because he was an overachiever he tossed in an Economics major while he was at it. He hated those courses because he wanted to be a teacher, but he respected his parents and he understood where they were coming from, so he hung tough and received his dual degrees in 1970 and then went forth into the world to seek his fame and fortune.

Lovely story and I wish I could tell you that I found fame and fortune but alas, I became a teacher. LOL

However, the education I received in Business was not wasted. Over the years I have owned three businesses, and many of the business principles I learned forty years ago were still valid when I had my businesses and they are still valid today.

Let me share some of those principles, fine-tuned with writing in mind, with you. If you are not writing for money then stop right here and go watch some daytime television. This one is definitely not for you. If, however, you are interested in making some money at this writing gig, then read on.

Your writing headquarters
Your writing headquarters | Source

The Business of Writing

If you are earning income writing, or if you want to earn income writing, then writing must be treated like the business it is. That means developing a business plan and that means developing a business strategy.

I don’t know how many writers I have heard bemoaning the lack of income, but when asked what their product is they cannot answer. Make no mistake about it: your writing is your product….but your definition must be more specific than that.

Is Your Product Unique?

I want you to take a second and answer this question: what do you give your readers with your writing? Be as specific as possible with your answer. Now, answer this question: who is my target audience? Now, answer this question: do I provide a service for my target audience with my specific product?

This is, in fact, Marketing 101. Identify a need, identify a specific buying audience, and then sell your product as an answer to that need for that specific audience.

I can hear a heckler in the cheap seats yelling out….”but I’m a novelist; I don’t need to worry about answering your stupid questions.” And I would say to that novelist that you, sir, are an idiot if you believe that. This is exactly what publishers do when they take on a client. They tailor their ad campaign with a specific buying audience in mind; they tailor their ad campaign with a specific need in mind. It has worked for Madison Avenue for quite a long time now; there is no reason to believe it won’t work for a solitary writer.

Useful information

Is Your Product Worthy of the Effort?

I guarantee you right now that I could take a mediocre writer and, given enough money for an ad campaign, I could make him, or her, a reasonably rich person. However, that is not the real world that we live in. Barring some lucky circumstances that cannot possibly be foreseen, most writers are judged on the quality of their work, and their success, ultimately, depends on that quality.

Here, then, is the biggest problem I have with online success stories in the writing business. Today anyone can write a book. If the stars align just perfectly anyone could go viral….but….that does not mean they are good writers.

Do you want to bet your future on the stars aligning perfectly or do you want to give yourself a fighting chance by churning out quality writing?

For a few months, years ago, the Pet Rock was the latest sensation. In the end, however, it was just a rock. Is your writing just a rock or is it a boulder made from exquisite minerals? Let me put it another way. Who remembers Mungo Jerry? In 1970 that British rock group had a #1 song called “In the Summertime.” End of story; they rapidly disappeared from the rock scene.

Do you want to be a one-hit wonder or would you like to have some staying power with your writing?

Improve your product; keep improving your product; give yourself a fighting chance in this business by being the best writer that you can be.

Network to a specific group that can help you
Network to a specific group that can help you | Source

Are You Networking Properly like Your Writing Life Depended on It?

Because, quite simply, it does!

Networking is a new phenomenon, right? Wrong! Long before the computer hit the world scene, Hemingway networked, as did Steinbeck, as did all the others. They mingled with writers. They made contacts in the publishing business. They ate, breathed and slept writing.

And so must you!

How many writers do you know who think that networking solely consists of spreading their work on Facebook and Pinterest? Quite a few I would venture to guess; you may be one of them. Networking refers to making contacts in the industry and not seeing how many Facebook sites you can post your work to.

Here’s the problem with networking on Facebook: everybody does it and eventually it becomes like background music on an elevator. You hear it but really don’t pay any attention to it.

The publishing business has changed drastically over the past decade with the advent of self-publishing and ebooks. Publishers are not eager to take a flyer on a new, unknown writer. With that as a truth, you must pay your dues and make yourself known. You do that by working your way up through the ranks. You build your platform. You pick up some bylines. You meet publishers and agents and writers and you establish a bond with them. Then, and only then, provided you have the skills necessary, will your star rise high enough to be seen by those who can advance your career.

Where bad marketing ideas end up
Where bad marketing ideas end up | Source

More helpful tips

Those Are Just the Basics

A marketing campaign for a writer is like a rock hitting the lake and the ripples that are generated from that rock. You need a lot of ripples as a writer, and you need to find a way to keep those ripples circulating. It’s nice to make a big splash, but the income will come from those ripples.

I have given you some things to think about. I see far too many writers flailing away in their craft, and I have had far too many writers ask me why they are not succeeding when in fact, to the trained eye of a marketing expert, their failures and shortcomings were very predictable.

I would love it if the literary world were set up so that the best writers made money and it was all judged just on talent, but that ain’t the real world. Talent is huge, but so, too, is the ability to market that talent and let the world know about that talent. If I had to pick the number one comment I have heard from writers, it would be that they don’t like to market themselves. They are writers, not marketers. Well, good luck to them because they are going to need it. Who do you suppose is going to market your work if you don’t?

It is never too late to do things the right way. Go through this article question by question. Answer them and then start to devise a marketing plan. I’m willing to bet you will be pleased with the results.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Took marketing too in college and went onto teach. Just another thing we do have in common Bill and reading your tips here I seriously couldn't agree more. So thank you for sharing more of your wisdom with us from your experience and knowledge base, too. Wishing you a great day now, as well!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, it takes a marketing grad to know a marketing grad. LOL Thank you; I don't know how you can be so fast but I am grateful as always. Have a great Monday.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I liked this. A while back I did some marketing and coined a phrase; Marketing is education and education is marketing. Spreading information and knowledge is a good thing. Great Hub Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Eric! I really don't enjoy writing about marketing but it such important information for writers who want to sell their work....and so I do it and then reward myself by writing something I love writing the next day. :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I like the ripples in the pond analogy; so true that the little ripples work away at spreading the word. Not only any writer but anyone wishing to succeed in any job should heed your advice and work hard at making a difference, at making themselves the best at what they do. Wishing you a great week, bill. Ann

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! I'll be busy making some ripples. :) I greatly appreciate you my friend.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      This is a well-organized article that definitely gets to the heart of an aspiring writer's marketing questions, Bill. I definitely could relate with the parental angst of the Baby Boomer generation when the universal goal of loving parents was to ensure that their kids got a decent education so they could have a better life.

      But today, we have a different world and some upside down priorities. I could stand on a tree stump all day and rant about how local, regional, and federal funds that could be wisely invested in supporting quality education are instead diverted into ridiculous "Let's get FAT CAT fatter!" schemes.

      So populist messages like yours ring true. I just wish the youngsters could have similar messages presented to them at the outset of their educational experience.

      Keep that fire lit, good buddy! Aloha, and may there be some sunshine today!

      ~Joe

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Joe!

      My educational fire extinguished when I left teaching three years ago; I was tired of being handcuffed by the system and not being allowed to teach.

      So here I am teaching whenever I can...and loving it!

      Have a great week buddy; ice on the ground here.

      Are the Seahawks good or lucky?

      Aloha

      bill

    • Rachel Horon profile image

      Rachel Horon 3 years ago from Indiana

      As I work to grow as a professional writer, I never thought to create a business plan for myself because I did not think of myself as a business yet. Everything I know about it I have learned second-hand from my husband and his MBA background. I will say that I am better at answering your Marketing Questions than I was a few years ago. Thank you for your useful article.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Bill

      Really helpful article. You studying Marketing all those years ago is benefiting many now.

      I have a grand plan... which I am hopefully edging slowly towards. Very slowly :)

      Thank you as always for sharing your knowledge and just for being you!

      Anna

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I hope that you had a great weekend exploring the back roads and taking pictures :-) I can't wait to see your first article about that!

      It's not easy to be known as a writer even if you are a good one. It takes a lot of work outside of writing to be known. And I agree with you that Facebook is like background music on an elevator; I am not so sure that it's as popular as at its beginning. The same for Twitter.

      Brendon Burchard succeeded in using marketing to be known as a writer or a marketer.... or maybe it's the other way around. He arrived to create a buzz around what he does by publishing books.

      I have one of my son who is an aspiring writer. I will send him the link of your article :-) Have a great day!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rachel for stopping by. Yes my friend, you are a business.....and the sooner other writers understand this fact, the sooner their business will be successful.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, I love that you have a plan and are working it. Slowly or quickly, a plan is crucial.

      Have a great day my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Joelle and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I did have a nice weekend and the travel article comes out tomorrow. It was an interesting experience and now I look forward to the next one.

      Enjoy your week and happy writing to you.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Although, to me marketing is a dirty word, it's necessary. I've finally faced up to the fact and am working on a plan. Thanx for the advice and very helpful videos, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are always welcome, Sha! I know marketing is a dirty word; I hate it as well. Sigh! We do what we have to do, don't we? :)

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hey Bill, interesting and informative as always. I must admit, when I see really good writers struggling, I get very discouraged. However, you do a marvellous job of inspiring us.

      My best.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I wouldn't mind being a one hit wonder....j/k...kinda. lol

      Great message, none of us should ever be fool enough to think someone is going to come looking for us because we are so good. I just wonder about these people who sell eBooks for 99 cents and claim to make a living at it? Do you know anything about that? They have dozens. Use to see them at Fb a lot but don't go there much anymore. ^+

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, I am not above being discouraged. This is a tough business; certainly not for the weak of spirit. :) I'll keep inspiring and you keep writing. Deal?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, I hear the same stories and I have no reason to doubt them. They obviously learned the system and do it right....I have not learned that system yet, but there is always tomorrow. :)

      Thanks dear friend; have a great Monday!

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 3 years ago from Olney

      Well said Billy..I find I never do enough marketing but on the days I do I notice a huge increase in views on hubpages.

    • lizyetter profile image

      Elizabeth Yetter 3 years ago from Oley, PA

      Jackie, I am one of those people who have started selling 99 cent Kindle books. After 3 months, I am about ready to quit some of my lesser paying jobs to focus writing full-time for Kindle. You can make good money selling 99 cent books.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This is good advice, as every profession involves marketing yourself and your ideas. Answering the questions you've posed are important if you view writing as a profession rather than just a hobby.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Hi Billy! Excellent points. When I was working at the law firm, we started networking back around 1996/1997. I took on a new roll as business manager. I started doing the marketing. I also developed brochures. But networking was the most important piece to make all of the other fluffy stuff to work. We took on a huge company that had say 5000 employees. We received many clients from that company. And then we gained more clients from those employees of that company. It became very important, even back then. Today it's so crucial with all of the social media connections.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      one2get2no, it is a reminder for us all...me included. :) Thanks for stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, lizyetter, for sharing your experience.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, thank you for that. If it is money you want then you have to do more than just write.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Brandi, for sharing that. If we could only get more writers to understand the importance of making contacts in the community of writers. There is success to be had if you do the footwork.

    • profile image

      Tina Truelove 3 years ago

      More great advice from billybuc! I went out and bought Writers Market 2013 like you advised me last year, but then there was an illness and then an injury and another excuse and another and another. Other than socializing with friends on social media, I've pretty much been offline since early Spring but it is good to be back and reading your work again. Thank you for this very valuable information.

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 3 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Marketing is a slow process and takes time and effort to get it rolling. The business plan is essential, I agree.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      This is a great follow-up to my networking at trade shows hub! Same principles apply to ANY marketing. Voted up and shared, of course.

      Gotta run and take care of my Pet Rock. :)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I'm back. And tired as heck. You have laid out a process for success in very simple terms here. I like your approach of writers asking themselves questions. How we answer these simple questions really tells us if we are on track for success.

      As always you have given us much to think about. But, if we want to be successful at this we had better take heed. Great job.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tina my friend, it is good to have you back. I hope you are feeling better and your life has settled down a bit. Thanks for thinking of me.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      posh, it is a slow process. Everyone expects fast results and that is just not reality. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I thought the same thing when I read your hub yesterday. I thought you would approve. Thanks for the affirmation and say hi to that rock for me. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, welcome back wherever you have been. If you were traveling then I look forward to reading all about it. Thanks my friend; you are always welcome here.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Are these photos a prelude? I have a feeling the Nikon will get a workout!

      Yes the publishing business has changed drastically in the last decade as everything else has thanks to technology. It is also true you have given us some things to think about. The great teacher, planting a seed and letting the student grow that seed. Thanks again my friend.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great hub, Bill. Your advice is very true and fitting for this craft!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Another helpful hub. Your commitment to helping other writers is wonderful. Thank you..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Ruby! I am happy to see your familiar and supportive face back with me here. Thank you so much.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Liz! Not an exciting subject but still one that is important.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I had to look to see which pictures were on this. LOL No, these are old pictures, but thank you.

      Change is constant, is it not? We have to go with the flow or get washed out to sea my friend.

      Thank you as always and I hope you are well.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the reminder about the importance of marketing, Bill. I know it's something that I need to do, even though I don't like it!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alicia, you are not alone. I don't think any of us like it. :) Thanks for the visit.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Thanks Bill once again. You are always sure to cover every aspect of becoming a writer, a successful one!

      Appreciate the insight and the helpful information as always.

      Blessings,

      Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And Faith, you are always sure to appear here lending your support, and for that I am most grateful.

      blessings always my friend

      bill

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Marketing Questions For Writers so true and well mentioned, definitely a useful, and most helpful hub to all writers.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      If we do not keep on improving, we might as well not keep on writing. Your question on what we're offering ought to be always on our minds. Thank you for keeping us on our toes.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE...it's always a pleasure having your here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, you are very welcome. Thank you my friend.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I don't like marketing, per se. But, I do like the results of marketing. Great marketing questions, Bill. I answered the question about who my audience is and now writing is much more fun because when I write, now I have a vision of my audience sitting in front of me and I write as if I am writing just for them.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Marlene, I think it is so important to be able to answer that question so that we can have focus and purpose. Well done, Marlene!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Every writer, or anyone wanting to be a writer should definitely read this hub.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, vkwok, and I happen to agree with you. :)

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Bill,

      My parents owned and operated a general type store as I was growing up: gas, groceries, feed and fertilizer. We lived in the basement apartment underneath the store. I learned a great deal regarding that sort of business. I also learned that I did not want to work in the "business" type world. And yet, there is no getting around it if one wishes to be successful regardless of his/her focus. You give excellent advice that anyone wanting to succeed should read.

      Thank You,

      Kim

    • CandyTale profile image

      Gabriela Hdez 3 years ago from Valencia, Spain

      Thank you for this article. It helped clear things up. I'll have to start thinking the answer to those questions!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Kim! I owned a convenience store for five years and I actually love retail. I love the people and learning about their lives....and some of them have ended up in my books. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      CandyTale, glad I could help. Thanks for the visit and best wishes to you.

    • Miri Thompson profile image

      Miri Thompson 3 years ago from New Jersey

      A helpful article! "Is your product unique?" proved to be the most difficult--and ultimately most revealing--question for me: I know the genre I'm writing in, I know who my target audience is--but I needed to do some soul searching to figure out that special something that I offer within that genre and to that audience. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Miri, you are very welcome. I think it's a question that is often overlooked, but one that is very important to answer. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      Excellent suggestions as always, Bill. With more and more folks turning to entrepreneurial efforts, including writing, wouldn't it be a good idea to start teaching the rudiments of marketing in our school system? Middle school classes would not be too soon.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 3 years ago

      Hey Billy - Majored in business management and went on into public relations and marketing. Later became a substitute teacher for six years, while working part time for the state promoting international trade. Yeah. And I was terrible at networking - great at meeting people, but shy about selling my services, although I could sell other people's.

      Finally learning how, though, and guess what? I got my first magazine sale a couple of weeks ago! It's only $150, but it's a start (which itself is huge). I offered to write an article for the American Planning Association exploring whether or not cities are hiring sustainability skills in their planning departments. They accepted it for their online journal. Their print journal, which is where I sent my query initially, forwarded it to the online editor, so I'm sure they'll be watching to see how I do too. :-) Thanks for your encouragement of all of us newbie professional writers.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      drbj, what you suggest is excellent, but it will be quite awhile before we see it happen. School budgets are diminishing and that means, of course, that elective courses fall by the wayside. Sad but very true.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      watergeek....HOORAY!

      Way to go my friend. I was always certain that your articles had a place in the magazine market; you just proved me right, and I always love it when that happens. :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      I have definitely learned this during my time here at hubpages and this will be so helpful to the writers here Bill. I flunked marketing in college and just could not get a grasp on the concept. I'm the type of person who believes..if you like, just get. I was never a salesman, but obviously many people relate to marketing and it works and like you said, make sure your product is worth it! Nice hub.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, it is the toughest aspect of writing as far as I'm concerned and I am willing to bet that is true for most writers. Best wishes to you and thank you very much.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I took marketing in both undergrad and grad school and worked in the field for quite a few years, it is fun but lots of hard work. You have said it well!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, honestly, I'm not sure I ever found it fun, but I have found it to be hard work. Thanks for stopping by.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I started off with Boomer Lake in little 'ol Stillwater, OK. Then I branched out to nationwide news, followed shortly there after by worldwide news. Where am I at now? Sitting pretty darn pretty in the bird world.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb you are indeed and I have used you as an example several times....marketing ain't easy but it does pay results.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thanks for this clearly-stated advice!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      techygran, you are very welcome. I had forgotten all about this article until I saw it tweeted yesterday. Thank you!

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