Friday, May 7, 2010

Oilspill / Oil spill

I am passionate about New Orleans as you will know from reading this blog. I organize groups of students to travel to Louisiana for a week of volunteering. I have traveled every year but one, and even that year I recruited students and raised money to help them make the trip. Our program, beyond hands-on work, includes meeting people impacted by the hurricanes and helping to rebuild the community.

So you can imagine how sad I am at the impending disaster to the Louisiana community if and when the BP oil spill reaches the coast, and the damage already done to the seafood industry. I listen to the stories on National Public Radio and my heart goes out to them.

My car sports a magnet on the passenger door with Oilspill dotcom in big black letters and the words: "Maybe there is a way to hold big business accountable for its actions." In the world of marketing, my book is "trending." The key words are in the news, on the web and in conversations among activists and concerned citizens.

But I feel bad every time someone comments on my car magnet and rather than lamenting the Louisiana disaster, I direct the conversation to talking about my book, in hope of the next sale. Honestly, I need the sales, the exposure, anything that can help me promote Oilspill dotcom. I want and need to make money from my writing and shouldn't feel ashamed doing so.

And yet I feel guilty highlighting my needs when perhaps I should be highlighting my passion for a community about to be consumed in its second natural disaster in five years, when it hasn't even recovered from the first.

Hillel, a great Jewish teacher, has a famous quote.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

To me he suggests a balance. So now I alternate, talking one time about my book, the next about the Gulf Coast.

But the community there needs serious help if it is to preserve its heritage, its uniqueness, and its culture. And if not now, when? Now, absolutely now. There may not be an opportunity later. If you are interested in helping, I have worked with this agency (Jewish Funds for Justice) in the Gulf Coast Area since Katrina, and I have great respect for their work.

Good Writing,


Sharon Vaknin said...

What an interesting post. I believe this struggle of self-promotion is something that all writers experience at some point.

NPR's intelligently researched news stories are inspiring, and definitely conversation-starters. Your sticker will attract the many who have invested in, or are curious about the current affairs in the business of oil.

In my experience --with friends, colleagues, networking, etc.-- I've found that immediate self-promotion leads to a dead-end conversation. May I offer advice?

BP's oil spill, and the subsequent events surrounding it, are topics you are passionate about. You're passionate about corporate responsibility, and you have educated opinions about what can be done to repair the issue. You're also passionate about the book you've written.

Because passion is contagious, you're more likely to close a sale from a conversation that addressed those issues (as opposed to one that addressed your book). You've proven your passion, your education, and the person you're speaking with has acquired an interest in you already. While you're speaking about the current affairs and your concern, you're building trust.

It happens to me a lot. I hear people speaking about technology, or some tech-related news, and I jump in on the conversation. After some time, they're curious as to how I know so much about the topic. Voila! Organic self-promotion.

I hope that helps.

Alon Shalev said...

Great point, Sharon. We are all drawn to books, movies, issues, because of someone's enthusiasm.