Thursday, May 24, 2012

So, what's in it for me?

You want me to do something? Judge a contest? Attend a conference? Guest blog? Bring the cannoli; leave the gun?

These are favors. You're asking me for a favor. 

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the default answer is no thank you.

Since you want yes and not no, here's what to consider when you ask: What's the value of doing this to the person I'm asking?

If you're asking me the favor, this is what to think about:

Does it benefit a client? If it does, the answer is not the default no.

Does it benefit FPLM? If it does, the answer is not the default no.

Is this a return favor? (as in you promoted one of my authors or helped me when I needed a favor?) Then the answer is certainly not the default no.

Consider carefully what the person you're asking will consider a benefit.

You want to drive traffic to your blog? No benefit to me.

You want to promote your book? No benefit to me.

You want to raise money for a worthy cause? Why that one and not a cause I've supported?

You want an agent at your conference? You want me to judge a contest? You want me to guest blog? You want me to critique pages? So do a lot of other people. You have to show me the value of saying yes.

I've had people tell me with a straight face (mostly cause I think they actually believed it) that
--being on their blog would give me more visibility;
--attending their conference would help me get in touch with writers;
-- judging a contest would bring me potential clients.

None of those are actual benefits that accrue from those events (and my keyboard didn't survive the visibility one) nor are they things I want to accomplish.

I want to promote my clients.
I want to promote my agency and colleagues.
I want to contribute to causes I support.

Figure out how your request will help me do that, and when you email to ask the favor spell out how it does any one of those three things,  and your chances of yes get better.

For example: you want me to do a guest post on your blog? You'll tell me how many readers it reaches and that you'd like me to talk about clients with books coming out soon and you'll do a giveaway or some other promotional event for the client.

You want me to attend a conference? Tell me you've asked one of my clients to also be on the faculty and their books will be for sale.

You want me to judge a contest? You'll mention that my client's books get mentioned in your group newsletter.

If you think that "this will be a benefit to the writing community" is something I'd want, you're right, but I've already chosen how I'll help the writing community at large and I'm generally not going to do more than that (QueryShark, local conferences and MWA)

There are a lot of things I do for the good of the industry but don't assume your favor is going to be one of them.  Spend some time thinking about the value to me, and your chances of yes increase.

And if you think this is selfish beyond belief and demonstrates a complete and utter lack of kindness, well, good, cause that reinforces my mean and sharkly image: an immediate and direct benefit to me!


Jessa Russo said...

Well geez. I guess I'm crossing you off the list for singing at my birthday party this year.

Ali Trotta said...

This makes perfect sense. Sometimes, I'm honestly shocked by what people think is okay to ask someone, especially if there's no working relationship established. It's akin to walking up to a stranger and asking for twenty bucks. Generally, if that happened in everyday life, people assume the person asking for money is crazy.

Great post, even though (for your sake) I'm sorry it needed to be said. I can imagine what kinds of things inspired this. Also, that shark photo still amuses the hell out of me.

Michael Seese said...

How about if I offer to change your oil? (You'd have to drive to Cleveland, though.)

Elissa M said...

Actually, this is great advice to follow when you're asking anyone for a favor. Discover how the favor can benefit them (from their perspective, not yours) and point that out.

Sometimes that's called "salesmanship". Whatever you call it, if you're good at it, you'll get more "yes" answers than "no".


I can't applaud this enough. I get asked to do a lot of guest blogs, and though I sincerely wish I could say yes to all, I find I'm forced to ask the "what's in it for me?" question more often than I'd like. And yes, unfortunately, that often means I have to request traffic stats and readership info. I hate it, but I also have to be smart about how I use my time so I can also...yanno...WRITE BOOKS!

Thanks for spelling this out so clearly!


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Magic on a Monday morning is at play...insert Twilight zone theme music here.

Last week, on and off for a dozen times, or more, I have thought of your, “what’s in it for me” post. Every time I searched, something came up, power went out, had to go to work, had to make deadline, something always got in the way. Frustrated I said the hell with it and tried, tried, tried, to remember what you had written.
It was important for me, to get the message because of what I was about to pitch and ask of another person. I had to realize the whole, what’s in it for ‘them’, thing. I think I succeeded.

This morning, I show up at your water park and there it is on your great-white board.
Jeez girl, we may not swim in the same tank but for a minute we were sharing the same sea.