Friday, September 15, 2006

Thoughts on Heavy Lifting and the Benefits of Free Press

One of the many electronic newsletters I subscribe to is Dan Poynter's Para Publishing Newsletter . It often features useful information on marketing and publishing, as well as other items of interest to writers.

One of the topics that continually resurfaces stresses the importance of getting featured in the news. One mention of your name or your book's title in a news story or article does far more for your credibility as an author or expert than buying ad space. The public instinctively distrusts the truthfulness of purchased print. Furthermore, the majority of readers still believe in an unbiased press (to a point).

Intellectually, I knew this to be true. But I recently experienced the reality of it first-hand.

Earlier this summer, I bought a pre-built structure to use as a studio. It's a cute, little, self-contained thing that measures 12 by 20. It technically qualifies as a "temporary" (read "non-property-taxable") structure. It's sided, has nice, vinyl windows, air conditioning, ceiling fans, electrical outlets, and more. It's only a quarter of a mile from my house. All that it needs is to be moved down the road, leveled, and voila! I'm in business.

This was my thought process when I bought the building.

Then I started looking for someone to move it.

After literally hours of letting my fingers walk through the yellow pages, and talking to friends, begging for suggestions, I eventually reached a point of abject frustration. It's not that I thought the movers I spoke to were quoting me unreasonable prices to move my studio. It's just that I couldn't find anyone who was interested in (or capable of) doing the move in the first place.

I eventually went through the phone book and called every single business that might have cause to use a driver with a big, flat trailer. No luck. (Actually, the Bobcat dealer did give me a name and a phone number of a guy who could do the job. I even got the guy on the phone. He thought he might be able to do it. But he never called me back.)

I got to the point where I called and begged a friend of mine who has heavy equipment to see if he would take a stab at it. He came out and looked at the project. He probably would have tried it. But it was obvious he wasn't comfortable doing something like that, and I didn't want to push it.

And then my Dad (who was visiting last weekend) read the paper. The Tri-City Record is published weekly. It's our local guide to what's going on. Among other things, it features high school sports results, covers city and township meetings, and (my personal favorite) runs short excerpts of news stories from 100 years ago.

Right in the middle of the paper was a story of a congregation that had set their original belfry on the roof of their new church building. The article featured a picture of the belfry being maneuvered into place with a giant boom. (I never said it was news of national interest, but here in northern Berrien County, we like to be kept apprised of such things.)

"Bet that guy could move your building," said my dad.

I looked more closely at the photo and -- lo and behold! -- the truck had bold lettering on it proclaiming "T & W Transport." Even better yet, it is located right here in Coloma. A phone number painted on the truck's side was also legible in the photo.

So I called. The very nice man who answered came out and looked at my project, and I had an estimate that day.

It made me think of my experience chasing the Snap-On Man. True, it pays to advertise (of COURSE people in the construction industry should include their phone numbers on their vehicles). But the best advertisement is being featured in the free press.