In a world where everyone is scrambling for publicity, wanting to become famous or the next BIG name in their industry, ‘Paying to Play’ has created a way of doing business that is now reaching heights of mockery, and sour tastes in the mouths of many.
Over the last few years, we have seen a plethora of unknown magazine covers and articles telling us who the next big names are in business, especially in the arenas of podcasting, publishing, and coaching.
These often come with a less-than-stellar cover design, and a hefty price tag for those who wish to be featured on the front cover.
Many of us have fallen for the vanity metrics and ego rubs ‘Pay to Play’ offers somewhere along the line to establishing our businesses in the online world. We are told this is the way to gain social proof by those who make millions of dollars every year.
We’ve loved the prestige and recognition it has gifted us, and we’ve milked it more than the dairy cows which stand in the cruel industrialised milking sheds around the world.
Many are still to figure out that these magazine covers are nothing more than the ‘fake news we are bombarded with in every area of life.
With each new cover story invested in, start-ups and solopreneurs are being robbed of their hard-earned cash, whilst being left wondering why the coveted titles they have paid for are not gaining them the publicity and high-end clients they desire.
Paying for publicity is one thing, paying for fake titles, awards and magazine covers is quite another.
And what does it really say about us and our brand when we must pay for awards and magazine features which tells people we are the ones to watch in a year that is nearly over, rather than being selected by our peers and those ‘in the know’?
For those of us who write for a living, having to pay to have our work featured in a magazine or publication, just doesn’t sit well. No one else must pay to go to work, they get paid for it. So, why should writers be any different?
Paying a small admin fee for the team to promote the article and harness the power of SEO and algorithms, create social media assets for us isn’t really an issue, especially when we consider we would have to pay a member of our team to do this work for us – but the hundreds and thousands of dollars on the price tag is something different altogether.
Some would argue Paying to Play is simply the new way of marketing our business and shows we have faith in ourselves as business owners; and don’t even get me started on the self-confessed CEOs who have no other board members or shareholders to report to either!
Others, such as the legendary category designer Christopher Lochhead and bestselling author of Snow Leopard, would argue that the ‘Pay to Play’ game of clickbait promotion is a waste of time because no one reads it, and more importantly, no one believes it.
In a recent LinkedIn post of Lochhead‘s discussing such ‘Legacy’ publishers he wrote:
“Fast company & Inc. are so desperate for revenue, now they charge entrepreneurs $800-$1000 to “win” the “award” of being named on their “best company” lists.
Forbes charges “experts” $1,200 to write for them, Then, they sell subscriptions to us, so we can read the “work” of people who pay Forbes to publish it. So they make money from contributors and readers.
People know this is junk.”
I would agree with Lochhead, apart from the last line about people knowing it is junk.
Most people don’t know it is junk, which is why the legacy publishers can get away with it whilst making a fortune off of the insecurities of those in business who feel the need to become ‘famous’.
One could argue this is a rather cynical point of view, but just like most marketing techniques implemented these days, there is a lot of manipulation, targeting of people’s deep wounds and setting up those with a scarcity mindset as a dish on a buffet table.
The ‘experts’ featured in such magazines may well have the expertise and experience, and whilst some have the $1200 to throw at the cover, feature and award from the pocket change rattling around in their coat pocket, others don’t.
Investing in honest publicity and marketing or sharing the costs involved in a joint project is one thing, buying awards and accolades is another thing entirely.
Recently I was gifted the CREA Award for Outstanding Writing by Brainz Magazine, an award I never entered and was certainly surprised to receive.
I’m also currently waiting to find out whether I have won the award for Inspiring Mentor of the Year 2022 by Forward Ladies. Again, an award I didn’t know I had been nominated for, nor did I pay for it. To have also been shortlisted and judged by ladies unknown to me is an honour and will mean more to me because I know it has integrity at the heart of the process.
A few years ago buying our way into winning an award would have been seen as highly unethical, as would bribing our way onto the winner’s podium – much like the 2002 Winter Olympics scandal involving the French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne and the Russian figure skating team, which saw the Canadian’s robbed of the gold medal after a clear win even to the untrained eye.
As a publisher, I get approached a lot by individuals who wish for me to publish their books making them into authors. Oftentimes the book is something which quite frankly I wouldn’t waste my time on, nor is the author someone I would wish to spend my time with.
Because so many of them are only wanting to publish for the coveted title of author, have little to no money to invest in the expertise I bring to the table, and the book itself is yet another vanilla e-book of zero depth or ground-breaking insights which adds nothing to the world of business or literature.
Being an author used to mean something, as did the accolade of (International) Bestselling Author, but with the marketing tactics of a ’99c 24-hour special’ widely known in the business world these days, the ability to buy 250 reviews on launch day for $250 USD the meaning of these titles has been lost.
People who write innovative, ground-breaking and powerful books on hard-hitting and meaningful subjects, who have worked hard and invested money to become the best writers they can be, and who go on to achieve the title of international bestseller, tend to get lumped into the quagmire of those who live in the shallow world of vanity metrics.
A couple of years back, one of these ‘Legacy Publishers’ called me a ‘serial author’ – a name I had to laugh at, and not just because of how ridiculous the title is, but because it showed just how little she knew about what it meant to be an author.
Would we call Dickens a ‘serial author’?
Or Raymond Blanc a ‘serial chef’?
Or perhaps Lewis Hamilton a ‘serial F1 driver’?
No, of course, we wouldn’t. Dicken’s job was to write books, Raymond’s job is to create and cook fine dining meals, and Hamilton’s job is to drive F1 cars. Nothing serial about any of them.
An author’s job is to write books – not just one, but many, and they have to make a living from those books; and yet very few do. It is why I use my twenty-plus years of entrepreneurship, business mentoring and coaching to guide others into how to build a successful business around their books.
Those who publish a ‘one hit wonder’ may technically be an author, and may have used the marketing tactics to get the bestseller accolade, but are they really someone we should admire?
Are those who have paid someone for awards, reviews or titles on a ‘Pay to Play’ basis deserving of our respect?
I say “No, they are not”.
Whether we are ‘Paying to Play’, click-baiting, manipulating others with scarcity tactics or bribing our way to the top, we have to consider why the world of business has sunk this low and continues to do so.
Surely good old-fashioned relationship-building and honesty stands for something,
Or am I really that out of touch with reality?
*If you are wanting to do business with an ethical coach to help you write an evergreen powerful book which adds value, and expands your brand and network, then make sure you send me a message through my website at https://dawnbates.com/contact