Naming Names and Getting Your Due

Today, I was perusing the almost-local community college’s “Personal Enrichment” courses in hopes of finding something to do online while I’m social-distancing. I’m not really sold on college classes by Zoom. There’s something to be said for the networking and connections that you build in person, working your way to the bottom of the Hi-Way Diner’s bottomless cup of coffee. I’d probably take a gap year, if I were really a student.

But, like I said… I’m bored.

And the continuing education/personal enrichment catalogue happened to drop through my mail slot.

A little page flipping, and it turns out that yes, indeed. There are classes on writing at the community college.

The information about the instructor was a little sparse. Publishes (genres go here) under “several pen names”. Full time writer. (No, we won’t talk about the community college teaching.) Anyway, I’m bored.

So, I called the college to get more information.

Everything I asked is about credentials for teaching writing. It’s like asking where your professor got his BA, or where your doctor went to medical school.

I asked for the pen names, and the name of the publisher.

From the response I got, you’d think I’d asked for the woman’s home address, her kids’ names, and a brief description of the tattoo on her inner thigh.

The secretary would leave a message for the director. The director would eventually get back to me…. Uh-huh. Sure. If I do all that, I’m going to spend more time tracking down information than I would spend in the class, itself. (It’s more of a taster than a three-course meal.)

I’m not taking the course.

I’m having trouble with the school promoting “This is a published, full-time author, if we say it is.” There’s a full brass band marching around my head playing Sousa marches, and waving red flags that say “due diligence.”

Maybe, if it were an in-person course, I’d pay my money and figure it’s a small price to meet the other students. But it’s not.

That’s not the only thing that’s bothering me.

The instructor is a writer. She’s out there, somewhere trying to make a living off her writing. Raising her kids, trying to put food on the table.

And by the way, none of this is a secret. It took me a couple of minutes with Google to find her homepage… and her Twitter… and her Goodreads account… and at least a couple of her pen names, and her publisher information. I may not have found the pen name she uses to write sasquatch erotica or Vogon fan poetry, but the college could have given me some kind of an answer.

Nope. She really is putting it out there, trying to make a living…

And the person fielding questions about her is treating the information that would help people find her books like it’s a state secret.

It’s probably someone she’s never met before.

It’s definitely someone who’s never tried to market a book.

So, what am I suggesting? Go out and meet people… or, in the Age of Covid… call them on the phone and talk to them. Be clear about what’s public information and what’s not. Make sure that the people who are going to be asked questions know what the answers are. Maybe send a press kit.

If you’re doing something for publicity–and why else would you teach a half-day course via Zoom in the middle of a pandemic?–make sure that you are actually getting the publicity that you are working for.

And then, that leaves the big question.

Do I contact her and tell her what happened?


  1. Reply

    It reminds me of how many publications (online and physical) want writers to give them an article or teach a class or whatever and do it for free. Well, they say compensation would be “the exposure”, as if vague promises of some publicity are adequate compensation. As Chuck Wendig reminds all of us freelance penmonkeys, “Exposure kills. Science fact.”

    • Reply

      I try to convert “exposure” into what I could get in advertising views or clicks if I spent an equivalent number of hours at my day job and just spent that money. It makes the comparison easier.

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