Contest Time

Caption_for_Burma_Shave A week ago on my editing blog I introduced a contest I’m running. It dawned on me today that I should post about it here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction as well. I’ve received over twenty-five entries already and plan to run the contest until next Monday. I’ll then choose a winner and four or so runners-up. Those participating may submit more than one entry.

But what are these entries?

Glad you asked. 😉

As part of my promotion for the new Power Elements Of Fiction volume, Power Elements Of Character Development, I’ve decided to use the old ad idea put out by the shaving cream company called Burma-Shave. Their ads are actually a bit of Americana, some preserved in the Smithsonian Institute, sort of like Norman Rockwell paintings, only in poetry.

The ads first appeared on small signs along the highway in Minnesota back in 1925 and continued until 1963. The son of the owner of a mom-pop kind of company producing, among other things, shaving cream that could be applied without a brush, came up with the idea. He spent $200 to put up signs that first year. Sales shot up, so the next year, his dad authorized more signs, and the ad campaign expanded. Eventually Burma-Shave signs cropped up in 44 of the lower 48 states, all positioned along the highway, so that roadtrippers could read them.

Instead of traditional marketing content, the ads were actually jingles—short lines of poetry, often with a twist at the end, and often with a bit of humor, though not always—toward the later years, they often gave driving safety tips.

They consisted of four or five lines, usually no more than four syllables in length, with either the second or the third line rhyming with the fifth, and were followed by their famous Burma-Shave signature. Here are some samples:


She eyed
His beard
And said no dice
The wedding’s off–
I’ll cook the rice

A beard
That’s rough
And overgrown
is better than
A chaperone

For faces
Chapped and sore
Keeps ’em comin’
Back for more

We’re widely read
And often quoted
But it’s shaves
Not signs
For which we’re noted

The bearded lady
Tried a jar
She’s now
A famous movie star

Shaving brushes
You’ll soon see ’em
On a shelf
In some museum

(Ironically, the last one is among those preserved in the Smithsonian. To read more jingles go the Burma Shave site)

My idea is to use the Burma-Shave ad concept to help promote Power Elements Of Character Development. So I sat down to write some jingles. Except, what I have to admit is, I’m not very good at it.

Consequently I thought, there have to be writers out there better than I am. What if I hold a contest, offering a copy of the book as a prize for the winner? So that’s what this post is all about.

For any and all who would like to try their hand at writing Burma-Shave type jingles about Power Elements Of Character Development, put your efforts in the comments section below, or if you’d rather keep your entry private, post it at Rewrite, Reword, Rework where moderation is on, and I alone will receive your entries.

Let me show you my efforts, so you can see you don’t have to do much to make yours better than mine. *Sad truth!


If heroes
Struggle toward
Their goal
Readers won’t
Get bored.
Power Elements Of Character Development

If heroes
Make a plan
Readers won’t
Put their book
Under a ban.
Power Elements Of Character Development

Now envision your jingle in the little roadside signs.

I know this may seem hard to do if you haven’t read the book, but you can see the table of contents by using Amazon’s look inside feature to get some ideas that will reflect the content.

I’m looking forward to whatever you submit. This is fun. I’ll just add that by submitting, you’re giving me permission to use your entry as part of the promotion for Power Elements Of Character Development.

Thanks in advance for your entries and for sharing this post with your social network and with anyone you think might be interested in entrying.

Learning About Marketing From Politics

Last night a friend of mine from Colorado phoned. I was screening my calls, but picked up when I realized who was on the other end. She laughed and asked me if I was trying to avoid the blitz of political messages that invade our homes.

For the next few minutes we commiserated about the flood of political ads delivered through the airwaves, over the phone, and in the mailbox. So many are negative. Here’s what’s bad about the other guy—bad policy, bad performance, bad presentation.

In fact, my friend and I both said we could hardly wait for the election just to stop the flood of commercials.

Even while we were talking, though, I realized that these candidates for office are simply marketing themselves to the public. In fact, I told my friend about a recent Dilbert cartoon about marketing. Except, typically, I got the punchline wrong, so here’s the real thing:

I think I said “liquor and luck” instead of “guessing.” Guessing is the better term, though. Most professionals in the book business, when they discuss marketing, admit there is no way to know what will work to capture the public’s attention. How many ads, which print reviews, interviews with whom?

Yes, publicists make “educated guesses” and set up as many media contacts as possible, but the author is expected to pitch in, too. Book signings, online reviews, guest blogs, Facebook and Twitter presence, newsletters, email loops …

But here’s the question. Does there come a point when those with whom the author is communicating say, Enough already!

I’ll be honest. I’ve reacted that way from time to time.

As I think about my irritation with the political ads and my reaction to writers marketing their work, a few commonalities surface.

1. Ads that seem invasive are a turn off. How can an author seem “invasive”? For one, I’ve started receiving unsolicited e-newsletters from authors I “know” through email loops. That feels invasive.

Also, when Facebook or Twitter messages are always and only about the new book, that feels spam-ish.

2. Ads are clearly one-sided. Well, they should be, shouldn’t they? We expect that from a commercial.

But what about blog posts or e-newsletters (ones I have subscribed to)? If those only carry content about the author and/or the author’s work, I feel they are nothing more than a sales pitch rather than beneficial communication that offers me, the reader, some take-away (other than an opportunity to be sold to).

3. Ads may be untruthful—and often that fact is apparent without any need to do any checking.

Case in point—here in California Senator Barbara Boxer has an ad running on TV that vilifies her opponent, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, because she laid people off in California while shipping their jobs overseas. In this particular commercial, three or four supposed former employees tell their sad tale of being laid off. And right after one decries the jobs going to places like China, another laments that they even had to train their replacements. What? I thought, HP sent them to China to train Chinese workers?

And of course there’s a little editorializing. The commercial narrator says that Carly Fiorina “proudly stamps” her products “Made in China.” As if somehow this omniscient narrator knows what’s in Ms. Fiorina’s heart and can see just how proud she is.

I could go on and on about the nuanced misrepresentations. But here’s the point—authors can do that too. Only instead of giving a slanted view of a competitor, the view is slanted to give the impression that all readers only love the new release.

I don’t quite know how to handle this one because fans do write in gushing terms at times. But perhaps when reactions are solicited, they don’t hold as much credibility.

I’m not talking about authors asking reviewers to post their reviews at places like Amazon. I’m talking about things like saying, I’ll publish your comments (on a blog, newsletter, or in the next book) if you say nice things. Well, somehow, those nice things don’t seem so genuine any more.

And how about this. When a friend bravely and kindly tells a writer maybe they don’t need to market so hard, the author should listen instead of blogging about why they disagree.

Sometimes more is actually less. Much less!

Published in: on October 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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