I’d Be a Hungry Used Car Salesman

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I’m about to say something that’s bound to tick someone off.
But let’s talk about the sanctity of my friend Pinterest.

I am not a seller. Never have been.

A long time ago, in a far off land when Michael Jackson was black, Van Halen jumped, and I was a Brownie scout, I sent my cookie order form with my mom to work, then cast googoo eyes at my uncle, who liking cookies and having no daughters of his own, bought enough to earn him Uncle of the Decade. That year I got sales girl of the year. For that my family clogged their arteries with a ridiculous amount of Caramel Delights, giving them health issues that probably just showed up on a cholesterol test in about 2010, and I got a Girl Scout necklace. “Hey, fellow third graders, you seeing my Samoa swag? You and your Thin Mints better recognize.”

In retrospect, there are worse jobs than being a cookie pusher.
So we’ve established that I’m just not inclined to be a seller, so hear me with that big fault in mind.
In the best of situations, this is not my gift.

But I’m saddened over the sales-taking-over of Pinterest.
For those of you who haven’t caught the Fever of Pinterest, this is an online bulletin board, where you “pin” items you like on your boards, which you put in categories. For example, I might have categories like decorating, art, clothes, hair, book covers, recipes. And on my decorating board, you might find pictures of lamps and light fixtures I’ve found online or taken from my light-fixture-obsessed-taking camera. You  might find pictures of someone’s living room. (A decorated living room. Not like a picture of my boss’s living room taken from the outside shrubs at 3:31 a.m.) Each “board” is like an idea board. Very, very clever concept. And if you want, people can follow you, see your ideas, repin them on their boards. You find things on the homepage or the boards of others, pin items on your space. It’s a big community of “Hey, I found this cool idea/picture/hairdo/recipe/paint color/scarf-tying method and I’d like to save it and share.”

Today I read an article on how authors can use Pinterest to sell books and lure in readers.
And the predatory tone pretty much broke my heart.

Then there’s THIS article on how tech brands can jump on it. The article describes why it’s not quite mecca for tech products yet, reasons like they have to bend to Pinterest’s format, as Pinterest won’t adapt to theirs. And how Pinterest is primarily made up of women and men mostly don’t get the draw. I think a lot of people aren’t “getting” it.

I’ve seen Pinterest become distilled this year by people with an odd need to be heard in a forum where it doesn’t belong–the pro-lifers with no filter (Move over wedding pictures, here’s a picture of a fetus with a genetic disease!), skinny girls (the original 1%) who attack the overweight with photos of those dying to be thin (Your Chicago-style pizza recipe you just posted will never satisfy you like 400 squat lunges and no body fat!), the breast feeding-as-art camp (This is video footage of my boob… if it were directed by Quintin Tarantino), and so on. That bothered me. I once contacted Pinterest about a teen girl who was posting pics of her cutting escapades. She didn’t need Pinterest. She needed intense therapy and a hug.

Over the last few months, I have seen Twitter announcements of musicians and bands announcing their Pinterest pages for us to follow. Really? Because Keith Urban also likes shabby-chic and new recipes of cheesy chicken enchiladas? Because Lady Antebellum, you wanted to share your latest project using chalkboard paint?

I totally understand an author, musician, or any self-employed person feeling the intense pressure to get the word out in any way possible. On the same day I read the Pinterest articles, I read a blog from an author giving very real numbers and facts about his income, restating again that this is not a business that you can count on to make a living salary. I get that. Maybe less since I’ve always kept the day job (the thrill of writing detention slips is too grand to give up…), but mostly I think I feel it less because I choose not to. I don’t want to be the person who ruins the party. I don’t want to be the person you metaphorically ignore when I ring the doorbell.

Just because an avenue of communication is available, doesn’t mean we should take it. I don’t want the publishing, art, music communities to get to the point we’re handing out our cards at funerals and pasting our book covers on the back of wheel chairs. We need to respect the ones who were there before us and the central purpose of the outlet that was created. If I post a book cover on Pinterest, it’s because it goes on my “favorite book” board or because I like the cover. It’s not there because “I’m trying to sell you something.” I’ve got outlets for that.

These are desperate, crazy times for the publishing community. Every article I read is overwhelming and scary.  (Get out of traditional publishing! Change your name and reinvent yourself! It’s Us vs. Them! Deceptive contracts! Improperly reported e-sales! You’d make more selling yourself as a mail-order bride!)  But that doesn’t mean we have to act desperate and crazy.
I don’t want book sales achieved because I made myself look bad, made someone uncomfortable, or intruded where it was not appropriate.
It’s about integrity.
And it’s about the fact that I’m still looking for a recipe for twice-baked potato soup that doesn’t use potatoes I have to actually cut.
And I can’t do that if I have to wade through a homepage of self-promotion.

This time next year I will probably be singing a different tune, but this is where I am right now, as I read more and more of folks going on Pinterest not with a true interest, but with a strategy.
God knows we all gave in on Facebook, which for a handful of happy years was just where you went to find your eighth grade best friend or that guy you sat behind in college biology. So as Pinterest changes, maybe my opinion will too.
But for right now, for me, I’m staying true to the original intent of Pinterest.
I think the site is a genius idea. And I don’t want to be part of the movement that forever alters what it does best.

I was never a good cookie salesgirl.
I’m not a good book salesgirl.
But I know where to go to pull photos when it’s time to paint my kitchen.
And I know where to look when I need a suggestion for a good book.
And only one of those is Pinterest.

At least for now. : )




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24 comments

24 Comments so far

  1. Heather Sunseri January 30th, 2012 5:19 am

    You’re so awesome to think of me today. :) I was thinking these things, and I was wondering how I could get out the message in a blog post, and I simply didn’t have time to write it. But some things really needed to be said… And well, thanks for saying all that much better than I could have. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just tweet your post.

    Happy Monday!

  2. Allison Pittman January 30th, 2012 8:19 am

    1. I think I might be a man, because I totally don’t “get” Pinerest.
    2. You can buy diced potatoes in the produce or freezer section of your grocery store. (You can even use frozen hash browns)
    3. I am sales-phobic, too, as evidenced by a paraticularly sad attempt at selling Pampered Chef a few years ago.
    4. Brilliant article! Very brave on so many levels.
    5. Nothing really to add–I just don’t like even numbers. But, I’ll repeat: Brilliant!!

  3. Kristin January 30th, 2012 8:38 am

    Very nice post! I agree completely.

    I only made a Pinterest account because my list of web favorites was so long I could never find anything. Now that everything’s organized, I’ve actually made a couple of the crafting tutorials that I had bookmarked for like 2 years. I do follow certain boards and occasionally repin things, but mostly I just mark stuff from websites for my own interest and don’t pay much attention to what everyone else is doing. That might not be the point of Pinterest, but it’s useful to me. =)

    ~Kristin

  4. Richard Mabry January 30th, 2012 8:58 am

    Jenny, I’ve never dipped a toe into Pinterest, and don’t plan to. Matter of fact, I have Twitter and Facebook accounts but have them winnowed down so that I only see the posts by friends and family. And, although I’m on Google plus, I never go there.
    The whole social media scene has taken on a life of its own, and between the commercialization and the gossip it drives me nuts.
    That having been said, don’t stop your Twittering–your tweets are a fun break from the book promos and commercials.

  5. sheilaodomhollinghead January 30th, 2012 9:19 am

    I agree 100%. Facebook has changed so much since I joined a couple of years ago. It used to be a place to socialize with friends. Now it’s people shouting “Buy, buy, buy!”

    I had never joined Pinterest until a couple of days ago. What did I do? I pinned my two books. Okay, I’m going to unpin them now.

    Thank you so much!

  6. Natalie January 30th, 2012 9:43 am

    AMEN to everything you said! I love this post so much. My biggest issue with Pinterest has been the vast amount of pinboards dedicated to “fitness” … some of those mostly seem to be a cry for attention and affirmation and something I don’t even understand. At first it all simply annoyed me, but now it kind of scares me. There’s no room for balance or moderation in a place like that … I can’t imagine pictures of women with perfect bodies do much to foster “inspiration.” I don’t know how a whole board of that wouldn’t make a girl feel horrible, constantly comparing herself to other people. I worry that Pinterest is becoming just another way women compare themselves to each other and – consciously or subconsciously – try to make other women feel inferior. There are boards I’ve seen that should pretty much be called: “Look I can BAKE, I can COOK, I can MELT CRAYONS, I am MARRIED, I don’t SUCK as much as you” . Still, I think Pinterest, at its heart, is fun concept. It was meant to be fun. But like you said, everything social media seems to go down the crapper. And I certainly relate to the constant push authors feel to sell their own work – to market, market, market. I hadn’t seen much of that on there, but I knew it would happen eventually. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder (like this) to step back and breathe deep and just do the best you can.

  7. Shauna January 30th, 2012 10:06 am

    I just read an article over the weekend that discussed how much Pinterest has been driving Internet traffic to commercial websites. I think most of that is still “organic” at this point and not part of any company’s marketing campaign; the people I follow seem to genuinely like (or covet!) the products they pin. (I’m sure I drive traffic to ModCloth because the dresses that make me swoon tend to all be from their site.) But I’m sure that more and more companies will be trying to cash in on Pinterest’s success.

    I follow a few authors on Pinterest, and only one of them pins her own books. She seems to keep it all on one board, though, so it isn’t obnoxious and I have no problem with it.

  8. Jenny B. JOnes January 30th, 2012 11:01 am

    Pinterest is about sharing ideas, and it’s the ultimate in word-of-mouth. I’ve bought things I’ve seen on there. But like Shauna said, it happens organically. And I love that. It’s the whole Seth Godin Tribes thing–people are brought together by common interests (for me, decorating, redos), and swap ideas, product recommendations.

    Sheila, DO NOT take your book covers down! That’s not what I meant. I don’t see anything wrong in posting your book covers. That’s a relevant “board.” Don’t let me scare you about Pinterst. What bugs me is when someone uses their board to sell and manipulate.

    It is one of those things I would join and watch for some time until you “get” it.

    Kristin, I could totally see it being useful to post the etsy items (or any items) you’ve created on there. People want to see stuff like that. that would be great word of mouth, which I think IS part of what it’s about.

    Natalie, loved that. And the angry Melting Crayon Community will be contacting you shortly.

  9. Jenny B. JOnes January 30th, 2012 11:04 am

    Allison, thanks for the potato tip. And I would curl up in a ball if I had to sell Pampered Chef. (though it is the best of all the catalog shows. LOVE my PC can opener.)

  10. Ashley Mays January 30th, 2012 11:05 am

    Well said, my friend!

  11. Camille Eide January 30th, 2012 11:18 am

    Thanks for the honest, thoughtful post, Jenny. I am just now learning about Pinterest (my excuse: I live in a cave under a rock and I’m nearly 50). I am trying to figure out how to use it to learn about interior design/decor for a book character.

    I heard your heart and totally agree. Thanks for the reminders about keeping the human perspective. If only you could write detention slips for the crazed pinfolk … Maybe you should start pinning those… :-)

  12. Katers January 30th, 2012 12:19 pm

    I hear ya, Jenny. My life has been taken over by marketing lately and I’m totally sick of it. I dream about it (and not in a good way), I have it for lunch, and when I’m not at work, it takes up my daydreaming. It’s sucking the life out of me.

    I was talking to my boss two weeks ago about how Pintrests (I can only assume) is trying to dive into social networking’s pockets and we couldn’t understand it. Yeah, I guess I can understand why I’d want to know what Steve Tyler is reading and cooking and enjoys knitting (that’s a stretch) but I wouldn’t want to buy an AI shirt, tickets to a reunion at Fenway, or his new tell-all biography.

    Maybe we’re just purest.

  13. Cynthia Herron January 30th, 2012 12:50 pm

    “Next year I will probably be singing a different tune, but right now, this is where I’m at…” Amen, sister!
    I jumped here from Kelli’s tweet, and sooo glad I did! You summed up so well what a lot of us are thinking, but few have had the courage to say…Thank you!

  14. Casey January 30th, 2012 1:01 pm

    I haven’t joined Pininterest–I divide enough time between FB, Twitter and Goodreads to waste–er, spend any more time on another social site, BUT I LOVE your rant and give you a hearty virtual high-5. It seems everyone has an angle anymore and that is one thing I’m determined not to do when I become a published author someday. I want to build relationships, not just sales figures. Because the former is SO much more important to me and is so much longer lasting.

  15. Susan Meissner January 30th, 2012 1:29 pm

    I am sharing the link to this everywhere. I totally agree. I bought my own Girl Scout cookies – that’s how much I don’t like selling stuff. I love the way Pinterest is all about common interests not marketplace madness. Just because something is a cyber-success doesn’t mean we need to find a way to bleed dollars out of it. Interest creates a buyer. It always has. Leave well enough alone. Pinterest is selling cookies, quietly and without fuss.

  16. HopefulLeigh January 30th, 2012 3:01 pm

    Preach it, Jenny! I haven’t noticed my Pinterest feed being taken over by sales pitches but I have noticed a few people that seem to pin their own posts and the like. I never pin my own stuff- it’s a rush when you see that others have but I don’t feel like Pinterest is a place to self-promote. Far from it. In fact, if I notice someone is overly promoting themselves, I’m fairly certain I would just stop following their boards.

  17. Jeanne Damoff January 30th, 2012 4:34 pm

    Yes. To all of it. (Including being a bad GS cookie salesgirl. Double Ugh.) I haven’t yet joined Pinterest, though I’ve been tempted to since we moved recently and I’m actually looking for ideas. Sorry (but not really surprised) to hear self-promoters are perverting the focus.

    I hate self promotion — especially kick against it when I feel like it’s expected of me — and it almost always strikes me awkward when others do it, but I do admire the folks who manage it gracefully. All two of them.

    In other news, I’m on the hunt for lamps. Do I have to join Pinterest to see the lamp photos you’ve posted?

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, Jenny. (I came by way of Susan Meissner.) I’ve always loved your humor. Now I appreciate your insight and perspective, too.

    Love, Jeanne

  18. The Diaper Diaries January 30th, 2012 5:22 pm

    A friend of mine sent me this link today because I am always whining that Pinterest is already getting ruined by people who are using it for their own personal megaphone to self promote. It makes me sad. I LOVE organic Pinterest. Bloggers who post all their recipes hoping they will get repinned. Not so much. This post is just BRILLIANT. Thank you!

  19. Jenny B. Jones January 30th, 2012 5:44 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Diaper Diaries. You’ve got a cute blog. : )

    Jeanne, I could talk lamps all day. (Probably this is why I don’t get many dinner party invitations?) My FAVORITE place for lamps is TJ Maxx/Home Goods. Do you have either of those local? You have to check back about every week. They get different lamps in constantly, with no rhyme or reason to the stock.

    Thanks for the RT, Leigh.

    Casey, you gotta try Pinterest. It’s addictive.

    Susan M, thanks for the shoutout on your blog and Twitter. I don’t care what Chip says about you, I still think you’re neato. ; )

    Thanks, Cynthia. Glad you stopped by.

    Katers–I totally agree. I would love to see a favorite author or celeb’s interest board. Like see what things Meg Cabot is gathering for her character or see what Rachel Ray is putting on her “Decorating My Living Room” board. That would be interesting AND it would be a natural sell for those items too.

    Camille, probably don’t need to encourage me with the detention slips. I get a little out of control…

  20. Allie Smith January 30th, 2012 6:56 pm

    Well,I must admitt I don’t know anything about Pinterest but I agree that people are curruptting things now a days :/ Just the other day a guy asked me out on a calculater. Yes. A calculater! People are far to reliant on technology to do the talking for them!!!

  21. Ronda January 30th, 2012 10:45 pm

    Yes! I never browse much beyond the friends I follow, so haven’t encountered much of that, but I love the idea of
    Pinterest, and I hate the thought of it being used that way!

  22. Mary R Snyder February 2nd, 2012 12:20 pm

    I’m really sad about Pinterest… I’ve been pinning goofy stuff for a while. I use it to keep up with fun ideas and to find fun ideas. I pin DIY stuff — not that I’m a DIY girl, but hope springs eternal!

    I am sad to read about pinterest becoming a new place to market. I’m not a good marketer. I just like people and I don’t want to ‘SELL’ to them… I just want to hang out, share ideas and have fun.

  23. Margo Carmichael February 18th, 2012 1:17 am

    Good thoughts, Jenny. I’m new to Pinterest, and picked up so much good inspiration the first night I really took the plunge that when I finally went to bed, I was almost too pumped to sleep. What a fun place. Yes, let’s not let it get too commercial. Just lots of fun wishes and show and tell and good reads–even our own– and chocolate and coffee. And more chocolate.

  24. Kelli February 18th, 2012 9:34 pm

    The only thing you forgot to include in this awesome post, is a link, for those of us who use Pinterest the way it SHOULD be used, so we can follow you and see your boards!

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