Sam the Plumber on Gorilla Marketing

A quick note to my loyal blog readers that my latest humor column has just been posted online in the usual place. You can reach it by clicking this link to my column on Gorilla Marketing.

You’ll find a completely true and unvarnished account of Sam the Plumber’s extraordinary insights into marketing fiction. His niece Samantha recently published a novel with the fetching title SAMANTHA GETS THE GUY, and Sam has come up with a dynamite scheme for selling copies.


  1. Amy VR January 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm #

    Thanks for the laugh!

  2. Kat Heckenbach January 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    I have two questions for you, Randy:

    1) Is the moral of the story that even if people buy our books in order to BURN them, at least we have made a sale?

    2) Would you buy a self-published book if it included an exploding helicopter?

    Randy sez: Not all stories have a moral. This is the kind that doesn’t. 🙂 I have rarely seen a self-published book that I would buy, but there are always exceptions. One is a novel that is coming out in January by Amy Deardon: A LEVER LONG ENOUGH. I recently wrote an endorsement for this novel because I enjoyed it very much (no comments on whether the helicopters in this story explode, but it’s the kind of book I like to read.)

  3. Karla Akins January 4, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    Brilliant. Great writing, Randy! I loved it.

    I have many friends and acquaintances who self-publish. But they don’t self-publish fiction. They self-publish non-fiction and curriculum for homeschoolers. They do very well for themselves. Some are extremely successful but they do spend many hours marketing and running their businesses.

    If I understand correctly, THE SHACK was originally a self-published book. I personally didn’t enjoy the book, but it has been a best-seller for a long time.

    I think that self-publishig/print-on-demand is part of the whole picture of publishing of the future. I have a very close friend who self-publishes and his books are now available for the Kindle and he sells his books on Amazon. Anyone can do this. All my self-publishing friends do.

    I personally don’t feel qualified to self-publish. I don’t like the business end of it. But it looks to me that more and more publishers are expecting their authors to do the very things that self-publishers do: market themselves and drum up sales.

    Randy, you are a self-publisher. Maybe not of fiction but your Advanced Fiction Writing products are! 🙂

    Randy sez: Yes, absolutely. I think anyone who wants to self-publish should have a good strong marketing plan. That is easier to do for nonfiction than fiction, but no matter what the product is, some sort of marketing plan is essential. When you have a good marketing plan in place, you can make much more per unit from a self-publishing venture than you can with a royalty-paying publisher. I am all for self-publishing when it’s done right. Note that fiction generally demands a good editor who can give the author an objective evaluation of what needs fixing. This is one reason why self-published novels carry such a stigma–because the author rarely gets a good editing. I am told that THE SHACK is a case in point — the project desperately needed a good editor. With nonfiction, an editor isn’t so critically important, so it’s easier to make nonfiction work in a self-publishing venture.

  4. Kim January 4, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    Christmas 2006 my brother, who usually sends well thought out gifts, included a Spam Single pack. All nicely wrapped etc, but still Spam.

    Christmas 2007 I wrapped it up and included it in my gift to him. Christmas 2008 it came back again, very nicely wrapped with the other things.

    I have already decided how to send it back to him. I will ‘wrap’ it in a carton of Mills and Boon. I can buy them from my local charity shop at fifty for three bucks. I reckon about a hundred M&B should be enough wrapping for a single slice of Spam. Ummm, OK, two hundred.

    And if he decides to burn them, he can have a hot snack half way through.

  5. Kat Heckenbach January 4, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    OK, Randy, so what you’re saying is, we can interpret the story any way we like :).

    What’s funny is, with you being the marketing guru that you are, I was actually wondering your views on self-publishing the other day. Not that I’m seriously considering going that way…I’m still trying first and foremost to find an agent and traditional publisher, but it does seem that more and more authors are turning to self-pub and POD. (I know not all POD is self-publishing, but it often gets stuck with the self-pub stigma.) It just does appeal to the control-freak in me. You know, creating my own cover with, well, I don’t think I’d use “pornoshop”…but the idea of being able to make my book exactly what I want is kinda cool. Then again, the main thing is making the book what OTHER people want, right, so they don’t use it as kindling.

    Anyway, now I know. I look forward to picking your brain more at the FCWC in Feb :).


  6. Sheila Deeth January 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    So, can I sell you a box – it’s way smaller than a case – or a book? Too late for Christmas, but I’ll sell you one for Easter… though it might not be snowing by then.

    Loved the story. And the marketing technique. Thanks for the laughs.

  7. Samantha, World's Best Selling Author January 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    I am deeply wounded that you would use my books for fuel. See if I ever read one of your books again! You used to be my hero. Now you’re my zero.

    World’s Bestselling Author of Samantha Gets the Guy

    Randy sez: I am pretty sure that “Samantha” here is actually one of my daughters, since all three of them read my column in the last day or two. They are all big fans of Sam the Plumber.

  8. Hannah L. January 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    Very good, as always, Mr. Ingermanson. As soon as I saw the picture of the stove I burst out laughing.

  9. Amy Deardon January 4, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    Randy —

    Thanks for your comment about my book! I’d just like to add as someone who’s gone the self-pub route, that you MUST be objective about the quality of your writing, and make sure it’s ready to be pubbed. I’ve read many mss that are great but need another go-through, or much more. And second, consider starting your own pub company rather than self-pubbing with one of the packagers — it’s more work, but you have complete control of the product, and you get better printing prices.

    Well, I let the cat out of the bag with this post that my book’s self-pubbed. Shh, everyone, there’s a big stigma to overcome with this.

    Check out my pub site at

    Amy Deardon
    author, A Lever Long Enough

    Randy sez: If my memory is correct, Amy’s book is the ONLY self-pubbed book I have ever written an endorsement for. I might be wrong here, but I can’t remember another one. I really liked the story. I have known Amy via email for several years, but it is not my policy to endorse books just because I know the author. I write endorsements under two conditions:
    1) I like the book
    2) (Rarely) when I don’t particularly like the book, but I know with certainty that many readers will like the book, even though it’s not to my taste.

    In Amy’s case, I liked her book.

  10. Donald James Parker January 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    In the secular world I can see that self published books could be fuel for a lifetime of jokes. In the Christian world, I’d wave a cautionary yellow flag to those that wish to make sport of the POD crowd. God has a tendency to work through small, unassuming, and unsophisticated means. A self published book seems to fall in that category. How many of us laugh at David going up against Goliath, or a stutterer like Moses leading a people to the promised land, or a small babe born in a stable and raised as a carpenter’s son? God works through humble things to bring the arrogant and wise in their own eyes down to the turf. Having a book published by a traditional publisher does not indicate it is not fit for kindling. And surely because a book does not bear the name of a royalty publisher does not mean it is not a word from God intended for a remnant of his people. In your vast readership I bet there are more (or will be more in the end) self-published authors than traditionally published ones. This blog post was well written and funny but may be construed as offensive to those who have chosen the self-publishing route. Of course the assumption is that any self published book has run a gauntlet of agents and publishers and has been rejected. That is not always the case. A book is just like a person – you can’t wisely judge it by its cover or by its origin.
    I know Randy’s heart and realize that it was not his intent to scorn. He went through a long and painful process on the road to publication, and has been very generous with his time and advice in helping others to make that journey with less travail. Not all of us have the patience or the willingness to wait that long. And in reality, the imminent return of the King may dictate that authors should not wait to have their vanity stroked by landing a contract with a royalty publisher – but rather get God’s word out on the street before its too late.

    Randy sez: I doubt very much that any self-pubbed authors will be offended by the column I wrote. The target of the humor has nothing to do with self-publication — it has everything to do with over-zealous marketers. I know plenty of those who have been published by royalty paying publishers.

    But let me follow the tangent Donald has introduced. I often hear that a book with a message does not have to be of good quality. Possibly not, but I still dislike seeing low quality.

    For example, Ayn Rand has many admirers who like her message so much that they are willing to tolerate interminable dialogues. (ATLAS SHRUGGED has a monologue that goes on for about 100 pages!) I am not a hyper-capitalist, and so I have low tolerance for Ms. Rand’s endless dialogues.

    Likewise, in the Christian market, I often see poor quality writing excused by Christian readers who like the message. Such readers (and authors) should be aware that people who don’t agree with the message are going to see the bad writing and draw uncomplimentary inferences about the message.

    I believe that novelists who want to promote a message ought to be FAR MORE on their guard to produce the best possible quality of fiction. If you are trying to persuade somebody who doesn’t agree with you, they will be hyper-critical of any defect in your story and will use that as an excuse to criticize your message.

    I know several Christian editors who have told me variations on this story: They were approached by a writer at a writing conference, who told them, “God gave me this story!” So the editor read a few pages and then said, “God can’t spell, can he?”

    Quality matters. Quality matters. Quality matters.

  11. Daniel Smith January 4, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    I just love your Sam the Plumber articles! They’re so much fun to read! The picture of the stove should have been after or alongside the final paragraph IMO, but it was a great way to the end the article nonetheless!

    And I second your Quality matters chant. Just because God allowed somebody to invent the Spell Checker doesn’t mean he meant for his children to rely on it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen spelling and grammar mistakes in church bulletins, on church signs, and displayed by a projector during services for all to see.

    I saw 5-6 such mistakes today (Isn’t it “bushel” with one “l” in This Little Light Of Mine?), but I digress. Thanks again for all the posts!

  12. Kat Heckenbach January 4, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    OK, I have to jump in here again. I LOVED Donald’s statement, “Having a book published by a traditional publisher does not indicate it is not fit for kindling.” I think this is the reason many authors turn to self-publishing. There is an enormous amount of poorly-written, mind-numbing, traditionally published books out there.

    Yes, there are self-pubbers who do not take time to learn the craft of writing and simply want their name on the cover of a book, are too impatient to go through process of finding a traditional publisher, or just flat-out cannot write and have been rejected umpteen zillion times for good reason.

    But, it’s all so subjective, and I have read in numerous places (like agents’ websites) that “good books” get turned down despite quality writing because the agent/editors don’t feel the book is “marketable.” A LOT.

    So, how does one take that statement? As a guise for, “You’re book’s not really that good, but we’re trying to say it nicely. Give up.” It’s discouraging–and when you are someone who has edited like crazy, gone to critique groups, and unlike “Joe the writer” actually listened to and taken the advice of wiser ones, self-pubbing can seem like the answer.

    Oh, and I’m so glad to have someone besides me bash Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged is at the top of the list of mind-numbing books out there.

  13. Andra M. January 5, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    I recently self-published a book, and I did so because I knew no traditional publisher would touch it. For one, it’s only 22k words. There are other reasons, but I won’t bore you with them. Yet I felt the story needed to be shared.

    So after many an edit, I self-published through Booksurge, an Amazon company. They offered a great price for publishing, and it’s available on their website.

    I also know if I want to sell oodles or fifty of copies, my writing, the characters and the story needed to be top-notch – in many ways better than traditional. Self-publishing, as the previous comments prove, is considered below-par, and who wants to wade through so much crap to find that rare gem?

    As Randy said, it takes not only a well-written book, but solid marketing.

    At the same time, I want to traditionally publish a completed novel that has little to do with my novella. For that one, I seek more readers than I will ever get for my novella. In fact, I want to use my novella more as a marketing tool for my traditionally published works.

    As a self-publisher, I wasn’t at all offended by the article. I’ve read both self-published and traditionally published books fit for kindling.

    Whether or not my readers have done the same, they haven’t said. If so, I hope it kept them warm.

  14. Bonnie S. Calhoun January 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    As usual, your work Randy is superb, and invariably I wind up snorting a profuse amount of coffee on my monitor when I get your finished column for publishing.

    You have a great gift for comedy involving real life!

    And Daniel, I agree with your suggestion of putting the stove in the last paragraph! Duly noted…and moved 🙂

    Bonnie S. Calhoun
    Publisher/Owner – CFOM

  15. Ben January 5, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    My favorite part was the wife depreciating Samantha’s singing.

    I haven’t seriously considered self-publishing before, but I’m still working on my first proposal. Either way, I don’t plan to write anything worthy of your stove.

  16. Pam Halter January 7, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    I laughed out loud when I figured out the connection of Sam’s gorilla suit and gorilla marketing. Took me about 3 seconds. 🙂

    In my experience, people who are not writers do not really know or care about the difference between traditionally published or self-published books. There was a front page article in our local newspaper this week about a man who published a fantasy trilogy. It was self-pubbed. Front page!! But it just proves my point.

    So, I agree with everyone that if you are going to self-publish, please hire a good editor and have a great marketing plan. Unless all you want is to say, hey, I published a book! (No snarkiness intended – some people really only want to see their name in print.)

  17. Christina Berry January 8, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    I just want you to know that I believe every single word of that unvarnished truth.

    Oh, and I’m writing my very first endorsement for a book! It happens to be self-published, but the story is so imaginative I can’t help but recommend it. It’s Grace Bridges’ Legendary Space Pilgrims. I don’t normally read speculative fiction, but Grace’s writing focuses on the emotion, while creating a believable “other” world. Without coming across as too sexist, it’s a story a woman can enjoy in a male-dominated genre.

  18. Lynda January 8, 2009 at 7:42 am #


    Re your article in your newsletter: A theorem that shows you know what you know? That’s wonderful! If we could apply that to our writing, we could eliminate a lot of trial and error by determining exactly what we don’t know. 🙂 Sign me up. I hope my knowledge quotient isn’t a zero.

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