The other day, my new friend Tyler Hurst Tweeted that he wanted to get on "lists" like I'm on.
By that, he meant the free shit lists.
What are the free shit lists? And how do you get on them? Why let me explain...
Despite the gangsta rap lifestyles you see all these novelists around you living, it's not necessarily the most lucrative industry. What with bad royalty breaks, slow contractual payments, "Hollywood economics," and shady publishers. But while having a book might not be lucrative economically, it does offer an abundance of riches in other ways: access to important people, a tchotchke you can carry around at all times to impress idiots, and lots and lots and lots of free shit.
Oh, I get soooo much free shit nowadays.
I spend most nights with my girlfriend and return home every morning to find a stack of boxes from UPS and FedEx. And what free shit do the boxes contain?
Usually beer, booze, and books. Sometimes books on beer and booze like "Chasing the White Dog" an awesome book on moonshining by Max Watman which I've actually been sent three separate times in three different formats. It's quite good.
This last week alone I've gotten bourbon from Wild Turkey (their barrel proof Rare Breed is some seriously delicious fire water I've been nightcapping with every single night lately), some never-before-released beers from the Alexander Keith brewery out of Nova Scotia (not bad for macro swill), and the galleys for Todd Henry's eagerly anticipated new book "The Accidental Creative" (50 pages in and it's already a corker!)
I'm a noted beer connoisseur, a noted drinker, a noted voracious reader, and a shameless pimp, so it's truly no surprise this is the kind of stuff that's sent to me. If you really think about. But I get stuff on the fringes of these industries too.
Tyler wanted to know how to get on these lists, and I'm not sure I can help him with that other than telling him:
A. Get a large public profile (although, he debateably already has a larger one than me, by the pure numbers)
B. Have it be at least somewhat based around a tangible good like "stuff that gets you drunk"
C. Be quite enthusiastic about accepting, enjoying, and possibly discussing the free shit.
(By the way, while I was Googling "How to Get Free Shit" to see if it was a good title for this post--I Google all my proposed post titles just to make sure they're fairly unique, this one actually WASN'T--I found this amusingly pathetic article by a "mommy" blogger about how she believes she's mastered the way to make herself look just hot enough to always get free beers at the bar.)
What is the free shit list?
Who knows? Who cares? Is there truly a LIST?
But kind of like how the first girl to have sex in your high school (or junior high!) paradoxically becomes the girl that every boy starts talking to--assuming she's "easy"--I'm the kind of guy that doesn't turn down anything.
So I'm a free shit slut. Promiscuous. Absolutely no editing in what I accept and what I don't accept.
And why should I? How hard is it to drink free beer, drink free booze, read free books, and then discuss them online?
It's a piece of cake. It's what I do any way. And, even bad beer and booze gets you loaded, and you can surely find something worthwhile with a quick thumb-through of just about any book (along with books on drinking, I mainly get sent comic novels and works on marketing and entrepreneurship).
Then again, just like the junior high slut, I don't promise anything.
"Just because you're taking me to the mall doesn't mean I'm gonna sleep with you!"
But, of course, just like her, I'm lying. If you send me stuff, I will consume it and, at the worst, Tweet about it. That's lazy man's reviewing. And, if your free shit is the kind of free shit that gets me loaded, I'll probably soon be out of my gourd enough to Tweet plenty of positive things about your product. (That's one thing intoxicant manufacturers have going for them--most people reviewing their stuff are reviewing their stuff loaded.) But I never lie and I never overrate something just to keep the free shit gravy train flowing.
Spinning the Spam
But I don't always get e-mails that just bluntly ask me if I want free shit.
Sometimes I get e-mails that are essentially just spam with no promises of free shit (the nerve!). They say stuff like:
I'm sure your fans and readers would love to know about this exciting new summertime promotion from...
Oh no you didn't! That's not going to fly. While I'm assuming most people ignore these spams and quickly delete them with no prejudice, I don't.
In these circumstances, I usually just write back something along the lines of:
"Wow! Sounds great! Could you send some [free shit]?"
[Free shit] being replaced with whatever they're spamming me about. I sometimes, likewise, use the word "samples."
"Wow! Sounds great! Could you send me some samples?"
"Samples" sounds less sleazy on both ends--less like I'm merely trying to get free shit, less like the company is merely trying to ply me with free shit in order for me to raise their profile with some online mentions.
Samples is to free shit as a "date" with a prostitute is to dirty, dirty paid sex. Or, to put it SAT analogy style...
"Samples" : free shit :: "date" : sex with prostitute
Sounds classier. Nevertheless, "samples" always end up being the real deal: a full bottle of wine, a finished book, the entire line of a brewery's new beers.
Except in the case of this new rum, promoted by Ron Jeremy, and called, har har, Ron de Jeremy (why not "Rum Jeremy"?). I inquired whether they'd send me some "samples" and they sent me this:
I was a bit scared to drink it, but it did have a children-proof twist-off cap, and was billed as being blended by "master distiller" Don Pancho, so, late one night I figured, "What the hay?"
I'm not sure about the wisdom of associating any liquid with a porn star, but it was actually very good. So props to Ron, Don, and Ron de Jeremy.
Killing the goose
You might say, by writing this piece I'm killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
I'm telling my free shit secrets.
Now everyone of you is going to use my free shit methods.
Now the free shit purveyors are going to feel played by me.
Now I'm going to be on the free shit blacklist.
Except that's not going to happen.
Because, now, I've just about discussed all the free shit I've received in the last two weeks. Oh, I almost forget the wonderful care packages of free shit I got from the choc Beer company and Redbud Brewing out of Oklahoma (I'm working on an article about Oklahoma City's craft beer scene). Those were truly amazing, especially choc's "Signature" Dubbel and Redbud's Cuvee Two.
All press is good press. Especially from a "famous" novelist.
What about the FTC?
Nothing screws up the flow of a brilliant curse-filled article like adding:
Pursuant to the power-mad FTC's new bullshit law, I must reveal that so-and-so sent me this free shit for review.
I've actually noticed a lot of non-prominent bloggers just love to prominently add this disclaimer. It benefits them. It's as if to say:
"Look at me! I'm important. I get FREE SHIT. And you don't!!!"
But I don't care about that, and I don't really care about the FTC.
If you respect me as a writer, respect me as person, respect my opinion, then you should respect the things I discuss and promote, whether I purchased them or they were simply...free shit.
Speaking of, you should buy my book. It's really good.
(Turnabout is fair play...if you have a blog or a decent online profile and would like to review HOW TO FAIL, send me an e-mail aaron @aarongoldfarb.com with the subject heading FREE SHIT! and I'll send you an ebook.)
(If you are a beer, booze, or book purveyor, or something altogether different and want to send me free shit, likewise send me an e-mail so I can give you my address.)