There is an old expression, "don't buy a pig in a poke." It's origins come from when vendors would sell pigs. The pig was often trussed up in a bag (called a poke) and sold unseen. Unfortunately, if you bought a pig in a poke, often you would get home to discover that it was only a cat. The message is don't buy sight unseen. Caveat emptor.
It seems every magician dreams of being David Copperfield. To do big shows and command big dollars. Magic hobbyists spend millions of dollars on new tricks every year.
Sadly, there is another new trick a lot of magicians are spending their cash on. The get rich quick trick. The get rich quick market is huge and has been going on for years and years. Originally the get rich plans were just simple cons to take people's money. These are still going on today. There is another legal side though that deals on people's greed. Multi-level marketing companies offer dreams few will realize. Speakers give seminars on starting your own mailorder business, designed to take your money. Then they will sell you more books and tapes.
"How I Made $30,000 In One Weekend," and similar products take advantage of people's gullibility. If I could really make $30,000 in one weekend, why sell the secret?
There is a breed of marketeer that serves the niche of the success hungry magician. They use advertising that leads you to believe that their book or tape is the magic bullet to success. They sell "marketing secrets" and "shows in a box." The ads look and read just like the get rich ads in "Entrepreneur Magazine" and "Home Business Opportunities."
These programs oddly enough are never written by well known magicians like Lance Burton or Jeff McBride. Instead you see names of unknowns like Dave Dee (really Dave DiPietro) and Randy Charach (who?). People you have never heard of. Great magicians? No. Great salesmen? Oh yeah. Dave Dee, an unimpressive birthday party magician, admits to using the same techniques he learned from get rich quick gurus to sell his programs. He has taken their ideas, applied them to magic and made a bundle selling them to dreamers.
"The Millionaire Magician" by Randy Charach sold for several hundred dollars. Magicians shucked out their cash for these secrets of a relatively unknown, but self-proclaimed millionaire magician. The book (actually an e-book) is full of good information. It has some good ideas and some good sources. If it was sold as such, I would have no problem with it. The promises of the advertising though, would lead most to believe there was something unique and spectacular in this book that would make them successful overnight. Not a bad book, but most of the information is available on the internet or your local library and is very basic.
Dave Dee and a few others however go even further. Selling marketing programs designed to fill your schedule and double, triple and even googadriple your income. These programs include direct mail ideas and poorly written sales letters you can use to sell your act. Their advertisements are generally vague and mysterious. "Learn The Seven Words That Cause Promoters To Call You." "Double Your Bookings For Only One Dollar." Enticements like these are sprinkled liberally through their ads to seduce you out of your money with dreams of easy money. Read the ads, they don't actually tell you what you are buying. To use their own advise, they are selling benefits (actually unreal expectations) and not features.
For $297 they will tell you how they got $100,000 worth of free advertising. When the book comes, you will learn the secret was to send a press release and they might even give you a form letter to adapt for your use. Why not just say in the ad that they are going to teach you how to write and submit a press release? Maybe because that information is available at your local library?
What is also amazing about the sales letters and ads they use to separate you from your money is they always offer half a dozen "Free Bonuses" to increase the value of their offer. I wonder, if their program is so golly-good, why cheapen it by adding freebies?
To be fair, most of these programs do offer some good information, but it is information usually obtained very easily at your local library.
Even worse, there is now a group of entrepreneurs selling complete "shows in a box." A lot of these are school shows, but corporate shows and others are also available. The school shows particularly rub my bug. I do shows at over 250 schools every year. I talk to teachers, principals and PTA members. Fact is, these "shows in a box" generally are junk. They are either old shows the seller no longer has a market for or something they put together and have never performed. They are never curriculum based, and usually not educational. When magicians sell garbage like these "I Like Myself" programs to schools, it hurts those of us who do offer professional, educational, curriculum based programs. Schools that get a bad program from one presenter become hesitant to bring in any show. But as long as the marketeer is collecting $1000/pop you can be sure that these things will continue to be sold to unsuspecting magicians.
First off few of us will be as successful as David Copperfield, Kevin James or Penn & Teller. Including Randy Charach, Dave Dee, and others who, though obscure, claim they can tell you how to be the next Doug Henning.
There are things we can do though that will allow a lot of us to make our living in magic, ventriloquism, and other forms of public speaking.
First and foremost, make sure you have the skills to be successful. I started out doing magic as object lessons when working with kids at a church. Strictly volunteer. This lead to invitations to do library shows and vacation Bible schools and more. Interestingly, people that saw me, invited me back, again and again. The talent was there, and I give God the glory for that. The skills to use the talent were developed by practice and experience. This lead me to be signed by my agent who now books all my school shows. I still book my own gospel magic and library shows in the summer. If you're good, word of mouth will get you work. I still get a lot of calls from people who have heard about me from a friend.
Once you know you have a show that people will like and want, you must learn to market. I am blessed to have my marketing degree, but many people have no real idea about how to sell a product. That is where these get rich gurus make their money. They direct their ads to those who have never sold anything or those who think there is a "secret" to success.
Go to the library. The first book I recommend is Dottie Walter's "Speak and Grow Rich." This book will tell you how to put together a media kit, how to locate markets, how to write press releases, how to develop programs customers want, and much more. If your library doesn't have it, look for it on Amazon or at Powell Books. This is one of the best books you will ever read on self-promotion.
Also check out other books on direct mail, self-promotion, business advertising and business management. Although these books do not specifically talk about magicians, the information will easily be applied to your business.
If you want more specific information, professionals like Barry Mitchell and Sammy Smith offer books that will give you insights, ideas and methods to promote and grow your business. Kidabra, clown conventions and other seminars with known names are great places to learn.
Will you become the next "Millionaire Magician?" I can't say, but with a good act and a little research, coupled with hard work, you can make a living. There is so much work out there, I turn down shows quite regularly.
There are also some precautions you can take to save a lot of your hard earned money from the get-rich-quick vultures.
* Do not buy a pig in a poke.
* Do not buy a book or program if the advertisement does not tell you what you are buying.
* Do not buy magic beans. There are no "magic words" or "secret techniques" to success, and if there were, they wouldn't tell you anyway. I am surprised by how much of the real work these people leave out of their books. Either they don't know or they are not telling.
* Do not believe "recommendations" from other customers. I've noticed Dave Dee recommends Jason Juliano who recommends Eric Paul who recommends Dave Dee. People only print the good reviews anyways.
* Do ask your local magic shop owner or others you know what books they would recommend.
Have questions on furthering your magic career? Want to send me a review on a product you purhased? Please send me an email.
The best tool in your magic kit is your brain. Use it.