The Business of You

me-myself-and-i-021Social media is full of the white noise of people promoting themselves. Writers promoting books, ministry leaders promoting tools for church growth, singers promoting new releases, churches promoting their church, and on and on it goes. Tweets for how to lead your church, how to get more followers, how to make money off your blog. The list is endless. Social media has become a clogged highway of everyone promoting themselves and their newest content that will help you _____________ (fill in the blank). The problem is, I have been pulled into this white noise that seems to get lost on the people who are seeing constant media feeds in Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and the other social media sites.

What is a Christian to do when it comes to self-promotion in a me-driven world? As writers and artists, we produce content we believe others would benefit from consuming and implementing into their lives, ministries, or business organizations. Is it wrong or sinful for us as Christians to promote ourselves as writers, artists, pastors, and ministry leaders? The fine line we have to walk keeps some people from promoting themselves and their work. On the flip side, other believers promote themeselves without shame and almost to the point of being obnoxious.

1. It’s Not About You

Rick Warren popularized the statement “It’s not about you” in his best selling book The Purpose Drive Life. Even though we verbalize this thought and half-heartedly believe it, do we live it out when it comes to self-promotion? The way you live this out without putting yourself front and center is to focus on other people. When you tweet, FB, or use other social media, always make it about other people, not yourself. Put the focus on God, your spouse and family, other leaders, and people who have made an impact in your life.

2. Self-Promotion Is Not A Sin, But Can Become Sinful

Self-promotion in and of itself is not a sin, but when all the focus all the time is about you, it becomes sinful. While everyone wants to think they are agents of humility, that rarely is the case. Humility and pride are opposing forces in our lives. We believe that we are not prideful and have humble motives. But motive plays a part in this equation. Why are you promoting yourself? Are you looking to make a living? Wanting to become well- known?

God created the creativity that flows from your writing, your voice, and your speaking, and it can be used to provide financially for you and your family. Never should we promote the creative gift we have as ours and claim it as our own. God gave us the gifts we have to be shared with others, so they can enjoy and benefit from the content that flows from what we create.

Strive to be humble, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

3. Your Identity Is Not In Success

Our culture values success in everything that we attempt to accomplish and there is nothing wrong with being successful. The problem comes when we worship success and when our identity is grounded in whether or not we achieve that success. Our identity, as followers of Jesus, is in Jesus. We should teach our children and others to be successful, but only in order to bring glory to Jesus. Athletes are often criticized for glorifying God when they are successful. What the critics do not understand is that those athletes know their success is not for themselves but for someone else.

If you look at my website, you see that I promote my writing and other endeavors I undertake. I struggle with self-promotion. It probably has to do with one’s personality and experiences in life, but I find it distasteful sometimes that I toot my own horn. What about you?

Just Ask

The other day, while waiting on the phone before a live radio interview about my latest book, I prayed from my computer screen the Psalm that I had assigned myself as part of a memorization project a friend and I had embarked on. Our goal was not to memorize all the Psalms—that would be too hard—but just to acquaint ourselves with the gist of each one and memorize a favorite verse. Mine, from Psalm 2, was verse 7, in which the unspecified psalmist says, “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father’” (Psalm 2:7 NIV).

Interviews stress me. There’s no predicting what the host will ask. Sometimes they haven’t read the book, so I spend the whole interview trying to untangle what it’s really about from what the host thinks it’s about based on the title or cover material. Other times, they’ve read the book but have specific questions about parts of the book I’ve forgotten. Add to that the time constraints! A typical radio interview lasts only ten or fifteen minutes, including breaks for commercials and station identification. Invariably there’s a final question that begins, “In the thirty seconds before we break, can you explain …”

The worst part of radio interviews is that I’m very picky about how I say what I say—which is why I’m a writer and not a speaker. As a writer, you can revise your thoughts, or delete them entirely. In an interview, you’re committed to whatever crazy business emerges from your mouth in the moment.

Or maybe an even worse part of radio interviews is my general antipathy to self-promotion. Why can’t I just write, I wail inwardly, and leave that part of the publishing process to someone else?

To calm myself, I imagined the Father actually speaking the words of the Psalm to me: “You’re my daughter; today I have become your father.”

Frank Weston Benson--My Daughter Elizabeth

F. W. Benson–My Daughter Elizabeth

What a thrilling thought! The God of all creation as my actual parent.

When I got to God’s invitation in the very next line, though, I faltered: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

Whoa, I thought. The Bible notes must be right. The unidentified “I” of the passage must be David or some Davidic king or even Jesus himself. Anyone but me.

“But you write books,” I sensed or imagined the Father saying. “Just ask. I’ll give you nations of readers.”

Asking for that was too awful to imagine—however much I might want it. I couldn’t pray the words, not even in the secrecy of my mind.

Just then, the radio host’s voice intervened. Ten minutes later, I hung up.

I was still thinking, That went okay. I didn’t embarrass myself that badly, when the host called back to thank me personally.

“I’m sure people everywhere have said this,” she said, “but your books really minister to me.”

People everywhere. Answers to my prayers rarely come so immediately or unambiguously. Or maybe they do, but I return so quickly to not expecting God to respond that I don’t notice when he does. Or maybe I don’t really dare to pray with abandon—and thereby reveal to my own Father what’s really in my heart.

Some Thoughts on the Fabrication of Stories

Last week my Bible study class was reading in 2 Peter about false prophets, of whom, as Peter warns his listeners, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:3 NIV).

Of course, as a creative writing professor currently leading a novel workshop—that is, teaching eager students how to fabricate stories—and as a writer currently engaged in writing a novel of her own, I shivered a bit.

He means a different kind of story, I consoled myself, as the class question-answered through the passage. He’s not talking about fiction writing, the passage makes clear, but about preaching, about spreading “destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord(2 Peter 2:1 NIV).

Still, I couldn’t stop thinking aboutVan Reymerswaele--The Moneychanger and His Wife the uncomfortably commercial side of the writing world in which I am involved. How the buying and selling of books necessarily engages our—i.e., writers’, agents’, publishers’, marketers’, publicists’—greediness: to get more media exposure, to sell more books, to make more money. And, we Christian writers are, in effect, preaching, aren’t we? I worried. The Holy Spirit was at work, I feared, forcing me, as always, to look again, think again, before proceeding.

Just then, one of my classmates confirmed my fears by reading from his version of scripture the same passage about greedy story-fabricators: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3 KJV). Isn’t that what we seek to do in our blogging and signing, platform-developing and tribe-building? I confronted myself. Turn our readers into merchandise sold?

The self-promotion demanded of us writers has always disturbed and embarrassed me. Deep down, I genuinely believe that, if a book is good, it will sell itself. But, the publishing world sages are quick to remind me, if a book’s not out there for people to see and read, no one will know it’s good. My efforts as an author stretch thin between these two pillars of writerly wisdom.

No answers here. Just puzzles, some worries, and a bit of scripture—fodder for reflection, I imagine, among fellow writers bent on being transformed into the image of the One God Sent.

An Open Letter to All the Literary Agents I’ve Not Yet Contacted

I know that among the readers here are some who are actively seeking an agent, or who are anticipating doing so soon. You may find yourself having to create a separate file for agent rejections one day, and for that, I offer my sympathies in advance. Plus this tongue-in-cheek open letter, which I coincidentally penned immediately before signing with WordServe Literary. Please feel free to use it in the advancement of your own writing career.


Dear Literary Agent,

If you think I haven’t read your blog, you’re wrong. I thought I’d clear that up right away.

I am so diligent, I’ve even delved into your ambitious archives, perusing entries from as long ago as two weeks. At this point, I know what you’re looking for in a client even better than you do. In fact, because I am such a devoted student of your career, writings, and personal life (including that foxy photo of you on your Harley, va-voom!), I feel I can say without a doubt that I am your next dream author.

How can I be so sure? I am glad you asked!

For one thing, you’ve very clearly expressed your preference for having “good writing” sent your way. At first when I read this, I said “Doh!” but then I gave it some serious thought. I’m betting your definition of good writing is the same as my BFF’s, which means I’m in luck.

Attached is the only scene I’ve slapped together so far. After you read it (get a move on!) and I’ve agreed to be represented by you, I will gladly crank out the rest of the novel. It could take a while, though, so I’d advise you to keep your high hopes in check. I am currently in communication with many notable agents. I even know several of them by name and have called their assistants to verify whether or not “Ricky” is a Mr. or a Mrs. or a Miss. You’ll certainly realize that developing these relationships represents a considerable time commitment on my part.

In addition, submitting a proposal for a book I haven’t gotten around to writing would be a giant waste of my time and talents, as I am sure you will agree.

Second, you have indicated you don’t want to sign any high-maintenance, best-seller wannabes. I can assure you that I’ve never personally obtained a mani-pedi (photos availble upon request). Also, I can produce a matched set of yellowed postcards from my dentist verifying that I am nine years behind in my supposedly every-six-months (ha!) check-ups. No way am I high-maintenance! If you’ll either call me on my cell or email me within fourteen minutes of receiving this—as you should if you are truly the professional you profess yourself to be—we can discuss this point until I’m satisfied that you understand.

Third, you state that any client you take on must have a platform already in place. Bingo! We have a winner! I have been an active blogger for twelve plus years, during which time I have chronicled with sterling clarity my aging mother’s propensity for swearing like a drunken Marine (no worn-out cliches here, baby!) as well as her advancing incontinence.

Google my stats and you’ll see I now have six regular readers, half of whom have agreed to be sent free copies of my first book in exchange for 1-starred reviews on Amazon. You cannot buy (though I’m not against the idea, per se) that kind of fan loyalty.

Finally, you say you are seeking authors who seem unlikely to end up one-hit wonders. While I’d prefer not to promise you the moon until my staggering work of heartbreaking genius reaches the top of the NYT list, I think it’s pretty safe to say there’s PLENTY more wherever that first scene came from. Or I guess I should say, “from where that first scene came.”

In conclusion, I am absolutely brimming with potential, just the way you like ‘em.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Very soon.

Best regards,
Katy McKenna

From Self-Published to Contracted Author (In Ten Thousand Easy Steps)

Five years ago, when I attended a Harvard University writers’ workshop for medical doctors, I was one of the few in attendance who actually had an edited, polished, pitch-ready manuscript in hand. But, still, I left that meeting with no agent and no publishing contract. The reason is I didn’t have a media platform.

Right or wrong, after that meeting, I decided to self-publish. I figured it would be easier to build my platform once I had a tangible book in-hand, and the fastest way to turn my manuscript into a tangible book would be via self-publishing. I thought, “I can always sell my book to the publisher later, if it succeeds,” and “How hard could it be to self-publish and succeed?” Little did I know how much work the whole venture would entail.

Over the following year, I hired freelance editors and artists to tweak my book into publishing house quality. I even started my own publishing LLC, so I could print my books via Lightning Source, Inc. and get them into the warehouses of the major distributors like Ingram and Baker&Taylor.

Next, came the marketing. Ugh! Being that I had no contacts in the media, I still don’t understand how I landed those first few radio and TV interviews. Okay…I confess. Maybe it had to do with me calling the stations and saying, “Hello. This is Dr. Rita Hancock. I need to leave a message for [the producer’s name], so please connect me to her voice mail.” It’s not my fault if the receptionist put me through because she thought I was calling to leave pregnancy test results. It’s not like I implied that exactly.

During this platform-building year, I also built my book’s website and online interactive support forum and began sending out monthly newsletters, answering questions on “Ask the Expert” websites, and utilizing pay per click advertising to drive traffic to my website.

Eventually, thanks to the platform-building, I landed both an excellent agent and a contract with a bona fide publisher. However, what came next utterly shocked and disappointed me. I didn’t yet know the adage “The top 20% of the authors get 80% of the marketing dollars.” Being a newbie author, I was left almost completely on my own to market. In a sense, it was “do or die” for my writing career. So, over the subsequent few years, refusing to “die,” I redoubled my efforts and took media training classes, learned how to write press releases, secured book endorsements, cross-promoted with other Christian authors, and built up my presence in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

I hoped that through these continued efforts, I would eventually be in the top 20% on some publisher’s author list—if not on my first book, maybe on my second, and, if not with my first publisher, maybe with a different publisher. And that’s exactly what happened. One day, during a conference call over my second book, I heard the publisher say what sounded like music to my ears. “Dr. Hancock, we’re prepared to put a lot of money and a lot of energy into promoting your next book.” Amazing! All that hard work finally paid off, and it took only ten thousand easy steps to get there.

What steps are you willing to take to promote your book?

Self-promoting & The Humble Artist

As a  novelist seeking publication, I am on a dizzying curve to learn all I can about promoting my writing. The writing I’d much rather be doing instead of promoting. The writing which must be STELLAR in order to sell, also known as Marketing Rule #1.

I’m pretty sure Marketing Rule #2 is to be Karen Kingsbury.

And then several other pesky marketing rules follow. Some of these rules frighten me, to be honest (assuming I can be honest here). Some of them make sense, some make my armpits itch, and some sound like something I can actually do without creating an intense desire to set my toenails on fire.

We need not discuss how self-promotion is distasteful and beneath us, yada yada yada. Yes, we are humble artists whose only goal is to capture beauty and heartbreaking prose that touches the heart of every last one of God’s creatures. We need not target our audience because art transcends all forms of class distinction. We refuse to engage in reader-profiling. And we humbly insist on letting our work speak for itself because a true artist never toots her own horn. Or anything else.

Yeah, good luck with that.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: TODAY IS LAUNCH DAY FOR MY . . .

 MY FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK!

Savanna’s Gift, an eBook/novella Christmas Romance, launches today. And through December, it’s ONLY $1.00? Such a deal! Can you say charming yet inexpensive Christmas gift?

So to celebrate my launch, I want to share a simple tool I’ve recently developed in my humble quest to humbly promote my book. My romantic, enchanting, quick-to-read, perfect-for-the-holidays book. Did I mention it’s only $1?

THE MINI PRESS KIT

I’ve created what I call a “mini press kit” to share with those who want to help spread the word about said fabulous book. The kit starts with a brief note about the launch date and other pertinent info, and also includes ready-to-post things like:

1. Tweets  (140 characters or less)

These include a http://www.shortlinktomyfabulousbook.com and a #hashtag or two about my #fabulous #romantic #Christmas #romance and include my @Name so I’ll know when  #someonelovesme and is #spreadingthelove.

Example #1: When she gets a 2nd chance at the love of her life, will the dream that divided them get in the way? #Christmas #eBook http://ow.ly/7rAvQ

Example #2: Rekindled love, God’s gifts & 2nd chances: Savanna’s Gift by @CamilleEide $1 for kindle http://t.co/pzIHy8kG #ChristmasRomance

2.  Facebook Posts: Polite blurbs that you and all your FB friends including your mom can post on Facebook.

Example: Savanna’s Gift, by Camille Eide, is a Christmas romance about lost love, 2nd chances and recognizing God’s gifts to us, set in an elegantly adorned, rustic ski lodge in the beautiful evergreen Oregon Cascades. Only $1 thru Dec 31 at http://ow.ly/7rAvQ

3.  Book Tagline & Short Blurb (a.k.a. BCC)

4.  Bio (50-100 wds)

5.  Website & blog links, retailer pages, YouTube book trailer link, Goodreads page, etc.

6.  Attached Book Cover & Headshot .jpgs

This press kit is in no way an exhaustive list of the things you can do to prepare for an eBook launch, but it’s a start for those of you hesitant to enter the fray of shameless self-promotion. Of course, we can write a book SO FABULOUS that it speaks for itself and never needs a single toot from our own humble horns. We’re artists—we’re allowed to dream . . .

Q: What are some of the most effective and least toenail-igniting methods you’ve discovered for promoting your book?