The One Essential “Ingredient” to Successful Marketing

The closer I come to the release of my first fiction (The Soul Saver, Barbour Books) in May, the more I find myself fascinated with marketing. Specifically, what it all means and how does it all work. Not to mention the endless and overwhelming choices. Where do we start?

I will confess, I’m thankful to have had a nonfiction book (Winning Him Without Words, Regal Books) to market first. Through that journey, I learned that even the most well planned and thought-out marketing plan won’t succeed without one essential ingredient.


Speaking for myself, self-promotion doesn’t come easy and I’m actually glad about that. I have to examine my motivations on a regular basis to make sure prickly pride hasn’t wormed its nefarious self into the scenario. I could easily make it all about me.

However, our marketing is vital to the spread of our message, be it fiction or nonfiction. The thing is, we tend to put it into this category that doesn’t include God because we somehow think it might repulse Him in some way.

I’ve noticed I’ve done this and have recently found Paul to be a great example of an effective marketer. His letters are in the Bible! That’s pretty successful marketing in my book (and God’s obviously).

Paul wrote letters and traveled, “promoting” the message of Christ’s salvation every chance he got. He put himself out there as a teacher, a speaker, a writer and a mentor. He’s a great example for us because even in the midst of his promotion efforts, Paul’s focus remained steadfast on his message.

On Jesus.

Are we any different really? Yes, we want to sell books. Yes, we want our work to reach the minds and hearts of those who need encouragement, strengthening, or just a glimpse of what God’s grace looks like. Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction. God uses whatever He wants to get His Truth out. To share His Son.

So, marketing doesn’t have to be the “necessary evil” of publishing. If we believe in our work and feel God has placed us in such a time as this to share subtly or overtly, through fiction or nonfiction, through articles or Bible studies, then why not start our marketing endeavors with God, seeking His design and will for our efforts? If I’m to believe and trust in His hand, which has brought me to where I am now, what makes me think He won’t be in the marketing mix as well?

How about you? What has your marketing journey taught you about faith? Or vice versa?

21 Replies to “The One Essential “Ingredient” to Successful Marketing”

  1. This is timely. All through the writing of my book I knew it was “God’s book”. He led and directed so clearly. He opened doors nobody else could open. Yet somehow in the marketing phase it’s easy to get caught up in everybody’s “Essentials to Marketing” and burn myself out trying to do everything that everyone else thinks is so important. Meanwhile the most powerful, and most important, ingredient – even more than ingredient, the Sole Purpose for why I did this – seems to be left out. I agree… God is the most essential ingredient.

    It’s hard to mix the business with the spiritual and feel like I’m getting anywhere. But the truth is, as I follow Him in obedience even in the tough-as-nails area of marketing, I will be successful… not because my marketing will outshine anything earthly… but because I’ve been obedient.

    I need to keep in focus what is truly priority… obedient to God – even in marketing.

  2. Timely post for me, too! I love your example of Paul–how he promoted the message of Christ, not himself. I’ve wrestled with the idea of self-promotion and building a platform many times on my journey. In our culture today, we see a lot of self-promotion–especially in the religious world. And I will confess that my fear of what people think has often paralyzed me from moving forward with God’s directive for my life. The following two scriptures help me stay on target in that area.

    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who … made Himself of no reputation … He humbled Himself and became obedient … (Phil 2:5-8 NKJ).

    “Not to (me), O LORD, not to (me), but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1 NLT).

  3. I hope posts will follow giving examples of Godly marketing. I know if we neglect our quiet time with Him, we are going to slip in our writing and our marketing. But after that, what things should we watch for?

    1. Sharon, as I read your comment I had an idea hit me about a series called “The Humble Marketer.” I will be praying about that. I think our marketing paths will look as different as our writing journeys do, yet with many similarities. In other words, I keep reminding myself that there is no single way to do it. That means we have to constantly seek God and measure each direction with, “Is this pleasing to God? Does this fall in line with what I feel him calling me to do or write about?” I will giving more post ideas some thought. Thank you for the inspiration, my friend!

  4. I’m preparing to launch my first novel – and this is such a great reminder! I’ve realized recently that of course, I need to do what I can to get the book “out there,” but it’s up to God to give it wings. He will take it where He wants it to go. And I really want what He wants from this book. It was such a relief to shift the burden from my shoulders. I still need to put my best efforts forth in the marketing department, but God sees the “long game.” He has a plan for where my book is ultimately going to end up, and that’s where I want it to be.

    1. So true, Jennifer! And He even likes to surprise us. We just got a reader letter from someone in South Africa who found our nonfiction (Winning Him) in the marriage section of a Christian bookstore there. Wow…that floored us. Somebody had to order it, somehow found out about it. And there it was just as this dear woman needed it. So God is definitely in every bit of the process.

  5. First, let me say that I love your line “That’s pretty successful marketing in my book (and God’s obviously).” I always like finding new ways to view God’s truth, and I also get a kick out of puns. You managed to combine both in one sentence! Kudos! =^)

    I love how you demonstrate that marketing is neither apart from God, nor automatically evil or wordly, but as much a part of God’s plan as the writing.

    For my part, I have been surprised and embarassed by how easily I can be sucked into tracking number of website hits, number of twitter followers, number of FaceBook friends, number of book sales, and compulsively checking those numbers multiple times each day. Not a healthy trap to fall into!

    I have also struggled with how to recommend my book to someone whom I sincerely believe would benefit from reading it, without coming across as self-promoting or as being motivated by selfish motives.

    At the same time, out my efforts to market, I have become acquainted with many wonderful new friends, as well as reconnecting with some old friends. I have begun to build some on-line fellowship, which I absolutely love. I have also begun a blog, and have discovered that the blog, itself, is a wonderful ministry tool completely apart from the book.

    In short, when I stop worrying so much about “marketing” and focus more on “ministry” I find joy in all these “marketing” endeavors, and a sense of purpose in walking in fellowship with Christ, to touch the lives of others thru the written word.

    How does that play out in terms of number of books sold? Too soon to tell, quite frankly, and I’m learning to think of it less in those terms and more in terms of asking God who He wants me to minister to, today, and in what manner, using what tools.

    It’s been a fun journey, so far, full of new learning experiences and new ministry opportunities. Looking forward to seeing where it all leads!

    1. Thank you, Joe! I rather liked that line too. LOL! And you spoke my heart here as well about seeing it as ministry. That’s what my nonfiction really taught me and I’m carrying that into my fiction marketing as well. I want to build relationships, even if it’s just for that moment to be the presence of Christ when someone needs it the most. I want to touch peoples lives (as God calls me to do) and not just their wallets. I think when we have that motivation, it shows. And that’s what brings trust and authenticity to our work.

  6. I know that for some, marketing comes easy. I haven’t met too many of those people, so I’m not sure where they hang out.
    I remember Rob Eagar with Wildfire Marketing — yeah, he’s one of those people — telling me that believers should be the best at marketing because we should view our writing as a chance to serve others. It’s not about us — it’s about knowing we have written something, either nonfiction or fiction, that can benefit (encourage, enlighten) someone else.
    Even as I write this comment, I am mindful that not every WordServe client walks the same faith journey I do. Not every reader of this blog walks the same faith journey I do. And that’s something I want to remember as I market my debut novel. Yes, I’ve written an inspirational contemporary romance. But I hope (and pray) that I can talk/blog/share about my book in such a way that others are intrigued by it — no matter where they are in there relationship with God.

    1. Beth, that makes me think of what Paul said about being all things to all people to make Christ known. I think there is truth in there worth exploring—how do we apply that to our books? You may have very well hit upon the answers—or at least the start of some—to that question. 🙂

  7. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NIV I really believe this scripture says it all. Very thoughtful post, Dineen. I’ve struggled with many things about this writing journey since my first novel debuted last May. I’ve found myself trying to do things under my own power just because I got too busy and then wondered why things didn’t work out quite the way I’d hoped. Now I pray first, most of the time, before saying yes to things that take up too much time. I do the best I can do and let God do the rest. Still I find myself trying to do things that I probably shouldn’t. I think part of it is just growing in our roles as novelists and learning to rely on God before we get overwhelmed. In other words, I need to take my own advice. 🙂

    1. LOL! Me too, Jillian. I’m on that same learning curve. Thankfully, we serve a very patient God who doesn’t leave us to drown in our overcommitments. 🙂

  8. Wonderful words of wisdom, as usual! Why were you thankful to have a nonfiction book to market first? Since that’s what I’ll be doing one amazing day in the future, I’m just curious. Thanks, Dineen!

    1. Good question, Donna! I think in some ways, many actually, it’s easier to market nonfiction because you have a clear focal point—like your wonderful Bible study. You want to arm people with God’s Word, and his tools to fight our common enemy. And you speak about it too. That process has helped me look at marketing The Soul Saver from a similar place. One because it deals with the same struggle as our nonfiction, being spiritually mismatched. And two, my feet are already a bit soggy with learning more about marketing a book so it’s kind of like being eased into it. LOL! If that’s makes sense. All of this keeps me very focused on what God has called me to do, thus to review each marketing avenue with the question of “does this fit the plan I sense from God for this ministry (yes, as Joe even referred to it as ministry, I think of all my writing as a ministry)?” and “does it please Him?” I want, more than anything, to stand before Jesus one day and hear him say, “well done!” I’m betting you do too! And if I’ve learned anything more crucial in being marriage to an unbeliever, it’s this: It is all about eternity and most definitely not about me.

      1. That makes perfect sense – thanks so much. And thanks for your words of encouragement. I just love how much you love God and desire to follow Him wholeheartedly.

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