Self-Promotion and Loving Your Neighbor
Jeffrey, in his article tells about the serendipitous way he came by his book contracts and he says, “I remain embarrassed by this grace, and burdened with a sense of responsibility.” But that is his disclaimer, it seems, in an article that is full of lament over the way the reality falls short of the dream.
Published authors, we learn from the article, must force their contemplative Mary souls into dark corners and train themselves to be mighty Marthas, bustling about, concerned with many things, from sending out bookmarks to guest blogging to tweeting it up with strangers who want to feel like friends.
Mr. Overstreet is in a place I’ve never been and he’s feeling pressure I’ve never felt, and I’m not trying to minumize that pressure. I’d like to learn from him so if I ever get to his place in the journey I won’t stumble. He says:
You can try to stir the writer’s life and the self-marketer’s life together, but they’re oil and water. Publishers sent me a guide detailing what “successful” authors do: Build websites about themselves. Create their own fan clubs on Facebook. Pursue their own endorsements. Volunteer to blog on “influential” websites. Organize readings, book-signings, and giveaways.
Following instructions, I feel I’m standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and shouting, “I’m awesome! Go tell everyone I’m awesome!”
Later, coughing dust across blank pages, I fail to find any sparks of inspiration. Do I even want to try again? How can anyone find inspiration in the midst of so much striving and pressure? I careen between embarrassment and an egomaniacal fever that comes from self-promotion. On a good day, I read nice notes from readers. On a bad day, I feel like a fraud.
You gotta love the way Overstreet expresses himself.
And I think if you’re a writer you have to sympathize with his dilemma, too. How does a contemplative writer manage to make himself toot his own horn the way the publishers want him to do?
I think the answer comes in not engaging in self-promotion, but rather engaging in loving your neighbor. If you want to be a good businessman be a good Christian.
Whether you are writing a novel or selling a published novel, you should be loving your neighbor. On every page of the new novel, in every interview hawking the published novel, in every guest appearance, and in every blog post, if you are focused on serving your reader/neighbors you should retain your joy and your creative energy.
What set you off on the writing journey, after all? You wanted to delight people with your words, with your stories, with your worlds. With your characters and their tragedies and their triumphs. You wanted to give something—a gift—to your readers.
This fits in perfectly with the best way to market. Give gifts.
If you care about your readers when you have only three or four, the next day you may have six or eight, and the day after that, twelve or sixteen. And how do you love your readers? By writing great stuff for them. In your books, on your blog, in your guest posts, on your Facebook page. Your voice and your brand and your message should be consistent across all venues. And the people who find you in those various places will follow you and read your stuff and buy your stuff.
Overstreet, toward the end of his article, finds his way back to joy:
Comparison, competition, ambition…the thieves of joy tear our attention away from inspiration. But when I raise my eyes to beauty, I know the way home.
This is exactly the right thing for him to say in an article. Part of his brand is that he loves art and beauty. And that’s all he has to write about when he’s doing his articles and guest blogs. He writes well about the hardship he’s facing—the artist forced to market. Jonathan Rogers picks this up and talks about it to his friends. I pick it up from Rogers and talk about it to you…pretty effective marketing. And Overstreet doesn’t have to say, “l’m awesome!” Rogers and I can say it for him.
Obnoxious self-marketers say, “Look at me. I’m so pretty and witty and gay.” Effective self-marketers say, “This is what has helped me and I think it will help you, too.” Or, “Because I love you, I’m sharing my heart with you.”
Marketing shouldn’t war with your creative time to write books. It should be one more way for you to love your readers and give them your thoughts. That’s why they go to you, after all—to hear your thoughts.