Sometimes when I push the “publish” button I’m even more scared than usual. Even though my last article was about caring too much about what other people think, I find myself still worried that I’m going to offend someone or just look stupid. I had some of that fear when I pushed the button for last Wednesday’s article on authors and marketing. But my growing passion for the issue decided to override my fear of you readers thinking I just don’t get it. I was amazed at the conversation in the comments. Many of you shared my passion. Your thoughts encouraged me to think even more on the matter.
“I’m Not a Brand” focused on what I don’t like about marketing and promotions. But marketing and promotions are not bad in themselves. Indeed, they are necessary and helpful to the writer, as well as the reader. Clearly there are more authors just like me, struggling with how to go about this in a positive way. And equally as clear, there are many readers out there who want to hear about books they may be interested in without feeling like they are being hustled.
A major point of irritation that I mentioned was the language being used like “tribes” and “branding.” These aren’t just neutral marketing terms, they reveal something about how you view your readers and yourself. It’s dehumanizing. Another popular marketing term that makes me feel uncomfortable to say is the idea of “building a platform.” I do get the suggestion that it offers. Readers need to know that you exist. A publisher can market your book with all their might, but there is value to increasing your own publicity, that is, providing venues for readers to hear you, read your thoughts, “meet” you.
But building a platform makes it sound like I am constructing some self-raised stage to make everyone look at me. Writing is a very public activity. It insinuates interaction. I’m not depositing my thoughts down to you from some mountain top; I am trying to facilitate a place for discussion.
In the genre that I write, I suppose there is an idea of a platform from which authors speak. I look at church denominations in that way. It is always helpful and sharpening to be clear about our positions, so that we can have honest, sharpening dialogue. But, this isn’t anything I am building. The foundation had already been laid.
That’s why I would like to look at marketing and promotions more like opening a door and extending an invitation. I’m am certainly no marketing expert, but I think I want some kind of a front porch approach. I am inviting readers to come and look at my work, but not as passive consumers. The nature of my writing asks for response and continued conversation.
I have no problem promoting myself when it comes to inviting someone to my house. In fact, I am pretty darn good at prevailing over them to come. Why? Because I passionately want their company, I’m happy to serve them for it, and I know that they will leave with their bellies and minds filled. And that is why blogging has been a blessing to me—I get to be hospitable with my work.
But while I am wrestling with hospitable marketing (how’s that for a clever marketing term?), I also want to mention the responsibility of the reader. If you want to know about good books, you have to look at reading as a public act. You have to share your thoughts with others. Do you really want to leave it up to CBD or your local, so-called Christian bookstore to tell you a top ten? You have to open some doors of invitation as well.
Amazon reviews have become pretty important to an author. Do you rely on them as a reader? Have you ever written one? I’ll admit, I hesitated for a long time. I hate the 5-star rating system for books because I wouldn’t rate my friends that way. But the reviews are helpful. At least consider spreading the news about your favorite books this way.
I am reprimanding myself here too. I have been a very unfaithful reader for Goodreads. Seriously, I did the initial sign-up, and can’t even remember my password. Minus 100 points for me.
But I get like 800 points for my book review club. Me and my fellow local readers get together to give book reviews on something we have read in the last month. It’s so much fun, and a great way to learn about books, as well as soak in what you have just read a little better.
I’ve also argued the case that with the increase of cyber-shopping for books, we need a new kind of librarian–someone willing to help match readers to their books.
What about you? How do you learn about good books that may interest you? Has there been a particular form of marketing or publicity that resided with you as a reader? Is anyone lucky dipping in the bookstore still?