One thing I struggle to resolve is this idea of good ambition and selfish ambition. I know of a couple authors who tend toward Me-Monster-ness, and, because of that, I fear I’ll become that too. I know the authors I represent have this fear, too.
The stress for the author is this: Authors have to market, to let others know about their books. What’s helped me frame marketing has been Seth Godin’s tribes metaphor. Instead of always talking about me, I view marketing more like shepherding those God gathers for me to embrace.
Still there are times when I meander through Instagram and Facebook and see over-promotion. I worry. Am I doing that?
Do you ever feel that way?
And yet, no one begrudges a plumber who advertises, right? Or an accountant with a business card.
After I wrote about this struggle, my author friend Marc Schelske wrote this:
They spent quite a bit of time on this issue at the Launch Conference. One distinction they made was the difference between marketing yourself (“Hey, look at me, I’m so great.”) and marketing the service that you are passionate about and that you know serves a need. (“Do you struggle with pain around your story of sexual abuse? Me too. Can I share what worked for me?”)
Those two things feel completely different to me. When I started thinking like that, it really shifted things for me.
One point they made about speakers was this: For a new, or relatively unknown speaker, selling yourself really doesn’t work. An event planner doesn’t know who you are, and your accolades don’t mean much to them. But offering a solution to a specific audience, that’s what they want. They know their audience and their audience’s needs. So to connect the dots, don’t sell yourself to them, sell the solutions or the experiences that you have to share with that kind of audience.
Then, author Caroline Coleman added this insightful comment:
I really like what your friend Marc wrote above about just offering a solution to a specific problem, because what you said about plumbers got me thinking. Why DON’T we cringe when a plumber advertises? Perhaps we should model ourselves after plumbers? “If you are so stuck, you can’t even swallow, try me. I won’t just pour acid down your throat. I’ll help you locate the true source of the problem and extract it with minimal collateral damage. I’ve had the same problem and this worked on me.” Or words to that effect?
My friend Marc finished by saying:
The plumber analogy is a good one I think. Why don’t we begrudge plumbers their marketing? Well, in some cases we do. When it’s all about them. When they are clearly in it for getting the most money they can and ripping people off. But generally because they are offering a needed service, we don’t.
I suspect that’s similar with speakers and writers. If we’re offering a valuable service, people don’t begrudge the cost or the marketing (usually… there are some people in the Christian community that are convinced anyone in ministry has to be poor, but that’s a different conversation.) If we’re not in it for fame (which most plumbers aren’t), people don’t get itchy. So maybe the model for us is: offer a valuable service, clearly be about blessing and serving others, value what we do and ask for that value to be compensated, but be humble and human about it. Be excited about what we have to share, but don’t be about building an empire.
Honestly, my biggest issue with marketing and charging for what I do has nothing to do with what others thing. It has to do with my own internal junk about not being worthy. How could what I offer possibly be worth other people’s money? But that’s my own junk, to be resolved in my identity in Christ, and at times in my counselor’s office.
As for modeling after plumbers, I’m all for that — except for the belt line.
I love what my friends had to say. I pray those words help set you free to view marketing and platform differently. This is a business, and any business needs advertising and promotion. It’s part of the package. Instead of fretting, be free. Rest in knowing it’s okay to promote your book.
It’s time to re-frame how we think about marketing our books. It’s not about us-us-us. It’s certainly not about fame or accolades. It’s about the fact that we offering a valuable service or beautiful story that generates income to help our families. Maybe if authors thought more like plumbers, we’d all approach marketing with joy and ten times less stress.
What about you? How have your views on marketing and promotion changed over the past few years? What has helped you move joyfully forward as you promote your books?