Contentment and the Book Promoter; CSFF Run-off Poll

You may have assumed I was off earlier this week on unrelated tangents when I wrote about contentment and our bent to believe we deserve all that the world tells us we deserve. I actually saw these ideas related to writing in two ways.

First, I was reminded about the power of the media, and whether we realize it or not, fiction is “media.” So are blogs. Here’s what I’m thinking. The movie and TV industries, and the commercials that go with them, often say they don’t influence society; they reflect it. And there is truth in this line. Pop culture is popular. So the media flock around octo-mom for weeks and weeks, way past the point that most of us care to see another picture of her, because their ratings are up.

Same with Michael Jackson. More and more pop-star-weariness articles surface all the time, but the books that publishers churned out about the deceased star hit the best-seller lists right off. So the media does seem to give the public something a good portion of the public wants.

At the same time, the media is shaping those interests. Would any of us cared about Nadia Sulemon if the media hadn’t first told us about a woman who gave birth to eight babies who lived? Then teased and tantalized with the unreleased-identity tidbit? Followed by this rumor and that suggestion and finally a picture.

Media, after all, is about piquing curiosity. Even fiction. We have opening hooks and book trailers and back cover copy designed to intrigue. We want to pull readers in.

Which in turn allows us to say what we want to say.

So in part we give readers what they want so we can influence what they want. It’s a curious cycle.

But the next thought I had in connection to this realization was this: How ethical is it for us to create an artificial thirst? I mean, if the Bible is right, and Godliness with contentment is great gain, shouldn’t we be helping others realize contentment rather than stirring up disquiet?

I have a hard time telling people with limited resources they need to buy such and such a book (maybe someday mine) or telling overly busy people they need to spend time reading my blog.

Do I want people to read my blog? Well, frankly, yes. And someday, should God open doors for my fiction to be published, I will want people to buy my books.

But how am I to promote in light of contentment? I think it would be wrong to say the two have nothing to do with each other. I also think it is off base to say promotion is wrong.

However, I don’t see trying to convince people who are unaware of an interest or a need, that they really should have an interest or need. I suppose there are exceptions. Someone about to step out in front of a bus needs to be told not to keep going.

But is that what most promotion is doing? What do you think?

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Here is the run-off poll for this month’s award. Check out these posts, and give us your opinion who deserves to be honored this month for their creative, thought-provoking posts:

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Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 11:35 am  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. Speaking for myself, I don’t need the media to create an artificial thirst in me for good reading; I am constantly looking for it. In the same way, I would read a blog like yours because I care about the intersection of faith and fiction. In that way you’re meeting a need. Promotion may remind me of that need, but it doesn’t create it.

    Books are slightly safer territory when it comes to promotion, I think, because in promoting them we usually speak more to needs people already have. (I think — I’m mostly writing off the top of my head here.)

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  2. Another thought: I don’t think advertising books and advertising, say, blue jeans are quite comparable because books and blue jeans aren’t comparable. One is a consumable product; the other is a conversation. Good books are ideas, imaginary worlds, thoughts that will impact a reader’s own thought life long after the blue jeans have worn out.

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  3. I think the key word you used, Becky, was “need”. Very few people need novels, well, with the exception of those with an addiction to fiction ;). And force feeding our own creations to those who might not even care for our genre, voice, or style–how do we rectify that? Because, admit it or not, a lot of the hype/marketing done today by many different kinds of authors is pressing, pushy, force-feeding marketing. Where is the middle ground, the contentment place, the acceptable solution? I got no idea.

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  4. Rachel, I think you’re probably right about comparing the promotion of a work filled with ideas to promotion for a consumable product. They are different.

    I guess my thinking is, some ideas people need to hear, though they may not know this as a “felt need.”

    I know this is why Christian fiction gets rapped as dishonest because we are “slipping Christian ideas past our readers.” Well, no more than any other writer who believes something passionately and includes it in his writing.

    Donald Maass’s new book has some really good things to say about this.

    Anyway, I guess I’m thinking, I want to tell readers about my work because a) it’s a story they’ll enjoy; and b) it contains truth they may find helpful. I don’t see B as the selling point and therefore as the focus of promotion, but I think it gives me the freedom to promote.

    Not for a buck or for my name or fame. I want readers to read because what I have to say is true. That’s my aim, anyway.

    Becky

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  5. Nicole, I wasn’t intending to, but I think I may have responded to your comment in what I said to Rachel.

    True, fiction isn’t a “need,” at least that we know of. I do find it interesting how God revealed Himself through the pages of Scripture using many biographies and parables. But clearly we can survive without written stories.

    But if fiction is what I think it should be, then the author, from his deeply held beliefs, is speaking into the lives of readers.

    If those beliefs are grounded in truth, how can we not think the book provides a need for readers who will pick up a novel when they would never enter a church?

    And if it provides something truly needed, then I don’t see promotion as a problem. The opposite would be like taking a water jug into the desert without posting a sign telling anyone I have it. How many people will I save from dying of thirst? Some maybe, but humanly speaking, not as many as if I made a sign.

    Of course we can’t speak humanly to the exclusion of God in the process.

    Becky

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  6. […] Finally, for those of you looking for the July CSFF Top Blogger Award Run-off poll, you’ll find it here. […]

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