Promoting or Spamming

From time to time I bring up the topic of promotion in regards to authors getting the word out about their books. Because I’m in contact with a number of authors via email loops, writers’ groups, and Facebook, I see a lot of promotion. Some good and some … well, quite frankly, it feels like spam.

Last May I wrote a post about this topic called (cleverly 🙄 ) “Promotion, Promotion, Promotion.” As Christmas draws closer, I see even more frequent mentions of books by authors. Understandable.

But I also realize that my response to some has become automatic—delete without reading. I see some names and I know what’s coming. I don’t need to open the message.

Granted, I haven’t reported the sender as spam for various reasons, but I wonder if I shouldn’t unsubscribe or take some of these names off my list of friends. Already I’m picky about what books I want to become a fan of because I understand now that this is essentially signing up to receive promotional material. Do I really need more messages to delete?

But how else is an author to get the word out about his book?

I came across something similar when I was trying to let Christian speculative readers know about the Clive Staples Award. I sent group emails to people I thought would have a vested interest in the award, either now or in the future, but I wonder how many were deleted unread.

Whenever I think this through, I eventually come to a position I think is right—meaning, it is consistent with Scripture. Granted, the Bible doesn’t address marketing or promotion, but it does tell me to be kind; to love my neighbor as myself; to take the lower position at the banquet table, not the favored one. Jesus gave us an example of humility by coming in the form of a servant. John the Baptist pointed to Christ and said, He must increase and I must decrease.

So it seems to me those same principles can guide an author in decisions about promoting his work. If the notification is informative, helpful, more concerned about others than about sales, and pointing ultimately to Christ, then I think promotion won’t feel like spam. How could it? The recipient should feel placed in a position of importance rather than in the role of consumer.

Ah, but this seems so much easier to theorize about than to actually do! 😕

(By the way, is it spam that I linked to my own article in this post? YIKES! 😮 )

Published in: on December 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. You know, Becky, I couldn’t agree more, but in a writing proposal I bet it gets “eye rolls” from the pros.


  2. Hey Becky:
    I’ve got various thoughts on this. The first is that the intent is crucial and some times that is hard to distinguish. For me, I didn’t get into writing to make money (I do that with my day job). I write in hopes that I’ll have a compelling story, that’s safe (from a parent’s perspective) and provides a Biblical worldview and message that will point the readers to the Bible and a relationship with Jesus. That said, I purchased “a lot” of copies up front (on faith) so I could offer my books at signings and on-line, cheaper than retail stores that carry it or even Amazon. The question is how to get the word out without being “pushy” (which some describe as SPAM). I try to encourage my readers to spread the word if they like the series, because word of mouth is ultimately the best form of advertising (i.e. The Shack), but I also try to let home school groups, churches, Facebook group members, and others know by having great sales and give away contests. I also like to put up fun stuff on my website and blog.

    It reminds me of the story about a blonde – I can use this since I’m blonde 🙂 – who prays every day over the course of a month for God to let her win the Lottery. (note: I’m not advocating participating in gambling). At the end of the month she grows impatient and cries out, “Lord, why won’t you let me win the lottery?” A voice booms down from heaven, “BUY A TICKET!”

    As Christians we need to pray in faith and believe in our work, but we also need to DO something.

    Blessings and a Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for the thought provoking article.


  3. As Christians we need to pray in faith and believe in our work, but we also need to DO something.

    Eric, I agree with you, but I know believers who see their role (besides the writing) as that of intercessor. In other words, they pray that God will bring readers He wants to their writing. It’s hard to argue with that approach, but I don’t think all believers are called to the same.

    From where I sit, outside the circle of the published, it seems to me there are those who don’t market and thus are doing God’s will but others who don’t market and probably should because their decision has more to do with their pride (I’m a writer, not a salesman! At the same time there are those who market in a way that includes others and highlights the Lord Jesus Christ, but others who ooze “me, me, me,” through their every communique.

    Obviously those are the extremes and there are probably writers all along the continuum. I think the real issue is what you said at the beginning of your comment—intent is crucial. And probably all that matters. God knows our hearts. He knows what He’s told each of us to do. We may obey Him completely and still have critics who misunderstand our message and motives.

    Thanks for entering into the discussion, Eric. I do think our wrestling with this issue will only help us all, especially in our commercialized world where Christians and churches are beginning to act like everyone else.



  4. Hi, Nicole. I guess I don’t think it’s necessary to tell potential agents or editors my philosophy of promotion. In my proposals I try to honestly spell out what I would be willing to do, what I prayerfully hope to do, but I don’t think I need to say I’ll look for other authors to partner with for book signings rather than going it alone because I’d rather talk about someone else’s book and have them talk about mine. Or whatever other practical difference my philosophy might make. I look at the proposal as a thumbnail sketch, not a detailed treatise. But what do I know? 😕



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