Promoting And Platforms

empty_stageI’ve been thinking about loving your neighbor, mostly because I was reading Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, but in the writing world, I’ve come across more and more talk about getting noticed. Somehow a book needs to stand out in the crowd. And believe me, with the ease of self-publishing, the crowd is growing.

These two concepts seem antithetical. I mean, with people in so much need around the world, I’m supposed to concern myself with … ME?

Not to mention that a couple situations of what I’ll call overly zealous advertisement–which is the euphemistic way of saying “spam”–I suggested in a Facebook update that unfriending/unfollowing the perpetrator might be the only answer. I was gratified to see that a good number of others agreed–not so much about severing ties as the solution, but about spamming others in the name of promotion being a problem.

Yet I understand where these aggressive promoters are coming from. They read articles that say they need a platform, the publishers are no longer looking at number of blog followers or even Facebook friends, but at Klout scores. They read other articles that say having a platform isn’t enough on its own. You have to hold contests and bring people together into teams, do book give-aways and participate in blog tours. Promotion. It’s part of the book business, whether a person is self- or traditionally-published.

But in the back of my mind, I hear a quiet voice whispering, But I want you to love your neighbor.

There really are only so many hours in the day to do all we need to do. How’s someone with a day job, a writing career, a family, and church responsibilities supposed to add in promotion . . . and loving that needy neighbor?

I don’t have an answer on the promotion part yet. I figured I didn’t need to face that one until I actually have a book that needs to be promoted. But the loving my neighbor seems to be the larger, more pressing, and urgent task.

And yet, it also seems as if I may be overlooking the obvious. It came to me today as I listened to a tribute on the radio program Family Life Today for Dr. Howard Hendricks, former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who passed away this week.

He taught for sixty years and continued to mentor seminary students even after his retirement. But what difference was he making in the lives of widows and orphans and strangers? How was he reaching the unreached with the good news of God’s good and free gift of His Son? In short, how was he delivering the cup of cold water or feeding the hungry or visiting the sick or imprisoned–the things Jesus said would be like doing those needful things for Him?

I have to believe that all the students–thousands and thousands, many of them in positions of leadership–who Dr. Hendricks taught may have learned from him the importance of loving their neighbor. His role, then was to love them by giving them not just a cup of cold water, but the whole well–or more accurately, the means by with they could go out and dig the well themselves.

And what about the rest of us who aren’t seminary professors? What about writers who are jammed up with edits and dirty dishes and stacks of laundry and grocery shopping and taxes and birthday parties? And promotion?

I think we’re simply to love the person in front of us. Whoever that might be. Whatever he might need.

Loving our neighbor isn’t going to look the same to each person. We’re not all going to travel half-way around the world to find a needy someone to love.

And the needy God puts in our path may not need medical care or bus fare or escape from an abuser. They might. But they might need someone to listen. Someone to cry with. Or even someone to sit beside. They might simply need us to stop talking about our book long enough for them to be noticed.

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6 Comments

  1. Becky, as always, you made me think. In this case, I thought, The Lord wrote the first Best-Seller. How did he do His promoting? You might say His tour ended at the cross. Then again, Christians would have to say the inspiration at His exit is unparalleled, and with the greatest of Promises!

    I guess we start with washing feet. : )

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    • Peggy, I think God’s promotion plan is the best. He commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples. Paul gave the “replication principle” to Timothy when he said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

      But is that a model we’re to use for selling books? Maybe, if our books are part of the “making disciples” process.

      What I can’t figure out is, how do you prompt readers to tell others, physically, people they know in their everyday life, about the books they’re reading? I hear people talk about the controversial ones, but what about the God-glorifying ones?

      Becky

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  2. Becky, did I ever tell you how much I love your posts? Probably not. Well . . . I love your posts. This promotion thing is tricky for me. I am a published author and am told over and over that I need a platform, I need to promote, I need to tell everyone I come in contact with that I have books available, would they like to buy one? I can’t do that. It’s not me. I’m not a self-promoter.

    So here’s how I handle it. I focus on loving my neighbor, on building relationships, on helping where I can, on giving back when I can. I make my “platform building” more about people than about promoting. And then I trust God to do the rest.

    It’s not easy, mind you. I feel the pressure of book sales, of landing that next contract, of royalty statements, but I’m not going to go out there and hock my wares and try to get people to buy my books without first investing something in their lives. Or at least trying to invest something in their lives.

    There’s always this balance with writing between ministry and business and the trick is to be able to do both, or blend them, or focus on one at a time . . . honestly, I still haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m getting better at it 🙂

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    • Mike, thank you so much for your kind words. You made my day when I first read your comment! 😀

      I guess I’m really wondering if any Christian should be a self-promoter in the same way that general society is. I don’t think we should hawk Jesus, and I don’t think we should push ourselves on others. The “it’s all about me and my books” approach is, frankly, a turn-off to me, and I don’t think it’s consistent with Scripture.

      At the same time, when I was teaching I had to do things I didn’t care to do (yard duty, grade papers, discipline, to name a few 😉 ), but I did them because they came with the job. I look at writing in the same way, with some measure of promotion as part of the job.

      But what kind of promotion? I think that’s where the Christian who also wants to live out Christ’s admonition to love our neighbor needs to separate himself from the pack. Our promotion should not look the same.

      I actually envision a collective of writers each promoting the work of the others in the group more than promoting their own work. The few opportunities I’ve had to be present at a book signing, I had no trouble telling people about my author friend’s book. I could be enthusiastic because I felt I was giving value to the customer and to the writer. There wasn’t any conflict about my motives. In my dreams, that’s what I’d like to see become the norm for Christian promotion. Authors could kind of sit back or at most show up, while the tribe takes over.

      I think you’ve got a good thing going, Mike.

      Becky

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  3. Very true, and applicable beyond just book promotion. It seems like college these days is nothing but an exercise in learning to promote yourself, to put your career ahead of everything else.

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    • Good point, bainespal. Politics has become promotion; any commercial venture requires it. And now jobs, acceptance to schools–we’re turning into one giant SPAM! 🙄

      Becky

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