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.

What I’ve Learned from CSFF and CSACS

The last few days I’ve gained some insights into the publishing business as I’ve flitted from blog to blog reading what participants in the November CSFF Blog Tour for Curse of the Spider King had to say, and as I’ve counted votes for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction (CSACS). (No worry – voting isn’t over until November 30. I just didn’t want to wait until the end and then try to count all those votes. And double don’t worry – I’m not giving away any results! 😀 )

First what the CSACS vote counting taught me. There’s a two-fold point here connected to “platform.” Publishers are right—platform matters. But the second point is equally important: when you tell them, they will come.

Here’s the thing. Since I receive news from a number of fantasy authors, I know some of those nominated for the CSACS mentioned the Readers’ Choice survey to those on their email list. Within days, votes started pouring in for their books. Within days!

In some cases, I began to think a book had built up an insurmountable lead, until a different author mentioned the Reader’s Choice survey, and votes started pouring in for that novel.

Amazing but true – if an author has a following, then he or she needs only to inform those fans, and they will come. In every instance I was aware of, no author used “strong arm” tactics. No promises for votes, no coaching how to vote, no begging, pleading, wheedling, or cajoling. Just making readers aware that his or her book was on the list of nominated books and here was the link to check out the award. And they came.

So my conclusion is this: platform matters only if it’s utilized.

Now, what I learned on this last blog tour.

Writer involvement matters. Some of the bloggers participating, myself included, have met Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper, co-authors of Curse of the Spider King, in person. But on many blogs where there was no such connection, these authors popped in and left comments, in some cases thanking the blogger for their negative comments! 😯

Reader anticipation makes a blog tour work better. While we didn’t break a record for the most bloggers touring a book, we may have broken the record for the most bloggers posting all three days. Why the difference? I think part of it is this anticipation factor. When you’ve been looking forward to a book, a tour, it’s something you don’t want to have over-and-done-with in one short day.

Good books help, too. It’s easier to talk about good books. Interestingly, I even think it’s easier to talk about good books that may be a little controversial or that have some flaws. It’s harder to talk about so-so books or poor books unless you’re into slamming them.

Thankfully the blog tour is about showcasing books that are worthy of attention. And doesn’t that, in turn, add planks to an author’s platform?

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 3:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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