Promotion: Faithful or Self-full?

“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”

The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….

And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.

Hanging on my office wall is the following saying from Ignatius Loyola:

Work as if everything depends on you.
Pray as if everything depends on God.

And another one is from James 5:16:
…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Maybe that is the beginning of the balance. People in business, not just publishing, must work hard and make every effort to excel in their field of expertise. We never question a bank needing to marketing their wares, but if a “Christian” bank were to do so the critics would surge with vitriol. The principles of a successful business come into play with regard to our profession. We are in the “business” of communicating the message of redemption to a world that doesn’t read. Thus we are called to excellence in our craft for we have a message that can change lives. If we do not make every effort to be an “evangelist” (see marketer) of that message, the message will likely not be read or heard, and thus ministry would rarely occur.

Even the Mother Teresas, Thomas Mertons, Richard Fosters, John Eldreges, and Henri Nouwens of the world were “out there” in the public eye. They had a message of change that they were called to deliver. Thus they took the speaking engagements, they worked with their publishers in publicity, and they wrote absolutely stellar books that nearly sold themselves. Our challenge is to avoid the “Publican” attitudes of “I”, “Me”, and “My”. Instead we should strive to incorporate the “Us”, “Our”, and “We”.

How do you keep your balance?

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Oxymorons

Oxymorons can be fun. Two words that can have contradictory meaning are put together to create a new phrase. Or it can be expanded to mean two separate thoughts or ideas that are in direct conflict with each other but when combined create something new.

For example, if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle you can see the humor in the description “office space.”

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Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

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Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

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What to do about Morals?

In a post written last weekend Richard Curtis, agent extraordinaire, expressed surprise at a new morality clause that has apparently appeared in HarperCollins’ contracts. Read his post here [warning: there is some Adult content and comments included in the post].

What the general market doesn’t realize is that many Faith-based publishers have had a “moral turpitude” clause in their contracts for a long time. Moral turpitude is well defined in this post on Wikipedia. It is understood in the legal community as actions or activities that can get you fired from your job, deported if you are a foreigner in this country on a Visa, or have your contract cancelled if you are an author.

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Hints for a Great Cover Letter

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent is going to spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we make a distinction between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We happen to prefer the cover letter along with the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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Book Tour Lesson: Listen to Publisher

Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been, reflects on book tours, in an article for the Huffington Post.  Especially the difference between the one she put together herself several years ago and the one she is currently doing with the help of her publisher.

“I’ve also learned to listen to my publisher. When a bookstore contacts me personally about an appearance, I pass the request on to my publicist. Only once did I ignore her advice and do an event anyway.

Only the janitor showed up.”

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Even the Best Get Rejected

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I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
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