There is a group of non-profits and authors, especially writers of religious books, who unknowingly hinder their book sales due to the belief that marketing is evil. They feel that a truly spiritual person would never stoop to the level of “self-promotion.” I’ve met people who believe that drawing attention to their work smacks of arrogance or a lack of faith in God’s provision. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I believe that genuine marketing is one of the most spiritual activities that an author or non-profit can undertake. That’s because the principles of marketing and precepts of ministry have more in common than most people think.
All too often, though, marketing a book gets misconstrued as a selfish attempt to draw attention to the author or a shallow means to make money off of others. Sure, it’s true that some authors knowingly turn out shoddy material. Others act like used car salesmen who constantly hawk their books without any concern for the audience. But, those individuals aren’t engaged in marketing, they’re attempting to manipulate people. There’s a big difference between authentic marketing and trying to rip-off readers.
As I stated earlier, sincere marketing has a lot in common with sincere ministry. For instance, ministry is the activity of giving aid or service to someone in need. Likewise, writing a book can be viewed as a similar process of giving information, entertainment, or inspiration to someone in need. When an author focuses on the concerns of the readers, marketing takes on a whole new perspective. The book becomes a catalyst to create life-change and positive results for other people, which is a selfless mindset that benefits both the author and the audience.
People are much more likely to purchase a book when they believe that the author has their best interests in mind. For example, a non-fiction book may answer a long-standing problem that has plagued readers for years. In contrast, a novel may provide readers with an escape from the everyday grind of life. Both results are noble if the book is written with the authentic desire to “minister” to the reader. Under this mindset, the author should feel no reservations about promoting his or her book to the world. This desire to spread the word and help as many readers as possible should be the foundation for any marketing strategy.
If you’ve found yourself hesitant to tell others about your book, because you fear offending others or displeasing God, take these three steps to reframe your perspective.
1. Define your value.
Examine the content of your book, and make a list of the specific results that you want readers to experience. Consider the following questions to get started (refer back to Chapter 1 for a more detailed explanation on the subject):
- How do I specifically improve the life of my readers?
- What tangible results do I create for my readers?
- How do I help leaders meet the needs of their organization?
Your value should be the foundation for marketing your book, because that puts the focus on other people rather than yourself. A value-based approach ensures that your mindset and accompanying promotional materials are selfless instead of selfish. Therefore, you don’t have to question your motives or worry about other people’s opinions. Remember, you’re writing books to minister to the needs of your readers.
2. Share your value with others.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if you write a book and no one reads it, does it make you an author? I would argue no, because the whole point of writing a book is to share it with others. Otherwise, you’re just writing a diary.
There is a Scriptural proverb in Luke 8:16 that says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” If your book helps people “see the light,” then what sense does it make to avoid marketing? Authors should feel obliged to let their value shine.
There’s no reason to feel guilt when you reach out to help someone. Therefore, marketing should be viewed as a liberating endeavor, not an oppressive burden. I encourage authors to adopt the following maxim: I have fantastic value which can help people mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and I’d be selfish not to approach as many people as I can with my value.
When you take time to write a blog, speak publicly, post on Facebook, offer free resources, or conduct radio and TV interviews, you are drawing people to the light of your book. If you find those activities tedious and difficult, then you may have forgotten your value or the fact that people deeply need it.
3. Verify that your value actually produces results.
Nothing injects a greater sense of confidence and excitement than knowing your book improved someone’s life. Yet, you will never experience this euphoria if you don’t ask readers to supply examples of the results produced by your book. Fortunately, there are simple ways to validate your value:
- Create a focus group of readers that critiques your manuscript before you finish it.
- Fill a non-fiction manuscript with actual examples of people applying your material.
- After publication, openly ask for testimonials and endorsements from readers.
- Monitor the customer reviews you receive on Amazon and other book websites.
- Encourage people to provide honest feedback at book signings and speaking events.
Don’t risk stunting your book sales by classifying God as holy and marketing as unholy. Do the opposite, and integrate your faith into your marketing activities. They are two elements that go hand-in-hand. Learn to view writing a book as a unique opportunity to serve others. In addition, consider that you may need to unlearn some misconceptions you’ve harbored in the past:
1. Unlearn the idea that marketing is unspiritual or self-glorifying.
What could be more spiritual than using God-given talents to write a book that benefits others?
2. Unlearn the idea that marketing is unnecessary.
What could be more necessary than letting people know you want to help them?
3. Unlearn the idea that marketing is worthless.
What could be more worthwhile than trying to meet another person’s needs?
If the idea of marketing is good enough for God, why not embrace the concept as well? Let the world see the light of your book!