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Should a Christian Market Themselves?

by Jordyn Redwood

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been reading a lot about marketing to help support the release of my debut medical thriller, Proof. Strangely, I came across an attitude among certain circles that it is unchristian like behavior to market your novel-essentially claiming that “pushing your product” is prideful and therefore sinful.
This is how I’ve settled the issue.

1. God gave me a message-I need to deliver it.
The disciples were given a BIG message and were instructed to go out and spread the word. Paul was a big marketer of the message. He wrote about it. He did public speaking engagements. He didn’t stay in his town and discuss the message with just his close friends. You will build relationships with people— yes, to sell them a product that will hopefully change their life.

2. You have a debt you need to pay back.
Advance money is paid to you for your work of authoring the book. However, the publisher hopes to earn that money back. Around 7-10% of authors earn back their advance. That’s a lot of money sitting out there the publisher needs to make up the difference for. How would you feel as an author about marketing if your publisher required you to pay back the difference between sales and your advance?

3. What’s your motive?
What’s your ultimate goal? Is it to be famous? To earn enough money to support your family? To get another book contract? To hit the bestseller list? Recently, Michael Hyatt had a big marketing push around the release of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He asked his Tribes (this Seth Godin book is a must) to purchase copies of his novel during a specific week in hopes of driving it up the bestseller lists. That was his primary goal and he was fairly open about it. Now, he offered value to those who provided proof that they’d bought his book during this specific time period-that he valued at $375.00. Clearly, Michael Hyatt is a highly successful individual. He’s not only marketed himself and his product but provided value to his reader and perhaps his desire to hit the bestseller list is selfish (I don’t know, I’d like to myself!) but it will allow him to publish more books-which is what every writer wants.

4. Should there be a different standard for writer and publisher?
This is perhaps the most perplexing part of the argument for me. A Christian writer shouldn’t market because it’s prideful, demeaning, not God-honoring, and constitutes a lack of faith that God will do it for you.

Then-why so much lamenting among authors about their publisher’s marketing efforts? After all, if they’re a Christian publisher, and this is your argument against participating in the marketing of your novel, shouldn’t your publisher let God do all the work, too?

What are your thoughts on marketing? What are your concerns as a Christian in marketing your novel? What have you seen that has crossed a marketing “line”?


Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net.

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14 Responses to Should a Christian Market Themselves?

  1. Lisa Jordan says:

    I have a friend who published his first non-fiction book through Revell. He said he wasn’t promoting his work, but God’s work. Since then, I’ve had a greater appreciation for promoting the work God has enabled me to do and get published. Without Him, none of it would have been possible. Great post, Jordyn!

  2. God is the ultimate Marketer! Prophets, priests, kings, Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, the 12, the Bible, changed lives–all promote the truth of God and His existence. How will the people know if they are not told?

    Maybe it’s not the “self-promoting” that is bugging some of these authors but shame. Shame that their work really isn’t promoting God’s agenda, but their own?

    Great post, Jordyn! P.S.- this is my first time hearing this argument.

  3. Hi, Jordyn. I really like the points you made. I think motives are highly important.

    But I also think it’s important to remember that this is a business. Publishers see it that way, even though part of their reason behind why they love their jobs is that it’s a ministry and they are reaching others for Christ. But part of being a writer is marketing. It just is. It’s part of your job. There may be better ways of doing it that don’t come across as me, me, me, but in many ways it’s simply necessary to, as you said, get your message out there.

  4. JoAnn Durgin says:

    Excellent post, Jordyn, and you make some excellent points. This is a topic on my mind, in part because I’m writing a series that goes longer than the traditional three books. Unlike some authors, I’m naturally outgoing and love communicating with others in any venue or format. I’m also with a small, independent publisher who doesn’t send out advance influencer/reviewer copies nor are my books available in bookstores (no advance, either, but I’m actually happy about that). As a result, it’s taken a lot longer to get noticed. I’m blessed in that my first book has been quite successful and I’m maintaining a large number of readers from book to book now (Book #4 releases in December). How did it happen? I’ve done what I can in terms of sending out promotional blog copies, interviews, a few mailings, etc., and it’s always been my prayer the Lord would get my books into the hands of His choosing. I’ve discovered (at least for my books) that the best marketing plan for me is this: (1)pray every time I sit down to write; (2)write God-honoring books; and (3)do what I can and know God CAN do the rest. I’ve also found that word-of-mouth is the BEST marketing tool out there. Sorry this got long (hazard of the trade, perhaps)! Many blessings.

  5. I like to see the way our Christian Writers rally around one another and help promote each other.

    But it would grate on me to help, if the author just sat back and didn’t do his part too.

  6. Hello Jordyn,

    This is a difficult topic and you have done a great job of exploring its facets. Ultimately I think God helps those who also help themselves. Publishing is a business (in a state of flux) and many of us are trying to find our balance. Thank you for your post!

  7. Great point, Lisa.

    That’s an interesting thought, Charmaine and an angle I hadn’t quite heard as part of this argument. I was a little astonished when I first heard the controversy myself.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Lindsay.

    Thanks JoAnn. And your bring up a very important point about prayer and this is a big goal I have for myself– to pray over my writing more.

  8. I am a writer and Christian, and I do not like to promote. However, my reasons are not spiritual or motivated by my pursuit of humility. I just don’t like to do it. That said, I think God is a pretty convenient excuse for a lot of things we don’t want to do. Let’s face it, most author types are much more comfortable alone with their stories and laptops than mixing with the masses and asking people to buy their work. It’s human nature to justify our inclinations. Christians have a ready-made spiritual-sounding excuse for avoiding promotion. But if we are refusing to promote our work because we don’t want to be like those arrogant people who do, isn’t that a bit prideful in itself?

  9. This is an interesting debate, one I hadn’t heard before. I agree with Lindsay, this is a business and it needs to be marketed as a business. As Christians we are called to battle – in all forms – and getting your book into the hand of the people who need it is a battle that we wage through marketing. Keep up the good work! I saw an advertisement for your novel in the ACFW Magazine! :)

  10. Ian says:

    Great article Jordyn.

    I do grapple with this and I agree both with the points you make and those made by the other commenters.

    Jordyn you use Paul as a great example. Jesus too was very deliberate in His communication strategy. But also interesting how many times when the crowd was clamouring for more, He backed away and in fact disappeared up the mountain to seek further guidance from the Father. The post-feeding the 5,000 being an example.

    I think there is a fine line though when the marketing our product starts to become very focused on me. “Look at me, look at me, aren’t I great because I’m No 5 on the bestseller list” to use an extreme example.

    How does one effectively tell the world we’re Number such and such without it being proud or showboating?

    Hmmm..as with all things seek to be led by the Spirit I guess.

    Oh and congratulations Jordyn on your release. Hope you’re selling lots and are getting the chance to share your story with many people.

    Ian

  11. Two different thoughts have brought this issue into sharper and clearer focus for me.

    The first is something I learned from my husband, who has had international contacts in each of his last two jobs. In most other countries – most notably Oriental countries – it’s impossible to market anything until you build relationship. Most Japanese businesspeople wouldn’t think of buying anything from you until they’ve had a chance to get to know you.

    Interestingly enough, Michael Hyatt says marketing is dead; relationship building is in. To my way of thinking, relationship building IS marketing.

    If you take the focus off the hard sell and put it more on getting to know individuals and how what you have to offer might help them, it really puts things in a different perspective.

    Second, writing a book, not marketing it, and expecting it to sell is a whole lot like buying a packet of seeds, not planting them, and waiting for a bumper crop! As our pastor says, if you pray for a good crop of potatoes, make sure you have a hoe in hand, because you will have work to do.

    If it’s any consolation, know that writers aren’t the only ones who suffer from this aversion to marketing/meeting people. I’ve been an artist for 40 years or more and have NEVER liked marketing. But art doesn’t sell itself so I had to learn how to talk to people about what I did with paint and pencil.

    The best advice I can give based on that experience is to find a connection between each person and your story and talk about that.

  12. Mary F. Allen says:

    I think I’ve worked through a lot of the issue of self-promotion by embracing much of what you said. Paramount is making sure my heart/reason is right in God’s eyes. Every time I’ve tried to promote “self”, it’s not turned out the way I’d planned, and even was disastrous. Every time I promoted what I did in humility, God has honored it. I know we’re all on different journeys, learning different lessons. that was mine. Now I remind myself it is God’s plan and promotion is included in that.

    As for the how can you complain about self-promotion and the fact the publisher doesn’t promote enough reminds me of those who would never wear pierced earrings because they thought it was Satanic, yet would “give the appearance of evil” (by their own definition) by wearing clip on earrings. Let’s dig deep to the real reason for what we do.

  13. Wow, everyone. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and I wish there was a reply feature here so I could better reply individually!

    Michael– I like your take about God being an excuse for opting out of things we should be doing. Interesting perspective.

    Carrie– I think it all does boil down to relationships. From marketing to bringing people to God too.

    Mary– loved that earring example. Very interesting.

    Blessings to all in the writing that you are doing today and always…

  14. Patti Mallett says:

    Interesting post, Jordyn. I would never have considered that some Christians would be against promoting a book. But then, I pay little attention to such ideas these days. Being a recovering people-pleaser, life works better this way. :<)

    I look forward to reading "Proof" and will be checking Amazon! Well done ("thou good and faithful servant").