Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books?

This is a guest post by Mary DeMuth. She is an author, speaker and book mentor with eight published books, including her most recent, Thin Places. Mary also mentors writers on her Wanna Be Published blog. She is also active on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Recently I received a correspondence from someone who felt I over-promoted my writing. Here’s what the person wrote:

A Megaphone on a Flat Surface - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/MagnusJohansson, Image #9049088

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/MagnusJohansson

Please know that I think the world of you, your family, and your writing. But I am going to give you some carefully thought out advice. Here’s as plain as I can make it.

Please stop touting your writing and your books. (Obviously I am speaking now of Facebook.) You’ve made it. You are already a very good writer of published prose, with a first-class publisher. There’s no more need for self-promotion no matter how many ‘like this’ sort of comments you elicit. There comes a time when every very good writer has to step back with confidence and let his or her writing just speak for itself. You are at that point in my humble opinion.

You got a lot of book projects pent up inside of you. Go on with these projects and let the praise come from others, if your writing merits praise. It seems to me that you have a number of aspiring writers in your group of Facebook friends. Spend your time now touting their works, whatever they may be, or, better yet, note other writers and their works that touch your soul.

As one who takes in every email, as one who internalizes critique, these words sunk into me. It took me some time to think about what I would say in response. The following is most of what I did write back, with a little more added here for some of the things I wish I would’ve added as I read it in retrospect. Suffice to say, being an author in today’s climate is not about resting on our laurels and waiting for readers.

My response:

Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate it.

First let me say that I spend a great deal of time helping authors, most of that free via informal mentoring, my aspiring writing blog, and at conferences when I meet with writers. I’m passionate about helping other writers succeed. And I love promoting others.

Early on in my career, I read this verse: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (see Proverbs 27:2). I still believe in the power of that verse, and as Seth Godin points out in his excellent book Tribes, I’ve seen the value in folks promoting me as they’ve become zealous tribe members.

But. And there’s always a but, isn’t there? Unfortunately in this climate of publishing, I face pressure to personally promote. If you know me well, it’s not my heart to toot my own horn, but the need to do it is a reality in this business.

It may appear like I’ve arrived, but financially this is not true. I wish I could just be discovered by osmosis, but that has not happened. It’s a constant financial struggle to be a writer. (Most authors make about 80 cents a book.) And if I want to continue to do what God has uniquely gifted me to do, I need to sell books. Publishers won’t take further risk with me if I don’t.

With all the creativity involved in penning a book, the bottom line is the bottom line. Publishing is a business. And like it or not, I am a businesswoman. Just as a company who rarely believes in their product enough to promote it will ultimately face financial difficulty, a writer who neglects promotion will usually see decline—in sales, in offered contracts.

Of course there are exceptions. Some writers get discovered and become overnight successes. That’s not the way God has chosen for me to walk. I’m the girl who walked through every hurdle. Laboring in obscurity for ten years (and 10,000 hours), learning how to write queries and proposals from scratch, networking at conferences, eventually landing an agent, writing proposals that didn’t sell, eventually selling my first book. I’m thankful for that journey. Because of it, God’s developed pluck and tenacity within me, and that helps me tackle promotion with vigor, yet still keeps me humble, knowing how hard it’s been to get here.

Currently this is a season where I’m releasing probably the biggest book of my career, Thin Places, and this happens to be launch week, which is why you’re seeing an uncanny amount of promotion on Facebook. It will certainly drop off next week and the following months, only to be ramped up again in May when another novel releases.

Starting last March and continuing to this May, I will have released four books, a lot to promote. That’s just how the releases happened, and I don’t anticipate I’ll be seeing that many releases again in such a short period of time. But as someone who works in partnership with a publisher, I know they have expectations that I will promote my books. And I feel the responsibility to wear at least part of the marketing and PR hat.

The old model where a writer got to write and only the publisher promoted is no longer the case. The expectation is that you to actively market your books via speaking, social media, web presence, radio, TV, video, etc. Many times this is a fun process, though it does cut into writing time.

I do feel confident in my writing, very much so. And I do believe my stories have merit. But in this publishing environment where my book is one of tens of thousands, it’s hard to get people to notice a new writer. I know it seems like I’m not new with eight books out there, but in the world of publishing I am. I am actively paying my dues.

I write in the mornings, accumulating my word count, and promote when I can. Evenings are reserved for my family. It’s a full, busy life. Sure I wish I could rest from promoting, but unfortunately that’s just not the reality of the business these days.

I do appreciate your words, especially the spirit in which you wrote them. But I did feel in this case I needed to push back a bit and show you a little bit about what most authors have to balance.

Warmly, Mary

Question: If you are a writer, do you feel this tension between writing and promoting? How do you deal with it?
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  • http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com Dan Rockwell

    Mary,

    Your sensitive spirit comes through in your email and I admire you.

    Although a critic's goal may seem noble, frequently they want to stop things. When I'm listening to critics, I ask this questing: Where will listening to you take me? Sometimes the answer is positive. Other times, the the answer is no where.

    I honor your transparency.

    Regards,

    Leadership Freak,
    Dan Rockwell

    My recent post Follow your passion

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Wow, that's a really good question, Dan. It's hard for me because I do see the spirit in the poster's words. I don't want to be one of those over-promoters, so his words stopped me. Have I become that? And yet, I need to separate business out. This is my career, and it's perfectly fine to market my career.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Sometimes these well-intentioned critics are just part of what Steven Pressfield calls “the resistance” in The War of Art.

      • http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com Dan

        Michael,

        Your expression reminds me of a great book I read years ago.. Well Intentioned Dragons. I think I need to read it again.
        http://www.amazon.com/dp/1556615159/?tag=googhydr

        • http://www.faithfulchoices.com Paula

          As I read your conversation and see that it took place a year ago, how long that seems on the surface but the truth of it hits today.  Thanks for letting me see this.

  • http://www.LinoreroseBurkard.com Linore Rose Burkard

    Mary,
    What a great response you gave that person. I admire your patience and generosity in doing so. I'm afraid I might have felt a little crushed by that sort of communication, and not responded as well. Thanks for giving us such a great model of humility and soundness. I think it's going to be my template, in case I ever get such a note from a "caring" individual. Lesson learned!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Linore. At first it really hurt and messed with me, but once I took a few breaths, I decided to respond as best I could.

  • Steve

    Mary,

    I think the considerations you outline are valid for many writers. But I also think it's important to recognize that although, perhaps, as you say (and others often say) "publishing is a business", not all of us who write seek to make our living that way. I have a day job as a computer professional, and I'm not looking for a career change. I just want to write my novel and see it obtain an audience however that may happen. I'm not against making money, but that's not the priority.

    That being said, I don't hve a problem promoting the work as long as it doesn;'t interfere with my day job. But I don't se it as "blowing my horn". I can tell potential readers what the book is about, and why I wrote it. If it's good, they will figure that out for themselves. There's a subtle but real difference between informing and bragging.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
    -Steve

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      That's a good balance you share in your second paragraph.

      As an artist, I do value positive feedback, and I'm sure there are times when I lean toward bragging about another's response to my art. It's such a hard balance.

      • Hayley Shaver

        Bragging gets book sales. Brag away.

  • http://www.diongovender.wordpress.com Dion Govender

    Hi Mary,
    as Linore and Dan have pointed out. I am greatly moved by your response to the critique. You showed grace and poise. Great lesson to be learned when one is faced with criticism.

    Dion

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Dion. I appreciate it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TimothyFish Timothy Fish

    I wasn't the person who wrote the original e-mail. I'm not sure I would have been so kind, if I had. I have watched what many authors do in the way of promoting books and I have seen several that I thought were pushing a little too hard. And yes, Mary was one of those authors, since she brought up the subject. There is a fine line between making people aware of a book and pushing a book to the point of irritation. As a writer, I struggle with that because I look at authors that I think are pushing too hard and I don't want to come across like that and yet I am firmly behind the books I write. So yes, I do feel that tension. The only good solution seems to be to do exactly what Proverbs 27:2 says. The fact is that I can tell people how great my books are all day and people will ignore me or just buy the book to get me to shut up. But when someone else says my books are great, it almost always results in a book sale.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Wow, so Timothy, you're saying you'd write me a harsh note? Do you do this to other authors? What do you hope to gain by that? And how would you respond to a stranger that said things harshly?

      Obviously the Internet is a harsh place, where folks can't know other people's hearts. You've misjudged mine here, which is fine, because you truly don't know me.

      I'm not saying I'm correct here. Of course I dance that line between promotion and hibernation, and a myriad of ways in between. I'm terribly clay footed and fallible. But I feel the weight of working well for my publisher (which is part of my responsibility) and staying quiet.

      I'm curious what publishers think here. Michael, what kind of author do you pursue?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

        As a publisher, I think writing a great book is half the job. The other half is promotion. I want authors that will do both. In fact, I really won't even consider the second type.

        I think you have found the balance, Mary. Even though you are published by Zondervan, my biggest competitor, you are doing a great job. I follow you on Twitter, and I have never felt that you were crossing the line.

        • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

          Well, that's encouraging, Michael. I appreciate it.

          And for those of you starting out, do keep his words in mind. I half-believed that my job was 50% writing, 50% promotion. But it's actually true. Going into it with those realistic expectations will save you a lot of fretting.

          • http://twitter.com/ashleyweis @ashleyweis

            Wow … I just wrote a reply and technology chewed it up.

            More concise version due to lack of pregnant mommy brain cells:

            I see the value in Timothy's point. Word of mouth, great reviews, others tweeting about your books — wonderful. It is valuable. And, yeah, leaps and bounds more valuable than an author saying, "Hey, world! Check out my amazing book." Then using HootSuite to repeat that fifty times a day.

            However, I do think Mary handles her promotion with grace and kindness. Her recent book, Thin Places, just released. It's only natural to promote a book so close to it's release date. She probably even outlined everything she's doing right now in her amazing book proposal. Promotion is vital, which is why platform and author marketing strategies are included in a book proposal.

            I think we can overdo it by screaming at the world all day about how amazing we are and how the entire world would benefit from our future best-selling book. However, I also think we can choose grace and love in our own attitudes toward people who ARE horn blasters and people like Mary who are simply doing their best to get the word out about a new release.

            Social media can be used to help others even more than we help ourselves. And by making friends … well, you're increasing your word of mouth. So, instead of being annoyed by people when they are promoting (whether we think it's too much or not) we can choose to respond in love by promoting that person for them. Maybe if we helped each other more we could reduce our hours of promotion. Maybe then we could all sit in mansions and write books as we watch the sun settle on the horizon of the ocean. Now … there's an idea!

            My recent post A Look Inside Our Home

          • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

            You're getting at the idea of tribes, of blessing others, of creating community. And I like what you're saying about promoting others. If we spend our time doing that, authors won't feel like they have to always be honking their own horn. Interesting perspective.

      • http://www.facebook.com/TimothyFish Timothy Fish

        No, Mary, I'm not saying that at all. In fact, if you hadn't brought up the subject, I would have said nothing at all. In general, if an author bothers me to the point of irritation me with marketing, I simply black list the author and move on. I don't go to the trouble of crafting a finely written word of advice as the aforementioned person has done, mostly because I don't expect the author will pay attention, no matter how well intentioned my advice might be.

        • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

          I agree that we have the ability to block someone who overpromotes. But I also believe we all walk different promotion paths. Just because one author's promotion may not be my style doesn't mean he/she is "wrong" to do it that way. And you're right, we can vote with our unfriending button.

          But, Timothy, your first comment said I was one "of those authors who push too hard." By all means, block me, then. But also realize that this industry is a very, very small industry, and your harsh words are out there. You can't take them back.

          I'm certainly not innocent. In other forums, I've apologized for being too critical, and today I regret very much how judgmental I was years ago. In some ways, your direct comments are giving me a dose of the judgment I meted out. Matthew 7:2 is a blessing, but it also haunts me: "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." It blesses me in that it reminds me to be gentle and kind with folks. It haunts me because it reminds me of the times I haven't always been this way.

          The Internet seems like a vast place where we can say what we want without impunity. And everyone is entitled to share their opinions, absolutely. But do consider that the words you direct toward people are actually real words that hurt real people. Would you say these things in this manner to folks you valued? Have you considered what it might look like to be kind in your criticism? Or how differently people might respond?

          Lord, I lift up Timothy and I pray You'd bless him with Your joy. Sing over him today. Refresh him when he languishes. Prosper his words. Pour Your life into the empty spaces just as You renew us all. Amen.

          • http://www.facebook.com/TimothyFish Timothy Fish

            I'll file that away for the next time I get the urge to put someone in his place, though I'll probably forget where I filed it. I can't remember the last time I tried to pull something like that. But I'm not sure this is the appropriate place to discuss the problems caused by public criticism that would be better suited for a quiet discussion among friends. For that cause I will repeat my original points: I have had similar feelings that the unnamed fan had and have even been criticized for self-promotion. That has caused me to pay close attention to how I make people aware of my books.

    • Patricia Hunter

      Timothy, marketing is a sensative topic for me, too, but one of the reasons I admire Mary is that I have rarely if ever noticed Mary telling "people how great (her) books are all day"…I have only seen her point to others who have endorsed or reviewed her work…even those who have written negative reviews. And I don't think I've missed anything…I subscribe to her blogs and follow her on FB and Twitter.

      • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

        Patricia, I so appreciate your kind words. For a moment after I read Timothy's words, I panicked, wondering if I'd become a meglomaniac. It's good to hear that from another's perspective I don't come across that way.

        • http://twitter.com/abbylive @abbylive

          Mary,

          I also agree with Patricia. Your writing and promotion comes across very humble to me, and you are not one that toots your own horn, in my opinion. I have seen other authors who promote themselves more than connecting with their audience, but you are not one of them. I think you do a great job in getting the word out about your book, but at the same time engaging with your readers.
          My recent post remain

        • http://twitter.com/abbylive @abbylive

          Mary,

          I also agree with Patricia. Your writing and promotion comes across very humble to me, and you are not one that toots your own horn, in my opinion. I have seen other authors who promote themselves more than connecting with their audience, but you are not one of them. I think you do a great job in getting the word out about your book, but at the same time engaging with your readers.
          My recent post remain

          • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

            That's lovely to hear, Abby. Thanks.

  • http://www.MarriageStudies.com David & Lisa Frisbie

    Mary: Thanks for responding so graciously to this question. Your response here displays your core character, which is also so evident in your writing (both fiction and nonfiction). Thank you for helping your reader begin to understand the dynamics of publishing, particularly the net proceeds per book that an author typically receives. When Don Miller talked about this in "Blue Like Jazz" we were absolutely besieged by close friends, asking "Is that REALLY all you make, per book?"

    Outside of publishing, people tend to believe that if a book costs $15, an author must make, say, $10 or so. Seems like a fair return on a lifetime of learning and many months of writing. Yet as your blog points out, and as Don Miller reveals in "Blue" — authors make almost enough, per book, to purchase today's issue of "USA Today" newspaper. Forget about buying coffee.
    My recent post Healthy Families, Strong Marriages, Great Kids

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, that is a reality.

      And let me also say I rest on God's sovereignty here as well. I can't make folks buy my books. I'm not my provider. But at the same time, I don't want to sit back and hope for sales by doing nothing. I guess I have little of the protestant work ethic inside! (But again, as I type this, I feel like I'm trying to defend myself. Everyone has their own them-infused level of promotion. We're all different. What may feel fine for me isn't fine for you.)

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    Oh my word, Mary. I struggle with this in the HUGEST way. I have 4 published books. One went out of print a couple years ago, and another one this week. So disheartening. I wish with all of my heart that all I had to do was WRITE the books and sit back and let people discover them. THAT DOES NOT WORK.

    I'm in the same boat as you (but quite a few years/books behind). I have to work pretty hard for every little penny (and no, $ is not my highest goal). My biggest challenge is knowing how hard God wants me to work and when it's enough.

    The good news for my readers? One of my books is very, very cheap this week. http://bit.ly/at44RC

    Thanks for sharing, Mary!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks for posting about your book. I have one free this week for the Amazon Kindle (Daisy Chain) and the Nook, which is another discussion entirely. It's all part of marketing.

      Promotion is something I hold in tension. And sometimes I fail at it. Sometimes I don't. And it's hard to tell the difference sometime.

  • http://www.withoutwax.tv pete wilson

    Great post Mary. I'm in the middle of this right now. With my first book coming out I'm finding myself in the middle of the daunting task of self promotion. It doesn't come natural to me and at times I'm even embarrassed by it. Thanks for reminding me why this is so important and even necessary.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I don't know if it ever becomes easy as pie, but it does get easier. Congrats on your book!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      If you stay in that place, you will be fine. The only authors I worry about are the extremes: (a) the author who is too proud to promote and (b) the author who is too proud to be self-aware. I think true humility is in the middle, where you are simply wanting to be a good steward of the art you have been given. Thanks.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

      Maybe it would help if you thought of it as promoting your message instead of yourself? It is a powerful message that has the potential to change lives. And you are just doing your part to get it out there.

      My recent post 6 Women to Watch (Blissdom Style)

      • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

        Yeah, that's how I see it. But so much of my message does involve my story, so it gets a little tricky.

    • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

      Lindsey nailed it on this one. You are not promoting yourself. You are promoting the message that God has equipped you to share. It's bigger than you. :)

  • Lynn Squire

    Mary, Thank you so much for posting this. Your words are very encouraging.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Lynn. That was my intent.

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  • http://kayshostak.blogspot.com Kay Shostak

    Thanks Michael and Mary for this post. I'm a new author, just signed with a literary agent – but I promote myself and my writing. (One thing which attracted my agent.) It is a balancing act but a necessary one. Mary, I follow you in the social media and want to acknowledge you are always professional and kind. You are a good example to those of us behind you in the process. Thank you for speaking up and explaining what the publishing world is like. I found myself saying much the same as what you wrote, at a women's dinner last night – my dinner companions were fascinated in how an author has to promote themselves. Good job on many levels, Mary!
    My recent post I Needed to make Cookies

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks, Kay. Yeah, it's always interesting when I talk with folks on the "outside" of publishing about what is involved. It's not unlike when I shared with fourth graders about what it took to get traditionally published. One kid said, "I thought you just wrote the words and sent it it, then made lots of money."

      Oh that it would be so easy! :-)

  • http://www.justachick.com Dedra

    Mary,
    Thanks for sharing your heart and the reality of being an author in our world today. I hear your struggle with being obedient to what He has called you to do and wanting to retreat and "let it happen". God doesn't just impart gifts upon us and allow us to just "let things happen". It takes intentional living to remain surrendered to His will. Part of that intentional living for you is promoting what you have written. Well done. I, for one, would never be offended by that. P.S. This post has now led me to buy your book. ;)
    My recent post the lingering bliss of Blissdom 2010

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I see that you went to Blissdom, Dedra. How was that? I've heard good things about it.

  • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

    {Mary} (Hope you don’t mind a hug from a stranger.) ;)

    I appreciate your candor and transparency. Self promotion is WAY beyond my comfort zone; I know it’s s struggle common to writers.

    Right now, I’m pushing myself to pursue speaking opportunities. (Or more honestly, as Dave Barry might put it, I’m getting reading to think about thinking about speaking.) And there’s another irony…I love public speaking. Ugh! The schizophrenia!

    Again…thanks for your candor. I’m following you now on Twitter and look forward to getting acquainted with you.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Theresa for the hug. Hang in there in your speaking pursuit. It's great that you love speaking in general!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

      Hi Theresa,
      If you are looking for speaking opportunities, you might check out your local Toastmaster's club or local chapter of the National Speakers Association. Here in the So California area, our NSA chapter has a great apprenticeship program for aspiring speakers. It is focused 80% on building a speaking business and 20% on speaking skills. Toastmasters is a great place to refine your speaking talents and is usually under a $100/year to join. Good luck on your journey.
      My recent post Creating A Success Checklist

      • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

        John- Thank you so much! Toastmasters IS a wonderful group; I was part of one for a while. Back to my "schizophrenia"….I can hide out there and enjoy the small encouraging group instead of stepping out into a larger community. (More specifically, a public venue of encouraging fellow parents who have kids with learning differences.)
        Thanks again for your input; it was kind of you to reply and offer your encouragement. Bless you!
        My recent post Living in the present

  • http://www.wrightplacetv.com Dr Wright

    First of all, is this person a Best Selling Writer? If not , perhaps they dont know what they are talking about.
    #2- being an author is a business and promotion is what you do. #3 Mr or Ms Clueless/Hater can stop reading your facebook posts. No one is forcing them to read about you
    #4 How many of your books did this person buy or even recommend? Did they host a book signing for you? Did they help you in any way? C'mon!
    You are doing what you are supposed to do. Promote.
    This person is not your friend and not in your corner and does not want to see you and your business grow.
    I say move forward, dump them on facebook ( so you wont continue to irritate them) and move on.
    We have to be careful about taking advice from people who do not know what they are talking about.
    I never heard of you before this, which means you have NOT promoted too much ( yet!)
    There are still people who want and need to hear about you!

    Dr. Wright
    The Wright Place TV Show
    http://www.wrightplacetv.com
    My recent post When Sound bites go Wild

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      And yet I do feel (and maybe this is my own issues coming to the surface) that I should weigh criticism. It often has a kernel of truth.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

        I feel the same way, Mary. I wrote about this in Friends, Critics, and Trolls. The trick is in distinguishing the difference.

      • Hayley Shaver

        Too true.

    • http://www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com Linore Rose Burkard

      I love what Dr. Wright said, because it brings up the fact that much of our promoting is not aimed at those who know us or have read our work. We are simply trying to let NEW readers–those who would truly benefit, ie., enjoy our books–know about them. My 12 year old daughter still gets embarrassed when I give a new acquaintance, or someone I have struck up a conversation with, a postcard about my books. But 8 to 9 times out of ten, they thanked me deeply for doing so. 1) They love that they have met and spoken to an author. 2) They are often very eager to read my Inspirational romances, and happy to have learned about them. Of course, I only hand out my cards to women who seem to be in my target audience, so that boosts my rate of success. But Facebook is an open forum, and personally one of my favorite places to share links to reviews, sale prices, and more, regarding my works. Let those with ears to hear, listen! Let those who get annoyed, ignore or unfriend me if they must! (Haven't been un-friended yet. Is this a new word?) <g>

    • Hayley Shaver

      Dr. Wright, I totally agree with your advice to her.

  • http://twitter.com/SWMackey @SWMackey

    Good morning Mary,
    I appreciate the condor in which you explain how the business really operates. The paper medium may be scaling back because of technology, economic forces, etc., but this is creating new opportunities for real thought leaders. Obviously Michael is one of those leaders. I follow you simply because you're willing to openly share your experiences and willing to model what self promotion can look like without being crazy, over-the-top, self-centered, and arrogant. As less seasoned writers observe you (and others like Seth) we're learning that having great ideas is only a part of success. To succeed we have to build a brand and tribe and be willing to stand by that brand and with the tribe. I admire that you have the guts to publicly live this out.

    Thanks for all you do and for sharing so openly with the rest of us.
    Cheers – Steve
    My recent post Generous Leadership

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Steve. That's encouraging. And I think Godin's on to something I've seen play out. It's about building a network of folks around your product.

  • http://twitter.com/MarkYoungBooks @MarkYoungBooks

    Mary, thank you for these words. I know that you–through the TWV2 group–have helped me on the road toward publishing. As one who is still falls in that "aspiring" category, I read with interest what the future might hold. I wish you well on your recent releases. It was encouraging to see that in the midst of all this, you make time for family. In the grind of this publishing world, it is refreshing to see someone with balance.
    My recent post Human Trafficking

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, my family is the most important thing. (And most of my books deal with family in one way or another, so I guess that makes sense!)

  • http://www.caraputman.com Cara Putman

    Mary, there is such a tension here. I’m actively in the process of reevaluating my marketing with the help of Jim Rubart because I know I’m at another crossroads. You are one of the folks I watch and admire because you do seem to balance everything well -but I’ve gotten to know pieces of your heart over the years. Thanks for being vulnerable and adding another piece as I wrestle with finding the right balance with my books.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      It's so hard to know what "fits" us individually. That's part of the tension. What may be perfectly cool for you to do, might not feel comfortable for me. God has us all on unique journeys.

      • http://carasmusings.blogspot.com Cara

        And that is the amazing thing — we can partner with God and ask Him to show us our piece. It means each author may do different things because what's not prideful for me could be for someone else. So I have to keep checking my motivations. Love to watch how God is using you and your heart.
        My recent post Love is in the Air: New Marriage Books

  • Elle

    Thank you for sharing your response with us! I'm with the lot down below. The spirit with which you did it was right on, and I think it shows (in the best way) why it's so important to "take a few breaths" before letting our knee-jerk reactions be our only reaction. Thanks again!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, I've definitely been wrong in the past by simply reacting. I'm learning!

  • http://lynnmosher.blogspot.com Lynn Mosher

    Mary, As others have said, your response was filled with grace. And I cannot imagine you doing otherwise. The writer of that email must not be a writer. In today's publishing market, "blowing one's horn" is a writer's responsibility. However, I am like you. I'd rather be hibernating. As a newbie, I will face this shortly and as a non-fiction writer, I face some of this even now. It is a difficult balance but I believe you handle it very well. Blessings on all you do! ~~Lynn
    My recent post Thin Places…book blog tour

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Lynn, I appreciate it. I do believe Mr. Fish is a writer.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Mary, thank you for giving us a glimpse of your writing adventures and the great resources you provide. In today's competitive marketplace, having your name out there is a must. One of the best ways to do it is to take others along on your journey. Hey, we all would like to be top selling authors, but the reality is a tough rocky road, full of rejection, that takes promotion and guts to survive. We all need companions on our trip to the emerald city of success.

    As a blogger, I have had a few posts picked up by large blogs like Lifehacker. My traffic soars… for a day or two… and then it floats right back to where it was. The secret is to get the new visitors to subscribe to your feed, join you on Facebook, or follow you on Twitter.

    The people that do this well, bring visitors along as friends. They aren't in their face with promotion. Instead they show them how they run their businesses, and give their new visitors something of value to help them on their journey.

    Chris Brogan, Mari Smith, and of course Michael Hyatt do this very well. Take this blog for example; there is a ton of helpful content here along with a Twitter feed that provides helpful tips throughout the day. Michael is very welcoming and makes you feel right at home. This is a warm and insightful place.

    If you have a book, a blog, or a business, you need to promote it or it soon will be forgotten. Why not ask others to join you on your journey?
    My recent post Creating A Success Checklist

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      John, this is a kernel of an excellent blog post. Well said.

      I like the idea of shepherding people along a journey rather than shout at them to buy stuff.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words, John. It is because of regulars like you that we have a sort of community here. To me, my blog posts are only part of the conversation. The comments that people like you leave are the part that adds the real value. Thanks for being such an active participant!

  • Patricia Hunter

    My thoughts regarding this issue have swung both ways. A negative experience in marketing some years ago so repulsed me that I pushed the world of publishing away entirely, but I have followed Mary closely over the years and her wise, mature, and humble balance has had the most positive influence on my change of heart.

    As Mary has pointed out, the old model no longer exists, and Mary's participation in the promotion of her books not only affects her profits, but those of her team of agents and publishers. Mary's laziness in her marketing efforts would affect others and that would be irresponsible.

    Thank you, Mary, for your gracious response to this question.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, it's a balancing act. And I want to point out, I don't balance it perfectly.

  • http://twitter.com/Teridawnsmith @Teridawnsmith

    No wonder agent Steve Laube says in some of his seminars, "Welcome to the profession that will break your heart."

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Wow, great quote by Steve.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

    Mary,
    I think you handle the balance beautifully. As a fan and online friend I appreciate knowing what is going on with your release. I am on your team. And want to rally behind your success. You do a great job leading your tribe.

    As a person who works in publishing, I wonder about the authors who are not willing to promote their own books, especially Christian authors. Are they not passionate about their message? It is sort of like a church who feels compelled to sit back and wait for a congregation without doing any outreach.

    I can't wait to read Thin Places…it is supposed to arrive today.
    My recent post 6 Women to Watch (Blissdom Style)

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Lindsey. I appreciate it. That's my hope, at least, to rally folks around a message.

    • http://amysorrells.wordpress.com Amy Sorrells

      Major dittos on what Lindsey says, especially the part about, ". . . sort of like a church who feels compelled to sit back and wait for a congregation without doing any outreach." If God gives a gift, we must be wise stewards of it, and Mary, you're one of the wisest stewards I know. Often, I call the dance of promotion and platform-building, "shameFUL self-promotion," because it feels just plain AWKWARD! A consistent check on our writing focus–God and His love for the lost and broken–helps. But it is a dance, after all, and sometimes toes are stepped on and it hurts. (((sigh))) And for anyone who doubts Mary's generosity in promoting budding writers, I am a living, breathing example of her mentoring and love.
      My recent post Love and War: A book review

      • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

        Amy, you're why I love promoting and helping writers. Such a beautiful writer!!!!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jonsmith Jon Smith

    Mary – thanks for this. I think this is a constant battle, especially for Christian authors, musicians, etc. Maybe this is such a big deal because we're Christians? When Apple employees pound Twitter and Facebook and blogs with information on their iPad, I never think, "those people are full of themselves."

    I also don't think twice when Mike Hyatt posts links to his blog on Twitter or numerous pastors let me know about conferences going on at their church. This is a world full of noise, and I think you have to participate in honest, self-promotion for the right reasons. And honestly, I really enjoy the transparency of social media that makes it a lot easier to see Mary DeMuth's heart in her self-promotion.

    Also, kudos to Michael Hyatt for letting a Zondervan author post on his blog.

    :D

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, I agree. It's a battle. And there is a lot of noise out there.

  • http://twitter.com/rebecaseitzGRPR @rebecaseitzGRPR

    Nicely said, Mary! As a literary publicist, I'm often asked how a Christian justifies self-promotion. I remind them that the books God gives His writers are not theirs any more than our spouses, children, pets, or houses are ours. These things are given to us on loan from a generous God and He expects us to put them to the greatest use: pointing others to Him.

    Part of being wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves, is taking stock of how the world around us works and then putting that system to work for Christ. You've done an excellent job of this, Mary, and I commend you for explaining it in loving, gracious terms to your reader.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Rebeca. I'm sure as a publicist you get these types of questions more often. I like your response.

  • http://thewritepursuit.blogspot.com/ Sandra King

    Oh. Wow! Only 80 cents? :(

    Do I dare tell my husband that?

    I guess I look at it this way. If God has given me the passion, and today's publishing atmosphere includes promoting, then so be it. If it ever becomes a reality for me, I'll remember that He allows "irregular people" to polish me up. And I'll remember this post. No, I'll copy this post and read it often.

    Thanks for this. And for a lesson in grace and humility.

    My recent post Mary DeMuth: One Word/One Line Interview

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Well, sometimes it's more, sometimes less, but basically a little less than a buck a book. If you self publish, you make much more per book.

  • http://twitter.com/KSBond @KSBond

    Mary, thank you for adding wisdom to this now compulsory question of balance for authors, and for giving us a real glimpse into your heart as you respond to challenge with grace. As a publicist for novelists, one of the most deflating moments is being introduced to a talented author who approaches me with a posture of steely defense, as though I'm a time and energy bandit, here to crush his writerly spirit. My heart sinks when I hear, "My job is simply to write the best book I can, and then to quickly produce another to feed my hungry readers. I don't have time to do any promotion." Here's the truth: loyal readers now demand engagement with the authors they love, and if you're not willing to help build your tribe, you soon won't have hungry readers to feed. On the other end of the spectrum, I love to meet authors eager to partner with our promotion team. We respect talented writers and support their need to focus on their craft. Approach me with appreciation of our partnership–it's part of the publishing process. View me as someone who can help you learn about what's essential to publicity for your book (and what isn't!) and use my experience to help you create that balance in your career as an author.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I love that term, partnership. When I think about it that way, I feel much better about promotion.

  • http://twitter.com/CathyBryant @CathyBryant

    Mary, thanks so much for being authentic and transparent. I think every author struggles with marketing and promotion, because we are by nature introverts. I also believe that Christian authors particularly do battle in this arena, because we know that underneath it all our writing is about Christ and His kingdom and not us. I've come to realize that no author is in it for the money. If we were, we would choose an easier path than that of being writers. Until someone has walked this path, they don't truly understand how taxing and challenging it can be.
    My recent post Catch My Interview at Suspense By Anne (&amp; e-book giveaway!)

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, it's true. I'm not in it for the money. (I would've given up long ago during those years I made about 45 dollars!)

  • http://traceysolomon.wordpress.com tracey solomon

    Mary- what a great post and so timely. I'm often concerned about sharing my publishing "yes.' " And pointing people to where they can read my writing.

    Mostly, for fear of the very type of response you've received.

    Here's what I think:

    1) We write to communicate the gospel story in our unique context and voice. We do this to share it with others.

    We don't chastise pastors for asking church members to bring others to church to hear the word. Why should we do the same to writers who work to do (basically) the same? Promotion of your writing- is promotion of the gospel message.

    2) Honestly? As a new writer and someone on my own journey to further publication? I love hearing author's tell how God is making their publishing dreams come true. It fans the flame of hope I have. New books to market means there is still a market. In my opinion- for writers- the market is our pulpit!

    3) I find balance in the tension- when I recognize it's not about me- it's about Him. Who am I not to share what he is doing? I'm usually surprised and delighted when I get published, or asked to speak or receive feedback on those things. Sharing that delight is delighting in what God is doing, not myself.

    4) People expect social networking (the primary context we're talking about here, I believe) to be social. I have run into a few author's who ONLY post/ tweet etc about their current release, with links for purchase etc. That, I find annoying and does seem self-promoting.

    In contrast, when authors share their life and writing journey in their social networking- (as Mary does) it builds a relationship and we join the journey with you. Cheering as we go.

    Is it wrong to promote new-releases etc? I think it would be wrong not to.

    My recent post Battling my Braided Octopi- overcoming fear and failure and becoming a Linchpin.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Another great comment that would be a terrific blog post!

  • http://speckleofdirt.blogspot.com Speckle

    Mary, I enjoyed your guest post. I don't call myself a writer…grammar sub-par; hatchet-style punctuation. But I do enjoy writing, and feel like I can get my thoughts out more lucidly on paper, than out of my mouth. I'll be honest, I would love a compilation book of my blog posts. I would love to have a community of followers to converse with and inspire…and be inspired by. So, I link my blog posts on FB. I figure if someone doesn't want to read it, then they can just scroll past it. I do get the sense, though, that I'm somehow forcing myself on my "friends." Even though I have to be inundated with others' posts like, "I'm using FB in the BR…hehehe." I don't even get to scroll past that. It's a conundrum.

    Keep promoting…by reading this post you have now sold another Thin Places book to me, as I'm going to buy today!

    Blessings,
    Speckle
    My recent post #1 Frivolous Fridays: The Rabbit in the Snake Effect

  • http://www.lyricdevotions.com Deborah

    Mary, I don’t follow you on FB or twitter, but I do read your blog regularly, and what I see there is you helping other authors learn the craft of writing. Your recent promotion of Thin Places was very appropriate and professional.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks, Deborah, that's helpful to know.

  • Pingback: Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books? USA Cws

  • http://www.jillwilliamson.com Jill Williamson

    Thanks for sharing that, Mary. Honestly, I worked so hard promoting my first book that I am physically and emotionally drained. I had planned not to try as hard with book two. I figured, it's book two in a trilogy. If people like book one, they'll want to read book two. That's enough publicity, isn't it? But I know you are right about authors needing to stay involved. I guess I needed that reality check. I'll keep at it, but try to find a better balance in the time I spend at it. :-)
    My recent post Medieval Facts: Lighting, part two: Torches

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Wow, Jill. Yeah, I've been there too. I've had promo fatigue. But you've done a lionshare of the promo for book one and can rest a bit now.

  • http://twitter.com/LucyAnnMoll @LucyAnnMoll

    Mary, I appreciate the letter writer's sentiment. This IS how it WAS in the 1990s when my first three books were published by major publishers and sold between 150,000 and 200,000 copies.

    I wrote. They promoted. Life was good.

    NOW everything is different, as you and every writer knows.

    At first I felt angry. And, yes, I threw myself multiple pity parties. MULTIPLE.

    I asked mysef, Should I play by the new publishing rules or hang up my God-given dream and say, SORRY, God, this is too hard.? He said, "Play."

    So I play.

    Sometimes it's a ball. Sometimes I'm the awkward girl who doesn't get picked.

    Thanks again, Mary, and the letter writer. You both are great.

    Blessings, Lucy
    My recent post Thank You! How Gratitude Heals

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I remember talking to you about that at Write to Publish. I remember thinking, wow, it's not like that any more. I try to think of it as all a part of the package….

  • http://movethemountains.blogspot.com Chad

    I think one of the secrets of humility is to be just as proud of other's accomplishments as your own. Another is recognize that our time, talents, and treasure are not our own, but rather on loan–and the lienholder could call in the note at any time. This frees us to be generous. I don't know Mrs. DeMuth personally, but she seems–from what I've read of her, and by her–both generous and humble. I think it is from a place of stewardship that she markets her work, shepherding the talent that God has given her.
    My recent post What I'm reading now

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Chad. And your post is a great reminder. I want to be all about promoting others. I don't want to become, as Brian Regan the comedian puts it, a Me Monster.

  • http://evaulian-thebestoftheworst.blogspot.com/ Eva Ulian

    When I first started interacting on social communities on the web, I did so to form a “family” around me; to get to know, understand, share a portion of life with one another. We know all about our hopes and aspirations and to tell them about my book coming out will be like telling this to your mum, dad, aunts, uncles, friends and relatives which because you have a non-superficial relationship with them, they will be glad to hear about and not consider you as a nuisance or worse still, a conniving salesman.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      That's my hope.

  • Susan Marlow

    Thanks for posting this on the CAN loop this morning, Mary! Sometimes I don't read all the emails, but this intrigued me (since I shudder with the whole idea of this self-promoting train we're all riding these days).

    The email you received seems odd, to say the least, but just goes to show you that you can't please everybody all the time. Mostly you should just please God and your publisher (in that order).

    It's taken me FIVE years to overcome the fear of promoting my books, and at last it is getting easier. I would have died if I'd gotten such an email. Thank you for addressing it here, in case I ever do.

    As for the gal with the troubles of seeing your promotions on FB, can't she just un-friend you or not be a fan any longer if she doesn't want to know what you're up to?

    And by the way, I just went over and became a fan of yours.
    Blessings!
    ~Susan

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Hahahaha, Susan. Thanks for becoming a fan!!!

  • http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com/ Kathy Carlton Willis

    Mary, I think most consumers would be shocked to know everything non-writing related that goes into being a writer. At my communications firm, we walk our clients from first concept to branding to planning to proposals to publicity. Just this past week, I conducted a retreat called SuperMarketing, and we talked about how we as Christians can promote our work without it being self-promotion. I see any word worth writing as God working in us, and because of that, we are to promote HIS work. No different than a minister or missionary led to tell others the gospel. How will they believe without hearing? And how will they hear without a preacher/messenger?

    Not to mention, if we approach writing as a career rather than a hobby we need to see it as a business. I love how you compare it to owning a company who doesn't promote their product–what consumer will purchase a product without hearing about it first through advertising and other buzz?

    The Bible also encourages us to do all we do as unto the Lord. We pray for our books to get contracted. God answers those prayers. How can we NOT promote the result of that answered prayer AS UNTO THE LORD?

    I do think there is a line that gets crossed by some who tend to "self" promote. It ends up coming off as pushy, desperate or cocky. None of us want to be any of those things. But with the right motives always come the right actions.

    Thanks for allowing others to see what is underneath the surface of a book deal!
    My recent post Something Extra from Lisa Wingate's Never Say Never Blog Tour

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      And we are to work heartily as unto the Lord too. That's where things are less fuzzy for me. If I'm sharing my message as an agent of the Kingdom of God, then I have more peace.

  • http://flowingfaith.blogspot.com Mari-Anna Frangen Stalnacke

    Mary,
    Just wanted to say that I have come to admire your way to do “promotion”: You engage with people, ask people to share their own personal stuff with you. It’s like one big virtual celebration of life with you. I hope that one day I will embrace “promoting” as gracefully and full of joy and laughter than you do. And yes, I think I will become a Facebook fan of yours just to proove the harsh commenters dead wrong. Blessings to you and yours!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks kindly, Mari-Anna.

  • http://elainaavalos.blogspot.com Elaina

    While I do believe there's a fine line between marketing and promotion and becoming annoying, I do not think Mary has crossed that line. It sounds to me that the person who sent that email doesn't understand what's required of authors now.

    On Twitter, as an example, Mary posts other things besides links to reviews or her own comments about her books. She'll post recipes, photos, quick Tweets about music or other general comments about what's going on in her life.

    For me, this is what I want to see online from an author. If the author can successfully provide a good mix (Don Miller is another example of one good at this), I'm going to sit up and listen when there are Tweets or blog posts about their upcoming books or links to interviews, etc. As I was skimming through comments, I also saw one from Pete Wilson. He's another great example of someone whose book I will go buy because he answers comments from his blog via email or via Twitter by DM and his Twitter content it varied. I don't feel like people like Mary, Don Miller or Pete Wilson (as just three examples) are only about self promotion.

    These are just a few examples of people who are out there doing it right. They're the ones I hope to learn from when I'm ready to do the same. I think the person who emailed Mary is a little misguided as to the process. But that said, I think we do still need to be mindful, as we promote, that we not cross a line.
    My recent post Wordless Wednesday – Abandoned Beaches

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      That's good to hear, and I think your distinction is important. We need to be people, sharing our lives, not salespeople sharing our product.

  • Richard Dahlstrom

    As one who's published one book and is currently working on number two, I'm grateful for your words in addressing this, which is the most challenging part of writing for me. I love to write, and but haven't yet gotten over the 'self-promotion' hurdle. I'm working on it though, as I come to realize that viral marketing is a huge part of how books are discovered. Thanks for the encouragement to stick with it.
    My recent post The need for Lament…

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Glad to hear it was helpful, Richard.

  • Richard Dahlstrom

    As one who's published one book and is currently working on number two, I'm grateful for your words in addressing this, which is the most challenging part of writing for me. I love to write, and but haven't yet gotten over the 'self-promotion' hurdle. I'm working on it though, as I come to realize that viral marketing is a huge part of how books are discovered. Thanks for the encouragement to stick with it.
    My recent post The need for Lament…

  • Jody Hedlund

    Hi Mary, I enjoyed reading your perspective on marketing our books. I recently took a trip up to visit Bethany House and I had the opportunity to sit down with the marketing team there and talk through what authors should do to promote themselves. And this week I blogged about what I learned from that meeting. The summary is that we (especially debut authors like myself) can and should participate in the process, but that ultimately the sales team and the Bethany House name will sell SO many more books than I can through my blogging, facebooking, and twittering endeavors. They encouraged us to focus on our marketing strengths rather than trying to do everything which could pull us from our number one marketing strategy which is writing good books. Anyway, that's my two cents! :-)
    My recent post How Important is an Author Brand?

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Well, it's so true that if we don't write an amazing book, all the marketing in the world won't endear it to folks.

    • Dan Walsh

      Jody,

      I'm published by Bethany's sister, Revell. They've given me the same advice. My first book, The Unfinished Gift, came out in Sept. The sales and marketing folks had me hopping through Christmas. It's tapered off a bit now (it would, it was a Christmas novel). But there was a fun tension between the marketing staff (can you do this?) and my agent and editor (keep writing great books). I think Mary handled the correction admirably. Personally can't fathom having to work the marketing side of 4 books in the span of time she mentioned.

  • Eleanor Andrews

    Excellent response!

  • http://www.aardsma.com Mark Aardsma

    There's no question that self-promotion is a valid and necessary part of having something to offer. If my product is helpful, and people want it, then letting them know about it in a considerate way is a service.

    Of course, nobody wants to be spammed about something they're not interested in.

    The question on my mind is this: Since author self-promotion is so important, what does that mean about the role of the publisher in promotion?

    My recent post Small Business Q &amp; A

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      True on the spamming part. One of my peeves: when someone signs me up for their email distribution without asking me. Grrrr.

      The publisher certainly bears weight here, particularly on fronting the money up front in hopes that a book will sell. And they put PR and marketing money into each project, based on what they think they can sell.

  • http://www.graceisforsinners.com Serena Woods

    Mary,

    I remember, over a year ago, when you went out of your way to introduce me to a literary agent you respected. You’ve always been kind even though we’ve never met and I’ve never had anything to offer you in return.

    I’ve stayed connected with you all this time because you put meaningful substance out there. This means you’re not a waste of time.

    I love your book trailer, I love the visual of ‘thin places’ and have a connection with that place myself.

    Your story is important because it’s your eye-witness account. In Revelation 12:11 is says that the saints overcome the ‘beast’ by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. So, promote the heck out of it.

    I only know of you from what you, yourself, put out there on the web. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t know anything about you.

    You’re doing something right. Obviously. :)

    Serena

    PS: I’ll promote you! :) …

    Check out Mary’s trailer for ‘Thin Places’. It’s inspiring and makes you want to read her story:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LImEJ8om2qo

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Serena! You're a terrific writer, and I wish you all the success! Thanks for your kind words here. I appreciate it.

  • Skeexix

    interesting topic, intriguingly presented.____I am a writer, one children's fantasy published, another almost finished, an adult historical started, and I am thinking over all this marketing stuff. I wonder how all this intense daily interaction between an author and her readers effects the author's work? A sense of audience is important to me, and maybe this is closer to the ancient model of a storyteller around a tribal campfire. But then again, couldn't it lead to pandering to the audience in order not to lose it?____One thing that scares me about it is the need to become a public person. I would rather be a private person. I do not want to live in a fishbowl of my own making. At least all this interacting is done with written words, not face to face. At least you can be unconnected when you wish, but not–one reads–for too long. Every few hours or so–TWEET! ____anyway, thanks for helping me sort all this out–

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      So far I haven't seen interaction with readers mess with my work. But I also am very, very disciplined, making sure I meet my word counts every day.

      Like it or not, though, an author, because of the nature of publication, becomes a public person. This is something you'll need to wrestle through if you'd like to be published.

  • http://minuteswithmarlo.blogspot.com/ MarLo Huffington

    This is a great dialogue. I’m so glad everyone has read and/or participated in a very sensitive subject. I’m not an author but I certainly have some opinions on this topic.

    When I’m listening to a speaker/author or following his or her blog, twitter or facebook page I absolutely want to know what he or she has available. The only tweets, posts and blogs that become annoying are those that never, ever talk about anyone else’s work.

    As the chairman of a non-profit organization that earns income from book sales I would state I love it when the books are promoted. It not only makes certain others are introduced to resources to help, add entertainment or even challenges to their life, it also financially benefits the author and the organization leading to future resources.

    As a businesswoman I wholeheartedly applaud those who are savvy enough to engage in self-promoting. It is your business, it is your work and if you aren’t willing to talk about what you offer then why should anyone else?

    Mary, I hope you have found encouragement through this today and above all support. Might I add your self-promoting is done in your own style and I appreciate that about you!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks MarLo. I appreciate your perspective coming from the non-profit and business world.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    But Balance is key. Finding the right balance that works for you.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    Good insight here. Balance is always part of this equation. Finding the right balance sometimes just takes time but authors MUST promote themselves in order to be heard. It's a mindset though as well. You don't have to be self-promotional as much as you do message promotional. Push your book, push your content, push why it is important and the value it will bring to others. Don't be cheesy or overly bragging. There are certainly differences here with Fiction and Non but the premise is relatively the same. I think Jon Acuff with http://stuffchristianslike.net/ is an alternative example of how to promote and do it in a fun, engaging way. He makes it a part of his community and Tribe. :)

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I so agree about Jon Acuff. He's doing a cool job of creating a tribe by using humor.

  • Lynnda Ell

    Thank you, Michael and Mary, for posting an article about this topic. Writing is my seventh career. Each field was different from the others, yet the same thing has been true in each of them: I had to sell the other person on their need to buy what I was offering and I had to ask them to buy it (that is, I had to close the sale). In my direct sales job, that happened every day with every customer. With my accounting jobs, it happened only when I needed to get the job or persuade my boss we needed to do something. Nevertheless, marketing ourselves – with or without books to sell – is something we do with every day. I learned from Zig Ziglar many years ago that if we help enough other people get what they want, we will be able to get what we want. Mary, you wrote Thin Places to meet the needs of others like yourself. If you don't tell them about the book, how can God use it to heal them? Broken people want to be mended. Your story sends them to the Great Phycian. Keep it up, Mary. This is a business, but for you it's also a ministry. Keep telling your story.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      That's a really good point, Lynnda. In some way or another we're promoting something. What's hard for writers is that we're selling a message, which can come across as arrogant since the message came from us.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I think one of the biggest problems with the debate over Christian authors promoting their books is that we are looking way too much at each other. When my book is published (I'm being positive here), I'm planning on asking God for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and open doors. Then, when I follow what He shows me, I won't have to worry what others think. If I should overdo something, I can rely on Him to make good not only for me, but for everyone else. I don't have to justify what I do, and neither do you, Mary. Do what God places before you and everything else will work out.

    My recent post #29 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1)

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I get really antsy when I handle my own marketing. But when I view it as an adventure with God opening doors, as you said, it's a joy.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JeffHolton Jeffrey Holton

    This is the second person I know of who's connected somehow to Michael Hyatt who got an unsolicited piece of critical advice in the past few days. Hmm. Must be gang-up-on-Hyatt's-friends week. I'm gonna keep my head low!

    Anyway, to whoever wrote that original comment, I like Mary's writing, so I kinda wanna hear what she has to say. She doesn't have to stop writing when she's written the final word of the book.

    Also, as someone who's looking head-on at the daunting reality of getting a book published in the first place, I like to see the daily grind of the reality of responsibly caring for your work *after* it's released, and keeping in touch with your fans. It's all about conversation and relationship.
    My recent post A day late and a dollar short: becoming patient

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Agreed. Conversation and relationship.

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaGregoire @SheilaGregoire

    I talked about this in a teleseminar I gave for Christian writers/speakers recently. I think there's a misunderstanding in Christian circles that marketing and ministry cannot go hand in hand. We think, "If God wants it to succeed, it will, so I need to leave it to Him!" And then we figure that if we try to "help God", we're failing and have little faith.

    But I don't think it works that way. I think marketing makes you better. Think of it this way: when you market, you have to UNDERSTAND your market. You have to know your niche and what makes them tick. You have to research what their heart needs are, so that you can write and speak to those needs. You're not focused on yourself–what you want to write about–you're focused on others, what God may be wanting to do in their lives.

    I think it helps you to think bigger, and be more relevant. And all in all, that's a good thing!
    My recent post Thinking About Your Audience First

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Really wise words, Sheila. Thanks. True marketing is honoring a reader's needs.

  • http://www.BrendaNixon.com Brenda Nixon, M.A.

    Excellent, informative, candid reply to an outsider in the writing industry. Thank you for your spirit in this reply, Mary. Thank you, Michael, for posting Mary's insightful letter. Even today I am speaking (for free) to a group of fiction writers about book promotion. As Mary informed her concerned reader, authors cannot rest and expect publishers to do all the promo & marketing work – and there is a difference between promotion and marketing.
    Like Mary, I am considered a newbie in the author world with three books: two parenting and a co-authored holiday book. My latest title, The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right from the Start, probably nets me 80 cents or less, so I'm no more wealthy than Mary.
    Serious authors realize the dance of atunement with their publisher in consistently, persistently getting the book noticed every day.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      It is hard to get a book noticed every day, though. Sometimes I grow weary of that. But you're right, it's a partnership dance with the publisher.

  • http://twitter.com/BarbParentini @BarbParentini

    Thanks, Mike, for posting this. And Mary, I wholeheartedly support your viewpoints.They are words of truth! Though I am still mining my first novel, honing Living Letters, and enjoying the creation of my lifelong dream–a beautiful card line, I haven't published a string of books as you have. I am, however, going the route you have traveled: the conferences, learning and writing, creating from scratch. It makes you appreciate your journey, and builds the stuff writers are made of. I'm a contributor in several books, and look forward to the day my novel arrives at my door; until that day comes, I am clear about the expectations the publisher will have of me to promote their investment.

    So, yes, writers may succeed to literary stardom, but the marketing aspect must be forged in earnest by the author. Many years of writing success!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      How cool to have a card line someday. I hope your dreams are realized!

  • http://www.xanga.com/wondering-4 Heather Marsten

    I think any book publisher would appreciate an author helping to promote their books. If you have a good topic to share, people need to know about it. What if we just waited until people pulled a Bible off of a bookshelf, instead of reaching out to them for God? Sometimes we don't know about a book unless someone speaks about it. Regarding Thin Places, I am glad to have found an entry about it for it is a topic near and dear to my heart and I would not have heard about it without the promotion you did. I pray that you don't take that criticism to heart. I think pride would dictate not promoting your material. If you are making yourself available to people in the promotion of your book, that is a blessing.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Interesting point!

  • Dena Netherton

    What hardware company or software company, etc. could afford not to advertise, especially if the business was around the corner or tucked away in an obscure part of town? I think I read somewhere that it takes around ten to thirteen viewings of a commercial on tv before the company and the attractiveness of its offerings sink into our consciousness. Until you become a household word you must promote. The more I hear about Thin Places the more I want to read it! Keep on keeping on,lovely lady.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Dena. If you do pick it up, shoot me an email and let me know what you think.

  • http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com Terry Cordingley

    Do writers need to promote their books? Only if they want people to read them.
    My recent post Five Tips for Scheduling a Book Signing Event

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Of course, then there's the argument that books sell primarily through word of mouth.

  • Ty Hutchinson

    Actors and directors promote their movies, singers promote their albums, painters promote their paintings, designers promote their new line, fast food restaurants promote their latest deals, manufacturers promote their products, television stations promote their shows and so forth. So it makes complete sense to me that authors would promote their books.

    This is advertising. There will be authors that do it in an irritating way like HeadOn – apply directly to the forehead and their will be ones that don't.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, there is a balance, but it seems it's okay to promote anything else, just not Christian books. I wonder where that dichotomy happened.

  • Jenn

    I am challenged by your post, Mary. At a glance I agree with everything you said and think your response was appropriate and absolutely well stated. The general public seems to hold an inaccurately glamourous view of the life of a published author.

    The one thing I question has to do with Facebook. It seems to me that people who are my friends on Facebook want to be just that — friends. Many seem to login to Facebook to unwind a little, catch up on the lives of others, click on a few pictures, and enjoy a few laughs. Since your friend specifically referred to Facebook, I wonder if she has a point. People, in general, respond negatively to their friends trying to sell things to them. (If your correspondence refers to a Facebook page, I see that as being different.)

    In my extremely limited social media experience, it seems a Facebook page or Twitter is a more appropriate place to market and self-promote. Even the terms "fans" and "followers" versus "friends" makes it more acceptable.

    I am posting this because I am curious if my experience is the same as others. I may be too late to engage in a conversation, but it would be helpful to me to hear what you or others think. Thank you!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I do have a fan page on Facebook, and will be concentrating more on that once my queue of friends fills up. The friend was right in terms of the promotion on the particular week I posted. It was launch week, and because of that, I promoted the book. But normally I don't. Normally it's quotes I find that bless me, or what recipe I'm making for dinner, or something God's taught me in the moment. I often pray my way through the day through my updates. It's not normative for me to be promoting ad nauseum.

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  • http://www.shannondittemore.com Shannon Dittemore

    Wow… I love your response. As a still pre-published author, I dread receiving a FB message or email with those words. I'm still new at this whole "marketing yourself" thing and like you, I use my FB to get the word out about new blogs, new articles, new novel segments. I do wonder if it is overwhelming to my FB friends. Still, your point is beyond valid! If we hope to make money in this industry, money to support our families, our noses are forced to the metaphorical grindstone and we market to the world around us! I suppose as we elevate our platforms, those closest to us will sigh with relief that we've acquired a larger world to holler at. Until that time, we press on and pray for open doors. Thanks for sharing!
    My recent post The End

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Shannon, that's a good point. All along the journey, we deal with promotion on some level.

  • kathryn magendie

    Boy do I feel the 'tension' – lately I've decided to have a little fun with it – throw some 'caution to the winds' – my reclusive side that lives in this mountain cove and wants to just write her words is at war with the side that has to get out ther and "toot the horn…"

    Before my book came out, I spent a lot of time helping writers with their prose, promoting writers who were published, etc, but now I don't have as much time to do that as I like, and I have to spend a lot of time with this "look at me look at me look at me!' – I walk that fine line between being who I am and what I believe in, and what I must do to promote my book(s). I know I could probably do more, and maybe should, but there is a line I have drawn – we'll see if I ever have to cross it….although some may say I've crossed it recently with my "nekkid reading" and other things – taking suggestions from readers on promo ideas and running with it . . .that's a whole other story *smiling*

    nice post…and good luck!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Thanks for the "good luck," Kathryn. I like what you said toward the end about asking help from readers about promotion. They're great catalysts for creative ideas.

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  • http://www.robynbeazley.com Robyn Beazley

    As I prepare to publish my first book, this post was amazing to read. Thank you very much for being transparent Mary, about what I will most likely face during my upcoming journey. Have an amazing day!

  • http://kennishahill.blogspot.com Kennisha

    I love your response, Mary.

    Well, here's my answer to your question. I really do feel tension between writing and promoting. I'm a stay-at-home mom to two little ones (almost 3 year old and an almost 1 year old) plus we're 'expecting' again. And so, that alone gives me very little time to promote…although Facebook is an easy way to do it. My biggest problem is knowing what to do or how to effectively promote. I took the rebel route and self-published. I just want to and don't really have a strong desire to publish the traditional way. =) That's just a preference of mine for the moment. But, I would love to learn ways to effectively promote. That's the only part that is a little stressful.

    BTW, I believe you're doing great! Baby writers like myself are watching the pro's like you very carefully. And, you are a great example to many!

    Blessings,
    Kennisha

  • http://www.myspace.com/dezdot Dez Electrik

    I can truly connect with your last question, me , being in the music industry, I recently launched an indie label to release and publish my own albums. I finished production of the 1st album and have been promoting it for the past 2 months, caught a break in my schedule and went back to the keyboard to start on some new material for album #2 and found myself so mentally drained that I couldn't get anything done. So I feel when you're in writing mode set a mark for multiple projects in a financially responsible space of time so when you do go out to promote there are multiple projects in the can.

    for a preview of the album http://www.myspace.com/dezdot

  • http://www.aldrichdesign.com Dave Aldrich

    Wonderful response, Mary.

    I’m a book cover designer who works mostly with first-time, self-published authors, and I am always touting the horn of self-promotion; that being so important.

    I often struggle with the idea of promoting myself. My heart wants to simply be a humble follower of Jesus. Yes, this is business and in some ways we separate that from our identity in Him, but I think of the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. I believe that He has given us talents and abilities that we may shine and glorify Him. And if our focus is kept on Him then I think the balance for humility will be there. So we needn’t worry about all those voices telling us to quiet down!

    Thanks again!

    Dave

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  • Mikedpettit

    Thanks for a timely article. I tell other authors that we spend 80% of our time promoting and 20% writing. This just a fact of the business. Selling books is like selling any other consumer product, you must have your brand out in the public’s face every single day…down every isle. If you are good at your 20% writing then you don’t need to worry, the customer will come back for more.

  • http://www.gypsyink.com Leeana Tankersley

    Thank you for this post, Mary. You name a very distinct dilemma. Not just the philosophy of how much to self-promote but also the time allocation to writing vs. promotion.

    The tension of writing and promoting has been huge for me. I became a mother (to twins) just as I was finishing my manuscript, and my children were still under a year old when my book released (Found Art, Zondervan 2009). Just slightly overwhelming.

    I feel very willing and motivated to promote, but I also feel ever-conflicted about how much time to dedicate to all the necessary activities of being an author. I want to promote in ways that will make a big impact and not spread myself too thin. But sometimes that requires a lot of trial and error. Thanks for naming this struggle, and for naming this reality in the industry. I’d love to see another post from you on what promotional strategies you’ve found to be most effective! :)

  • Rubydiana

    It’s hard to toot our own horn when it comes to promoting our own book.  With this said,
    you will find EVERY CHILD filled with everything that makes a book worth the price.
    Google it!  EVERY CHILD by Ruby Diana.  You will also find it at Barnes & Noble and on
    Amazon.  So there, I did toot my own horn, because I need your VOICE for the good of
    EVERY CHILD… 

  • http://www.faithfulchoices.com Paula

    I timidly and fearfully say, “I agree with you”

    If we as writers don’t believe in what we’ve created enough to put ourselves and our integrity on the line by promoting it, why should anyone else. 

    That doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t mean I like it…but it does mean, if this is a light God lit, our job is to let that light shine bright.  Sharing and promoting is part of holding up the light and letting others know its there.

    Thanks for your honesty.

  • author essentials

    author promotionthanks for this post it will help to other to promote their own book… 

  • kamal

     I have been using a website it gives a simple and amazing promotion tool, that
    we easily can use to promote our products with.
    http://goo.gl/xRzkb

  • Shirley Corder

    Excellent post Mary, thank you – from one who is about to embark on this same process and scared stiff!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

       I’m glad it helped, Shirley.

  • Linda Chontos

    I just want to add my little bit to what others have said Mary. I have found you to be one of the most generous, encouraging writers I know. You do far more of that than the promotional things. You are a blessing.

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  • http://twitter.com/rubydiana BOOK: EVERY CHILD

    Until you write a book, you will never know the work that goes into it.  Self Promotion is part of it.  If that offends, then you’ve got to be offended by millions of authors who promote their books.  Books are our friends.  A good book that may never be read because someone
    was offended by its promotion, is a great loss. 
    With this said, I need you all to read EVERY CHILD by Ruby Diana.   Get a free sample read on amazon.com…Search books: Type in: EVERY CHILD by Ruby Diana.
    There, now I’ve promoted my book, now you go ahead and promote yours, or start writing one!

  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for sharing your post. I too find the struggle of promoting my books and wondering what people will think, but in the end it is my responsibility to promote what I have spent so many hours writing, editing, and publishing. I have had people make remarks about me promoting my books and it does hurt when people think you are doing something wrong when you are just trying to get the word out. You are not trying to force anybody to buy your books. As authors we are just trying to let people know about our books and it is their choice as to whether they want to buy them and read them. Your sweet spirit comes through in your response. You made your point clear, but did it in a professional manner.
    Blessings,

    Deborah H. Bateman – Author