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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Because You're Mine, I Walk the Line

Okay, so maybe a line from a Johnny Cash song is a corny title for a post about the publicity dilemma, so sue me. (Please don't, I'm poor and stressed enough as it is.)

As you probably have heard by now, (because all the world cares about the fabulously exciting life of Gina Holmes), my debut novel, Crossing Oceans is releasing with Tyndale this May.

Does that seem like a long way away to you? Not to me. Funny how time flies when you're trying to publicize your novel. Do you realize that many media outlets, such as magazines have a six month or greater lead time? (A lead time is the amount of time pre-publication they require to get a story, review, whatever written.)
Many reviewers also require many months with an arc, (advanced reader copy), before they will agree to consider a review.
All of this translates into a hurry up and wait scenario and lots of comfort food gorges.

The stress of trying to do my part to help my my publicity department get the word out about Crossing Oceans well in advance, has me chewing my toenails (I'd chew my fingernails, if I had any left.) And yes, I'm quite agile ... and disgusting.

Besides the stress of trying to write my second contracted novel while trying to promote the first and all the work that entails, from filming interviews, to giving book trailer input, to taking promo photos, etc. I find myself questioning how much self-promotion I'm actually comfortable with.

I know I need to do my part to promote the investment Tyndale has made in me but it feels ookie to promote myself. There's a fine line between promoting one's work and promoting one's self. I want to do the former. Crossing Oceans is a good book. Gina Holmes, however ...

Anyway, I asked some industry folks what their thoughts were and they agreed to share their wisdom. Here's the question I posed:

Many writers struggle with the self-promotion required to sell their books. The Bible says, "Let another praise you and not your own mouth." Yet, authors are expected to promote their books to potential readers. What advice would you have for authors grappling with this issue?

I feel an author should take all reasonable opportunities to present a new book to public. Authors can achieve a lot by introducing their material, responding to interviews in which they have a chance to explain or amplify their aims as writers, and it is also a good idea through a Facebook page to print links to good reviews that you receive so that all can read them. It is a real challenge to effectively distribute a book and introduce it to the public. Do not hesitate to do your best in this regard. ---- Anne Rice, author of Angel Time.

TYNDALE's fiction editorial/marketing/publicity group response:

In our opinion, author self promotion is one of the most important ways that authors can partner with their publisher in today’s social networking environment. In the past, publishers have relied on booksellers, librarians, and media to communicate our books to the public. That landscape has changed dramatically with the rise of Facebook, Amazon, online book clubs, and countless other direct to consumer Internet sites. We now have the power to contact the consumer directly.

That said, we recognize that many authors are hesitant to “toot their own horn” or self promote. They worry they won’t appear humble and that others may perceive them as being tacky or pushing their book on others. And sure, occasionally there is the author who over promotes to a fault—even risking a solid relationship with a retailer.

But self promotion needn’t be obnoxious or pushy. If you worry you might be over doing it, you simply need to ask yourself if you’re investing in a new promotional venture or calling your publisher with a promotional idea because it makes sense for addressing a good potential audience . . . or if you’re just anxious or insecure about “how the book is doing.” This should help answer your questions and calm your worries.

If we look at this practice of reaching out to the consumer less as self promotion and more as finding genuine ways to connect readers, every author can strike a happy medium and really help push their name and book into the marketplace in a natural way.

We encourage our authors to write articles for publications, keep a blog for their fans, connect through Facebook or other social networking sites, build a relationship with their local bookstore, and even engage with book groups. Sure, the publisher can do what they can for the author, but the modern consumer can see through this. If an author can take a couple minutes out of their day to connect with readers personally, they gain a fan for life.

If an author is still hesitant, we gently remind them that in the Christian marketplace, not only are we encouraging readers to pick up a book, but we are hoping the reader may find a valuable ministry message in the book. In this way, a Christian author can look at self promotion as a way to really evangelize to Christians and seekers. Books have the power to change lives in unimaginable ways.

Tyndale’s mission is “Minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles.” We publish authors and books to accomplish this mission and our greatest hope is to have authors who join us in this journey with a real desire to connect with our readers.

From Athol Dickson, author of Lost Mission:

Self-promotion doesn’t mean talking about the quality of my work, or how fun or interesting or exciting it is. On my website I just post reviews and list awards and leave it at that. In interviews I try to talk about the thematic issues raised in my fiction, which is much more comfortable territory than discussing whether my work is any good or not. And I think the most important thing I’ve learned about promotion is the importance of just enjoying being with people, talking to them, trading emails and meeting them in person. I’ve made a lot of friends through my blog and Facebook page and emails via my website, and once I started thinking of self-promotion that way, it became fun.

Alton Gansky, BRMWC director and novelist:

It’s true. Many authors have trouble tooting their own horns. This is especially true for those who work and write in the Christian arena. After 30 plus books, I still struggle with this, especially when some interviewer asks, “So what makes your book so great?” I find it easier to brag on others than on myself. That said, I have come to see promotion as something far removed from bragging. Promotion is the act of making a case for one’s work. It’s making readers aware of what is available to them. It is not a sales pitch; it is communication. It helps me to remember that I am not promoting myself, but a useful product created by my partnership with a publishing company. I’m uncomfortable promoting myself; I have no problem promoting my work.

Literary agent, Chip MacGregor:

"Promotion" and "overweening pride" are two separate things, Gina. Scripture says we're to beware of pride -- to have too high an opinion of yourself, to take all the credit, lord your success over others, or brag about how wonderful you are. When we do that, we lose perspective as to where our talent comes from. Promotion is different -- it simply means we are encouraging or advancing something (and with a clear conscience, it's promoting something we believe in). Move this out of the realm of books for a moment... If you were selling vacuum cleaners, would your faith keep you from advertising them? ("I can't tell anyone about my vacuum cleaners... they're really good, and it would look like I'm too proud of them.") That's crazy.

If you work hard, are proud of your work, and feel your product is really helpful to others, should you feel awkward about telling others about it? I don't think so. An author is creating art, so should a singer feel he should not sing in public, or a painter not hang her art in a gallery, for fear of letting others notice their gifts? Of course not. Similarly, I think authors can promote the books they create. Sure, that can cross over into the realm of pride, but we need to take steps to make sure that doesn't happen. I see nothing in Scripture that tells me not to the products I believe in with others.

Janet Benrey of Benrey Literary:

It may seem onerous to the new author to be asked to take on the role of book promoter, after all, wasn't writing the book work enough for anyone? But the truth is, thanks to the Internet and its social networks, it is easier than ever for authors to promote their latest work to fans. If you are uncomfortable praising your work to others,don't do it. Leave the reviewing to those more qualified and objective.But don't miss the chance to tell your readers, who surely will want to know, that a new novel by you is about to be launched. I see no Biblical conflict in that.

Bonnie Calhoun, President of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance & GPCWC Writer Of The Year :

The Bible also says not to hide your Lamp under a bushel, and there is another verse in II Thessalonians 3:10 that says, "If Anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." I would never have enough bravado to tell God, well you gave me the message to spread, or You put the story on my You go do all the work and make me a success. And then there are writers who have not been called to write as a ministry, but desire to write, and give it to the Lord as an offering, which is another case of you needing to accomplish the work to submit the offering.

Rebeca Seitz, President of Glass Road PR & novelist:

Matthew 10:16 is one of the most appropriate verses I’ve ever found for an author who is faced with this dilemma. Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

The shrewd part allows us to take stock of the world in which we live and notice how it functions. In publishing, name recognition sells fiction (in the long-term), which leaves you in a position of needing to push your own name. Is that contradictory to the Christian life of placing all others before yourself? Not if God has called you to be an author of books in this culture.

He gave you a story, a beautiful picture of His truth, an incredible illustration of Himself and His work in you, and then called you to an industry that (usually) requires your name to be known among consumers for that story to get to the masses. He knows the industry. He also knows your heart – the place where you can be as innocent as a dove if you so choose. He knows if your intent is to get His story into the most hands so that they will see Him. Trust Him to know you.

The very fact that you wrestle with this dilemma shows that your heart is, first, for Him. He knows that. He loves that. Now go get your name out there so the masses know of this story He gave you. At the end of the day, it’s His name they’ll remember and praise. Yours is just an arrow pointing the way.


  1. I haven't met an author yet who doesn't like to talk about a story they wrote. Perhaps it's more an issue of tact and tone than anything. It still seems weird to me when "Author A suggests you become a fan of Author A" on Facebook. That might be navigated with a little more nuance. Nevertheless, if a story's worth reading, then overcoming our timidity and self-consciousness is essential. I mean, if we're not personally excited about a story we wrote, how can we expect others to be? I just think that tact and humility may woo more readers. In fact, Gina, by talking about the dilemma of self-promotion, you have effectively plugged your new book. That's pretty sneaky... or should I say, smart.

  2. I found this to be highly fascinating. Entering into the writing arena, I've combatted similar thoughts to what has been mentioned here. I think intention, insecurity and trust are three key aspects of figuring out what's what. What is our intention with people? Are we trying to connect with them or just get them to buy our book/pay attention to us? Insecurity can cause people (myself included) to act in such ugly ways. Finally, trust in God clears away this whole dilemma. He guides and directs. Thank you for addressing this topic. I value every response you received and your honesty.

    Your book sounds like the exact thing I love to read.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Love you heart, Gina. Couldn't agree more with the quandary.

  4. I can promote the living daylights out of another author. When it comes to my turn, I'll have to call in a lot of favors. Either that or throw up. And yet, I believe in the message of y stories. So when the time comes, I guess that's what I'll talk about.

    Meanwhile, y'all have to read Crossing Oceans! It's one of the best books I've ever read. EVER!

  5. LOL. Mike, my cynical friend... Thanks everyone. And Ane, you won't need to promote your self, you've got a bff who thinks you're all that.

  6. EXCELLENT post. This is something I've been asking and wondering about myself. THANK YOU, Gina!!

  7. Great post Gina, and I can't wait for your book to hit the shelves so the public can see how great it is!

  8. Thanks ladies :)

    ps. you know how you have to type in a captcha to leave the comment? The one I'm having to type in is "kinshp" Apparently there's no "i" in that.

  9. Get plenty of author signings set up and then interact with the people. Hand them the book and tell them very briefly what it's about. Be curteous to all, especially those who don't want the book. You'll be surprised how many buy it. I found it to be so in my first book signing for Angela 1: Starting Over (my new release). To learn more, please click on my name and follow the link to my website. Thanks!


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