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Thursday, September 09, 2010

I Give You Permission: Be Yourself. (A Post about Marketing)

When I started this writing gig, my ears were wide open (if one could say such things about ears). I knew I had everything to learn, so I did. I took every criticism to heart, morphing myself with each piece of solicited and unsolicited advice.

Partway through that journey, I found my writing voice. It didn't happen overnight, unless you count twelve years of solid writing overnight. Once I felt comfortable with my style and voice, I could discern better which advice to heed and which to kindly toss.

It's the same with other aspects of writing too--particularly PR and marketing. Once you start the publication journey, you'll hear a dizzying array of "shoulds." Here's a listing, in case you were wondering:

  1. You should have a facebook page and a connected twitter account. Oh, and LinkedIn, and Bob's social marketing bonanza, and any other ning, ping, zing that comes around.
  2. You must speak. And learn to speak well. Pay your dues by traveling to Bob's boathouse to talk about your maritime novel.
  3. Remember to hire the right publicist. And practice your radio voice, presence, pitch, and tie everything you say to to your website.
  4. Which brings me to websites. You ought to have one. And make sure you have a non-Wal-Mart-photstudio picture there. Be sure the site is SEO friendly. And be sure it's pretty and practical and stunning. It should look like you spent lots of money on it.
  5. Oh and be sure you blog. A lot. Consistently.
  6. You can't make a living as a writer, so create products on your site.
  7. Email every bookstore in the continental US and make a relationship with every single bookstore owner.
  8. Be sure you send chocolate (or other delectables) to your publishing house.
  9. Buy a magnetic book advertisements for your car.
  10. Send newsletters. Physical ones. Email-y ones.
  11. Teleseminars and webinars are your friends. Shake hands with them.
  12. Start creating seminars (real ones, in the flesh) utilizing your expertise.
  13. Comment on blogs you have affinity with. 
  14. Guest post as much as you can. Invite high profile bloggers to guest post on your blog.
  15. Create or understand or formulate a brand or tagline. Who are you? How do you help others?
  16. Have contests.
  17. Build a database.
  18. Give books away to influential people.
  19. Rethink booksignings to make them less embarrassing! 
  20. Be everything to everybody...
I write this list and smile. Why? Because I've done nearly everything on this list, pushing myself close to burnout.

It's odd to me how I was able to sift through writing advice after I found my voice, but I haven't been as astute in discerning all the voices in terms of PR and marketing. Instead of thinking through each set of expectations and seeing how they fit me, my ministry, my career, I've done everything. Because I thought I had to.

I know some amazing people in PR and marketing. And I've learned so much. But I've also learned that not everything fits me. And some of it drains me. I've learned from Marcus Buckingham recently that I should concentrate more on my strengths (things that strengthen me) rather than my weaknesses (things that weaken me). In light of that, I'm dropping some of my marketing efforts. I'm farming out others. And I'm concentrating on those that strengthen me--things like blogging and social media.

What I toss out won't be what you toss out. What I do well won't be what you do well. And that's okay. The point of this rambling post is to give you permission. Be yourself. Find your marketing and PR voice. Then you'll be able to better discern the advice that comes your way.

Remember, too, that this is a fickle business. I wish I could give you "the" formula to sell your books, but there is no formula. Part sovereignty, part hard work, part writing, part serendipity, part word of mouth, part mystery, we simply can't predict how to sell our books.

Which is where I rest today. I may never be a bestseller. It may not be God's plan. But I want to do this writing journey well. I want to market in a Mary-shaped way. I want to make Jesus smile in my efforts. And I want to let the results rest in His capable hands--He who wrote the bestselling Book of all time. I'm tired of running around in circles, heeding every piece of advice. I want to write. I want to write well. And I want to rest there.

Anyone else feel that way?


  1. Ah, at last a voice of sanity in the marketing frenzy. Thanks, Mary!

  2. Thanks, Karen. I don't know if I represent sanity, as I've tried pretty much everything. But I'm learning to trust my instincts, finally.

  3. Thank you Mary.

    Your post takes the pressure off of performing.It puts my focus back on what my heart feels called to do.

    I too want to write well - I am just struggling so much with finding the time. Single mom, work full time, fall asleep easy... but I AM TIRED of excuses.

    Julie type way. God inspired focus, Jesus shaped heart. :) Off I go.

  4. Mary, this was a wonderful post for seasoned writers and for newbies. And something I desperately needed to hear. Thank you.

  5. Julie, can you take a sabbath rest this week? Just do something for you?

    Heather, I'm thankful the post blessed you.

  6. Great post to read, Mary, as I'm entering the marketing phase of publication. Thank you, again, for sharing from your journey and leading those of us who are on the path behind you.

  7. Perfect timing, Mary. Great post. Thank you!

  8. Great post and timely as I feel myself teetering toward burnout. There's so much I could do. Knowing what I should do is hard.

  9. Very helpful advice and makes sense to focus on your strengths. Thanks!

  10. Ginny, I love that you have your own Ginny-shaped path. Walk ye in it!

    Amy, I can't wait to hold your book in my hands.

    Cara, rest in knowing that loving your kids and hubby is great, great work.

    Kathleen, thanks.

  11. Amen, Mary! Like you, I had figured out some of the advice that didn't fit me (the hard way), but I was about to jump on this PR / Marketing bandwagon with the rest of 'em. Thanks for offering your transparent perspective.

  12. Michele,

    I hate finding out the hard way, but I do learn better that way.

  13. Thanks for the great advice Mary. I'm learning more every day that being myself is who God made me to be. Another serendipity in my day today was finding this post! Thanks. Gigi Murfitt

  14. In July, my third book released and I had my second baby. I've really struggled with knowing what promotion to do/how much time it should be given. Thank you so much for your post, Mary!

  15. Help!!! Wow. What a list. I love your writing, and wish I could write like you. But in the meantime I want to write like me, and wish I had more time or more readers or both.

  16. Gigi and Martha, you're welcome! :)

    Stephanie, I would say you have your hands very full. You can only do what you can do. Rest in that.

    Sheila, Yes, write like you. In those nooks and crannies of time.

  17. Thank you, Mary! This was an awesome post!

  18. Thanks for the excellent post, Mary. I'm just starting down this road and the ride so far has been great but completely overwhelming. After hearing everything I'm supposed to do, I'm wondering when I'm supposed to write. It's nice to be reminded I don't have to be everything to everyone, only to Him. Thanks for making the path a little clearer.

  19. Thanks for the sage advice - am getting ready to market and this column has quieted my soul. Thank you.

  20. Penny, glad it helped.

    Kenneth, yes do what energizes you.

    Scarlett, glad to hear about the quiet.

  21. Love this post! I was tensing up reading through your list--then I got to the twist. Thank you!

  22. Amen, sister! I often find myself thinking about the balance between everyday life and the writing life. I recently reminded myself to be who God wants me to be with the gifts He's given; and to accept the grace that it is enough.

  23. SO needed to hear this today! A month into my first book's release I'm completely overwhelmed by the "you have to do this" and "you should do that" comments. I've been so completely sucked into that vortex that I haven't written a fresh word on the page in months. THANK YOU for giving me permission to do this the way I'm best equipped and suited! You're my hero!

  24. Balance is hard. I'm still struggling to find it.

    Diane, so glad to hear the post helped.

  25. Randy sez:

    That's a nice menu you listed, Mary. Some of those are Good Things. Others are Yucky Things. But it's a menu. Pick a few of them and eat those. You can save the others for some other day.

    Great Marketing chooses the 20% of the items on the menu that will give you 80% of your results.

    Have fun!

  26. Perfect, Mary! Just sooo true. And then the guilt when one can't do it all. Not to mention the stress in trying! I think we've all been there. But some things are worth stepping out and trying. I resisted blogging, but am loving it.

  27. Fabulous post, Mary. Thank you, thank you! Now back to the writing end of it all--the really good part :)

  28. Mary, what a refreshing post. I chose another path from the writers on this Novel Journey by self-publishing. I thought it through and determined my purpose from the beginning - to let the Lord own the book that I had poured myself into. In so doing, I could filter all through this premise as I chose the cover to represent Finding Herself Blessed, as I determined how it should be marketed, and as I shared it personally. All the pressure for selling was lifted and the thrill of hearing how it is blessing others is paramount. is my website.

  29. Randy, I love the way your mind works. Yes, it's a menu... Choose what's good for you!

    Yes, Tamara, writing is the best part.

    Janie, blessings on your journey!


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