Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Mission to Mars

The first edits are back on the Believer's Guide to the Multiverse, and I'm psyched.  First, my editor seems to like it, which is a significant bonus.  And second, well, it's a small step closer to that place where I can for the first time in my life move past saying "I'm a writer" to saying, legitimately, "I'm an author."

But mixed in there is a bit of angst.    What I'm dreading is the reality that in order for a book to be read, it has to be marketed.

While I love writing, I wrestle mightily with marketing.  I hate the feel of it, the taste of it, the way that approaching another person with a pitch can dehumanize the soul you're encountering.   They can become an object, an implement, something you're seeking to manipulate rather than someone you're standing in relation to.

I'm going to have to get over that, or at least reconceptualize the effort that goes into marketing.  Ditching the word itself seems a good start.   To get the word out about something, you have to believe in that something.   It has to matter to you, not in a manipulative way, but in a genuine way.  I'm not selling you something.  I'm offering you something.  I'm not pitching you something.  I'm opening up a conversation.  It's not scripted prosthelytizing, it's real evangelism.  

But really, that effort to really connect has to begin as you write.  Whatever you're trying to convey, you also have to speak it in such a way that people can hear what you're saying.   If you're a writer, that has to happen on the front end.  Are you articulating what you care about in such a way that other human beings...literate ones, at least...will be able to receive it?

One lament I'll hear occasionally amongst progressive Christian writers is that, well, no-one seems to buy books anymore.  "Why does no-one read," we lament.  "They are all so stupid!  Stupid stupidheads!"  This is fundamentally not true.  Christian books still sell like hotcakes.

Take, for instance, the books of Stormie Omartian.

Though I try to be aware of all things Jesusy, I'd never even heard of Stormie Omartian before I went onto Twitter.  There, amidst the churning thickets of tweet-quotes, I saw the name...and needless to say, it piqued my curiosity.   I discovered that beyond having a name that is beyond epic, she's an amazingly successful Christian author by almost any metric of success.

If my wee book sells more than a couple thousand copies, I'll be quite pleased.  That doesn't even begin to hit the 30,000 copy metric I used to hear pitched for entry into the "successful" author club back in the print era.   But Stormie? Stormie's in a totally different league.

Her books, which she writes from the perspective of a nondenominational layperson, have sold millions upon millions of copies.  Her Power of Prayer books have sold so well that her publisher has copyrighted those words.    "The Power of Prayer (R)."   I'll have to remember that the next time I consider using those words in a sermon, I guess.

So after finishing up my time with philosopher/mathematician/theist Blaise Pascal, I went to the library. There, in the spirituality section, Dewey Decimal Code 248.32, right next to a Brian Mclaren book, was a pastel-hued hardback, which I dutifully checked out.  I could tell by the cover that this was going to be...different.

Time to take a trip to Mars.