Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: marketing

The writing comes first

Self-publishing platforms and print on demand services have made it possible for every one of us to write and publish a book. easily and inexpensively. There are more books being published today than ever before; most of them sell about 100 copies. Those of us who aspire to do better than that are told that we have to put as much effort into marketing our book as we did in writing it. We need to make ourselves visible on all the social media platforms, use every marketing tool to get our books noticed.

Maybe that’s true. But Rejean Ducharme did none of that and his books flew off the shelves all over the French-speaking world. He never made public appearances, never gave interviews, only two photographs exist of him, from his younger years. He lived as an ordinary guy in Montreal, his friends and family respected his wishes and never talked about him to the media. When he was awarded literary prizes, his wife was the one who attended the events on his behalf. When publishers in Quebec rejected his manuscripts, he sent the manuscripts for three novels to Gallimard in Paris. They bought all three, published the first one in 1966 and published all his novels from that time on.

I confess that I have not read any of his books. Evidently he had fun with words, but that in itself would not sell a lot of books. The real key to his success, from all that I read about his books, is that his characters mirrored the aspirations, disappointments and experiences that make up the daily lives of the readers.

All the stories have already been written. We cannot come up with a unique plot that has not already been used by writers like Dickens, Dostoevsky and Dumas. What we have to do is write those stories in a way that lets the reader see something that they have never seen in quite that way before. The characters must not be wooden props to illustrate our narrative. The characters are the story, the reader must be able to experience their hopes, joys, sorrows, frustrations, defeats and victories.

Writing a believable story is not an abstract, theoretical exercise. Writers have described their work as bleeding onto the paper, or undressing in public. If we can delve into our experiences, the painful ones, the ones we never wanted anyone to know about, and weave them into our story, readers will find their own deep feelings compel them to continue reading. If our goal in writing is to help others, we cannot draw a privacy curtain around the things we are ashamed of in our own past. Whether we are writing memoir or fiction, the writing must flow from the heart to touch the reader’s heart.

Perhaps we do live in an era that requires writers to put more effort into marketing. But no amount of marketing is going to sell a dead horse; first we must ensure that the horse is alive.

Questions

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The techniques for evangelism known as the Church Growth Movement, were first introduced to North America in 1961. I use the word techniques deliberately, as the movement sought to use sociological research to select social groups that could be reached through the use of modern marketing methods. The key assumption of the movement was that people are most likely to feel comfortable with and trust people like themselves.

Does this sound like an opportunity to share the gospel more effectively?

Or does it sound like a description of the problem that we should expect the gospel to overcome?

Why are churches still the most segregated places in North America?

Has the Church Growth Movement done anything to heal tensions between ethnic groups?

How many close friends do you or I have who are of a different skin colour or different ethnic origin?

How open are we to changing that?

This is where we need to accept that the best way to change the world is to start with ourselves. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. If we are to make any lasting friendships with people who are not just like us, we are going to learn that we have not always been such nice people as we thought we were. That might be painful, but it can be liberating, too.

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11 (Substitute the peoples in your city for the underlined words.)

What on earth is a “Canadian Black Friday” sale?

I hope my readers will forgive me as I go off on another rant. I promise to soon get back to more normal posts. (Normal for this blog, at least.)

Today is the second Monday in October – Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Thanksgiving is not quite as big a deal in Canada as it is south of the border, but it is still a holiday and a day when families get together to face a mountain of delicious food to which they cannot possibly do justice.

I have done enough travelling in the USA to know that US Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November and the following day is the day that Christmas sales start.  I suppose it is called Black Friday because it is the day that people rush into stores, elbowing and trampling anyone that gets between them and the sale item they want. It is also the day with the highest dollar volume of sales in the year.

A few years ago, some stores in Canada decided to try to emulate the success of Black Friday in the US, holding Black Friday sales on the fourth Friday of November. But that day has absolutely no significance in Canada.

This year, I see that some stores are advertising “Canadian Black Friday” sales for the Friday after Canadian Thanksgiving. But that is the fourth day after the actual holiday, not part of a long weekend, and really much too early for most of us to be doing Christmas shopping.

The stores where I have seen “Canadian Black Friday” signs are part of US owned chains. I suspect the inspiration comes from the far distant US head office where the marketing geniuses are thinking “This works in the USA, why can’t we make it work in Canada?”

To which I offer two questions to my US readers. Do you have Boxing Day sales in the USA? Do you even know what Boxing Day is?

I rest my case.

 

Do it yourself customer service

A resident in a nearby home for seniors, let’s call him Frank, gets around fairly well in a wheelchair.  However, Frank has limited strength on one side, so he also has an electric wheelchair that he sometimes uses.

Recently he discovered that a small spring assembly from one of the front wheels was missing.  Presumably it came loose and fell out.  A friend called the dealer to order replacement parts.  The dealer said he could not order the parts without knowing the serial number of the wheelchair.   There is no serial number to be found, perhaps the sticker with that information also came loose and was lost?  The friend then took a picture of the spring assembly from the other side.  The dealer still didn’t have enough information to know what parts were needed.

Then Frank asked me to help.  The next time I went to the city I took the remaining spring assembly and showed it to the dealer.  He immediately recognized what make of wheelchair it came from.  After a brief check he said he did not have those parts in stock and would have to know the model number and serial number before he could order the parts.  He did take the assembly apart, laid out all the parts on the counter and took a picture with his cell phone, promising to see if anyone else in the shop could identify them.

That didn’t sound all that hopeful, so when I got home I went to my computer and googled the manufacturer’s name.  I then went to the model number of Frank’s wheelchair and found detailed illustrations and part numbers.  There is a generation 1 and a generation 2 of this machine, but the spring assembly is identical on both, so a serial number is not needed.

I copied down the numbers of all six parts that go into this assembly, faxed the list to the dealer and a few days later he called to tell me the parts were in.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.  But I remember a day when the dealer was the source of all information and parts for the machines he sold.  Now it’s the internet and woe betide  the person who doesn’t have internet access or doesn’t know how to use it.

Do it yourself publishing

Something similar is happening in the book publishing world.  Publishers are being squeezed for cash.  Except for a very few big name authors, publishers now expect writers to look after the editing of their own manuscripts and the promotion of their books once in print.

Help is available for the aspiring author who wants to see his name in print.  Many self-publishing companies will compete for the privilege to publish your book, as long as you are willing to pay for it,  There are a number of outfits offering print on demand at minimal cost.

So now it is possible for everyone who has ever dreamed of writing and publishing a book to actually do it.  Thousands of titles are coming out each year.  The average self published book will sell 200 copies, mostly to close friends and relatives.

If that’s all you want, it’s fine to go ahead and do it that way.  If you dream of something more than that, then you need to start with professional editing.  I have seen so many sloppily edited books that could have been good books with a little help.  I have no desire to follow their example, I don’t want to publish a book that shouts homemade as soon as you start reading it.  Editing is going to cost money unless you have a friend who is a professional editor and owes you a favour.

Book promotion is a topic for another post.  We in this house are just beginning to learn about that aspect, but it sounds like traditional methods such as book signings are not going to move a whole lot of books.   The best results will come from smart use of the internet via a website and a blog.  Some people talk a lot about Facebook and Twitter for marketing, others say don’t waste you time with them.   We don’t intend to.

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