Monday, May 07, 2007

Mooching Off Your Mama (Or, is it okay to promote myself?)

I apologize for falling off the wagon when it comes to blogging writer tips. My life has become insane lately and, well, so have I. But now I’m coming out of semi-retirement to answer some of the questions I am asked the most frequently by aspiring authors. One of the main concerns seems to be – how do I promote myself without coming across as pushy? What if my family and friends think I’m trying to “sell” them something?

Promotion is a necessary part of any business. If you were a waitress, you’d be asked to talk up the daily specials. If you worked in a movie theater, you’d be asked which movies you thought were best. Free enterprise is a blessing – consumers have the opportunity to choose between scads of products and service providers. But living in a free enterprise society means that you need to find ways to attract the eye of the consumer, to explain to them why they should go with your company and not someone else’s.

Interestingly, we find it easier to talk about our jobs than we do about our writing. That’s most likely because we have more of a personal stake in our writing. But in a case like that, shouldn’t the writing be the thing we talk about? We’re taught to be humble. Doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t talk about ourselves? Well, what about the scriptures that refer to burying your talents in the ground and putting your light under a bushel so no one can see it? Humility does not mean that we never share our talents with others. Humility means that we recognize the Source of those talents and never cease to give thanks for the help and guidance that comes from that Source.

And as far as your family and friends go – let me ask you a question. How does any business get off the ground? You start with the people you know. Then they spread the word to people you don’t know, who also spread the word outward. Without this system, which is called “networking,” you would never be able to get the message about your business circulated. You have to start with people you know. If you only talked to strangers (and you know you were taught not to do that) you’d soon make a friend out of that stranger. Oh, no! Now you know them, and you don’t want them to think you’re “selling,” so they’re off limits too. Do you see the logic in this?

Let me put this another way. Let’s say you work at a bookstore and a book comes in that you know your sister will love. You call her on the phone and tell her to come down and look it over. That’s selling, isn’t it? What’s the difference between telling her about someone else’s book and telling her about yours?

“But I just can’t do it,” you say. “I can’t mooch off my friends and family that way.”

Mooch? Mooch? Do you or do you not believe that you have created a product that is just as good as what is currently being sold in the stores? And it’s not like you’re holding a gun to their heads, demanding that they buy your book. You are informing them that you have one, and you let them take it from there. You can even send them a postcard with all that information on it, and let them come to you in awe and wonder. But hiding your light under a bushel is not humility. To neglect to use the talents God gave you is a waste of your time here on earth.

I honestly believe that one of the traps Satan lays for us is one of false humility. He tells us that being pleased with our accomplishments is prideful, and that we should never mention them. He tells us that our talents are nothing special, and we should never use them publicly or someone will think we’re getting a big head. He tells us that to take joy in something we’ve created means that we think we’re better than everyone else, and that we’d better stop it, right now. Please remember that Satan takes the truth and he twists it to his own advantage. If he can stop us from using our talents, he can stop us from utilizing those talents in the building up of the Kingdom.

One last thought – Satan also desires to destroy our self-esteem. When we are firmly rooted in who we are, and what we can accomplish, we become a bow in the quiver of the Lord. If Satan can keep us off balance, make us doubt our divine heritage, make us second-guess everything we do, wondering if it’s good enough or if someone will judge us for it, he gets us so tied up in knots that we can’t concentrate on what we came here to do. Then when the time comes to go into battle, we’re off in the corner chasing our tails. We have been told countless times in the Scriptures that we are God’s children, that He has a plan for us, that we do have talents that we should use for His glory, that we should be thankful for them and indeed, thankful in all things. We are told that we have a divine destiny. And yet all it takes is one little whisper of, “They’ll think you’re showing off,” spoken in our susceptible ears, and we’re sucked back down in the mire of self-doubt, unable to be the people God created us to be.

I encourage you to understand and appreciate the Source of your talent. Don’t be afraid to let it shine – it was lit from On High. When someone asks about your writing, open your mouth and tell them. If they chance to buy a copy, that’s great! If they don’t, their loss, oh well. But don’t act like you’ve done something of which you need to be ashamed. You have talent – now go out there and use it!


Anonymous said...

Thanks I needed that. what is this semi retirement thing of which you speak? I read back where you were taking a break is it more serious than that?
Keith Fisher

Tristi Pinkston said...

The semi-retirement of which I spoke is the fact that I haven't been posting writer tips for a while. But I'm going to be including them more often in future.

Karlene said...

This is my take on it. When you get together with your friends and family, you talk about what's going on in your lives--the kids, school, work. You want to hear about them; they want to hear about you.

If you're excited about your new book, of course you should tell them about it. They will want to hear about it because they care about you and about what's happening in your life--and writing IS your life.

To not tell them is to hide a huge part of who you are from the people who love you the most. There's something really wrong and unhealthy about that.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I completely agree, Karlene. Unfortunately, sometimes friends and family do take it a little bit wrong -- I've lost a couple of friendships because of my writing (they believed that I was going to become a celebrity and didn't want any of that) I think if we feel out the situation and perhaps only mention it to Aunt Betty but feel free to tell Aunt Jane all the ins and outs -- you know your relatives pretty well and you know who will and who won't want to talk with you about it.

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