Donald Miller, author of the smash bestseller, “Blue Like Jazz,” is on a new book tour for “A Million Miles in a Thousand Days.” Miller has embarked on a 65-city tour to promote his book, which chronicles the process of turning “Jazz” into a film.
Readers will instantly recognize Miller as a rising superstar in the new wave of Christian writers and thinkers. His offbeat observations in “Blue Like Jazz” garnered a wide following, and the Portland-based writer has both fans and critics. Conservative Christians grumble about Miller’s de-emphasis of doctrine and his warm embrace of hedonistic college students.
In fact, Miller proudly asserts that he has come to “throw out Christianity and embrace Christian spirituality.”
It is my humble opinion as a conservative Christian that embracing “Christian spirituality” is another brick in the wall that isolates biblical Christianity, marginalizes it to the point of making it the enemy of “enlightenment.”
Miller, though, is blazing a trail for authors today. While book tours have been done for quite some time, Miller is reaching out as a more culturally relevant spokesman for a new generation. And a 65-city tour? That’s heavy, man.
As I write this, “A Million Miles” is ranked 137 on Amazon, with almost 200 reviews. Miller’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, knows how to pamper a franchise, even down to the smallest details. The new book cover is a different color than “Blue Like Jazz,” but the look is similar. They are building a brand, and Miller can write his own ticket for the rest of his life. When a publisher builds a brand, a franchise, said brand no longer has the luxury of following the path of … laziness. There is no possibility he or she won’t have a major book project brewing, like an exotic coffee in a Manhattan restaurant.
I’m convinced that if it weren’t for the money and arm-twisting by major publishers, many authors would opt for the J.D. Salinger School of Writing: pop out a great one, then rest on your Stan Laurels for the rest of your career. Many writers simply have one great idea in them and they’re done.
But I digress. We have promotional ideas to discuss.
A 65-city tour is a chunk of change, and no doubt the publisher is ponying up.
So what happens to the working-class authors out there who don’t have the genius of Nelson’s Michael Hyatt behind them? What happens to the conservative Christian author who is peddling a topic that most publishers shy away from, namely orthodoxy?
Well, let’s see. Miller is set to be in Wichita, Kan., on his tour, so let’s start there.
If you live in Wichita and you’re an author – doesn’t matter if you’re Donald Miller or Joe the Plumber Author – contact some bookstores in Wichita. I seriously doubt they’ll turn down your request to do a signing. That goes for Barnes & Noble, right down to the mom-and-pop bookshop (I love sounding British).
Once you have three or four of those under your belt, branch out. Go to Kansas City, Oklahoma City. Think about Dallas. If you’re ambitious and can find Expedia online, book a ticket to San Francisco or Charlotte (we’re on a budget here, pick one).
A five-city book tour is still a book tour. If your publisher won’t spring for it, pay for it yourself if you possibly can. You are simply investing in your own brand, and it’s OK to start small. You want to supplement your tour with your own publicity: blogging, press releases, social networking sites online.
By contacting individual bookstores and “pitching” yourself, you are promoting not only yourself, but your ideas. This is the supreme priority, above all others.
Miller is promoting his own spiritual worldview, and if you don’t agree with him, get out there in the community of ideas and counter him. By the way, Miller is doing an interesting thing; not only is he speaking and signing, but he’s doing it in non-traditional venues. His recent Wichita appearance took place at the Murdock Theater.
I have conservative author friends, specifically the so-called Bible-believing Christians, and they write important books but couldn’t come up with a creative way to promote said books if Ernest Hemingway were chasing them with a pitchfork.
Let’s say you want to launch your book tour. Publicity is important. Write your own press releases, send them to local churches and organizations that would be interested in you. An email press release through Christian NewsWire is cheap and pretty effective.
At your signing, engage those who approach you (caution: often, book signings are notoriously bad, so don’t get offended if your aunt is the only one who shows up). Pass out business cards with your contact info and a copy of the book cover on one side.
I consider efforts like this to be paramount in the battle for ideas in our culture. And it is no secret – important point here – conservative authors as a general rule do not have the budgets or infrastructure necessary to reach large markets. I hear this repeatedly from my conservative author friends. You have to be creative, people.
If you read my book review on WND outlining my problems with John Shelby Spong’s “Here I Stand,” you’ll not be surprised that I’m mulling a book about Spong and his ideas, which impact college students in a shocking manner. Who would have guessed that Spong, a 70-something clergyman, would be such a hit on college campuses?
So if I get ambitious and finish my project, “John Spong’s Theology Is So Bad It Makes Me Sick to My Stomach,” I’ll plan my book tour.
Maybe along the way, say in a coffee house in Milwaukee, I’ll run into him and Donald Miller. We can exchange ideas and perhaps dialogue with students who are sorting out their worldviews.
Then when we part ways, maybe as Miller steps into his limo, he can give me gas money so I can get to Omaha.