Blogger and researcher Jim Fletcher has worked in the book publishing industry for 15 years, and is now director of the apologetics group Prophecy Matters. His new book, "Truth Wins," provides important analysis of Rob Bell and his Emergent friends.More ↓Less ↑
It’s always important, I think, to separate our sometimes-disdain for other writers whose ideas run counter to our own … from the tools they use to market themselves. In other words, learning from someone is more useful than ruminating over their existence in the writing field.
Witness the book tour efforts of “Emergent” writers and speakers Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Full disclosure: I can’t stand their “theology” (Jones for example has recently announced that he simply doesn’t believe in the doctrine of original sin), but the tools they employ to ply their worldview in the marketplace? Now that’s something we can internalize.
A recent item in Publishers Weekly underscores the innovation certain writers and their publishers have in separating their projects from the ocean of books being published: “Meanwhile, some Emergents are redefining the book tour. This summer Jossey-Bass authors and self-described ‘postmodern Emergent hipsters’ Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt took to the highways in a biodiesel-powered RV on a 32-city, old-time ‘Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival.’ Says executive editor Sheryl Fullerton, ‘It was very Emergent, a complete reinvention of what a book tour is.’”
Look, I lament the fact that Jones, Pagitt and friends are conning our young people with aberrant theology, but in terms of marketing worldview, they are light years ahead of conservative authors.
I recently talked with an author friend who has been published.
When I asked what he was personally doing to market his book, he laughed dismissively and said, “Yeah, the publisher went on at length about all that, but I’m so deep into writing and researching my next book, I don’t have much time to devote to marketing. Besides, you know as well as I do that that’s the job of the publisher.”
No, I don’t know that. My friend is a lunatic, at least so far as this issue is concerned. It is the job of the writer to fully devote himself or herself to the promotion of the work. Tony Jones doesn’t sit in a pyramid made of hemp and chant (well, maybe he does, actually) while his publisher does the heavy lifting in marketing. No, he’s out there in a “Dumb and Dumber”-style book tour that’s funky, fun and highly creative.
By the way, my friend’s attitude ensures that there won’t be a “next book,” or at least he’ll be writing for an audience of zero with his indifference toward promotion.
No, what these Emergent writers have done is recognize that in a noisy world (I’ve just channeled Michael Hyatt), one needs to build and maintain his platform … aggressively.
I like blogging. I write the occasional book that has modest success. Okay, “modest” is being kind. But the satisfaction I get from writing wasn’t born in laziness. And I’m always looking for way to expand my writing platforms.
Sometimes that means crafting something at 4 a.m. Other times I pull out the MacBook Air at a friend’s kid’s soccer game and knock out a column.
It’s fun. And it’s part of marketing. I don’t write something and then send it in and be done with it. I think of new delivery systems and methods, new topics that might appeal to a larger base.
Frankly, too, I will steal the Emergent authors idea of a book tour and think creatively about what they’re doing.
They committed to some travel and a multi-site tour. They targeted churches. They honed their speaking skills. It’s brilliant, really.
You see, the positive thing that Jones and Pagitt are doing is recognizing that younger audiences (the “Buster” and Millennial generations) are much more engaged with discussion of ideas than some older groups content to ride it out.
Look, Pagitt may think John Shelby Spong is a cool cat, and Jones thinks the Garden of Eden was a fairy tale, but their innovation in how to launch a book, their willingness to devote the time to it and their resolve to be engaging in those settings is an attractive skill set many authors should emulate.
A “Rollin’ Gospel Revival/Roadshow” just sounds fun. It gets an author’s ideas out there in new, fresh ways. Because let’s face it, in a noisy world crammed to the gills with traditional methods (a couple staid book signings, a few cards passed out to media, an ad or two in a giant catalogue), it might be necessary for you to fire up the old T-Bird and head out across country to hawk your writing wares.