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Middle Ground Marketing

Ghandi2  How do we get past the separatism in today’s book market? How do we invite readers to consider the created beauty of life? Defeating current market restrictions requires books that go to the middle ground, that show and/or talk about God and the world, about Jesus and fallen man. And the middle ground for these books that don’t fit the Jesus-sanitized ABA or the fallen-man-sanitized CBA is emerging. So how do we find it and become a part of it?


So the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at how to find it and become a part of it here, here, and here. These books are different. They go to people seeking to unify their lives in a full body-mind-spirit experience, who reject leaglism, hypocrisy, and prejudice, and aspire to live beyond categories that blind people, to make responsible choices to further those goals.


Middle ground authors are different too. They don’t promote agendas. They promote simple values like those described above. They don’t do phony. Authentic writing pours from their authentic living. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Duplicity and negativism crush joy. And joy is their point.


This is the cresting wave of middle ground publishing to the spiritually curious, those interested and interesting people. “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” So when these authors promote their writing, a spiritually-interested “marketing plan” certainly looks different. There’s a pared-down quality, a simplicity that attempts to conjure that other other all-important city, authenticity. If authors don’t live there in spiritually-interested publishing, they end up in Falacity (Feel free to leave your favorite Bushisms below.).


Manipulative marketing is contrived and ignorant. “The moment there is suspicion about a person's motives, everything he does becomes tainted.” And if there’s anything antithetical to middle ground books it’s manipulation. No God-respecting author can “spin” their work. It’s obvious when marketing becomes a con. Viral marketing can have no strategy, no manufacturing. Yes, YouTube killed the commercial and ads (or launch parties) for consumer products don’t work anymore unless the customer is specifically looking for that product. Many people are looking to be sold books, so author launch parties are a good idea. But without word-of-mouth, the book will still die. You can’t get a million readers without being talked about. And you'll soon fade if you aren't visibly real. 


A better way to see book marketing is as it is: a service. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It’s not easy. But “unwearied ceaseless effort is the price that must be paid for turning faith into a rich infallible experience.” Your purpose in marketing must be the same as it is in writing: to offer an experience readers will want to live daily. Because the life-giving experience of your book comes from God and is God. “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Both are about filling people with the word of life and celebrating God’s work in passing on your observations, insights, and the beauty you’ve witnessed. To help others see what you see.


“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”

To believe in “selling” that message, your aim must be to connect, not sell. “We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.” Do you love people? God does. If you struggle, try seeing with his eyes. A middle ground book or marketing campaign isn’t about converting readers, it’s about inspiring, encouraging, and reminding.


Is it possible to change people with a book? Of course. But there’s a common, cynical theory that says to sell well, spiritual books must give people what they want, pat them on the back, and not offer any deeper challenge. Tickle ears. Sure, some readers may be a lost cause, but “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” So here’s a challenge: if heresy is anything short of full gospel, then heretics are those who speak of God yet fail to inspire people to join His redemption orchestra. And in your quest for the middle ground, remember “pandering” to reveal words that cause people to change is very different than pandering to tickle ears. It’s taken me several years to realize that distinction, let alone put it into practice.


“All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”


Remember the true goal when you write and when you promote, and you’ll be fine.


(Quotes are from Mohandas Gandhi who Google reminds us earns 140 candles on his cake today.) (Also, in case you missed this other birthday, Guiness turned 250 recently.)

4 Responses to “Middle Ground Marketing”

  1. Mick says:

    Want more specifics? Click on my name here for some excellent ideas from Church Marketing Sucks.

  2. To believe in “selling” that message, your aim must be to connect, not sell. “We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.”
    I love this thought. Let us live through our lives, and make no apology.

  3. Jim Rubart says:

    Bravo. Brilliant post, Mick.

  4. Mick, Thanks for this. I have really struggled with marketing my book. It feels so self-promoting, and self-promotion seems antithetical to life in and with Christ.
    Having just gotten my insanely dismal first year sales report back, I’m having to rethink the whole marketing thing. Your emphasis on authenticity resonates with me. (Once, when my husband was reading an article I was getting ready to send to a magazine, he told me that I write really well from a place of authenticity, and really poorly from anywhere else; I should have scrapped the article right then and started over. I didn’t, and it was rejected.)
    I have just begun to see my writing as a service to others, which you also mention. I’ve always seen it as something I do for me, a way of working out my own faith, wrestling with the questions I have, processing all the garbage that clutters my brain. But I’m beginning to think that’s the wrong way to think of it–or at least not the only way to think of it.
    Letting others into that process, letting them witness it, might help them, too. Not everyone is able to put thoughts and feelings into words the way I can, so my writing might help point them to Christ, help point them to answers or ideas that they’d not have had without me. I’m still struggling with this, as it feels arrogant. This is where I always get stuck, where my desire to help others runs into my ego…or my fear of my ego. And the ego usually wins. Hence my dismal sales report.
    I will have to ponder your words about service, about our writing being an experience of God, not just for us as we write but also for readers as they read. Thank you!

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