Compassionate Marketing: One Simple Tip for Helping Yourself and Other Writers
Compassionate Marketing: It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Right up there with those jumbo shrimp and original copies?
Although we are currently in a time of turmoil in which everything about writing is changing for everyone, there was never anything compassionate about publishing and its handmaiden, marketing.
Writers, even good ones, were desperate to break into publishing’s inner sanctum, and editors, noses in the air, easily kept them at arm’s length with gauzy obfuscations like “not right for our list.” Any unpublished writer will tell you that publishing seemed a secret society in which the standards for membership were unclear and forbidding. It was a Cold War, a them-vs.-us standoff. Publishers were like the French Academy, looking down their lorgnettes at the unwashed Impressionists banging at the salon room doors.
Now, however, the door has been broken down. Writers are drinking coffee in thousands of homespun salons and manning the barricades everywhere. There has seldom been a time when so much has been written of the writer, by the writer, or for the writer. But freedom, we need to be reminded, carries costs. The freedom to write now wears the shackles called marketing. If Every person is a writer today, Every person is a marketer today, too.
Now a writer both writes and promotes. The artist with the right-brain sensibilities is sent off to conquer the left-brain world of websites, blogposts, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Goodreads, Author Pages, and book trailers. Typically alone.
In my view, this new promotional dynamic has set writers against each other as they compete for page views, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers. In a reminder that revolutions are never bloodless, especially that French one, let’s not forget that the victors can turn on each other and become as reactionary as the Old King was. (In this blog, that’s code for Old Publishing.)
To avoid that danger, I think writers today should challenge themselves to engage in Compassionate Marketing whenever they can. Although they live in a shove-thy-neighbor world, I think they could still profit from adopting a love-thy-neighbor spirit.
One little tip I can pass along came to me in one of those eureka moments that combined learning technology with remembering compassion.
Challenged by my marketing director to promote my forthcoming book wherever possible, I swallowed my promotional reticence and thought I might imitate other writers. I had seen them cavalierly attaching their website, e-mail address, publication credits, or forthcoming event notice to their e-mail signature line. My goal was to imitate them, that age-old sincerest form of flattery.
I showed my marketing director my effort, thinking that was enough in the line of shameless promotion for me for one day. But the marketing director said I would reach more people if I learned how to hyperlink to my website, my e-mail, and especially my new book. That way, with a click from my e-mail signature line, anyone could reach information about me and my book. Instantly. With little or no effort on their part.
As the right-brained writer I am, it took me a couple of tries, but I was soon hyperlinking to beat the band. I don’t know what my friends and family thought of my new, lofty self-promotional signature lines when they received e-mails from me about the family reunion, the broken fan belt, or the dog’s trip to the vet, but I tried not to think of those dangers as I sailed off into my new hyperlinked world.
Yet there was still this nagging voice inside my head. It was the voice of my mother. That voice, the one that told me that if I couldn’t say something nice I shouldn’t say anything at all, had also told me that it was just as important to focus on others as it was to focus on yourself. I knew she wasn’t wrong.
As I walked the dog, weeded the garden, and folded the laundry, the voice still nagged at me. And then I received an e-mail from a librarian friend, reminding me of our next book club meeting. One of the things I had always enjoyed about getting an e-mail from her was that, under her signature line, she mentioned the book she was currently reading. Since she was a librarian, they were always interesting choices, and I often picked up the books recommended under her name. Best of all, she changed the titles after she finished each book, so I always had a fresh choice to consider.
Slapping a folded t-shirt into the laundry basket, I had one of those EUREKA! moments every writer lives for. What if I not only promoted myself below my signature line but promoted other writers and their books? I could engage in the premise of the Golden Rule and do unto others what I had done unto myself. I could be more compassionate in my marketing.
I loved this idea! Now, my signature line looks something like this:
This is a practice I have started only in the last several months, so I have only had time to recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Normal Rockwell as well as Anthony Doerr’s masterful novel All the Light We Cannot See. But I can’t wait to continue to support other writers in this way.
I am grateful that I have found a way to love, not shove, my writing neighbor. Best of all, mother’s voice is silent.