Like many of you, I'm riding the glorious, stinging jellyfish-laced waves of contracts and deadlines and release dates and signings and speaking engagements and proposals and author events and marketing and...oh, my!
As I'm heading into marketing high gear for a novel releasing in less than two months--When the Morning Glory Blooms from Abingdon Press Fiction--I'm working hard to stay conscious of the difference between what's possible and what's smart, what's feasible and what's wise, what's self-serving and what's God-honoring in marketing.
Because I'm in marketing mode. And I can't pull off marketing that honors the Lord I serve if I don't understand how easy it is to be tempted into upside-down, inside-out choices.
The restored theater in Chicago's Old Town district became a sanctuary that evening as I relearned some important life lessons.
How do they apply to marketing? If you've never read The Screwtape Letters, the connection may not seem clear. But I'm spending some time this week, despite another deadline, to ponder a few things that leaped from the stage... and the page.
Things aren't always as they seem. We can talk ourselves into believing we're being noble in what we're doing for others--donating books to a worthy cause, for instance. But it's not heaven that rejoices if pride rises up to taint the gift, or if our primary thought is how many sales we might make because of our generosity. Screwtape would applaud any noble act he could turn into an opportunity to redirect the focus from the Giver God to a book-giver calculating how many sales point she might gain from being so generous.
We can't let our guard down for a second. We're always on duty. The face we offer the grocery store clerk or the car mechanic should be the same one we show readers at an author event. Screwtape fist-pumped when his "patient" the Christian behaved differently in the workplace or at church than he did at home. Screwtape knew he had a foothold in the man's life. My public persona and my private persona should look identical. And both should be mirror images of Christ.
Marketing that meets only our need to get the word out about our product--however clever or innovative--doesn't line up with God's ideals. Screwtape counted on his "patient's" bent toward selfishness. It played into the senior demon's hands. Marketing that has at its core a desire to meet reader needs, to provide hope, to point people to the true Author fits far better with God's intentions for us.
Even the strongest among us are prone to do the right things for the wrong reasons. If Screwtape could mar or twist his patient's motives, he considered it a victory. Motives count more than scoring an important television interview or nudging out someone else for a prime magazine ad spot.
The Bible is still our go-to source for guidelines for all of life, including marketing. Screwtape was convinced that if he could keep his patient from opening that Book, he could win him forever.
Applying wisdom from the book of Proverbs helps set the tone and the stage for our marketing efforts:
"Understand skill," Proverbs 8:5 Common English Bible. Don't stop learning.
Honesty is the best policy. Proverbs 8:7--Wisdom speaking: "My mouth utters the truth; my lips despise wickedness."
Integrity in speech, in how we talk about our books, matters. Proverbs 8:8--"All the words of my mouth are righteous; nothing in them is twiste or crooked."
Wisdom says, "I hate pride and arrogance," Proverbs 8:13. Only God can hone our confidence in Him and our efforts to create excellent stories and keep us from crossing an invisible line into pride or arrogance.
Screwtape took sadistic delight when his patient acted first and prayed later. That's another point I'm striving to take to heart. What if every good marketing plan starts on its knees?
Is this the beginning of a conversation on the subject? It would be great to hear your take.
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through novels, nonfiction, retreats, women's events, and writers' conferences. She is the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (www.acfw.com) and is looking forward to the release of her fifth and sixth books in 2013. Her novel When the Morning Glory Blooms releases on April 1. www.cynthiaruchti.com