Beware of the book buzz

May 22, 2014

The book publishing world depends on buzz. The best kind of book buzz is created by readers who tell their friends about the books they love. Anyone who is part of a circle of reading friends knows that, despite dire predictions about the demise of book publishing, the appetite for reading books is alive and well. But readers have to find out about a book somehow, and that is where promotion comes in—either by publishers or by the authors themselves.

I understand the growing need for writers to promote their own work. Publishers not only expect it; they demand it. This is especially true with small publishers that have very limited marketing budgets. Thankfully, social media make it easier than ever for authors to promote their own books.

Some authors have discovered clandestine means to get the word out. As the Century's book review editor, I’m on high alert for reviews or offers for the same from friends of authors. And it's a a well-known fact that some authors get their friends to post glowing reviews on Amazon, or even use pseudonyms to do it themselves. 

A more sophisticated scheme was devised by Mars Hill Church in Seattle to inflate the sales of Real Marriage, co-authored by Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace. A firm was paid more than $200,000 to devise a strategy to inflate the book’s sales and get it on the New York Times bestseller list for Advice How-to books. The strategy included, among other things, the church purchasing a substantial number of books themselves to pump up reported sales. Driscoll has since apologized for the marketing strategy, as well as for some plagiarism in the book itself.

In a way, I’m less concerned about these devious tactics than I am about the subtler consequences of authors functioning as their own promoters. Some authors are better at it than others. Some find it quite repulsive to have to push their own work, and their writings are obviously not going to get as much attention as those of authors who are more naturally entrepreneurial. This can be a real loss to readers.

I worry too about some authors who not only write their own press releases but also seem to be impressed by them. It gnaws at me when authors use superlatives and other accolades to describe their own work—accolades that are sometimes a stretch. “Best seller.” (On whose bestseller list?) “Internationally regarded writer.” (What, someone in Canada took notice?) For Christian authors especially, it seems like some measure of humility should come into play.

Information has to get out there, of course. It is a service to the public. I cite one positive example: a friend recently posted on Facebook that he has a chapter in a new multi-author book. His post was rather matter of fact—no explicit self-promotion that I could detect, no superlatives or accolades about his own work. Just the facts. I had been aware of the book's release, but I really didn't think I was interested in it until he made this announcement. Now I want to read what my friend has to say. He did me a positive service with his simple, straightforward notice. 

There’s a lesson there somewhere.


Beware of the book buzz

I should have mentioned that this blog by Mickey Maudlin of HarperOne was what prompted my blog on book buzz.

You're right, as of May 23, 2014

Self-Promotion, Inc. Kindly note the publication of my new book. :) And thank you for your understanding. It is my understanding that Fortress has already sent the Century a review copy.

This is the publisher's blurb:

It is my pleasure to inform you that my latest book, Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality, has just been published by Fortress Press.

What scholars are saying

"No author in English is more important than Paul Santmire in the field of Christian theology of nature. Before Nature is a beautiful culmination of Santmire's nearly half a century of writings on the topic. While being through and through a theology of nature, this book is at once a moving spiritual autobiography, a creative exploration of the doctrine of the Trinity, and an admirably practical guide to prayer."
—John F. Hoffmeyer
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

To learn more about the book, click here for the Contents, Prologue, and Sample Chapter.

For those of you who wish to consider the book for classroom adoption, request an exam copy.

For those who have a blog or review books for a newspaper, journal, or magazine request a review copy.

Thank you for your understanding.