Jeffrey Overstreet, author of the Auralia Thread series, has an excellent article in Image Journal today–the second of a two-part series in which he reads The Muppet Movie as a parable of the creative life. It caught my attention because I have recently introduced my kids to the Muppet Show. Last time I saw the Muppets, I was too young to appreciate how much creativity and love went into that work. I’ve tried to picture Jim Henson in a room with investors trying to raise the money to make his dream a reality: “It’s a variety show with puppets, see. The host is a frog and we’ll have about six elaborate sets for each weekly show…”
But I digress. What struck me most about Jeffrey’s article had nothing to do with the Muppets.

You can try to stir the writer’s life and the self-marketer’s life together, but they’re oil and water. Publishers sent me a guide detailing what “successful” authors do: Build websites about themselves. Create their own fan clubs on Facebook. Pursue their own endorsements. Volunteer to blog on “influential” websites. Organize readings, book-signings, and giveaways.

Following instructions, I feel I’m standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and shouting, “I’m awesome! Go tell everyone I’m awesome!”

Later, coughing dust across blank pages, I fail to find any sparks of inspiration. Do I even want to try again? How can anyone find inspiration in the midst of so much striving and pressure? I careen between embarrassment and an egomaniacal fever that comes from self-promotion. On a good day, I read nice notes from readers. On a bad day, I feel like a fraud.

I’ve never heard this expressed so clearly, but it gets right at the trouble with this new world order in which publishers expect authors to devote themselves wholeheartedly to self-promotion. It’s not simply that self-promotion is time-consuming. The real problem is that can short-circuit that part of the creative process that requires quiet and even a kind of apparent aimlessness.

Here, again, is the link to that article. I commend it to you.


    • Sally Apokedak
      2:32 PM, 10 May 2011

      Very interesting article. Those good old days are always proven to be not so good once someone refreshes our memories.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      6:08 PM, 10 May 2011

      Thanks for the article, Melinda. That’s very interesting to put the self-promotion thing in perspective.

  • Patrick J. Moore
    4:01 PM, 9 May 2011

    thank you Jonathan. That was an inspirational article about a very dreamy movie. You’d think that publishers would want writers to focus on what they are good at- writing- to create the quality product the Publisher makes a living off of reproducing. Sounds to me like publishers are lazy and want writers to give them a free meal ticket without doing a real job themselves. Who should know better how to market a book (and it’s author) than a publisher? If they believe in a book strongly enough to publish it, shouldn’t they also take enough responsibility for it to promote it themselves? And how much more valuable would a publishing company endorsement be than the self-promotion of an individual anyway? You can say “I’m great” till you’re blue in the face. Who cares what you think, you wrote it yourself. It’s when other people say “He’s great, you should read his books” that sparks my curiosity to find out for myself. Especially if there’s a reputation at stake for the entity making the endorsement.

  • Gillian Adams
    5:39 PM, 9 May 2011

    Thanks for the article link! That was really good! I’m glad I got to read that right now.

  • Guest
    1:14 AM, 10 May 2011

    I didn’t realize this about the pressures of self-promotion. That must be horrible.

  • Sally Apokedak
    2:27 PM, 10 May 2011

    Interesting article. I think he’s getting at a common problem for writers. They get caught up in the self-promotion and the numbers and they lose their joy. There is an answer–stay focused on Christ.Self-promotion is the antithesis of the self-forgetfulness that the Bible tells us to have. Do not worry about what you shall eat or what you shall wear or how many books you will sell for the pagans chase after these things.And yet, publishers demand that their writers promote themselves. But they don’t mean writers should talk about themselves and their books in every blog post and every tweet. They really want writers to be friendly and to take an interest in others, to write articles that give something of value to readers, to speak about things listeners want or need. As you do, Jonathan, with this blog. Is your blog here to sell your books, or do your books drive people to your blog, where you can help your readers appreciate beauty and encourage them to long for God who is beautiful and generous–not the stingy God so many people envision? It doesn’t really matter because both the blog and the books build your brand. We, your readers, love your voice and your content and we will promote your books and your blog for you. I think if a writer is doing something that makes him feel like a whore or a sandwich-board person or even something that is sucking all his time away from aimlessly staring out the window, then he needs to reassess his promotion efforts. I think the novels and the nonfiction books and the articles and the blog posts should all be creative, and they should all point away from the writer and toward Christ, or they should serve the reader in some way. They should all be your brand, your voice, your message.

    • Sally Apokedak
      2:28 PM, 10 May 2011

      hmmm it had paragraphs when I typed it in.

      • Sally Apokedak
        2:30 PM, 10 May 2011

        and…I thought you said we could edit our posts. But I don’t see any way to do that.

        • Jonathan Rogers
          6:09 PM, 10 May 2011

          Hmm…I get an ‘edit’ button when I post. Do you not? Maybe it’s because I’m the proprietor of this blog.

          • Sally Apokedak
            5:20 AM, 11 May 2011

            I don’t have an edit button, but it may be because I don’t sign in as a registered user.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      6:18 PM, 10 May 2011

      Well, Sally, you ask some good questions, as always. I do hope that this blog is something that brings real value to its readers, just as I hope my books do…though I don’t much like that word ‘value’ in this context, fraught as it is with the baggage of marketing and suchlike disciplines. What I really mean is that I hope this blog does its readers some good. As you point out, the impulse, ultimately, is the same for the books as it is for the blog. The commercial side of it…I wish I could be confident that the commercial will take care of itself, but there’s no reason to assume that it will, or that anybody else is going to take care of it. Which puts the author on the horns of a dilemma.

  • […] couple days later, in response to articles by Jeffrey Overstreet and Jonathan Rogers, Sally Apokedak wrote an excellent post about self-promotion versus loving your […]

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