Thursday, May 26, 2011

You've Got To Be For Me

Author Jeremie Kubicek recently stated on Michael Hyatt’s blog that if you are a leader, your followers will be asking “Are you for me, against me, or for yourself?” I agree with what he says, to a point, but it seems to me that it may not just be your followers who ask that and how they answer that question may determine whether they are willing to follow you or not. In any case, that is certainly true with books. If you are an author, one thing you want to know is why people aren’t reading your books.

I visit the forums on occasionally. I participate until the conversation gets old and then I stay away for a few months. One of the things I’ve noticed is that people on the forums hate authors who self promote their books, even to the point that some become angry if an author even mentions he has a book. If we look at this as a moral issue, there’s nothing wrong with an author self-promoting a book on The whole reason provides a forum is to sell stuff, and yet, people don’t like it. Why?

The question that Jeremie Kubicek says people ask is probably the answer. The author who self-promotes may not be against me, but it is clear he is for himself. “Go buy my book,” is his cry. He posts links to his book everywhere and doesn’t take part in the conversation. So not only is he for himself, he isn’t for me. Contrast that with someone who posts, “I read the best book the other day. I’d never read this author before, but it was really good.” Such a person appears to be looking to help those on the forum and the author, not herself.

For authors, self-promotion is part of the game. It isn’t fun, but necessary. Authors can’t remove the fact that book sales is good for us, but what authors should do is to look for ways to help the potential reader. This is why some books are easier to sell than others. Take my first book, Church Website Design: A step-by-step approach as an example. It has been relatively easy to sell. I don’t think anyone who buys it is going to say that by selling this book I’m not for me, but for that very select group of people who are looking to develop a church website, they can say that the book was written to help them. On the other hand, anyone who falls outside that group will see nothing about the book that is to help them, so they won’t buy the book. If I try too hard to convince them, they will assume I’m only in it for myself.

No one expects an author to be completely selfless, but what people are looking for are books that will help them. The classic example is the how-to book. If an author can teach people how to do something they want to do, they’ll be happy for the author to succeed. But even with novels, readers are looking for how the book helps them. If it doesn’t help them, they too will see the author as nothing more than self-serving. The difference is that what readers see as helpful in a novel is different than what they see as helpful in other books. In a novel, what is helpful is a story that the reader enjoys.

So, success with books is like success with leadership. When people can see how you are helping them, they will be pleased. But if they can’t see how you‘re helping them or if they see you as the opposition, they aren’t going to like you.