How much is enough? Thoughts on promoting our work, by Deborah Jenkins


Anyone who has created something to share - a book, a blog, a podcast - will at some point ask this question while promoting their work. How much is enough? The work of writing, editing, publishing/broadcasting is long and at times, frustrating. But at least they have a definable end.

Just written the last page! 

Done my final edits! 

Podcast recorded and ready to go! 

Such lovely shouts of glee come up from time and time on the ACW Facebook page and we all applaud. Because we  know what huge milestones these are for creatives like ourselves. We want to stand with each other and give each other a good old (digital) slap on the back. Well done! Congratulations! You did it!

The problem with the next part, the promotional part, is we don't know where it ends, because it doesn't. Keeping our work in sight of those who may appreciate it is an endless task. It can be fun but it can also be stressful, draining, anxiety making. Even harder, its effects can't be guaranteed.

 You can use social media to the point where you're analysing every moment of your life for postable content. And your work may not sell. You can pop the odd post up randomly from time to time and it may sell like hotcakes. You never really know. In other words, the results may not feel worth the effort put in. 

On Monday I was having my morning cuppa while doing my Lectio 365 reading. It was from Mark 9 where Jesus talks about his death. The notes commented on the way his focus seemed to shift here, from the clamouring crowds to preparing himself and his disciples for what's coming. Jesus had a quiet, purposeful selectiveness, so often missing in our fevered work today. This was the part that really struck me - 'If we will take care of the depth, God will take care of the breadth.'

It made me think about promotion. Does this mean that once our work is out there, we don't need to do any? If God wants our work to sell/reach people, it will. Up to a point, that could be true. But we have our part to play. Even if we're traditionally published, marketing departments are small and very busy. We have access to social media platforms and are expected to use them.  But the question remains, how much is enough?

Thinking about depth and breadth, here are some things that occur to me. Apologies if they are obvious but I know I need reminding: -

1. Make our work the very best it can be (depth). Go on courses, ask for feedback, agonise over words, practise our craft, read. This takes time but the most effective way to interest people in our work is through its quality. Word of mouth is the best promotion of all.

2. Be selective - choose what to post and where to post it (depth). One course suggested choosing two or three media platforms and putting aside time to post twice a week. Not necessarily on each one. For example, you can set up Instagram to automatically share to Facebook. Then you could post on, say, Twitter, later.

3. Build relationships (depth) - it took me an unacceptably long period of time to understand that on Twitter, just like on Facebook, the whole idea is to interact with people, not just Post and Go. In real life, I would hardly walk up to a someone in the street and say 'How about buying my book?' and walk off. I've taken time in the last year to find out about the people who like my posts and read some of their books if they appeal. My life has been enriched because of it.

4. Put boundaries in place (trusting for breadth) - a BBC report showed how social media companies aim to make their apps addictive. The Psychology of Likes talks about social media use activating reward centres in our brain. Social media is a fabulous tool for writers but like anything, a lack of restraint could work against us,

I know people who don't go online in the evenings or at weekends. Someone else has a social media-free day. I'm trying not to go on after 8. Hm. I'll keep you posted on that one...

5. Take time when responding (trusting for breadth) - there's such a temptation if someone shares something nice about your work to post it EVERYWHERE, NOW! If we don't, we might be too late! But for what? I've realised it's actually better to think about the best place to repost, and to respond later when I'm thinking clearly, not while I'm cooking/on lunch/doing my Silver Surfers workout.

6. Don't post something we're uncomfortable with  (trusting for breadth) - if deep-down we're not happy with that Instagram reel we spent hours creating, don't post it. We'll only worry. I'm not saying we should feel 100% relaxed every time we post. I don't know a single person who enjoys promoting their work. It takes most of us out of our comfort zones. But I think we know, deep down, if it's better down than up. One less post is not going to mean loads less sales.

I think promotion can be fun but it can also feel exposing, time-consuming and bad for our mental health. How much is enough? I think it's different for every writer, every book. But it's possible, with the help of courses (*there are at least two people in ACW who run these*), watching others and practising a bit of self-knowledge, to work out what's right for us.

At least, I think it is. I'm still on that journey. I'll let you know...

'If we take care of the depth, God will take care of the breadth.' Loren Cunningham

* I have done excellent social media training course with both Annmarie Miles and Lucy Rycroft who covered most of the things mentioned above. They also covered many other very helpful areas specifically with reference to the use of Facebook, Instagram, Canva, Tiktok and Twitter.

Annmarie and Lucy can be contacted via the Association of Christian Writers

Deborah Jenkins in the author of Braver, published by  Fairlight Books.

It's available from bookshops, such as Waterstones , Blackwell's and Amazon worldwide.

Deborah has also written textbooks, educational articles and a novella, The Evenness of Thingsavailable in both paperback and e-book.

 She likes to wander aloud about the crazy, inspiring and inappropriate, on her blog

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