The part where I try to sell something...

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

There are three things I’m really bad at: 1) math, 2) asking for help, 3) selling things.

So far I’ve managed to successfully avoid any prolonged exposure to #1 by majoring in English Literature, working in journalism, and marrying a man. But as the summer release of Evolving in Monkey Town approaches, it’s become clear that #2 and #3 are the inevitable byproducts of writing and publishing a book.  If I want to continue avoiding #1 for the rest of my life, I’ve got to partner with Zondervan to sell this book, and I’m going to need your help to do that.

I’ve had trouble selling things ever since the annual magazine drive at my elementary school in Birmingham rendered me hopelessly insecure about my marketing skills.  I’d get a potential customer on the phone, deliver the pitch (in a tone strikingly similar to the door-to-door magazine salesman in "Office Space"), and at the first sign of hesitation on the customer’s part, apologize for calling at dinnertime and hurriedly end the conversation.

It wasn’t so much their rejection that I feared. It was the pity with which they delivered it. I hated the idea of making people feel as guilty for saying no as I felt for asking. 

Of course, the current situation is a little different because I really believe in this book, and I think its message is important enough to share. I can honestly say I poured the best of myself into this project, crafting each chapter and every sentence as gifts for the reader to keep and enjoy, long after the book is closed.

I guess in all my enthusiasm, I sorta forgot that my gift would cost about $14.99 to receive.

So as we transition into the next two months of articles and interviews, launch parties and signings, trailers and endorsements and reviews, I want to make a few promises and then ask a few questions.

First, a few promises:

1. I promise not to use God as a marketing tool.  Themes about faith, doubt, and spirituality run throughout Evolving in Monkey Town and will undoubtedly surface in marketing material and reviews. But I think it’s wrong to turn these things into spiritualized bullying tactics designed to guilt people into buying, reading, and agreeing with a book.  (Jon Acuff’s the only guy who can pull that off with just the right amount of satire and whit!) Please keep me accountable as I strive to honestly convey the message of my book without using God’s name in vain.

2. I promise not to pretend I’m not marketing the book when I am indeed marketing the book. Some Christian writers like to say that God is their agent, the Holy Spirit their publicist, and that they just sit back and watch as their book miraculously flies off the shelves. Well, my agent is Rachelle and my publicist is Jessica.  While I certainly hope my work brings glory and honor to God, I think it’s important to be honest about the fact that publishing is a business and there are sales projections to meet.  I want to make this a sustainable career, which means my prayers for faithfulness are always accompanied by a commitment to work hard, be smart, and take advantage of good opportunities. Please keep me accountable by calling me out on my crap if I ever imply that my work is exclusively a ministry or that I’m not surrounded by a bunch of talented, creative, and business-savvy people who are helping me succeed.

3. I promise not to make every post about the book. My favorite thing about the blog is the conversations that follow in the comment section, so let’s  keep that going by doing what we’re already good at—talking together about faith, doubt, politics, insecurity, theology, news, hopes, fears, trends, questions, entertainment, and sock monkeys. Please keep me accountable by sending me a kind but firm email if you get sick and tired of hearing about the book.

And now a few questions:

1. What makes you want to buy an author’s book? 
2. What makes you NOT want to buy an author’s book? (Are there any marketing tactics that especially bother you?) 
3. What advice would you give me as I approach the book launch? Becuase I genuinely value it.

Tomorrow I'll write a post about how you can be part of the Evolving in Monkey Town blog tour and I'll include my new book trailer! Things are about to pick up - which is why I wanted to have this conversation first. Thanks ahead of time for your graciousness and support. It really means a lot to me.

(photo by: jjay69)

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