Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

My first book, One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, was published by Revell Books this month. My joy at the release of this project has been tempered by the need to market it through a website, blog posts, newsletters, Facebook author page, Twitter, book signings, and most recently, a launch party.

A recent conversation with a family member highlighted the tension inherent in promoting my book. “Why are you doing book signings?” he asked. “If God wants your book to sell, then it will sell. You should just trust Him.” His voice was tinged with reproach and his meaning was clear: a mature Christian should trust God rather than schedule book signings and develop other marketing efforts.

Marketing and promotion. I am uncomfortable with this part of a writer’s job. I dislike doing it and I hate that others – even family members – mistake my actions for self-aggrandizement. After all, I’m a Christian. The Bible tells me to be humble, to put others first, and – in the vernacular – to not toot my own horn. Proverbs 27:2 says to “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Still, publishing is a business, and that includes Christian publishing. In these days of staff cuts and diminishing budgets, most authors can no longer expect their publishers to roll out the red carpet to market their books. Even before a book is contracted, the publisher wants to know what marketing plans you have for the project. If you’re not willing to promote your book, your publisher probably won’t be willing to publish it.

This is not about measuring success by book sales. Literary agent Chip MacGregor often speaks of significance over success. Chip defined significance as “making a difference in the lives of people over time.” He notes that “significant people are those who made a difference in our world, whether they attained success or not.”

My goal – my significance, if you will – is to glorify God with my life. That includes my writing, which I believe is a gift He has given me. If this is true, then my goal must also be to glorify God in my marketing, just as I sought to glorify Him in my writing.

This is not about me. I never want my marketing efforts to be about self-aggrandizement. I don’t want to be the one waving her book high in the air, shouting “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done! Buy my book!”

Rather, I want to promote my book because it is a work God has done in and through me. He has given me an ability to use words for His glory. He has opened doors to publication while many writers more talented than I am are waiting for their opportunity. This is about what God has done. That’s what I want to say. I want to shout, “Look at my Creator! Look at my Redeemer! Look at what He has done!”

If, in order to do that, I need to “put myself out there” then that’s what I’ll do. But I’ll do it in the hope that others will be blessed by the work He gave me, and they, in turn, will proclaim what He has done through this book.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV) says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Everything I do is for the purpose of giving glory and honor to my Father in heaven (I Corinthians 10:31).

So, yes, I will continue to develop my website, write blog posts, send out a quarterly newsletter to those who subscribe, update Facebook, tweet on Twitter, and schedule book signings. Not because I want to draw attention to me, but because I believe One Year Alone with God with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, is His book. I believe it will be used by God to touch others for His glory. And if that’s what I truly believe, how can I not tell others?

Do you think it’s possible for writers to promote their work without promoting themselves?

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  1. Sue

    It is a business. I tell people everywhere I go that I am a piano teacher, I hand out business cards and go to events where I can let people know about my business. The Lord is providing for my family through my business. But more than that, it is God’s business, God’s work through me as I help prepare young people(and some young-at-heart) to serve the Lord through music.
    I am not promoting Sue’s talent but God’s ability through me to train lives to serve God with their talent. God will touch many lives through your book. Keep promoting in the Spirit!!!

  2. Jennifer Hallmark

    Preach, Ava! To glorify God is our purpose. I like what Eric Liddle, an Olympic star said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Our writing gives God pleasure. You keep writing and sharing and witnessing of the goodness of our God.

  3. admin

    Thank you, Sue. God has gifted each one of us for His glory. May we bring Him praise and honor as we use those gifts!

  4. admin

    Thank you, Jennifer. The quote from Eric Liddle is one of my favorites!

  5. Cynthia

    Interesting post, and I fully understand that perspective, but only the individual with something to promote and the Lord know the motives of the heart. Do we sometimes as Christians also wear humility falsely like a badge to say “hey, look at me…see how humble I am?” This can also be as incorrect as “hey, look at me…I did such and such”. I believe if you have something to share that God gifted you with, then you should share it. God will guide and bless the promoting. He opens the doors. Would your book be easier to promote if it were someone elses? It’s a very interesting topic. I think about these things, too. Good post, Ava.

  6. admin

    You asked an interesting question. Cynthia. Would [my] book be easier to promote if it were someone else’s?
    I think the answer is yes, but that would mean my attention is focused on me rather than what God is doing through me.

  7. Deborah J. Thompson

    Thank you for echoing my thoughts exactly! After spending 20+ years as a Marketing professional in the corporate world, I know the importance of communicating a message. But as a Christian, I too have wrestled with the “divine plan” mentality. And I DO believe that God will open the doors that He wants to open.

    But once He opens those doors (e.g., getting your book actually published!), He expects us to walk faithfully through them and do the work He has called us to do! If we just sit back and wait for things to happen, we are short-changing the talents he has bestowed upon us, the opportunities he has presented us, and the connections he has sent our way.

    To just “trust him” to get the message out there would be liken to a minister who refuses to preach on Sunday because “if God wants the people to hear His message, then they will!”

    We are tools by which God delivers His messages. And sitting back waiting for Him to do all the work for us is disrespectful to the gifts He has already provided. He supplied the talent, the message, and the means by which to get His message to His people. If we stop at any step along the way, we become an impediment to His “divine plan”.

    Good luck to you with your book–keep promoting! It IS a part of the work God has called you to do. How else will His people hear the message that He gave to you to deliver?

    Peace be with you,

    Deborah J. Thompson
    Contributing Writer for and “The Fish”

  8. admin

    Deborah, thanks for sharing your own experience! It’s so nice to connect with others who understand this dilemma. I have an MBA and also spent 20 years in the corporate world (HR). While I learned a lot about the principles of marketing (and can certainly apply them to my writing), my heart’s desire is to do it with the right motive. If I’m not glorifying God, then I don’t want to do it!

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