Faith Hope and Clarity
Guest Post by Laura B. Hayden
I am more writer than marketer, but as soon as I decided to independently publish my memoir of loss and recovery (obviously a sensitive focus) I had to commit at least equal time to both roles, if not more to the sell. So, I built my own writer’s website. Started a blog. Created a Facebook page for my book. Sought reviewers. Studied markets. Freelanced for author credits in lieu of pay.
Now I’ve been invited to attend my first retail convention: the 2012 International Christian Retail Show. That means face-to-face schmoozing. I’m beginning to feel like a Yankee peddler. I repeat, peddler, not to be confused with preacher.
Even so, it’s not in me to bark, “Step right up folks. Buy my memoir of loss and recovery. Read it today and you’ll feel better tomorrow.” My book is no cure-all and certainly not an escape. Page by page it provides doses of deep thought about a serious malady: grief. More therapy than remedy. Not an easy sell, but in my mind, a necessary one.
So far, Staying Alive: A Love Story has found two niche markets: Christian and medical. Now, I am not a doctor and I do not play one in the book. Yet, at a local reading a stranger came up to me, obviously moved by the excerpts I shared, and asked if I would consider speaking to her nursing students at a nearby college. “Understanding grief will better prepare my students when they deal with grieving patients and when they lose patients,” she said. I expected the first scenario, not the second. Yet I was pleased my book was evoking more purpose than publicity. I agreed to speak to her classes (turned out to be 150 nurses-in-training). I also followed up on her intuition and began offering review copies of the book to college nursing programs. To date, ten schools have agreed to add the memoir to course reading lists and, in a few cases, class curriculum. That’s a niche I can live with.
Concerning the religious market, I am a Catholic, yet I must admit the Christian market made me a little uncomfortable. Why? Because my memoir does not praise the Lord as much as, I’d say, accepts the Lord. Readers continually tell me they understand the joy of life better after reading it – as much as the pain of loss. They don’t talk too much about spirituality.
The headline the first media sheet my publisher created for the ICRS convention read: Broken Lives Reinvented by God. I’m sure I looked as if I had seen a ghost (or maybe a ghost writer) when I first read the advertising copy. The only way I could consider the hook was if it was revised to add Broken Lives Reinvented by God after the Same God Shattered Them. How could I grant a Deity rights to one act without the other?
I suggested changing the headline to Faith Reinvents Broken Lives or Broken Lives Reinvented by Faith. I based this revision on a key passage in the memoir about the priest, who had been my pastor since I was a teenager, and his reaction to my husband’s sudden death.
Father married Larry and me. Our children received their sacraments from his hands. When Larry died in 1998, the illumination of Father’s faith seemed to dull a bit. Father would shake his head and say to me, “This. . . this, I do not understand,” a truly holy man revealing that doubt is the cornerstone of faith. Belief, by its nature, belies certainty. I never sought a spiritual answer for why Larry died. Why I was left to live my life without him. If Larry’s death baffled Father, I wasn’t going to be the one to figure it out.
Based on that reoccurring belief in the memoir, I could endorse that faith, was instrumental in my family’s survival after our loss. Certainly more so than a deus ex machina fix.
My publisher replied, “Yes, I understand what you are saying and I think your suggestions work well. The copy – especially with the title – has to capture attention (yet remain authentic)”.
Thank goodness! I thought. After another email exchange or two, I agreed to his even more accurate headline for the media sheet: Broken Lives Restored Through Faith.
So too was my faith in marketing.
Laura B. Hayden is the author of Staying Alive: A Love Story, winner of a 2012 Reader Views Literary Award and nominated for the CSPA 2012 Book of the Year in the Christian Living category. Laura teaches writing at Asnuntuck Community College and Western Connecticut State University. Book and ebook are available on amazon, bn.com, and iBooks. For more information go to http://laurabhayden.com . Contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.