I’ve had the opportunity to go to many women’s conferences and listen to other speakers. Some have led me into a deep place with God; some have entertained me; but some have also left me thinking that what they were there for was to sell books.
One of the issues, I think, is when, as speakers, we decide to pitch our books. I find pitching them at the end distracting. If I’ve been listening to a speaker, and I feel like God is speaking to me, then to listen to a sales pitch seems unnerving. That’s one reason why, despite many mentors telling me to pitch my books at the end, I just can’t seem to do it.
Now, I think I’m probably in a lonely bunch on my opinion on this. When I read books about speaking, they all say that the best time to talk about your books is right at the end. And I think there is a way to do this which does glorify God and which does fit well into the talk.
But a walking commercial does not. And when I think back about several speakers I’ve heard in the past, what I remember is:
1. Their own life stories
2. Their books
I don’t really think about God, or what He has done in our lives, or what He wants from me. I just think about what these women have accomplished. And to me, that’s not an effective Christian message.
So let me talk in this post about the responsibility that we, as speakers, have to our audiences.
We are asked to speak so that we can facilitate the audience members having an encounter with God.
We’re in the transformation business. If all we do is impart knowledge, or entertain people, but we haven’t brought the audience closer to a place where God can encourage a change in their lives, then we have not done our jobs.
Romans 8:29 says that God wants us to be transformed into the likeness of His Son. It’s His primary goal that people grow closer to Him and begin to resemble Him. It’s not His primary goal that we be entertained.
When you plan a talk, then, you have to start from first principles. What change am I encouraging these women to make? What action do I think they could take that would bring them closer to God? Once you’ve figured out that change, then you can craft your talk, supplying anecdotes, Scripture, and exposition that can move people towards that change. But if you know where you want to take them, then arriving will be much easier.
The problem I find with many speakers is that their end point seems to be “Buy my book”. Now when you do the pitches well, and come out strong and confident, the books DO move. But the whole thing leaves me somehow uncomfortable.
I’m not against selling books! After all, our books are part of us, and my books tell my stories and move people towards change and solutions in far more depth than I could while I talk. There’s simply more information there. So offering the book is doing the audience a favour. But it has to be done in the right spirit.
For instance, when I talk about learning to say that God is enough, no matter what else happens in my life, I often hold up my book How Big Is Your Umbrella?. And I say something like this,
“I know some of you really struggle with this. And God may be nudging you in your heart to take this journey further with Him. If He is, I believe How Big Is Your Umbrella can help. It goes into greater detail about the things that we yell at God when life is difficult than I’ve had a chance to do here, and I believe it can bless you. You can pick one up from me later after this talk.”
And that’s it. And then I move on, and I always end in a guided prayer so that people can talk to God.
I don’t talk about my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which is about marriage and parenting. I don’t talk about my book Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight, because that’s also about a marriage. That would be a distraction. I may talk about them at the beginning of my talk, when I’m introducing myself, but it would be wrong, I think, to mention them at the end of a talk that focuses on something else. If I’m trying to take people on a journey, then I don’t want to do a detour at the end, which is usually the most powerful part of a talk, to do an advertisement.
There are other ways to promote your books that are not a betrayal of the audience, and I’m working on those. But I fundamentally feel that we need to remember what our primary goal is: to facilitate change in women’s lives. It’s not to sell books.
I may never be a million-selling author, though my books aren’t doing badly. I always do sell quite a few after I talk. Maybe I don’t sell as many as some speakers do, but I also know that people stay and pray after I speak. They pray in small groups. Tears often flow. And to me, that’s more important.