For Today A Lament, Or Why I’ll Never Get A Book Deal

The post I had planned for today didn’t pan out. Who knows, maybe I’ll regain steam with the topic soon. But I think it lost steam because I was trying my hardest to be fair and reasonable. A comment on a post last week noted I am usually very fair (though that day was a possible exception – opps) and I hope it’s true – I work pretty hard at not being ridiculous or condescending.

And here’s my lament: fair and reasonable doesn’t get blog readers. It doesn’t hit those nerves that gets people all fired up. But – sensationalism does.

I was in a bookstore today killing time while my daughter napped on my back and I noticed a trend in the Christian section – that what moves copies are books blasting certain ideas or practices. It’s just the nature of our culture – extreme sells. Shock value is huge – it grabs attention. And it’s turning into just saying something simply to get a rise out of people, rather than saying something because it’s worthwhile.

I know what brings traffic and gets the bird chirpping – writing about homosexuality or sex scandals or other hot topics. But I don’t want to write about them just to get people to read my blog – I don’t want to manipulate people. When my original post was dying on the table I thought about what controversial thing I could write about since I needed something new to write about. I only considered it for a few seconds – and my lament is that I could have written that post and, well, it could have worked.

And I’m not interested in writing a book or anything, but it’s annoying that those tactics work – that magical words or ideas can be tossed in rather than thoughtful, graceful insights and exploration.

I guess it’s just a reminder that things aren’t as they should be – as if this was something I really needed a reminder of.

What do you think of the shock value trend? Does it ever feel like manipulation to you too?

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18 Responses to For Today A Lament, Or Why I’ll Never Get A Book Deal

  1. There is no doubt that what you say here is true Charlie. i tire of shock treatment. I realize why people/publishers do that but it almost seems like overkill anymore. I respect you for killing the one that didn’t work by not sensationalizing it.

  2. It’s amazing how much I want people to read my blog. It’s also that the really popular blogs are largely controversial at times. Everybody loves JamieTheVWM, and so do I, but if she didn’t drop a “bs” or and f-bomb or a big itch every now and then, I’m convinced that probably half of her readers wouldn’t find her quite as interesting. Carlos Whitaker never took that twist, but lit a lot of fires in his journey from California to national blogger prominence. It’s just almost impossible to run a highly “successful” blog without getting on the edge and stirring up some stuff. Is it manipulation? Yes. Virtually everything is manipulation in some form or another.

    • there is nothing wrong with stirring things up – I do think its all about your intention and doing it with a purpose and knowing what you’re getting yourself into. If you do it recklessly be prepared to deal with the fall out….

  3. David says:

    Well Charlie, I have been in the blog business for about 5 years now. I have nearly 600 of them in my wake and here is where I am at. I only write blogs about what matters to me. In many ways it is therapeutic. It also gives me a chance to brag about Jesus, my wife, my kids, my church and occasionally tell an entertaining story – and complain about politics.

    Shock value is intended to elicit a response, there is not writer that doesn’t expect a response from someone. The problem here is the American corporate machine is using tried and true marketing tactics (like mud slinging during elections). The truth is, if churches were truly walking in the Spirit by: preaching the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness along with God’s love, healing the sick, casting out demons and loving their neighbors, we wouldn’t need marketing.

    We are trying to advance a Kingdom, not build a church!

    I am glad to report my most read blogs, all with views in the thousands, are the following:
    – Demonic Parts I, II and III
    – Poor or Poor?
    – Do You Really Need a Miracle?
    – The Cost of Following Jesus
    – The Sound of Rain – Hearing from God
    – Seeds of Division in the Church
    – The 5-Fold Ministry (7 parts)
    – The Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do (10 parts)

    They are not my most commented on blogs, but it appears that they are the most inspiring. In fact some of them don’t have any comments.

    Let me simply encourage to write from your heart, listen for the still small voice of God, and forget numbers, visits, comments and agendas – just be you. πŸ™‚

    • and marketing is certainly a huge pet peeve of mine. I despise it, it just feels so manipulative.

      wow you’ve had a thousand views on certain blogs? Oh man I’m lagging big time!

      I loved your comment on building a kingdom, not a church. We make them synonymous so that we focus on our little organization/institution and not the larger reason it exists.

      • David says:

        Marketing is simply the principle that we tout the features and benefits of the product and provide an incentive to do it now.

        Well, I am sure it because I am so conservative. πŸ˜‰ I have given you some shout outs. I see one of my regulars is commenting here too. Keep up the good work!

  4. Chris says:


    I agree with David and Bill. If sensationalism doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. To thine own self be true. Every once in a while I get over to Tony Jones blog when I want to upset myself. I try not to do that too much. πŸ˜‰
    Similar to David’s blog topic about demons, his most recent blog entry about not believing in demons had some of the highest traffic ever. Maybe you shouldn’t have broad appeal. What would you have to sacrifice to have it? Your integrity? Maybe God has placed you in this niche to interact with people that don’t feel comfortable at other blogs like Jones’.

    As an aside, sometimes book titles can be deceiving when they sound sensationalistic and don’t even really represent the content very well. Sometimes the author hasn’t even chosen the title and instead it was something the publisher actually dreamed up to drum up sales.

    • David says:

      Chris agreeing with David and Bill = a kumbaya moment for sure! πŸ™‚

      Ttitles are tough, we need to get folks to read the blog or open the book. I am resiting the urge to feel convicted regarding the blogs. πŸ˜‰ I have 2 books, one entitled: Apostolic Reform – A Fresh Look at the 5-Fold Ministry and the other, From Darkness to Light – The life of a bumbling Christian and his supernatural God. I think they are pretty acurate…

    • @ Chris good point about integrity. That’s the reason I refrained last night, it just didn’t feel right. And when it doesn’t feel right, I won’t write right. Man that’s a writer’s bumper sticker if I ever heard one!

      @ David good point that you need to get people in the door so to speak – though it feels like the tactics are getting cheaper and cheaper.

  5. Su says:

    I’m with you… shock value attracts people (for some reason– there are so many weird things in the human brain), but I’m not that willing to join in.

  6. Larry Hughes says:

    When I was doing photography work, I though my nature photos were the best art work I ever did. Sadly, there weren’t many sales off that work. Enough to make it worth while but not great. I also did model portfolios for models wanting to have photos to promote their aspiring careers. Sadly there was a lot of demand for model portfolios which kept me busy. Some agencies even looked me up to do photo shoots for their models. Sex sells is an understatement in the photography business. I did give up model portfolio work and faded into obscurity but I still record God’s creation in nature as my best art work ever.

    Sadly in the media and in books, one apparently has to compromise their values to get recognized. Sensationalism, shock and awe, and manipulation wins out every time. Do you ever see many feel good stories in the 6:00 oclock news? Mostly it is about sensationalism, shock and awe, and society at it’s worth.

  7. Pingback: To Membership Or Not, Or A Lesson in De-Egocentrism | Charlie's Church of Christ

  8. jay @ bethegospel says:

    Is Christian bookstore marketing manipulative? It depends on how much you are willing to give me?

    Out of curiosity – have you heard about the whole Lifeway bookstore stamp in the cover of Donald Miller books?

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