Sharing Lessons Learned in Marketing my Self-Published Book

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My book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession, was published by WestBow Press a little over one year ago.  Although it not a best-seller yet, I think it is well on the way to being a success.  I am seeing the impact of this book on the Kingdom of God, which is why I wrote it.  My unique approach to the theology of work is changing lives one person at a time only because it is solidly based on biblical principles.  Jesus said that His truth sets people free (John 8:32).

While speaking with a WestBow marketing professional a couple of months ago, I was greatly encouraged when she remarked that I was ahead of the pack.  She was surprised at the variety of creative approaches I had taken to put my book out there (which is what self-published authors must do).  She challenged me to consider some additional options in the near future such as advertising, podcasts, and developing a website.  I thought it might be helpful to other authors if I shared some of the things I have been able to do over the past year.

Giving books to strategic leaders

Before my book was published, I had decided to target key individuals.  Once it came out, I mailed copies to a few leaders of faith at work organizations, two of which had published articles I had written on their blogs.  I also sent it to a several pastors and seminary, Christian college and university professors.  Last October, I attended the 2018 Faith@Work Summit in Chicago where I had the chance to follow up with some people I had sent my book to in the spring.

Additionally, I was able to put my book in the hands of other faith at work organization leaders.  I also gave copies to three authors that I had quoted in my book.  I was ecstatic when I put a signed copy of my book into the hands of Bill Hendricks, one of the co-authors of the book Your Work Matters to God since it radically changed my life 30 years ago.

Soliciting book reviews

A couple of years ago, Bill Pence, who maintains the Coram Deo blog, had begun posting links to several articles I had written that were published on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.  I noticed that he also did book reviews.

Last spring I sent him an email, asking him if he would consider reviewing my book which had just been published.  He said he would, so I sent him a copy.  In July, he posted an amazing five-star book review on his blog and also on my book listing on the Christian Book Distributors and Barnes and Noble websites.

A few months later, through a contact I made at the 2016 Faith@Work Summit, I was referred to Chris Robertson who was on staff with Made to Flourish and does occasional book reviews for The Green Room blog.  I met with him over lunch in Chicago in October, and he gave me a very thorough interview.  Shortly afterwards, he posted a very generous and detailed review.

Using social media and blogs

This is the easiest and cheapest way to put your book out there.  I mention my book quite often on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  I posted a book giveaway at Christmas.  When my book was nominated for the 2019 Christian Indie Awards, I asked friends to vote.  I posted pictures of my book in various bookstores on Instagram.  Over the last year I wrote seventeen articles for my blog; eight of them were posted on four faith at work organizations’ blogs.  I shared these links on all my accounts.  I also post relevant articles and memes on my Immanuel Labor Facebook page.

By the grace of God, my book was published.  By His grace, I have been able to get it in the hands of people who find it to be inspiring and who are sharing its positive message with others.  I believe that over time it will continue to reach more people.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

What do Christian High School and College Graduates Need to Hear?

225776_1754007253232_6117189_n(Note: This article was published in the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University blog and the Coram Deo blog.)

This time of year, I recall the numerous high school, college, and graduate school graduations I have attended for each of my children and their spouses since 2003.  It has been ten years since my youngest graduated from high school and five years since he graduated from college.  Four years ago, I received my master’s degree.  Two weeks ago I attended my niece’s high school graduation.  These milestones are worth celebrating.  They are also opportunities to share some biblical truths that may guide these young men and women as they venture out into the real world.

One of the main reasons I wrote my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work was to give Christians who are about to graduate some practical tools to help them to integrate their faith at work.  Let me share some excerpts from my book and two others.

Seek God first

Here are some insights from chapter 9 of my book, entitled Seeking God in our Vocation.

Jesus told His disciples “Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). . . How does He normally meet those needs?  God usually meets our needs indirectly through our jobs, which provide money to buy food and clothing for us and our families.  I see a very clear connection between seeking God first and finding the right job.

In addition, finding a career or job is always going to be a spiritual journey for the Christian.  Your faith will grow in the process.  You must spend some time in the Bible, pray for wisdom, and trust God to lead you.  He promises that He will. (See Ps. 25:12; 32:8; 73:23–24; Prov. 16:3, 9.)

(Note: For more on this topic, see the article I wrote two years ago which was published in the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)

 Examine God’s design

Once we determine to seek God first, when choosing a major in college or narrowing down which jobs to pursue when we graduate, we do need to do some self-assessments.  This involves examining how God has designed you.  He made you for a purpose!

I invite you to consider asking yourself these questions: What has God specifically designed you to do based on your interests, accomplishments, skills, and experiences?  What are you most concerned and passionate about?  What have others noticed in you regarding your gifts?  (See Proverbs 15:22.)

Hardy, in Fabric of this World writes, “We ought to take seriously the doctrine of divine providence: God himself gives us whatever legitimate abilities, concerns, and interests we in fact possess.  These are his gifts, and for that very reason they can serve as indicators of his will for our lives.”

Listen to your heart

A key step in this process is to listen to our hearts.  I do believe that is not always in our best interests to merely follow our hearts, without using the wisdom that God provides.  However, we should at least listen to our hearts.  God gives us godly desires when we seek Him first.  (See Ps. 37:4.)

I have often heard well-meaning Christians quote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  Somehow, they have forgotten that New Covenant believers have been given a new heart (Eze. 36:26).  God gives us clean hearts.  We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  With this new heart, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Prov. 3:5) and love God with all our hearts.

In Immanuel Labor, I counseled my readers to keep listening to what God says about your vocation.  It may change over time.  Sherman and Hendricks confirm what I have heard for some time that “the average American will change careers—not just jobs—four times or more in his life! … He has designed you with a set of skills and motivations to do His work in the world today.  But His work may take many different forms in the course of your working years.”

All Christians enter into “full-time Christian work”

In chapter 13 of Immanuel Labor, I discussed the sacred versus secular divide, where we seem to elevate vocational ministry above ordinary labor.  This sub-biblical idea was described by Sherman and Hendricks in Your Work Matters to God as the “two-story” view of work.  It falls short of the well-established biblical principle that work is intrinsically of value.

I boldly stated that the popular opinion many Christians have held that worldly work was unworthy was clearly off the mark.  I emphasized that the things of eternity and time are both important to God.  He is present with us here and now.  All aspects of life, not just the religious, are sacred to God.  All who work to provide our  physical, emotional, and social needs are necessary for humans to flourish on this earth.

Sherman and Hendricks provide a powerful conclusion to this discussion:

What ‘really matters’ to God is that the various needs of His creation be met.  One of those needs is the salvation of people, and for that He sent Christ to die and He sends the Church to tell the world about what Christ did.  But in addition to salvation—obviously a need with eternal implications—mankind has many other needs.  Just because many of them are temporal needs does not diminish their importance to God, nor does it diminish the value of the work done to meet those needs.  In fact, God thinks they are important enough to equip a variety of people with various abilities to meet those needs.  Furthermore, in meeting the legitimate needs of people, a worker is serving people who obviously have eternal value.  In other words, the product of the work may be temporal but those who benefit from the work are eternal.  So we find that whether or not the product of our labor lasts into eternity, our labor is full of eternal implications.

I am hoping that these insights will inspire the class of 2019 to take their Christian faith confidently into their workplaces, schools, the military, or wherever God calls them to learn and serve.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.