Normally, whenever writers approach a publisher (or an agent) with a book suggestion, the authors have to prepare a formal book proposal. A key element of the document—especially for nonfiction—is often called “about the author.”
This element is not “biographical;” it is a description of your particular experience or credentials that qualify you to write this book. This is also where you typically share your “platform,” media outlets, etc. where you can promote your literary endeavor.
Publishers don’t expect us to have credentials like those of C.S. Lewis. After all, not everyone becomes a professor at a prominent university.
But what potential publishers do hope, is that we know what we’re writing about, and that we can help them sell it, assuming they opt to invest in the project.
This is a logical consideration for publishing houses, who have more publishing “failures” than bestsellers. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that we are all conditioned not to brag about our accomplishments. In general, that’s a wonderful thing. (Who loves a braggart?) The difficulty is that this natural modesty becomes a terrible handicap when we are in situations where we are required to promote ourselves.
C.S. Lewis builds on the Christian witness that we must avoid pride at all costs.
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. (Mere Christianity)
So, we may feel ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. We genuinely desire to be modest, but certain circumstances (job interviews, anyone?) demand that we “toot our own horn.” There is, of course, one thing worse than bragging . . . pretending false humility.
A Real-Life Dilemma
A fair number of Mere Inkling’s readers also blog. Most blogging software sets up sites with a default page built in to share something about the website and its author(s). On my About page, I’ve remained anonymous. It simply describes the reason for the site’s name. The only “personal” note in the original version came in the final sentence.
Accordingly, many of the posts in Mere Inkling will be about writing and Christianity. History and humor are also keen interests of the writer of this column, so they will most certainly be encountered with regularity as well.
Now, however, I’ve discovered that we who’ve used this less personal tack have undermined the visibility of our posts.
I just learned something important on the blog of a Lutheran theologian I respect. He writes as part of the Patheos web community. They boast eleven faith channels, two of which are Nonreligious and Pagan. My friend, of course, blogs on the Evangelical channel. I want to pass on the opening of yesterday’s column.
Google has some new algorithms, so Patheos told its writers to bolster the E.A.T. factor (“Expertise. Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness”) for our posts. One way to do that is to beef up our biographies on the “About” section of our blogs.
Professor Veith changed his biographical page accordingly. And after reflecting on the matter, I’ve decided to do the same.
Thus, I have added a section on my About page that lists some of my credentials. I am doing this not because of personal vanity, but due to my desire to reach the widest possible audience with a message that not only points to the preeminent Inkling, but also beyond Lewis, to the Lord he served.
You may wish to consider a similar modification, if you have ignored the E.A.T. Factor in the past. And don’t be intimidated by bios such as mine, just as I am not daunted by the summits attained by Lewis. After all, he and I have had long lives during which we experienced these things.
Don’t ignore the fact that a large part of what people accomplish—academic degrees included—is due to opportunity and persistence rather than to innate giftedness. Remember as well we all have unique vocations, and not everyone is called to highly visible positions. I doubt I will be contradicted if I say that in the eyes of God, being a devoted parent is more noble than becoming some nation’s head of state.
Expanding your About page may not be the right course for you, but I believe it is the proper one for me.
One reason I had previously left my page vague is because I intentionally wished to avoid the appearance of bragging. So, as I proceed with this revision for the reason above, I will simply confess to the sin of pride (tempered over the years by God’s grace), and say along with Lewis,
I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off—getting rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. (Mere Christianity)
Soli Deo Gloria.
11 thoughts on “Touting Your Credentials (& Humility)”
Juxtaposition quandary here as i’ve just begun delving into “The Imitation of Christ” and its attendant admonitions – “all is vanity”. I don’t know if chickens can actually go un-anonymous anyway…
Yes, we face a quandary. All is vanity, and The Imitation of Christ is a rich–and challenging read.
Chickens, yes… just closed a fun letter from a Baptist chaplain friend of mine (also retired). He included a picture of himself with a chicken in each hand, compliments of an African congregation when he was ministering this past month.
Marketing yourself is difficult – especially to those of us not raised during the “everyone’s a winner!” era. Self promotion was frowned upon for a long time:” let your deed not your words tell people who you are.”
I like your new additions to your about page – you sound very official and authoritative ( so task accomplished). Google is determined to direct the world it seems. A bit back they altered algorithms for search placements, then instead you must be linked to all social media platforms for best exposure (I don’t know what people do now that so many are fed up with FB, Twitter, and other social media platforms and have deleted accounts. Maybe leave up a thin professional style page as a placeholder and fulfill Google’s requirements?)
Real authors will have to adjust. I may just stay vague-isn…besides if Google cares, there’s enough about me revealed in posts and comment replies to give info they want?
No doubt google knows far more than they should about us. Their invasive policies make my son cringe when he sees my gmail address.
Yes, we are products of our upbringing, when praising oneself was considered uncouth. It does make it very hard to do so.
I am glad, however, that you were suitably impressed by my credentials!
Just kidding. When I learned years ago (this blog has existed seven years) that algorithms factored in outside links, I began intentionally trying to include more of those. FaceBook is another monstrosity, and they recently changed the way our blogs can repost on our pages there. They’ve made it far more difficult–on purpose.
Yet we are up to the task of all social medias’ “updates” – out of sheer orneriness if for no other reason HAHA
I find your apology amusing, as I feel your writing already demonstrates the admirable qualities you wish others to see.
If you are concerned about reaching a large congregation to spread your message, reciprocal following of blogs may work better.
It’s also possible your posts are a bit advanced of a read. ;)
Thanks, Chelsea. You’re right about following other blogs being a key to blog growth. My problem is that I actually try to read most of the posts of the people I follow, and it becomes a monumental task.
As for Mere Inkling being more a more demanding read than most online columns… right again. That has been a subject of (positive) discussion in every writers circle I’ve ever been part of. I’m resigned to the fact that this is my “voice.” It is also very consistent with the type of material I prefer to read.
I have a couple books projects I’m working on, and my intention is that the eventual “platform” for each will be written in a more accessible way.
I believe Stephen Hawking was given advice to water his writing down. It’s a shame, of course. I console myself with the idea that educated writers will still reach some, and that their work will last longer.
You also need to write with the voice you can, and what is most comfortable. Perhaps running something like Twitter with a few snappy sayings will get you some attention.
And I am not sure what to do about the follower thing, as I also like to read all the (good) blogs I discover. Perhaps most are fine with you not reading and assume it’s all numbers.
Thanks for the advice. There are just so many things to do, and such little time to accomplish what we desire to accomplish. I have a handful of books for which I’ve been gathering notes for (literally) decades. I’m attempting to move one of those to a front burner now.
Nothing wrong with sharing our credentials. It gives more authority to our posts. Great article you wrote here, by the way.
I agree that credentials influence our attentiveness to writers. For example, I appreciate stories by people who have escaped from things I have no personal experience with (e.g. drug addition, membership in a cult).
Glad you enjoyed this post.