Posted by & filed under advertising, marketing, Meaning and Purpose, problem solving, Search for Meaning, selling books, Spiritual Meaning, Victor Frankl.


Like everyone else these days, I struggle to make a living. Knowing that I’m not a very good salesman, I often listen to marketing experts and even motivational speakers in the hopes of becoming more knowledgeable and ultimately more successful in selling my products (my ‘products’ are the books I’ve written). The major advice that I hear repeatedly, is that if you want people to buy what you’re selling, you must (1) identify a problem that your customers have, and (2) offer them a solution.

I refuse.

Oh I’ve tried to do it. I’ve tried to frame my work as a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’, I’ve tried to ask questions that focus people’s attention on what’s wrong in their lives, and then offer them my books as a way to answer the questions and right the wrongs and fix their problems. But it always feels strained, awkward, and phony. That’s not what my books are about, and I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like they’re just not sufficiently “useful” or, consequently, sellable, so I guess I’d better write some simple self-help problem-solving books, or find something else to do.

The hell with that.

The marketers are wrong. 

I don’t need to focus on ‘problems’. My books aren’t about your ‘problems’, and they don’t delve into what’s negative or miserable or dysfunctional in your life and show you how to fix it. If that’s what you need, don’t buy my products

Quite the contrary, my books are about human aspiration and meaning. I’ve always agreed with Victor Frankl that the greatest drive in our lives — despite what American advertisers and marketers, teachers and politicians, psychologists and pundits — would have us believe, is not to have more sex, it’s not to have more stuff, it’s not to have more fame, and it’s not to solve all our problems so that our lives become easy, comfortable, dull, and phenomenally empty. The greatest human drive is the search of meaning. Real meaning. Life is most truly and most realistically (and most wonderfully) a deep, passionate, quest for meaning and purpose. 

That’s not a problem.

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Andrew Cort says:

Hello Arch! How wonderful to hear from you (I think it’s been about 45 years!) Yes, that’s the question I have: how to make people aware of my work (and yes, undoubtedly, how to get them to buy and read my books so I can make a living) while remaining true to what they, and I, are about — which isn’t about commercialism or ‘how to’ add superficial glamour, shallow sex, and “lots of expensive stuff’ into our lives (and I refuse to buy into the hypothesis that that is all anybody wants). All the very best to you and your son and his new endeavor.

Arch Montgomery says:

Andrew, I think your words ring true, but I wonder if one cannot remain true to ones enterprise and also frame it in a way that is accessible to others. If you are right about what people are yearning for, and I think you are, then wouldn’t it be true that they will be interested in your work if only they can effectively be led to it? I have a son who is off to divinity school and seminary to explore the kinds of questions you help people with. There should be some wonderful conversations in our future. Best, Arch Montgomery

Andrew Cort says:

Thanks Kathi. Yes, in response to marketers’ advice I’ve spent time trying to be someone I’m not. To which their response is “You can be whatever you want!” Lately it’s become clearer to me that “Yes, that’s true, but what you’re describing is not what I want to be!” And it certainly isn’t what my writings are about.

Thank you Andrew for this commentary! Well said!
I too have been struggling with the marketing “gurus” advice and it’s wonderful to hear someone put my thoughts on paper so eloquently! Your books help us learn about ourselves and, after all, that is what we all want.