Religion as A Marketing Technique

Yesterday, I was reading an author’s biography.  Her biography was a list of attributes. You know the kind. Dinosaur wrangler, Rockstar, and Mail-order Accountant Ethel Hergenmeier lives in Florida with her husband, her potted plants, and three small children whose parents refuse to take them back. (This was the blog-based, and probably unofficial biography, by the way.)

Except, in her case, the first attribute was her religion. So, Zen Buddhist, Dinosaur Wrangler and etc… And, in all fairness, she was writing a book about the Four Noble Truths for writers, or artists, or something. (Disclaimer. I never got past the Third Noble Truth, and can’t remember what the Fourth Noble Truth is, so if you have questions about Zen Buddhism, go ask one.)

For all intents and purposes, the book seems to be marketed toward a general writing audience, and not exclusively to the Zen Buddhist crowd. The biography on Amazon is different, and focuses on her previous books, her career, and where she lives.

There’s no separate Zen Buddhist section in the bookstore (or at least, not in mine) and this book would wither and die, if people had to hunt it down in “Eastern Philosophy.”

The general audience thing has me stumped. On the one hand, the fact that the writer is a Zen Buddhist could matter. Of course, if it does, the fact that the reader is not could also matter.

With some religions, I have a very clear idea of what to expect, if the author or the book is described (front and center) with their religion. Christian comes to mind, and generally means no sex, no swearing, and geared toward a (fairly conservative) Christian audience. (No, that is NOT idiomatic.) It’s not just a fact, it’s a niche market.

I don’t have that same clarity with Zen Buddhism. Maybe I would, if I knew more about it, but I’m not picking up on the “How does that sell books?” end of it.

There’s a range in all of the biography information. Retired FBI agent or NASA astronaut is more relevant; Owns a dog named Buster is… arguably less relevant. And you work from more to less relevant.

So, how important is knowing an author’s religion to you? And what information do you get from knowing? Are there any circumstances under which you would mention your religion in your bio information?




  1. Delia


    My sister is a Buddhist, but of the Tibetan flavor, and she ghostwrites for a Tibetan teacher. Buddhists will buy books about Buddhism, as will a broader audience of, say, meditators; what it conveys to me is a search for clarity, peace, and wisdom. (Along with connotations of crunchiness, a slightly monotone voice, and languid posture, but maybe that’s just me)

    • Reply

      I don’t think of Buddhists as having the same… uhm… insularity as a lot of other groups. I can see them buying Buddhist books, but also comic books or (eventually) my nifty sci-fi thing. My picture of an American Buddhist is very much informed by one of my favorite teachers, but I’m sure they can’t all be insanely energetic, ex-Amish gay guys.

      • Delia


        Hee! I like your description. But they can be remarkably insular . . . there are as many flavors of Buddhism as there are of Christianity.

  2. Reply

    Unless I’m shopping for a book on a specific religon, the authors relgious affliation would not matter to me whatsoever. While I understand religion is forefront in some people’s lives, I don’t know that it needs to the top of the list in an author bio.

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