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It is never easy to change minds, in fact, it can be one of the most difficult things to attempt. However, Ishmael's message implores us to do nothing less. While this is always challenging, there are certain principles to keep in mind that can help.
The Mainstream Loophole - As mentioned, many of our potential readers are still stuck in the "old mind" way of thinking which tells them that what is important is judged by Mother Culture. It is difficult to get Mother Culture to endorse ideas that go against her own lessons. Well, one of the great gifts that Daniel Quinn and Ted Turner have given us is the ability to promote Ishmael in terms that Mother Culture approves of. Many of the ideas Quinn brings up are not new at all, but because of the history of Ishmael, his ideas have credibility behind them that others who say the same things may not have. Some important facts that may interest those who look to Mother Culture for the endorsement of ideas are:
- Finding Potential Readers - Who is a potential Ishmael reader? In short, everyone! The beauty of Quinn's work is that it touches so close to the core of our culture that it is relevant to just about every segment of our society. Mother Culture speaks equally to doctors, lawyers, politicians, electricians, teachers, ministers, and cab drivers.
Most Ishmael readers begin close to home with those they know personally. Ultimately, many branch out to contact community leaders and others who they may not know personally, but who are influential in our society. Who is influential in your life that might be interested in Quinn's ideas? What organizations are you involved in?
For those who wish to get involved in organized efforts to find potential readers in key places, there are organized book distribution efforts taking place. In addition, the Friends of Ishmael Society can offer you information on how to begin your own distribution efforts.
- Know Your Audience - Ishmael readers realize that the destruction of other species is a problem for humanity's own existence, that saving the rain forest really does matter to us. But, BEFORE people read Ishmael, many do not realize or care about these issues. They are lulled to sleep by Mother Culture, and many will not respond to appeals on the basis of "saving the world". In fact, it is one of the most incredible things about Quinn's books that they can take a person who doesn't care about these issues and show them why they should care. However, always keep in mind that you are dealing with a population who has NOT read the books yet, and therefore it is important to appeal to potential readers on a personal basis.
So, try to think about what the average person in our culture may notice that would make them want to change. For most of us, we do not see the devastation of the rain forest in our daily lives, rather we see the effects of the materialism that drives that devastation. For instance, many of us have little time for our families because we must work long hours for low pay. For instance, many of us have been touched by suicide or drugs or alcohol as people attempt to escape from the emptiness of the Taker way of life. Students recognize the inadequacies of our schooling process.
Appealing to these more personal issues can often be more effective. For a great example of how to use these mainstream issues to encourage people to read Ishmael, learn about and use ReadIshmael.com. Then again, if you are trying to get someone who is already an environmentalist to read the books, then you may approach them in an entirely different manner. Remember, "TEACHER SEEKS PUPIL, must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." caught the attention of the narrator of Ishmael only because he ALREADY had cared about those issues in the past. Yet another approach is needed if you are dealing with someone who is only impressed in the context of our own materialistic and media-driven culture. Knowing your audience is always step one in marketing or encouraging anyone to consider a new idea. Your job is to answer this question: "If I was that person, how would I personally benefit from reading this book?"
Make sure you are using the right tool for the right audience. The Friends of Ishmael Society offers numerous tools that you can use to promote to readers or to promote to teachers. If you have a tool that others could use, please send it to us so that we can share it with other readers!
- Suggested Reading Order - In many cases, it would be less effective to watch a movie sequel before the original. Similarly, it would be, in most cases, less effective to read Beyond Civilization before Ishmael. Because of the history of how Quinn's books were written, we recommend that readers are encouraged to read the books in the order in which they were written. This is primarily because Ishmael serves as an introduction, defining new terms and spelling out a whole new worldview that is then followed in the subsequent books. Furthermore, Quinn wrote each book after Ishmael to answer the questions and misconceptions that people had about the previous book. Thus, the books follow a certain natural progression. This order is:
Story of B
- My Ishmael
- Beyond Civilization
- Any other book
There are cases, of course, where a certain passage may have a more personal meaning to a given person or group. For instance, a student may be most touched by Quinn's ideas on schools and education in My Ishmael. Therefore, it is sometimes helpful to have someone read a passage from a more advanced book, simply to get them intrigued about Quinn's ideas. However, in general, we feel it is most effective for new readers to begin with Ishmael. It is, however, often useful to tell readers beforehand that Ishmael is really an introductory book, and much more detail is available in the ensuing books.
- The Cult Problem - One of Mother Culture's most powerful defense mechanisms is the "cult" label. When a group spreads a message that goes against the general culture's status quo, many are quick to label them a cult, a small group of unrepresentative people who are out of touch with reality. Luckily, there are many facts that serve as objections in response to the idea that Quinn's readers comprise a cult which should not be taken seriously. These facts include: - While it is true that Quinn himself makes money off of the sales of his books, his readers do not. There is no monetary ulterior motive for us to spread this message, as there often is in cults. In fact, many of us give up money to help spread this message or follow it in our own lives.
- Large Numbers - While many of us realize that a large number of believers does not make an idea true, it is nonetheless much harder to label a movement a cult when it becomes extremely widespread. Ishmael readers are by no means a majority, but we are certainly not few and far between. Quinn's books have been read by millions of readers and there are over 6000 readers signed up currently on The Ishmael Network and that number continues to grow.
- Diversity - Cults often consist of a group of similar people who come together based on a similar cause. While many Quinn readers share common beliefs, we come from all walks of life and it would be impossible to pigeonhole us into any specific category. Readers include doctors, lawyers, ministers, athletes, musicians, and everything in between. This diversity is evident in the Ishmael in Action section.
- Scientific Support - Cults often support untestable or extremely faith-based ideas. Quinn's ideas, however, are quite testable, and the scientific community is providing evidence in support of these views daily. Ecologists and biologists are declaring the impending problems of population expansion, species disappearance and lack of biological diversity in great numbers. Organizations such as Worldwatch Institute, World Land Database, and countless university scientists and researchers lend credibility and support to what is clearly not the belief system of a cult.
- Mainstream Credibility - It is sad that groups whose facts may be correct can be marginalized as a cult simply because Mother Culture hasn't "approved" their ideas as worth considering. However, this can be used to great advantage in the case of Quinn's work because Mother Culture has, in this case, given her overwhelming seal of approval. This leads to what could be called The Mainstream Loophole effect, which is discussed in the next section.
These are great facts to use on banners, flyers or just to spread by word of mouth when you are speaking to a very mainstream audience. One group has made a banner which serves as an example of how these facts can be used to encourage readership of Ishmael among mainstream readers. A website has also been created to help introduce Ishmael to a mainstream audience through these stories and issues.
- Turner Tomorrow Fellowship - Ishmael was awarded the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship. This was an award given by Ted Turner for a book offering creative solutions to global problems. Ishmael won out of 2500 entries, and was judged by a celebrity panel that included famous sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury
- Largest Monetary Prize Ever Awarded to a Book - The Turner Tomorrow Fellowship was worth $500,000, the largest sum ever awarded to a single work of literature. The Nobel Prize is worth more, however that is an award given for a lifetime of work, not a single book.
- Oprah Winfrey Show - Like it or not, Oprah's endorsement is worth a great deal in our culture. This is not just speculation. After Daniel Quinn appeared on Oprah's show, Ishmael skyrocketed to #38 in the book sales rankings. The story of how Quinn ended up on Oprah's show is one that will interest many potential readers.
- Taught in Thousands of Schools - What is taught at our nation's schools and universities is seen by many to be what is "important". Well, lucky for us, Ishmael is taught in an astonishing number of schools at all levels of education, as well as in an equally astonishing number of courses.
- Pearl Jam's "Yield" Album - Pearl Jam is one of the largest selling bands in the world for over ten years now. When they make an album based on a book, it raises interest. In fact, many of us, including one of the founders of this site, found Ishmael through Pearl Jam. Their album, "Yield", was based on none other than Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
- Major Hollywood Motion Picture, Instinct - Hollywood is a powerful force for setting the agenda throughout the world. Books like A Beautiful Mind, to name just one, skyrocket in sales after a movie is made, giving them the Hollywood stamp of approval. Well, Hollywood took note of Ishmael in the form of a movie called Instinct starring Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Understand Your Power - It is tempting to wait for someone else, perhaps Daniel Quinn himself or our political leaders, to take the initiative in spreading this new vision. However, Quinn's books make it quite clear that it is up to us, the public, to spread this vision. Meanwhile, Daniel Quinn himself is busy doing what he does best, writing. If we wait for others to spread these ideas, we could be waiting forever.
Often, Quinn's readers have a burning desire to spread the message, yet feel somehow ashamed or shy of really doing so. Furthermore, many readers assume that people will not be willing to allow them to talk about Ishmael in mainstream places such as newspapers or schools. It is important to realize that, because of the mainstream loophole that Ishmael represents, we have a perfectly legitimate and credible book to promote.
Quinn's ideas are backed with sound scientific evidence and have already been used in thousands of schools and been noticed by Hollywood, the music industry, and the business world. Therefore, you should not feel the least bit ashamed of making a powerful statement about what Quinn's ideas mean to you. If you are concerned that people will not understand why you feel this book is so important, you can look through this site and find numerous examples to show them very clearly why that is.
Look through the ads in the newspaper sometime and see how many of them you feel have nearly the importance of Quinn's ideas. Remember that newspapers, radio stations, libraries and schools are there to teach and inform the public. We have as much right to have our voice heard as anyone else, and because of how well known Ishmael already is, we have lots of evidence to give as to why people should listen. You have the power to change the vision of many people by having the courage to speak up and tell others about Ishmael.
Repetition (Planting Seeds and The Rule of 3) - Anyone who has ever sold anything knows that repetition is key. Repetition is the reason that even those of us who don't eat fast food know McDonalds' "We love to see you smile" jingle, or that those of us who swear off of soda still know that Coke is "The Real Thing". Repetition is the principle that should keep your head up when someone isn't running out to read Ishmael after you tell them they should. Remember that when you tell someone to read Ishmael for the first time, you are planting a seed. Coca-Cola does not expect you to see their commercial and instantly get thirsty and buy a coke. Rather, they intend to plant the seed of the Coke idea in your head so that later when you ARE thirsty, you will think again. Similarly, do not be upset if the person doesn't instantly run out to buy Ishmael. You are letting them know it is out there so that when they are ready, they have heard of the book and can come back to it.
Marketers like McDonalds also intend to plant the seed so that when you hear their jingle a second and third time it grows. There is an interesting phenomenon in the human mind, which could be called the Rule of 3. It seems that, for some reason, 3 is a magic number when it comes to attention. When we hear something three times, especially from three different places, we begin to notice it. This is not to say that sometimes one repetition cannot be enough or that sometimes it will not take five. But on the average, 3 seems to be a key number. Therefore, when you act as the first person to explain to someone why they should read Quinn's books, don't be discouraged if they do not immediately go out and buy the book. Just like Coca-Cola knows, what you've done is plant that first seed. Instead of thinking you failed to get them to read the book, think that you succeeded in getting in that first repetition. If enough of us are out there discussing these ideas, chances are good that someone else will add a second and third repetition somewhere down the line. So keep planting those seeds and keep the Rule of 3 in mind!
Provide a Support System - Once you have encouraged someone to read Quinn's books, chances are good that they will have a great deal of questions and may feel confused or even lost. Many of us have experienced that feeling for ourselves. The most important thing we can do at a time like that is offer support in the form of other people who understand and that the person can talk to.
This is why it is so important to encourage people not only to read Quinn's books, but then to direct them to local groups in their areas, direct them to the Ishmael Network or to start a new group in their area. These are the places where readers will find others who can support them, discuss Quinn's ideas openly and take action on what we have all learned as a result of these books.
While it is important to spread Quinn's ideas far and wide, remember that most change happens on the local level, and it is a key part of Quinn's message that we must become self-sustaining in our own communities. Therefore, local support systems are key.
Notice What Works - Corporations spend millions on market research to find out what methods of reaching out to potential customers work best. With so many possible ways to encourage readership, it is crucial to find out which methods are actually succeeding in getting people to read Quinn's books and helping them find their local groups.
How do you find out what is working? Simple. Ask! When new members come to a meeting, ask them how they found you. When friends pick up Ishmael and read it finally, ask them what it was that got them to finally do so. Other readers are looking for this information, as well, so please share it. When you find a tool, ad, or method that has worked well, please let us know so that we can pass it on to the rest of the Ishmael community.
Other Helpful Sites - Some other sites with great and/or entertaining ideas on marketing alternative ideas are: