Thursday, February 20, 2014

Writers & Their Legacy: A Lesson From Jimmy Carter

I had never been to a presidential library until I came upon the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum while coming to Atlanta earlier this month. Although visiting this stimulating site got me to rethink his presidency, I can’t say I pine for the days when he was president (1977 – 1981). However, I love the idea of having a museum dedicated to the former president.

Just as books give life to the events, places, and people of the past, museums can present the historical context of an individual and the era he or she lived under. The museum used words, images, and remnants of the last century to present who Jimmy Carter is and what his presidency was like.

The gift shop featured books written by the former president, as well as books about related themes of things he cared about, such as civil rights, women’s rights, and presidential history. There’s no nicer way to honor a person than to leave  the museum with the purchase of a book.

Even though Carter is a best-selling author, you don’t necessarily think of him as a writer. So many other things come to mind – former president, human rights activist, and his work with Habitat for Humanity. But his books will live on, in part, because of his library. It’s nice when an organization will be there to continue championing your writings way after your death.

A legacy can’t be forced onto others. It needs a salesperson to advocate for you, but the legacy can only survive on the merits of the lasting message and the significance of what that person accomplished in the context of the present. As great as one may have been 50 years ago, do they mean anything to us today?

Most authors certainly are not presidents, and many do not have organizations promoting their works after they die. But if you want your writings to live beyond your waking days, you’ll need a museum, a foundation, an association, a school, a nonprofit, or a corporation standing behind you. So the formula would be: write a great book, continue to push it throughout your life, and then have a third party speak out for you after your death. But even then, how long does that legacy hold up? How will it measure against new events, books, and people of the future?

Maybe the bigger question is: Why do authors concern themselves so deeply with their legacy? It seems authors always want to be heard, understood, and appreciated – even in death. Especially in death.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.

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