Customer Service Matters

A new study conducted by Woodbury University showed that while over 60% of businesses they surveyed were using the Internet to promote their business, over 25% of these businesses did not monitor customer satisfaction. The study also found that half (about 50%) did not monitor online reviews of their business.

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The most interesting find for me from this study was that only about 75% of the businesses surveyed reported that they felt good reviews were important to their business. Yet, in a survey of 1,500 consumers who were asked how they would select a business to do home remodeling, 35% reported that the relied on online reviews.

I am baffled by the 25% of businesses that thought consumer reviews were not important to their business. However, I recently ran into this issue in looking for a printer for the Third Edition of my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

To get quotes to compare printing costs, I went online and submitted a request for a quote on five different printing companies’ websites. These are printing companies who I am familiar with due to their current or previous Partner Membership with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). I had even used two of the printers that I requested a quote from to previously print a book.

Of the five requests I submitted via these printers’ websites, I only received two quotes. The two printing companies I had used previously to print a book did not even respond to my request for a quote.

I was quite surprised. The only reason I can come up with is that these printers just don’t need any business. Yet, if that is the case, why would they place a “request a quote” on their website? One thing is sure, these printers certainly are not placing a high importance on customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, I did find a printer to print the Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, and the book is now available for sale for $25.99 (with free shipping) if you order via www.marketingchristianbooks.com.

How about you? Are you providing good customer service? Do you respond promptly to emails, phone calls, and notifications on your social media sites? Bad customer service will drive readers away, while good customer service will ensure that you have readers for your books for years to come.

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How Much Do Authors Make?

My daughter dreams of being a full-time writer when she grows up. I keep telling her that most authors don’t write full-time, that most authors write as their second job. After all, she should know this first-hand, as both her parents are authors and both of us also have other jobs.

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A new report from Digital Book World found that the majority of authors make less than $1,000 a year. The study showed that almost 80% of self-published authors and more than half of traditionally published authors earn less than $1,000 per year.

Digital Book World’s study, conducted via interviews with 10,000 authors in all types (self-published, traditional, hybrid, and aspiring) found that only 10% of traditionally published authors made more than $20,000 a year and 5% of self-published authors made more than $20,000 a year.

I think the takeaway from this study is what most authors already know—whether self-published or traditionally published. Don’t quit your day job anytime soon. Being an author is a hobby or a second job.

For most authors, that doesn’t matter. We love to write and we love to have others read what we write. So, as long as God calls you to write and share it with others, keep doing it, even if it brings you less than $10,000 a year in income. After all, God calls us to make disciples, regardless of the profit it brings us.

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Is Your Book Endorsed?

I always encourage publishers and author who are producing books to get endorsements. Endorsements are important in selling books. In fact, a whole chapter in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is devoted to the importance of endorsements.

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Endorsements are not reviews. Rather, they are statements that an author or publisher seeks on behalf of a book prior to publication. These statements generally endorse —state the book has value—and are from people the readers of the book can respect. This can be another author writing in the same genre or to the same audience, a pastor, a celebrity, or an expert in the field you are writing about.

Endorsements are used on the book’s cover (and in all the book’s marketing material) to let people know that important people are saying this book is worth the money and time a reader would invest.

An endorsement is not: “A great read. I couldn’t put the book down. ~reader from Kentucky.” This type of statement is a testimonial, generally given in a review. Testimonials can be used in your marketing materials, but they are not endorsements.

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It is not beyond any author’s reach to garner endorsements. All it takes is a little work: finding the right people and asking them to endorse your upcoming book.

Author Michael L. White is a good example of an author who went after endorsements. Michael recently published a book on how to be your own publisher titled A Publishing Panacea. The book teaches aspiring authors how to publish a book.

Michael took the time to ask the right people for endorsements. For his book, he received endorsements from independent publishing industry experts: John Kremer, Brian Jud, and yours truly, Sarah Bolme. What a boon for Michael and his book. When promoting his book, he can now assert that the book has been endorsed by leaders in the self-publishing industry.

You, too, can get endorsements for your next book. Choose the right people and take the effort to ask. The worst response you will get is “No thanks.” You will also get some yeses, and these will help you reel in more sales when your book is published.

Caveat: I want to leave my blog readers with one caveat. I receive multiple requests for endorsements on books. However, due to my position as Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) and time constraints, I only consider providing endorsements for those books directly related to publishing or marketing a book.

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The Next Generation Book Cover?

3D printers made the headlines in 2013 with their ability to print a plastic gun. Still relatively new on the scene, 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.

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3D printing is a sizable market, but according to the market research firm Gartner, it has even greater potential for growth. Due to the cost, however, most of the growth predicted for 2014 with 3D printing will be fueled by enterprise customers. Maybe some of these enterprise customers will be authors and publishers producing 3D book covers.

Yes, you read that right: 3D-printed book covers. The first one has been done. More may follow.

Riverhead Books, has printed the first-ever 3D book slipcover for a new novel by Chang-Rae Lee titled On Such a Full Sea. The company reported that each individual slip cover took 15 hours to print. The covers were made for a special-edition run of 200 signed copies for sale—a number partially decided by how many could physically be printed in time for the shelf date.

Being the first to print a 3D cover is novel and may well garner this author and book much publicity. However, until the price of 3D printing comes down, I doubt we will see a slew of new 3D book covers on new books.

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The Thumbnail Rule

I have a dear friend who is an artist and owns an art gallery. For years, she has provided art instruction to artists seeking to improve their skills. Here is what she tells her students:

I always tell my artists that composition is king. If pieces don’t hold together and look good in a thumbnail size, where you can see the composition at a glance, the art won’t work in person or up close.

Consider: The cover of your book is a work of art. It too must hold up to the rule of looking good in thumbnail size.

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For years, I have told authors that the title printed on the cover of their book needs to be easily read from across the room. Now, with more and more books being purchased online, it is also important that your book cover also look good in a thumbnail size.

I have found that most books whose titles can easily be read from across the room generally also look good in the thumbnail size.

I recently went round and round on this issue with the cover designer for the third edition of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace (releasing next month). She was not sending me designs where the title was easily read from a distance or in a thumbnail sketch.

Now, I know that the title of this book is long, and thus the task before the designer was not an easy one. I told her that not every word needed to stand out since the title was so long. I just need the important words to stand out.

Finally, after going back and forth a number of times, and beginning to think we were never going to get there, I finally have a design that is legible from a distance and in a thumbnail size.

I urge you to follow this simple rule of thumb for your next book cover. Make sure the title is legible from across a room and also in a thumbnail size.

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