Marketing is Murky

There are many good marketing principles and techniques—think product, price, place, and promotion. When promoting a book, I recommend that publishers and authors follow sound marketing practices. However, there exists no proven formula for ensuring sales.


Consistently the top reasons cited by people for buying a book are:

  1. Because it is popular—in other words, the book is a bestseller and everyone is talking about it.
  2. Because a friend recommended it.
  3. Because the reader is already familiar with the author.
  4. Because they read an excerpt and enjoyed it.

The first three on the above list are hard to control. However, all authors have the ability to provide the fourth item on the list—a free sample of their book.

Of course, the problem of how to get your free sample in front of readers is sticky. You can place the excerpt on your website and let your follows on social media know it is there. You can list it on all your marketing materials as well. Additionally, there are plenty of websites around the Internet that allow authors to place stories for readers to discover. These are all great ways to try to get readers to engage with your book.

However, I believe a valuable avenue for getting an excerpt in front of potential readers is to turn your excerpt into an article. Then offer this article to magazines and bloggers for free.
This is something that I have done with my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. I would love to tell you that every article or guest post I have done has resulted in lots of book sales. Sadly, this is not the case.

Surprisingly, sometimes I will do a guest post from my book on a website that I am sure will draw lots of sales, and it doesn’t happen. Other times, I will post a blog on a website expecting not much to come from it and end up being surprised. This recently happened. I offered a guest post to a blog that was looking for articles on book promotion. I didn’t expect much to happen. That month, my book sales quadrupled.

So many authors want to know that any given promotional avenue will reap benefits. There are no guarantees in marketing. Sometimes one avenue will reap many benefits for one book and none for another. The key to successful marketing is to use a variety of avenues to promote your book.

In your marketing efforts, remember the top reasons people buy books. Be sure to have an excerpt potential buyers can read and expect to be surprised!

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The Book Cover That Judges You

I find all sorts of interesting inventions in the book industry. I have reported on many of them here on this blog over the years. I recently stumbled across a new invention for book covers.

Thijs Biersteker, a Dutch artist, has invented a book cover that judges the reader. The book cover is designed to detect how a reader is judging it based on a scan of the reader’s face. Using a camera and software to identify the emotion in the face it scans, the book cover is programmed to either unlock or stay locked.

Cover Judges You

This high-tech book cover scans for signs of judgement. If it identifies that the reader is over-excited or skeptical, then the book stays locked. If the reader’s face is neutral (no judgement) the book cover will unlock.

At my first glance at this, I thought that this newly designed high-tech book cover might be a useful tool in determining whether a book cover is effective in engaging readers or not. However, since this system only recognizes “judgement” vs. “non-judgement”, it would not be useful in this manner. If, instead, this high-tech book cover could distinguish between excitement, neutrality, and skepticism, then it might well be a good tool in determining whether a book’s cover would be effective or not. If the book cover only unlocked for those who were excited or neutral, an author could determine whether more people were drawn in or turned off by the cover.

What do you think of this high-tech book cover?

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Not Everyone Uses the Internet

While the vast majority of people in the United States report they use the Internet, all of these people don’t necessarily “shop” on the Internet. Just because someone uses the Internet does not mean that he wants to buy a book online.


I have found that older people—think Boomer generation—often prefer to phone in sale orders and talk to a real person. These individuals may even find a product online, but they prefer to order the item over the telephone.

Every year Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) puts out a cooperative full-color catalog featuring our member publishers’ books (that is, those members that choose to participate in the catalog). You can view our catalog by clicking here. In the catalog we put contact information for each publisher. This information includes a website, an email, and a phone number. Some publishers opt not to include a phone number. I think this is a mistake.

Having a phone number on your website and in your print advertising material is important. All the larger companies do this. A company that does not provide a telephone number often signals to the world that they are “small”. Even if you are small, you don’t want your customers to know this. You want your customers to think you are a professional publisher, no matter your size.

The other day, I received a call from a gentleman who wanted to order a book that was listed in the 2014 CSPA Cooperative Product Catalog. The gentleman was calling CSPA because the publisher of the book he wished to order had not included a phone number on his ad in the catalog or on his website. I was able to supply this gentleman a phone number for the publisher so he could order the book.

Had Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) not included our phone number on the catalog, this publisher would have missed out on a sale. While you may only sell a handful of books over the phone, don’t rule out this sales avenue. After all, if you are small every sale counts. So, include your telephone number of your website and on all your print advertisements.

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A Bookstore Dedicated to Self-Published Authors

Two entrepreneuring authors have teamed up to open the first bookstore dedicated to books by self-published authors. Children’s author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson and history author Timothy Jacobs decided to open a bookstore of their own after they became frustrated with the lack of opportunity for indie authors to showcase their works in existing bookstores.

Gulf Coast Bookstore

The two Florida authors opened the Gulf Coast Bookstore in Fort Myers, Florida. The store only sells books by indie authors. Currently, Gulf Coast Bookstore has around 50 local authors using the space.

Gulf Coast operates very differently from a traditional bookstore. Self-published authors rent shelf space for three months for $60, plus a $15 set-up fee, close to what they might spend to exhibit a single title at a day-long book fair. They also handle stocking and restocking of their books. In return, the authors receive 100% of every sale.

Gulf Coast Bookstore rearranges inventory every two weeks to keep the space fresh. The only criterion for authors using the store is that the author be “local.” Each author can display 10 copies of a single title or up to 10 titles with one copy each. With the rental of physical shelf space, authors are featured on the store’s website, and they can use the store for book signings.

What a fabulous idea! I am hoping that this concept will catch on and more large cities around the country will begin to host bookstores featuring only local authors’ books! If you are in or around the Fort Myers area of Florida, put this bookstore on your destination list.

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Get Caught Reading

May is “Get Caught Reading” month! What will you get caught reading this month?

Each year, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) puts together a cooperative catalog featuring products from our member publishers. This year’s catalog features 79 titles from 27 of our member publishers.

I invite you to click on the catalog cover pictured below to check out the great titles CSPA member publishers produce! I am sure you will find within the pages of the catalog a new book to read this month.

Due to the number of beautiful book covers featured in the catalog, it may take a few minutes for the catalog to load. Please be patient.

Catalog 2015 Cover

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