Are You on Second Shift?

According to author Dr. Harold Arnold, Jr., people on second shift are those who work at their passion after their day job is done. Many authors fit into this category.

Few authors can afford to quit their day jobs to become writer full-time. Hence, they must devote their “second shift” (after a day job) to their writing careers.

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In his book, Second Shift: How to Grow Your Part-Time Passion into Full-Time Influence, Dr. Arnold looks at the frustration that comes from this position. He talks about DRAGONS (doubt, regret, apathy, guilt, obstinance, and narcissism) that can derail you from continuing to pursue your passion that is already marginalized in your life.

Addressing each one of these DRAGONS, and teaching the reader about each one’s antidote that comes from KINGDOM thinking (Knowledge, Insight, Novelty, Grace, Deference, Other-centered, and Much). Dr. Arnold encourages his readers to continue following their GODprint (the calling or passion that God has placed on your heart).

Dr. Arnold speaks from his own personal experience. For years, he has pursued his passion in his second shift, often running into discouragement and frustration with having to pour his “leftover” energy into these projects. I think my favorite quote from Second Shift that is great encouragement for anyone pursuing their passion in their spare time is:

Your obedience to God unlocks doors for someone else. You become the conduit through which God’s blessings flow to another.” (p. 202)

In his book, Dr. Arnold gives his readers four strategies for success in their second shift. They are:

1. Sacrifice security
2. Fail forward
3. Tame time
4. Promote partnerships

If you are a second shifter, take heart. Digital Book World’s 2014 Author survey found that only one in ten (10%) of writers actually make a livable salary ($40,000+) writing full-time. Another study found that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

If you are a second-shift author who needs some encouragement to continue on your path, Dr. Arnold’s words might just be the encouragement you need.

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Reading Rates Remain Consistent

Every author needs readers. Without readers, there would be no one to buy books. Every year, the Pew Research Center studies reading rates. Recently, Pew released its newest findings. Here is what they found.

In spite of competition from a vast menu of entertainment choices, the average book readership of Americans is holding steady. In their report “Book Readership 2016”, the Pew Research Center records that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year. This number remains largely unchanged from 2012 levels (although it is down from 2011 at 79% when Pew began tracking reading habits).

pew-reading-rates

A few of the interesting findings from the survey are:

  • 40% of Americans read print books exclusively.
  • Only 6% read ebooks exclusively.
  • Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.
  • College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks, and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audiobooks, compared with those who have not graduated high school.
  • Women (77%) are more likely than men (68%) to read books in general, and are also more likely to read print books (70%).Men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.

One additional piece that this study looked at was why people read. Interestingly, the percentage of people reading for fiction and nonfiction reasons were about the same:

  • 84% read to research specific topics.
  • 80% read for pleasure.

The Pew survey was conducted from March 7 through April 4, and used a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states in the United States.

The fact that reading rates are not declining in the United States is good news for authors and publishers. Better news would be that reading rates are on the upswing.

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An Interesting Book Cover Icon

The book group I belong to recently decided that the next book we would read and discuss would be It’s Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs. So, I needed to purchase the book.

I called my local Christian book store to see if they had the book in stock. Sadly, I got handed around to three different sales staff before getting an answer. Obviously, this store needs to work on their customer service—something I think is important since many Christian book stores are struggling. Fortunately, they did have the book in stock, so I stopped in to pick it up.

Pulling the book out of the bag when I got home, I notice something new on the cover. Being in the book business, I tend to notice new trends and ideas that are useful marketing gimmicks to pass along to you, my readers. So, I am bringing the “new” thing on the cover of this book to your attention.

study-guide-inside

The front cover of this book totes a little icon of an open book and reads “Study Guide Inside”. Now, it has been a trend for quite a few years to include either a discussion guide or a study guide in the back of both fiction and nonfiction books. These discussion guides are meant to make the book practical for reading groups or study groups to use.

Including discussion or study questions in the back of your book provides an additional selling point for your book. You can market your book as great for individual reading or a group study. I believe that it is best to put the discussion questions right in the book. Some authors choose to include a link to the study or discussion questions, but putting the questions or guide right in the book makes it convenient for the consumer—increasing the chances they will act on the information.

The publisher of It’s Good to Be Queen has run with the idea that having a guide in the book increases the book’s potential for sales. They have taken the concept one step further by adding a little icon to the book’s cover to immediately draw people’s attention to the fact that the book contains a study guide. This increases the likelihood that readers will consider using the book for a group study.

The Study Guide Inside icon is a great little marketing strategy that costs nothing. By simply adding a small icon to the front cover of the book, this publisher has raised the awareness of the book’s usefulness for another purpose besides just reading it.

The idea of adding this type of icon to a book’s cover is a solid marketing idea. If you produce a book that has a study or discussion guide, you, too, can add an icon to your book’s cover to alert readers to this additional resource you are providing with your book.

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Starting Strong May Not Be Enough

Author and leadership speaker Robin Sharma says, “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

As humans, we start new projects strong, but often our efforts peter out when we don’t see results that meet our expectations. As writers, we can start a story or book strong, but keeping that strength in the story or writing until the end is difficult.

sharma-quote

Companies that study book completion rates for readers find that readers’ attention often decays as they progress through a book. One of the benefits of ebooks, is that they can provide data on just how many readers complete a given book.

Jellybooks is one of the leading voices collecting data from readers engaged with ebooks. This company tracks all sorts of reading data. One of the pieces of data Jellybooks collects is how many chapters a reader finishes in a given book.

Most of Jellybooks’ data collection for reading completion rates is collected from fiction books. Fiction reading is linear. It is a story, so the reader starts at the beginning and progresses to the end. Nonfiction books, by nature, are not always linear. Readers can opt to read random chapters on the subjects that most peak their interest.

Jellybooks has found that readers don’t get past the first 50 to 100 pages for the majority of fiction ebooks they read. Wow. That is the majority not the minority. Of course, some books boast a higher dropout rate—up to 90% of readers give up after the second chapter, while some boast higher completion rates of 70 to 90+ percent.

Jellybooks is not alone in their discovery about fiction ebook reading completion rates. Other companies are confirming this data. Authors have about 50 to 100 pages to grab a reader’s attention and keep it. You must get your reader hooked and get them hooked fast.

The reasons readers don’t get hooked usually include:

  • The reader does not like the writing style.
  • The reader can’t identify with the main character.
  • The reader can’t get into the book.

Jellybooks feels that the cure for reading incompletion rates is to have a strong beginning that grabs your reader within the first 30 to 100 pages. I agree.

A strong beginning is important, but I believe it is not enough. A strong story throughout a book and a strong finish are also necessary. A strong finish is required to turn the reader into a fan. Turning a reader into a fan means that reader will seek out the other books you have published to also read. A win for you.

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Enhanced eBooks: Has Their Time Come?

The ability to embed video and audio into ebooks has been around for a while. However, currently, few ebooks carry this enhancement beyond books in the Children’s category.

Embedding audio or video in an ebook and animated covers or graphics are what usually comprise an animated ebook. Over the years, a few services have sprung up to offer authors the ability to animate their ebooks. However, the concept has yet to truly take hold for authors and readers.

All that may soon change.

kindle-in-motion

Amazon has now entered the animated ebook picture with a new service: Kindle in Motion. This new feature for Kindle ebooks creates another way for authors to enhance the reading experience for their ebooks. Kindle in Motion enhancements include animated covers, picture backgrounds for pages, and video clips. All of these features are embedded within the ebook.

Currently, Amazon’s new Kindle in Motion is only available for a limited number of titles—all from Amazon’s Publishing division. These titles that contain Kindle in Motion are all fiction titles, mostly mystery, thrillers, and children’s stories. It appears that Amazon is testing the service and may open it up to all authors in the near future.

Through adding animation, authors can enhance their stories with pictures and video. Authors can give back stories in videos, and show story setting and character appearances with pictures. Enhancements allow authors to become creative with their stories beyond the written word.

Whether readers will take to these added elements in a book is still yet to be seen. Some readers think the enhancements are distracting, others like them. I suspect that, like all new technological advances, it will take time for readers to begin to embrace new elements in a book.

One drawback with Kindle in Motion is file size. Text does not take much storage space; hence file size is fairly small for most ebooks. However, as animation is added to ebooks, their file size will increase. Increased file size will mean longer download times and more space consumed on reading devices.

I am curious. Are you interested in adding animated enhancements to your ebooks? What do you see as the benefits?

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