It’s All About Hope

I recently had a conversation with a lady who suffers from a mental illness that is mostly stabilized with medication. This woman also struggles from a chronic illness (she is facing possible dialysis) and is in a difficult marriage. She shared with me that someone in her church recently gave her a book of prayers.

This lady started to read some of these prayers at night and they are helping her. I asked her how they were helping. She replied, “By giving me hope. I often feel hopeless at night and reading a couple of the prayers brings me hope.”

This is why we write and publish Christian material—to bring people hope. Hope:

  • For God’s healing.
  • For God’s provision.
  • For God’s comfort and peace.
  • That life is not in vain.
  • For a purpose to keep living.
  • That life can get better.
  • That God will work all things together for good.
  • For eternal life in heaven where there will be no effects of sin, thus no pain or sadness.

I believe hope is needed more than ever today. Over the past three decades, Americans’ view of the Bible as the literal word of God has been declining, while their view that the Bible is a collection of fables, myths and history recorded by man has been increasing. A recent Gallup poll shows that fewer than one in four Americans (24%) now believe the Bible is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word.” This is the first time in Gallup’s four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism.

But what about you, author, have you lost your hope? Are you discouraged, wondering if your writing is making a difference in anyone’s life?

Ask yourself: Is it worth it for one? If only one person were encouraged and found hope in your book(s), would your effort be worth it?

This is a tough question. If you can’t answer this question in the affirmative, I would suggest that you check your motives. Are you writing for God—or for human glory? Hebrews exhorts us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” James tells us that “whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

One is enough.

To bring hope is a noble calling. Your book might mean the difference for someone between a hopeless existence and a hopeful life. Keep writing and publishing for God’s glory.

Related Posts:
Expectations
What is Your Purpose?
Are You Lacking Motivation?

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Photo courtesy of Blake Richard Verdoom

Are You Looking for a Formula?

As Americans, we love prescriptions and formulas to follow. Just prescribe a program for people to lose weight, get in shape, de-clutter their house, or extend the life of their vehicle, and thousands race to put the formula into practice.

Sadly, there is no formula for marketing a book to make it a best-seller. Many authors who have found the right mix of marketing strategies for their own book will try to sell you their formula, but never does one marketing formula work for all types of books. If one formula did, it would have already been patented.

Since books are sold mostly through bookstores (whether online or physical), authors and publishers rarely have the ability to find out how their readers discovered their books. Hence, it is difficult for authors and publishers to know which of their marketing efforts are providing the best results.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) asks on our membership application how the applicant heard about CSPA. Here are the responses from the most recent eight applications:

  • Word-of-mouth and internet browsing
  • The Christian Writer’s Market Guide
  • Christian Writers Conference
  • CSPA was referenced in various online forums
  • A friend who is an editor for various ministries and small publishing houses
  • Referral from another independent author
  • Email
  • Internet

As you can see, there is no one referral source. Other than word-of-mouth from various places, the ways that these authors and publishers heard about CSPA varied greatly.

The same is most likely true for your books. While surveys of readers reveal that word-of-mouth is the number one way people decide to purchase a book, this word-of-mouth can vary greatly from a friend, relative, coworker, a blog post, a social media post, or from someone who knows the author.

Remember, there is no formula. No two books can be marketed the exact same way and receive the same results. You must experiment to find the sweet mix of marketing activities that reaches your target audience effectively.

I encourage you to heed the advice of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

These words, penned thousands of years ago, are still true. In marketing a book, you do not know which activities will succeed, so sow numerous and diverse efforts for the best results. I believe that it is the mix (not one thing) that provides the best results.

Related Posts:
A Good Marketing Guideline
Marketing is Murky
Spending Precious Marketing Dollars

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Book Awards Produce Winners!

Nominations are open for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards! The awards are sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Christian Books published in 2016 and 2017 are eligible for nomination. For complete nomination guidelines and to nominate a book, visit www.ChristianAward.com.

Not sure if you should enter a book award? Check out these 10 reasons to do so.

Related Posts:
Announcing: Christian Indie Awards
The Value of Book Awards
What’s So Great About Book Awards?

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Amazon’s “Buy Button” Policy

The publishing world is all abuzz with the latest Amazon change. It has to do with Amazon’s “Buy Button” policy change in regards to new books sold on the site.

A Little History

Last November, Amazon began allowed third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. Third-party re-sellers on Amazon can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outlined by Amazon, which includes price, availability, and delivery time (see https://goo.gl/11yc37).

The program is only open to new books, defined by Amazon as “brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. The dust cover and original protective wrapping, if any, is intact. All supplementary materials are included and all access codes for electronic material, if applicable, are valid and/or in working condition.”

Amazon has long allowed third-party sellers to compete with Amazon for the sale of new items. Up until last year, books were exempt from this program with Amazon selling the publisher’s copy of a book as the first listed seller. Interestingly, Amazon currently does not sell or stream copies of other copyrighted works—movies and television programs—that are distributed by anyone other than the authorized distributor. In other words, third party sellers cannot sell these copyrighted new works.

The Concern

Of course, publishers are concerned that they will not get their fair share of retail price for new books sold by third-party sellers on Amazon. Where do these third-party sellers get their books? Generally, not from the publishers. Publishers and authors make the most money from books sold directly through Amazon because these books are purchased directly from them (although sometimes through the publisher’s distributor).

Many authors and publishers have also expressed concern that the books being listed as “new” by third-party sellers are not really “new”. If you believe your book (or anyone’s book) is being sold as “new” by a third-party seller—but really isn’t a new book—you can file a complaint with Amazon (see https://goo.gl/aqfw5P).

Speculation

Anytime Amazon makes a major policy change, many speculate as to the motivation behind the move. Two theories are being kicked around.

  1. Amazon is trying to expand its POD offering and wants to encourage publishers and authors to use its POD services. After all, it appears that, for the most part, books sold via Createspace and IngramSpark still have Amazon as the primary “buy” button.
  2. The other speculated motivation is that Amazon wants to reduce their storage and labor costs by giving preference to third-party buyers. In doing so, Amazon will have less books to stock and move in their warehouses.

Personally, I also wonder how much Amazon just changes things up every so often to stay in the news. Every change brings lots of buzz, so the strategy seems to work if that is what they are after.

As a consumer who buys books on Amazon, I find the third-party buy button very annoying. It makes me have to double and triple check that I am actually buying the book from Amazon and not a third-party seller that will make me pay shipping.

I would love to hear if and how Amazon’s buy button policy has effected your book listing and sales on the site.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Still King
Amazon is Not a Distributor
Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

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Are You Playing by the Rules?

“If you are going to play the game, you have to play by the rules.”

This statement is not just true of games. You have to play by the rules to drive a car, to pass a class, to acquire and keep a job, and to purchase a house. The same is true for publishing a book. You need to play by the rules.

In publishing, the rules are referred to as industry standards. There are some basic industry standards that all major publishers follow. These standards allow for an ease of flow for books through the purchasing chain (think distribution, retailers, librarians, and consumers).

Sure, anyone can publish a book and sell it from their own website whether the book conforms to industry standards or not. But, if you are serious about publishing a professional looking book that consumers will purchase and read, that reviewers will review, and that retailers and libraries will stock, your book must play by the rules.
A number of independently published authors are so eager to get their book into print that they don’t take the time to learn to play by the rules. As a result, their books don’t conform to industry standards.

I meet authors who want to acquire media interviews, sell their books to retailers and showcase them at tradeshows, but their books lack ISBN numbers, EAN barcodes, BISAC codes, retail price, etc. One doesn’t go to a wedding dressed in a swimsuit, nor should your book enter the industry in pajamas.

In today’s information age, the information you need to play by the rules in publishing a book is available. One great resource for authors and publishers is publishing associations. Such associations help their members stay up-to-date with industry standards in both publishing and marketing books.

Through providing information and tools such as newsletters, webinars, and other avenues, a publishing association can help you get the resources you need to publish professionally. In addition to information, publishing associations also offer discounts on various products and services that authors and publishers use in producing books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is specifically geared toward providing information and cost-saving benefits to those authors and publishers who produce Christian materials. One great benefit of being a member of CSPA is free title uploads to IngramSpark and Lightning Source—a great cost saving benefit.

If you are producing Christian materials and want to play by the rules and publish professionally, I encourage you to join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). The association is currently offering a fantastic summer special. Just $120 will pay your membership through December 2018. That is 18-months of membership at less than $7 per month. You can join today at http://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member/.

Playing by the rules will get you farther then making up your own rules. Conform to industry standards and your book will see greater success.

Related Posts:
You Get What You Pay For
Is Your Message Distilled?
Are You Willing to Commit?

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske.