It’s Okay Not to Know

The other day, I was talking with a member publisher of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) on the telephone about one of the association’s services. The gentleman stated that he did not want to appear dumb, but that he really did not know much about the service, so much so, that he was even unsure what questions to ask.


I assured this publisher that he was in no way appearing dumb. That we all start out on the same playing field—knowing little to nothing. I was once there myself. However, I admired that he was willing to candidly admit that he did not know and to reach out with questions so that he could learn.

Sadly, not every new author or publisher is as candid as this gentleman. I run into authors and publishers who want to dictate how things are done. These individuals clearly have little knowledge about the workings of the book industry, but still insist on having things done their way.

These individuals often don’t take advantage of the expertise of the consultant or professional they are working with. Instead, they persist in having things done the way they want them done, instead of asking the industry expert why he is choosing to do something different than what they think should be done.

One of the benefits of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is that we will create a professional media sheet for authors. Sometimes authors want information included on their media sheet that will make them look like “newbies” or “amateurs”. One of the reasons CSPA provides this service is to help our members conform to the industry standards and appear professional. After all, that is one of the benefits of belonging to a publishing association: creating an impression of professionalism.

One of the benefits of winning a book award is that foreign publishers exposed to your book will be more inclined to consider the book for translation rights. CSPA often receives requests for review copies of books that have won the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award. Foreign publishers making the request want to consider translation and publication rights of the book for their country. Yet, often winners of the award that receive these requests ignore them because they don’t know how to handle such requests. All these authors and publishers need to do is ask for a little direction from those who have already walked the path. Yet another reason to belong to a writers or publishers group or association: information at your fingertips.

Anyone writing and publishing books is on a learning journey. There are always new things to learn. Anyone who thinks she has arrived is fooling herself.

What questions do you have? Ask some in the comments section below.

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How to Make Your Information Viral

The other day, a friend on Facebook shared a video from Britain’s Got Talent. The video was of 14-year old Liam McNally singing “You Raise Me Up”. The video was not new. It was from 2010, yet it is still being shared online. Why is that?


A number of research firms have studied what gets shared online in order to determine what makes something viral. These studies have found that information containing one of the following three ingredients is more likely to be shared:

  1. Interesting
  2. Useful
  3. Awe-inspiring

The more interesting, the more useful, or the more awe-inspiring something is, the more likely it will be shared. In other words, for information to be shared virally, it must catch people’s attention.

You can use these research findings to help you create more viral posts for your blog and social media posts. Provide information that is useful, interesting, or awe-inspiring. Consider the following techniques to make your posts about your book more viral.

Interesting: Interesting can be new information or news. Tie the news back to your book. Breaking news like ISIS killing a group of Christians can easily be tied into a book on the end-times or on suffering for Christ. News about new science findings can be tied into books on apologetics or Christian faith. Even news on new trends of harmful activities that teens are engaging in can be tied into books on parenting.

Useful: Provide information that people can use. Lists are very popular. People love lists the give them information. Lists like 10 Money Management Tricks Everyone Should Know or 7 Ways the Holy Spirit Empowers Believers. Information that helps people improve their lives is always useful.

Awe-inspiring: This one is more difficult to conjure up. Awe is anything that makes us say “Wow”. Unique photos or pieces of art can inspire awe. If you have a book that ties into nature or art, you can use these visuals to help spread the word about your book. Sometimes a statistic can be awe-inspiring like “Did you know that more people own cell phones (4 billion) than toothbrushes (3.5 billion)?”  Use one that ties back to the theme of your book.

So, if you want to broaden your marketing reach and get more people to share the information you post online, make sure you are posting interesting, useful, or awe-inspiring information. That’s what gets shared the most.

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The 2016 Book of the Year Award Winners

The votes are in and counted. The winners of the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award have been determined!

Book Award 1Christian book lovers and retailers voted on 123 nominated titles in 14 categories. The winners in each of the 14 categories are:

489: A Short Story About Forgiveness, Beyr Reyes, ShadeTree Publishing

Historical Fiction
Wilted Dandelions, Catherine Ulrich Brakefield, CrossRiver Media Group

His Last Hope: A Contemporary Christian Romance, M. A. Malcolm

Christian Living
Despite Your Circumstances, Candida Sullivan, ShadeTree Publishing

Bible Study / Theology
Songs from the Heart: Meeting with God in the Psalms, Tim Riordan, GreenTree Publishers

For You My Husband, Melissa Moxley, CrossLink Publishing

Biography / Memoir
Out of the Darkroom, Into the Light, Tracey Casciano

Relationships / Family
The Talks, Barrett Johnson, INFO for Families Resources

 Children’s (age 4 to 8)
What do you see? What does God see?, Denise D. Brown, db Word Gallery

Children’s (age 8 to 12)
Picture Imperfect, Susan Thogerson Maas, Ashberry Lane

Young Adult (age 12+)
Edging Through the Darkness, D.L. Koontz, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Gift Book
Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women, Lori Hatcher, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Christian Education
Dreams Revealed: Handbook for Biblical Dream Interpretation, Terri Meredith, ShadeTree Publishing

eBook Exclusive
The Royal Couple, Nicole Taylor

Congratulations to the winners! Thank you to everyone who voted!

Book Award 2The Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award is sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Looking for a great book to read next? Try one of the winners of the CSP Book of the Year Award listed here.

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Do You Have a Focus Group?

A recent BookCrash reviewer wrote the following in her review of a children’s book:

The premise of this book is lovely…There are a few things in the book that are a little puzzling, such as sentence structure, and capitalizing the first word of each line… Random words are also capitalized throughout the story for no apparent reason… I also feel flirting, dating, and marriage are too advanced for a children’s book. .. I feel this book is a little complex for a children’s book.

Focus Group

Here is a book that would have benefited from a focus group before moving to production.

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, or idea.

Organizations use focus groups to gather information before launching or revising a product. The purpose of a focus group is to give the business data that helps them enhance, change, or create a product or service targeted at a key consumer group.

Had the author of this book used a focus group, the issues this reviewer raised would already have been addressed by the focus group and corrected by the author.

A critique group can double as a focus group for an author. Critique groups are great for helping authors with weak plots and inconsistencies in the story line. However, by going one step further and asking a few questions of a critique group, authors can gain valuable information on making their book conform to the expectations of their target audience.

Asking pointed questions can ferret out issues around content that is inappropriate or too complex content for a certain age group or audience before the book is published.

I find that too many independently published authors rush their book to publication. They don’t take the time to do many of the steps that traditional publishers do to ensure a book is marketable. One of these steps is having knowledgeable people that can discern whether a book’s content works with various audiences. Having a focus group that provides an honest critique of your book is important.

Don’t rush your next book to production. Take the time to seek out people who will provide you honest and thorough feedback. You want your book to shine, not just be published.

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Association: A Powerful Marketing Tool

What do you think of when you hear “peanut butter”? Does jelly come to mind? Peanut butter is so often paired with jelly for PB&J sandwiches, that the thought of peanut butter triggers the thought of jelly.


This power of association is frequently used by savvy marketers to promote products. By pairing a product with a common everyday item or activity, marketers hope to create an association in people’s minds. Then the everyday activity or item will trigger the thought of their product in consumers’ minds.

What comes to mind when you think about movie theaters? Of course, movies come to mind, but popcorn probably also popped into your head. After all, popcorn is the most commonly purchased snack at a movie theater. People associate eating popcorn with watching movies. What a coup for popcorn sales.

Can authors and publishers use this power of association to pair their books with common items or activities to trigger people to think about their books? I think it is possible, although not easy. After all, that is what the Chicken Soup for the Soul series books tried to do. They paired their book with chicken soup. Now when people consume chicken soup for lunch, they might be triggered to remember the books.

You can use associations in three ways to capitalize on this idea of triggering people to remember your book. Three good ways to establish associations are through your book’s title, your book’s cover image, or by using pairing in your marketing efforts.

1. The title

Choosing a book title that includes an everyday activity or item can help create an association for our potential readers and readers. For example, a title like Thirsty for God can build an association between thirst and your book. Once people have been exposed to your book, you want them to remember it every time they are thirsty—an everyday occurrence.

2. The cover image

A good cover image for Thirsty for God would include a picture of a person drinking a big glass of water. This helps cement the association between thirsty and your book. Again the idea is that the image in your book’s cover will be brought to mind when someone is thirsty and gets a big glass of water to drink.

An image of dry, cracked land on the cover of a Thirsty for God title, while visually appealing, would not create as powerful an association since people only sometimes see land that dry, but they experience thirst and drink water every day.

3. Pairing in your marketing efforts

To make the association even stronger, you would want to continue the theme in all your marketing efforts. For example, if you put together a book trailer for Thirsty for God, you would want to include a number of images of people drinking water in the video. Again, you would be pairing your book with thirst, helping people make an association so that when they feel thirsty, they remember your book and think about being thirsty not just for water, but also for God.

Creating associations is not easy. It takes careful thought and creativity. With a little ingenuity, you can use your book’s title, subject, or theme to identify potential associations that you can capitalize on to trigger people to remember your book.

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