Bible Reading in America

Each year, Barna conducts an annual State of the Bible survey, in partnership with American Bible Society, to examine behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults. The results this year show that, despite shifting cultural trends, Americans still read the Bible.

Among the study’s findings were the following:

1. Half of Americans Are Bible Users

Overall, about half of Americans are “Bible users”—that is, they engage with the Bible on their own by using, listening to, watching, praying or using Bible text or content in any format (not including use at a church service) at least three to four times a year (48%). Bible use has remained relatively consistent since 2011.

2. Bible Use More Likely Among Boomers, City Dwellers and Southerners

City dwellers (53%) and small town or rural (49%) residents report higher use of the Bible than do adults who reside in the suburbs (42%). Above-average use can also be found among residents of the South (55%), particularly compared to the other regions: the Northeast (42%), the West (44%) and the Midwest (49%). Millennials (47%), Gen X (45%) and Elders (48%) are slightly less likely to use the Bible than Boomers (51%).

3. Two-Thirds of Americans Express Bible Curiosity

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) express at least some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says, including one in three (29%) who express a strong desire. A similar number of adults (63%) are interested in knowing more about who Jesus Christ is.

4. Half of Americans Ponder How the Bible Applies to Life

Just over half of adults who used the Bible in the past week (53%) say they give a lot of thought to how it might apply to their lives. Although the number of those who think deeply about scripture in this way is statistically on par with 2017, it has slipped since 2011 (61%). Those with higher levels of Bible engagement are predictably more likely to say they give a lot of thought to the Bible’s application.

I think these findings offer both encouragement and support for small publishers and indie authors. If you are writing and producing Christian books, then, most likely, your books are helping people understand and apply Biblical principles to their lives.

So, be encouraged. Half of all Americans still read the Bible (at least occasionally) and two-thirds are curious about the Bible. Half who read the Bible ponder how the Bible is applicable to their own lives.

What great information to encourage your marketing efforts. You can use this knowledge in your marketing messages to whet people’s appetite for more information. Use phrases in your marketing that raise people’s curiosity in an area where they already want more information. This will hook their attention. A few examples include:

  • Find out how John’s Gospel can change your life.
  • Are you familiar with the eleventh commandment?
  • Discover what Jesus said about pain and suffering.
  • Did you know that the Bible says…

Of course, you will tailor your own phrases to your subject matter.

It is encouraging to know that people in America are still hungry for God’s word and his message. This means that there is still a demand for Christian books that help people learn and grow and get to know God and his Word better.

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Photo courtesy of Ben White.

Are You Pursuing Radio Exposure?

I recently encouraged an author of an adventure devotional for men who enjoy outdoor adventures to pursue outdoor stores as a venue for book sales. His response was that these general-market stores won’t want to carry a Biblical message.

I pointed him to Barna and encouraged him to use the statistics this research group reports about Biblical interest and belief in God in America. I told him that he can use these statistics to create a convincing argument to show the stores that the majority of their shoppers have an interest in God.

Knowing what people are looking for is useful in marketing. This knowledge informs your message and your approach to gain more exposure for your books. If you are pursuing exposure through guest interviews on radio shows, you can use the research findings from Finney Media to improve your pitch.

Radio is still a great way to reach people. More than 243 million American adults listen to the radio each month. News and talk shows are among the top listened to radio formats.

In 2016, Finney Media Research developed The Finney Media Why Listen?® Survey that delves into why individuals listen and give to Christian-formatted radio shows and programs. The 2018 survey had 26,800 respondents who listen to Christian-formatted radio. Results of the survey reveal:

  • In-car listening to radio dominates.
  • Online radio listening for teaching is growing.
  • Listeners tune out if the tone of the show is negative, angry or judgmental.
  • People report that they listen to Christian radio to help them grow spiritually.
  • The majority of respondents (87%) report it helps them worship God throughout the day.

Finney’s recommendation from these findings is for Christian radio to focus emphasis on spiritual content that is boldly Biblical. Finney believes that radios stations that meet their listeners’ expectations and needs will see genuine spiritual growth as well as an expanded audience.

If you are pursuing radio exposure for your books, you can use these findings to your advantage. When approaching show producers, let them know how your message is boldly Biblical and how it will meet their listener’s needs in using radio to worship God and grow spiritually.

By the way, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) offers our Members a list of over 70 radio and podcast outlets actively interviewing authors. Right now, you can join CSPA for just $120 and receive membership through December 2019. Not only will this allow you to access this list of radio and podcast shows, you will also receive access to all the other great benefits CSPA offers our Members.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars.

Authors: Start Local

At the grocery store the other day, I was reminded that there are opportunities everywhere for authors to promote their books.

As I entered my local Harris Teeter, the rack standing next to the door caught my eye. I usually enter this store from the opposite side, so I don’t often walk by this shelf. The rack was filled with free local magazines for anyone to take.

I have seen many racks like this that mostly contain magazines for people looking for a place to rent or a car to buy. However, this rack had all sorts of interesting local magazines including a local happenings magazine, a parenting magazine, a woman’s magazine, a natural living magazine, and a luxury living magazine. In total, there were 13 different types of magazines on this rack.

I realized that each of these local magazines offered opportunities for authors to promote their books. Local magazines love to tell stories of local people and highlight local events. As an author, you can pick up these free magazines at your local store and find ones that match your target audience. Then you can approach these magazines about either highlighting your story, running an article you have written, or advertising.

Start local. Every large movement began locally. Jesus began his ministry in his hometown region and then, after his death and resurrection, Christianity spread worldwide. The #MeToo movement was actually started in 2006 in Alabama with an organization called Just Be Inc. that teaches young women and helps them develop a sense of self-worth. The #MeToo movement did not go viral until 2017.

There are local marketing opportunities all around you. In addition to local magazines, consider the following venues in your neighborhood, city, or town where you can receive publicity, speak at, or host an event to promote your books:

  • Bookstores
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Community Centers
  • Senior Centers
  • Newspapers
  • Radio and TV Stations

Musician Josh Wilson has a song titled “Dream Small”. In the song, he encourages Christians to start serving God right where they are. The chorus of the song says:

So dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time

You can start promoting your book right where you are, one day at a time, allowing Jesus to use your efforts for his glory—and more book sales!

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Photo courtesy of Christian Stahl.

Call for Nominations

The Christian Indie Awards recognizes Christian books by small publishers and independent authors. Nominations are now being accept for the 2019 Awards.

The Christian Indie Awards are open to any small publisher or independent author who has published a Christian book. To be eligible to nominate a title, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Books must be Christian in nature, promote the Christian faith, and intended for the Christian marketplace.
  • Books must be published with a 2017 or 2018 copyright and released for sale in 2017 or 2018. New editions of previously published books are eligible.
  • Books must be printed in English and available for sale in the United States.
  • The nomination of a title must be made by the publisher or author of the book.
  • Eligible publishers must be small presses or independently published authors with revenues of $450,000 or less per year.

The awards are offered in 18 categories. To nominate your title visit the Christian Indie Awards website at https://www.christianaward.com. Nominations are accepted through November 15, 2018.

Check out these 10 Reasons to Enter a Book Award contest.

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Don’t Make These Rookie Mistakes

The other day, I listened to a podcast interview of a new author. I found myself cringing as I listened to this new author make a number of rookie mistakes. Just as a book that is poorly written turns readers off, so does an interview that is poorly executed.

Media coverage—whether this is in print, radio, television, or podcast format—is a great way to gain exposure for your message and your book. Securing media coverage can help grow an audience for your book.

Rookie Mistakes by New Authors

If you are taking the time and effort to pursue media interviews as part of your marketing strategy, don’t waste your efforts by making the following rookie mistakes that will cause the audience to lose interest.

 1. Saying “Buy My Book” in the Interview.

Do not ever say “buy my book” during a media interview. Your job is to give people interesting information that entices them to want more. It’s okay to talk about your book, but don’t tell or ask the audience to buy your book. Most show hosts will ask you to tell the audience how they can buy your book. If the host does not, then you can work your website into the interview. For example, you might say something like: “On my website at authorname.com, I offer more free tips on how to improve your prayer life.”

2. Alluding to Your Book in Every Answer You Give.

Don’t talk about your book the whole interview. You need to entertain and educate the audience. Authors who mention their book in every answer on a show sound like they are conducting a sales pitch. A media interview is about giving the show’s audience useful information or entertainment that enriches their lives.

3. Not Sharing Statistics or an Anecdote or Story.

Information is great, but story makes the information stick. Think about a recent sermon you heard. Which do you remember more easily: the points the pastor made or the stories he told? Be human and interesting in your interview. Share stories or interesting statistics to drive your message home.

4. Inserting Extra Speech Sounds.

In the interview I listened to, the author sounded like she was sighing after every question the host asked and before she gave her answer. I am sure that she was using the sound to help her gather her thoughts, but it sounded like every answer she gave took effort. Avoid using extra sounds, especially “um”. Extra speech sounds are distracting and make you sound less professional.

5. Using Words or Phrases the Audience Might Not Understand.

Each area or region in the world has saying that are indigenous to the area. People who live in these areas know what these sayings mean, but those outside often don’t. For example, in the South, you might hear the phrase “I’m as fat as a tick.” This doesn’t mean the person thinks he or she is fat, rather it means he or she is full after a good meal. Be cognizant of the fact that your audience might not be familiar with words or phrases you use. If you choose to use them, simply take the time to explain what they mean to your audience.

6. Forgetting to Say Thank You.

Be sure to thank the host for having you on the show and the audience for their time. In the interview I recently listened to with the new author, the show host kept thanking the author for being on the show. It took three tries before the author finally said a simple “thank you” back. Be a gracious media guest and say thank you.

Your ultimate goal in a media interview is to make your audience feel a connection with you. If they feel a connection, they are more likely to check out your book and buy it.

If you are a new author seeking media interviews, one of the best things you can do to learn how to be a good media guest is to watch or listen to interviews of experienced authors. One podcast that interviews a number of seasoned Christian authors is The Experience Jesus Calling Podcast.

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Expecting Fast Results: What a Mistake!
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Photo courtesy of William Stitt.