What Are People Reading?

The days of a man’s word being all you need to cement a deal are no longer—even among those who call themselves Christians. I am sure that you have experienced this.
You offer your book free to readers in exchange for a review. Rarely do all the readers who request the book actually follow through with a review.

Not Read

JellyBooks, a service that provides readers with free digital Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of new books in exchange for a review, report that only 50-55% of their books ever get opened. That means that less than half of the reviewers are actually reading and writing a review of the book.

Fortunately, BookCrash‘s (Christian Small Publishers Association‘s Books for Bloggers Review Program) review rate is higher than that. BookCrash sends mostly print books for review and tracks reviews. The service does not let bloggers request a new book to review until they have reviewed the one they already received.

Interestingly, this phenomena is not solely related to digital review copies. Kobo recently revealed that only 60% of ebooks that are purchased through their service are ever opened. That statistic does not count how many of those books are actually read all the way through. Interestingly, Kobo has also found that the more expensive a book was, the higher the likelihood that the buyer would at least start the book, although, Kobo did not share data on whether the book was more likely to be completed or not.

One of the interesting pieces of data shared by these two companies is that the decline in reader attention starts early, generally within the first 10-40% of the book. In other words, those that abandon a book do so in the first half, not the latter half.

While this data did not measure reading rates for print books, I think that the trend is much the same. How many of you have a book or two or three lying around your house that you purchased and have not yet read? I will wager many of you.

I think that authors can learn a few things from these statistics:

  1. Expect to send out more review copies of your book than you will actually receive reviews for.
  2. Strong beginnings are important in a book. They are especially important in fiction, but nonfiction books need strong beginnings with plenty of meat also.
  3. Just because you price your ebook low and get a number of sales does not mean that your book will actually be read and recommended to others.

What about you? Do you have books either on your e-reader or in your house that you have not yet read? I confess: I do—in both print and digital.

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Dear Miss Guided:

Congratulations on your new book! I know that you put a lot of time and effort into both writing and publishing your book. You should be proud of what you have accomplished.
I am writing to beseech you to not throw away all the effort you have expended on bringing your book to fruition by neglecting to educate yourself on how to effectively promote and market your book.


Knowing how to promote your book effectively will bring in the sales that you seek. On the flip side, marketing your book poorly will not encourage people to buy your book.
No one likes a pushy salesman. Similarly, no one likes a pushy author. The truth is that few people apart from your close friends and family members even care that you wrote a book. So, don’t brag about it or push it on others.

I know that I may sound harsh, but please believe that I am not trying to hurt your feelings. Sometimes the truth is just painful. After all, Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”. As an independently published author myself, I am trying to help you.
I urge you, do not walk around at social gatherings such as dinner parties, cocktail parties, Superbowl parties and tell people about your book and where to buy it. Effective authors have conversations with people. If someone brings up an issue that your book speaks to, you can then naturally mention your book and how it addresses the issue in the normal course of the conversation.

Similarly, do not post “buy my book” message on social media. This includes blog comments, Facebook users’ walls, and Tweets. Posting “buy my book” messages is a waste of your time. People consider these types of messages SPAM and delete them. Instead of garnering interest in your book, you are annoying people and closing a channel of communication. Effective authors offer something useful to the conversation. Your time is more wisely spent engaging in the conversation at hand. Then, if it is appropriate, you can mention your book.

I hope that you will take the time to read this letter that I have written to you. I am trying to help you, not harm you. I fear, however, that you are too busy shouting about your new book to take the time to read my words.

If you do happen to read this and want to learn how to effectively market your book, there are many resources available to you. If your book is Christian in nature, you can get many helpful tips and ideas in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. If you have a general market book, you might want to check out Sell Your Book Like Wildfire or Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

I truly wish you the best with your new book. May it bless many people.

Best Wishes,
Sarah Bolme
Director, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA)
Author, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace

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Grab More Attention With Your Titles

We are drowning in a sea of information. Experts estimate that the average American citizen sees anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 marketing messages a day. Whether that figure is the lower end number or the higher end number, the truth is, standing out is difficult. You have to do something creative or different to grab people’s attention.


Whether you are writing the title of your next book, the title of a blog post or article, or the headlines on your website, writing catchy phrases is important. It can help grab reader’s attention in a sea of information and make them stop for a moment to read your information or learn more.

One popular website that posts articles daily makes their writers craft 25 titles for every article. You read that right: 25 headlines. One of the reasons that this website is so popular is that they are using headlines that are creative and attract attention. When an author is forced to write multiple headlines or titles, the creative juices start flowing. Then, a creative, catchy title can be picked from the list.

To be honest, I don’t write 25 titles for each of my blog posts. I probably should, but I don’t. I usually write about five. Here are the five I came up with for this post:

  • Grab More Attention with Your Titles
  • Headlines: Your Chance to Engage Consumers
  • Is It Catchy?
  • Stand Out From the Crowd with Your Titles
  • Write Effective Headlines and Titles

I wish that I had written more working titles for my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Now that this book has been around almost 10 years (there are three editions), I think the title is too long. I could have developed a better title if I had forced myself to write 25 working titles to choose from. I confess. I didn’t. I only wrote about six.

Whether you are crafting a headline for a blog post, a website, an article, or a title for your next book, I encourage you to brainstorm multiple headlines. Headlines and titles are your first and most important chance to engage readers. Make yours stand out from the crowd.

You can also try out this handy little tool that rates headlines and titles for their effectiveness. This analyzer not only gives you a rating, it gives ideas for improving your title. The Headline Analyzer can be found at CoSchedule.

I ran the title for this blog post through the Headline Analyzer. In doing so, I learned that headlines that contain about six words tend to earn the highest number of click-throughs.

I am curious. Did the title of this blog post draw you in?

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Did This Prediction Miss the Mark?

Scribd, Enrich, Oyster, Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Over the past few years the number of ebook subscription services has grown. Many in the industry have claimed that ebook subscription services would eventually be the biggest player in the sales and consumption of ebooks.


Predictions abound in the publishing industry. Industry professionals are constantly looking at new trends to stay abreast of where the industry is headed so they don’t get left behind. Sometimes the predictions are correct. Sometimes they are not.

Early predictions on ebooks stated that by 2016, ebook sales would surpass print book sales. Two-thirds of the way through 2015, it is clear that this prediction will not be fulfilled. eBook sales growth stalled in 2013 and has remained constant at about 30% of book sales since. So, the prediction that ebook sales will overtake print book sales has now been shifted to the year 2018.

eBook predictions are not the only one the industry has gotten wrong. Now it appears that the early predictions for ebook subscription services may also be off. This summer Entitle, an ebook subscription service, shuttered its doors. This was just shortly after the company launched a special Christian book subscription choice for Christian book readers. Then just week or so ago, Oyster, a big contender in the ebook subscription service circle, announced that, after two years of operation, it too is shutting down operations.

Google has purchased Oyster. However, the company has not yet announced what it will do with it. This Internet giant is known for buying startup ventures and turning them into Google businesses. However, it is yet unknown whether Google will turn Oyster into a Google ebook subscription service.

With the closing of Enrich and Oyster, only two ebook subscription services are left: Scribd and Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Both have drawbacks for independent authors and small publishers. To have books listed with Scribd, an ebook must be distributed through Smashwords, BookBaby, or Draft2Digital. To have books available in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription service, the ebook must be exclusively offered via Amazon.

Maybe subscription book services may not become as large a part of book sales as originally predicted. Or, maybe the industry is shaking out. Much like Netflix and Amazon are the two biggest providers of streaming of movies, maybe Scribd and Amazon will be the two big providers of ebook subscription services.

Either way, subscription book services still have a place in the book publishing and selling world. Subscription services provide a good way for authors to become “discovered”. Research shows that readers are more likely to read a free or cheap book by an author they are unfamiliar with. However, if after reading the book, they like the story or content, they will often purchase and read other books by that author.

Have you had success with being “discovered” via an ebook subscription service? If so, share your experience with me.

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