Unless the Lord Builds…

I am currently re-reading 100 Amazing Answers to Prayer by William J. Petersen and Randy Petersen. This time round I am reading it with my daughter. The book is both inspiring and convicting. The awesome answers to prayer chronicled in the book inspire me to want to pray more and experience more of God’s incredible power in my life. Yet, I am also convicted when I read these true stories because I do not pray enough.

The neat thing is that even though this book was originally published in 2003 by Revell, you can still purchase it new. The book must be selling well enough for Revell to still be printing it. Generally, books published by large publishing houses are placed out-of-print within a year or two of publication if they do not reach best-seller status. Thus many great books fade into obscure second-hand only status rather quickly. Ah, the rub of being published by a large established publishing house. The author pours her soul into a book only to see it sold briefly. This is why I had my own publishing company reprint one of my books that went out-of-print when the original publisher decided to no longer print the book. When the book went out-of-print, individuals began contacting me, the author, asking where they could still purchase the book. So I decided to make it easy for them to do that. But, I digress.

James 4:2-3 says, You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. How much do I not have because I don’t take the time to ask my God? Would my books sell more copies and touch more people’s lives if I prayed more? Would my marketing efforts, my blog posts, and my social networking time be more fruitful if I spent more time praying over them before I undertook each one?

Psalm 127:1 states, Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. We need God to go before us and build our marketing avenues. We need Him to open doors and prepare the way; otherwise our promotional efforts are in vain.

How about you? Are you praying over each promotional effort you are undertaking on behalf of your books? Are you asking God to bless these promotional efforts so that the words God has given you to write or publish may bless those lives it touches? Or are you too focused on obtaining notoriety as an author or on achieving the dream you are carrying?

I am committing myself to pray more over each promotional effort this year. I am asking God to build my house. I am asking Him to build the avenues of book promotion to place my books into the hands of those who most need the words they read, and that through them many others will be blessed also.

Has God recently blessed a promotional avenue you undertook for your books?

A What?

I remember sitting in a business class in college and hearing the professor give an example that we were to pretend to be X Company making widgets. Making what? Widgets. What’s a widget? Not wanting to appear stupid, I went home and looked up widget in the dictionary rather than ask in class.

That was back in the 1980’s. My American Heritage Dictionary did not have the word listed in it. So, the next time the word came up, I swallowed my pride, raised my hand and asked, “What’s a widget?” The professor responded that a widget was a made-up term to refer to a gadget a company might make. Now gadget was in my dictionary, widget was not.

Since my long ago college days, widget has come into its own and is now listed in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2006). This dictionary gives widget the following definition:

A small mechanical device, as a knob or switch, esp. one whose name is not known or cannot be recalled; gadget: a row of widgets on an instrument panel.

Now some brilliant entrepreneur has taken this term and named a specific device he created for the internet a Widget. Not only that, this same person has coined a new term (I think the Internet is expanding the English language daily with new terms); Blidget.

So what is this new Widget? And what is a Blidget? They are wonderful little gadgets that let you promote a website (Widget) or a blog with RSS feed (Blidget). Anyone can make one. I did. They’re free. I made a Blidget for my blog. You can view and get a copy of my Blidget at http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/marketing-christian-books. My blidget is rather plain. You can make one as large or small as plain or as fancy as you like. Just head on over to www.widgetbox.com and make yours today.

Widgets and Blidgets are more than just pretty little gadgets. They are a new web marketing tool. They allow you to post your blog on any of your websites or social networking sites on the web. I have posted mine on Facebook and will be posting it on my book’s website. So now rather than just text that says “visit my blog at www.marketingchristianbooks.wordpress.com, I have a colorful widget that entices someone to take a closer look.

The other helpful thing about Widgets and Blidgets is that they contain an embedded link to your website or blog. Search engine bots use these when roaming the web. One of the methods search engines use to determine ranking for results is the number of outside links to a website. WidgetBox.com also hosts a gallery of the Widgets and Blidgets that have been made, so you can place the one you create in their gallery; adding more exposure for your website or blog.

Have you made a Widget or a Blidget?

Is Your Book Video Lost on the Internet?

Publishers Weekly recently had a blog post where publicists gave their take on book trailers and the effectiveness of this promotional medium for books (http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/400000640/post/1210039121.html). 

Surprisingly, a number of the publicists listed reported rather negative sentiments about the effectiveness of book trailers in promoting books.

The use of book videos to promote books began in 2002 and was basically spearheaded by a company called Circle of Seven Productions (www.cosproductions.com) which was formed to produce book trailers. This company trademarked the term Book Trailer™ in 2003. However, the use of book trailers (now often referred to as book videos) to promote books did not really catch on until 2005 when user-generated online video sites (think YouTube and GodTube) became popular.

I have been encouraging publishers to use book videos to promote their books for the past couple of years. I agree with one publicist on the Publishers Weekly blog who felt that the practice was still too new to fully judge the effectiveness. However, Circle of Seven Productions thinks that book trailers are a very effective way to promote books online and through television, and since their company is on the cutting edge of this technique their opinion is notable.

I think that, unless a book trailer goes viral, the way book trailers are currently promoted online, they mostly engage people within the authors’ and publishers’ existing circle of customers. An individual who wants to view book videos faces a chore in finding book videos online. One must search an author’s website, a book’s website, a publisher’s website, or search a user-generated video sharing site to find them; and to do this the person really needs to know the name of an author or publishing house to begin to find book videos.

Recently websites devoted exclusively to showcasing book videos have begun to emerge on the web. I believe that with these websites, book videos can become even more effective in promoting books. Website entirely devoted to the viewing of book videos, such as http://bookscreening.com, allow readers to find all the book videos on their favorite genre of books in one place.

One  new website, www.christianbookvideos.com, has set itself up, in their words, to be the place to preview all the Christian book videos. Now cbv-button-170x505people who read Christian books have one website to visit to view all the book videos for the Christian authors they like as well as discover new authors and books to read. With these new type of book video sites, book videos no longer have to be “stumbled” upon; instead they can actively be discovered.

The best thing about these new book video sites is that posting videos on them is free. Each site lists its own submission criteria and guidelines. So start promoting your book videos on these new book video sites and gather new readers for your books.

Do you have a book video and what has been your experience with its success?

Lessons From the Graveyard

I recently attended a seminar on ethics. During the seminar, the presenter told a number of real-life scenarios and asked the class to comment on whether the person’s behavior was ethical or not. One story he told involved a counselor who specialized in grief and loss counseling. This gentleman needed more business, so he would visit cemeteries and leave his business card on the freshly dug gravesites.

Part of my brain was agreeing with the class that what this gentleman did was pushing ethical boundary by taking advantage of vulnerable people. However, the other part of my brain was screaming, “What brilliant marketing!”

While this grief and loss counselor’s methods were in poor taste, I believe we can learn three lessons from his marketing technique.

The first lesson we can learn is: know who your target audience is. This counselor knew that his target audience was people who had recently lost a loved one to death. These people would be in the throes of loss and grief. Some would be in need of counseling services to help them cope with the loss and their resulting grief.

The second thing we can learn is: know where your target audience hangs out. Our counselor knew that his target audience would be visiting the gravesites of their dearly beloved deceased. All he had to do was advertise where his audience hung out and bingo, he had business.

The third lesson we can learn is: use an advertising method that is effective. A business card is small, unobtrusive, and easily stored for later retrieval. A flyer would have been too large and looked too much like advertising. This gentleman’s business card placed strategically looked like an offer of help.

How about you? Do you know who your target audience is? If you are the author of a Christian book, the right answer is not Christians. What subset of Christians would read your book? If you have a book about blended families, then your target audience would be those Christian people who are currently in a blended family or divorcees and widows who are dating again.

What about where your target audience hangs out; especially online? If you simply say that your target audience is Christians, then you might think that they are hanging out on one of the top visited Christian sites such as www.christianpost.com. However, if you write Christian romance fiction books, I highly doubt that the women who read this genre of books spend much time on Christian news sites. You might be more likely to find them on a website for Christian moms or business women.

Like the grief and loss counselor, once you figure out who your target audience is and where they hang out, go there and use an advertising method that is effective.

Who is your target audience and how have you had success reaching them online?

Thoughts on Amazon’s Holiday Season

Sales this past holiday season were the best ever for Amazon.com. The online retailer reported that it had a 17 percent increase in orders on its busiest day. Amazon customers ordered more than 6.3 million items on Dec.15, compared with roughly 5.4 million on its peak day last year. Since Amazon.com is know as the largest online seller of books, I would love to say this is great news for publishers. However, since Amazon.com now sells almost every product under the sun, I don’t think this news necessarily means increased business for publishers.

I do think publishers should take note however. Amazon.com’s increased business may not mean more books being sold, but here is what it does mean: more people are purchasing products online, and that includes books. What this means for the small publisher is that the future of your business lies increasingly on the Internet.

Those publishers who do not embrace this and get onboard with marketing on the Internet are sure to lose in the long run. In today’s business climate, if you do not have a website, your business does not exist. Of course, a website is just the beginning. Publishers and authors must learn to harness the Internet to promote and sell their books.

There are so many options for promoting your books online. To start, you can do any of the following:

·      Capture emails from website visitors

·      Conduct an email campaign

·      Pay for advertising to drive traffic to your website

·      Find affiliates to promote your books

·      List your book on every free place available online

·      Join online discussion groups

·      Take a blog tour

·      Use social media to enlarge your circle and promote your books

Of course, there are more opportunities than can be listed here and each one I have listed has multiple channels of opportunity. If you are overwhelmed, then take one idea each month and tackle it.

I have already stated that my goal this year is to get fully onboard with social networking on the web. I am not doing this in one day. I am taking it one step at a time starting with a blog and moving onto creating and maintaining a social profile on Facebook.

I invite you to join me in harnessing the Internet to promote books and maybe make 2009 the most profitable year for you yet! Let’s share our experiences with one another so that we can learn from each other.