Are You Up-to-Date?

Ten-digit ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) are no longer the book industry standard. The change was made over three years ago.

Actually, the standard changed January 1, 2007 when Bowker, the U.S. ISBN agency, declared that all books published on or after January 1, 2007 must carry a 13-digit ISBN.

Let me be clear. For books to be viable in the marketplace, publishers need to ensure that all books available through book channels published on or after January 1, 2007 carry a 13-digit ISBN with a 13-digit EAN Barcode.

Some of you reading this post are asking yourselves, “Why is Sarah writing about old industry news?’

Believe it or not, CSPA has received book nominations for the Christian Small Publishers Book of the Year Award the past two years for books that carried 10-digit ISBNs. These books were published in 2008 and 2009. These publishers must have been unaware of the industry change.

For each book nominated that was printed with a 10-digit ISBN, I kindly contacted the publisher and let them know the new industry standard. Any publisher with unused10-digit ISBNs from Bowker simply needs to convert those numbers  to 13-digit ISBNs before being placing the ISBN number on any new book they published. Bowker even provides a free online ISBN converter for publishers.

Here is a little piece of advice – If you are going to publish books, know the industry standards.

Most people don’t have much time to research and stay on top of all the changes happening in any given industry. That is why professional associations exist. One of the main jobs of any professional organization is to provide their members with cutting-edge information that affects their members’ business, including changes in industry requirements and standards.

If you publish books, I encourage you to join a publishers association so you don’t end up making a major gaffe on one of your books.

Three great publishers associations for small publishers are:

Join one or more of these great organizations and stay up-to-date on the latest industry standards.

CSPA’s June newsletter features a great article on the new ISTC. It’s not here yet, but it is coming and publishers need to be aware of it.


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Thick Skin Required

In a recent post (see Inquiring Minds Want to Know), I referred to people who aspire to be authors as “wannabe” authors.

One reader took offense at this phrase. He sent me a note saying that he wondered why I had to put others down to make myself feel better and since I had degraded potential authors to wannabe, he was no longer going to read this blog.

I can only assume that this reader is a potential author. I did send the reader a note in response. I apologized for inadvertently offending him and that I meant no offense by my use of the term “wannabe.” I did not mean to be derogatory; actually, I called myself a wannabe author before I became a published author.

What I did not say to this potential author is that if he really wants to be an author, he needs to develop thicker skin. Anyone aspiring to be an author should not be so easily offended by words others write.

A thick skin is needed because potential authors seeking publication by a traditional publishing house will experience many rejections when submitting manuscripts to agents and publishing house editors for review for publication. If a potential author crumbles at the first rejection or criticism he receives, he will never become a published author.

I received rejections from over ten publishing houses before one choose to actually publish my first book; sending me on the journey to being a published author. There are many stories of best-selling authors who received many more rejections before a book was published (i.e. consider The Shack by William P. Young).

Even after a book is published, authors can count on criticism and negative comments about their work. Not all reviews are favorable, and not every reader will appreciate your book. I can guarantee that if you become an author, you will get some form of criticism about your book.

So, potential (wannabe) authors, it would serve you best to grow a thicker skin and not be so easily offended by the words others use in conveying an idea. Take some time to consider the intent of the writer. After all, what goes around comes around, or – in Biblical terms – you reap what you sow.


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Is the Traditional Trade Show Dead?

A couple of years ago, I spoke with a small publisher who was convinced that the ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) would not be alive by the year 2010. This gentleman thought that physical trade shows would no longer be necessary due to the digital changes happening in the industry and the world.

Well, here we are in 2010 and ICRS is being held in St. Louis next month. Not only is ICRS still going strong, CBA anticipates that it will continue to hold ICRS each year for the next few years – they have the show scheduled through 2015 on their website.

Yes, both ICRS and BEA (Book Expo America) have experienced declining attendance in the past few years. Both shows have made changes to accommodate their shrinking audience. BEA reduced their show from three days to two days of open exhibit hall and has kept it in New York while ICRS reduced their show from four days to three days of open exhibit hall last year.

Shrinking attendance does not necessarily mean that a trade show is dying. I believe the shrinking attendance at both BEA and ICRS reflects larger trends in the book business. These trends include:

  1. There are fewer independent book stores and more chains book stores today than there were a decade ago. Chains stores generally have only a few buyers for a large number of stores, reducing the number of people that need to attend a trade show.
  2. The number of book stores overall is shrinking as more book sales are being made by big box stores and the Internet. Having fewer book stores means fewer retailers to attend a trade show.

On the other hand, I believe trade shows still hold an important place in the book buying business. Here are three reasons.

  1. Humans are physical creatures who crave physical contact. While the younger generations use digital means of communication (texting, instant messaging, social networking) to meet a portion of their social needs, people still crave and need in-person interactions. This is one reason why Meetup, a website where people can find local, in-person groups or events to join, is so popular.
  2. Face to face sales are still the most effective form of marketing. Kirby vacuum knows this. That’s why they use door-to-door sales people to sell their vacuums. A buyer’s ability to physically touch and see a book, as well as speak to a sales representative, still holds more power in persuading a purchaser to buy than an advertisement in a print or digital publication.
  3. Both BEA and ICRS are gearing up for a larger international attendance this year. The ash from the Icelandic volcano made the London Book Fair inaccessible for many book buyers who still desire to see and touch books as well as speak to publishers in person before making purchasing and foreign rights decisions.

Since the trade show is not yet dead, I will be at ICRS next month. If you plan on attending ICRS next month, make sure to stop by Christian Small Publishers Association’s booth (#1412) and say hello to me.


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Simple Social Media Promotional Techniques

Are you still wandering the maze of social media wondering just what is the best method for promoting yourself and your books?

Check out this great video on simple social media promotional techniques featuring Chris Brogan. Chris is a ten year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals, and the author of Social Media 101. In this short interview, he gives some good off-the-cuff ideas for using social media to promote books.


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Is Your Book a Hand-Picked Strawberry?

It’s strawberry season. My whole family loves strawberries. Just the other day, I loaded my children into the car and drove 40 minutes to a strawberry farm so that we could pick strawberries.

By the time I got done paying for the gas and the strawberries, I probably paid twice as much per strawberry as I would in the grocery store. So, why do I continue my annual tradition of driving a long distance to hand-pick strawberries?

Store bought strawberries just don’t taste as good as a plump, freshly-picked, juicy strawberry.

The same can be said for a quality book. Why should consumers pass over cheaper books by large publishing houses to purchase your book?

There is only one answer: Because your book contains smoother prose, premium information, and pithier theology. In other words, it tastes better than the other books.

If you are not publishing and writing books that are superior to the mass market books, you might as well close shop. Few people will be lured past the brightly-colored, mass- produced books by big name authors to search for your title.

All the marketing in the world cannot make up for a book of inferior quality. So, make sure your books reflect the Author of Life and shines light on his wisdom. Then people will be drawn to your works and they will glorify your Father in heaven.

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