It’s All in the Definition

Bowker recently announced that they were starting a manuscript submission service at BowkerManuscriptSubmissions.com.

This Internet-based service allows authors to upload manuscripts for a fee in the hopes that publishing houses will read their manuscript and decide to offer them a contract. For just $99 anyone desiring to have his manuscript published can upload it to the Bowker Manuscript Submissions website.

Bowker decided to open this new website after they saw how “highly successful” the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) similar website, ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com, has been. ECPA has managed Christian Manuscript Submissions for 10 years. This site charges $98 to upload a Christian manuscript for Christian publisher members of ECPA to consider.

Here is my question: Just what defines “highly successful?” By “highly successful,” do they mean that ECPA has made a good amount of money over the past 10 years from the many aspiring authors who uploaded their manuscripts to the Christian Manuscript Submissions website?

Or, by “highly successful” do they mean that publishers have discovered a large number of new authors generating best-selling titles?

Might I suggest that Bowker means the former? After all, Bowker is a for-profit enterprise that is constantly looking for new streams of revenue to boost their bottom line. Bowker and ECPA make their money through the uploading of manuscripts to their websites, not from the publishers deciding to publish manuscripts featured on their sites.

In Bowker’s press release about their new service, they only mention one author, Susan Meissner, who was discovered by Harvest House Publishers via the Christian Manuscript Submissions website. Of course, they fail to mention that it was back in 2003 that Susan’s manuscript was discovered.

The Christian Manuscript Submissions website shows book covers for nine books published from their website and lists eight testimonials from authors. Five of the eight author testimonials come from authors whose book covers are also featured (in other words they appear twice). Therefore, Christian Manuscript Submissions actually only lists 12 books published from manuscripts on their website. At least one of the author testimonials dates back to 2002 and two of the authors books were published through subsidy presses (where the author paid to have the book published).

Now, I am open to the idea that Christian Manuscript Submissions has actually had more than 12 manuscripts from their website turned into books in the past 10 years. However, even twenty manuscripts in 10 years does not scream “highly success” unless you are defining success by the number of manuscripts uploaded since that is where you make your money.

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Christian Reading Groups

October is National Reading Group Month. This event, sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, was created to promote the value of books and reading. National Reading Group Month aims to foster the values reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.

This year, the National Reading Group Month selection committee chose a dozen novels and one memoir as recommended titles for reading groups this year. I applaud the committee for seeking “under-represented gems from small presses and lesser-known mid-level releases from larger houses.”

Of course, the National Reading Group is a secular group. Therefore, not a single book picked has a Christian message. I have yet to see a recommended reading group list for Christian books and knowing the culture of the Christian publishing community, I doubt any such list would focus on “under-represented gems from small presses.”

Therefore, I have taken the initiative to list eight titles (seven fiction and one memoir) from small Christian presses that I think are worthy of consideration by Christian reading groups.

If you are a member of a Christian reading group, I encourage you to share this list with your reading group and your friends who like to read.

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A Marketing Paradox

A paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth. Paradoxes often go against what we believe or have been taught.

In his book Unleashing the Ideavirus, author and marketing guru Seth Godin outlines some interesting paradoxes. Two of these paradoxes are:

  1. The more you give away, the more it’s worth.
  2. The sooner you ask for money, the less you get.

I think that Seth’s first paradox — the more you give away, the more it’s worth — is hard for most people to wrap their heads around.

Most publishers and authors say, “If I give my books away, then I won’t make any money.”

Good marketers know that giving something away hooks people.

Ocean Spray knows this. Last spring, the company was giving out free samples of their latest juice, Blueberry, at a street fair I attended. I had no intention of buying Blueberry juice. I do not like blueberries and since I do the shopping for my family, I would normally have just passed this new flavor by.

However, Ocean Spray gave free samples to my children, who loved the juice, and begged me to buy some. I have since bought more Ocean Spray Blueberry juice than I ever imagined I would; all because Ocean Spray gave some away for free.

Jesus understood this paradox of giving. In Luke 6:38, he says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So, while it seems counter intuitive to give away your books, I encourage you to try it.

I’m not saying give every book you have away, but give some away. Give them to people who are influencers: pastors, bloggers, and other leaders. Give them to people who are interested but can’t afford your books. Give them as gifts and to say “thank you.” Give them to non-Christians as a witness and a testimony.

Then stand back and watch what God will do. You may be blessed with book sales. You may be blessed with winning souls for Christ.

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