The Diminishing Return on eBooks

In BISG’s most recent Consumer Attitudes Toward eBook Reading survey, the organization found that ebook consumers say they are buying more books overall, but that their total dollars spent on books is decreasing.

No surprise.

With ebooks often offered at a much, much cheaper rate than their corresponding print books, consumers can buy more books and spend less money.

This does not bode well for the publishing industry. The advent of e-readers is not increasing the number of book consumers in our country, rather that number continues to decline. It does not take a mathematician to figure out that fewer readers spending less money on books means less revenue for the publishing industry.

I recently heard on a news broadcast that some of the major publishers were going to start testing to see what the market would hold in terms of ebook pricing. I think that was a fancy way of saying that many publishers are going to try to charge more for ebooks as a way to compensate for the diminishing income that the sale of ebooks (compared to print books) brings in.

What does this finding mean for you, a small or self-publisher?

I suggest that it means that you should be careful how you price your ebooks. Price them too low, and as digital book sales increase, your revenues will stay low. Price them too high, and few will purchase, also causing you to lose revenues over the long haul as digital books sales take up a larger and larger percentage of book sales overall.

Finding the right pricing for ebooks is important. Pricing them less than their print counterpart, but not so low that you lose revenue, is the key.

Be prudent and you may not experience those diminishing returns that the major publishers are concerned about.

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Thanking God For…

Earlier this month, a couple-friend gave me a gift. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I discovered the gift was a Christian book.

I became genuinely pleased, when, upon closer inspection, I discovered the book was published by a small publisher, and not just any small publisher, but a member publisher of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

The friends who gave me the book did not purchase the book because it was from a member publisher of Christian Small Publishers Association. This couple is not intimately familiar with CSPA and my role. Rather, they purchased the book they gave me based on the book’s subject.

Score one for small publishers!

This thanksgiving, I am thankful for small publishers. This group of people is producing quality Christian books that meet a need.

I am also thankful for the role God has given me in directing Christian Small Publishers Association and serving our member publishers through helping them market their books. This is no small calling, and I take it very seriously.

Lastly, I am thankful for a big God. One that defies my understanding, that has great plans for me, and that constantly works all things together for my good.

May God bless you this Thanksgiving and throughout the year. May he meet you in your place of need and show you that his plans for you and your work are greater than you can even imagine.

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How Much Tape…

Each year, CSPA receives a number of books nominated for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award. Each one of these books is sent to us through the mail.

Every once in awhile, we get a book that is packaged so thoroughly that we actually end up damaging the book trying to get it untangled from its wrapping. I am not talking about a book placed in a padded envelope. I am speaking of a book wrapped in bubble wrap with tape wound all around the wrap. Then it is placed into a padded envelope and taped again. Finally, it is put into a cardboard box or envelope for secure shipping.

Of course, the publisher’s intent with the extensive packaging is to keep the book from becoming damaged in transit. While this excessive wrapping and taping is effective in keeping the book safe during the shipping, it ends up being a hazard when extracting the book.

Rarely does a book damaged in transit cross my desk. Most books packed into a padded envelope (or even a Priority Mail envelope) arrive in great condition.

There really is no need to go to great lengths to ensure your book is packed extra securely. The time and money you save by simply placing your book in a padded envelope or correctly-sized cardboard box will cover the potential cost of the one out of every 100 or 200 books shipped that ends up receiving some damage in transit. Having shipped at least a thousand books, I cannot think of one instance where I had to resend a book due to damage in transit (although, I have had to send replacements for lost in transit).

My words of advice are to skip the extra packaging and save yourself the headache of time and materials when shipping your books. A well-fitted package will do the job just fine.

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Engrossed in a Book

Just the other day, someone I was talking to at a conference told me a story about reading while she was driving. After she mentioned this, she stated, “That’s probably not too smart of me.”

Inwardly, I concurred. Imagine my surprise when, a few days later, I stumbled upon this YouTube video of a man reading a book while driving 75 miles per hour on a California highway.

That led me to the YouTube video of the bus driver in Portland, Oregon, who was reading a Kindle as he drove his public transit bus around town.

Reading while driving has got to be as bad as texting while driving. However, it does my heart good to see people so engrossed in books that they can’t put them down. Now if they were Christian books, that would even be better.

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Pruning for Increase

Five years ago, I planted a bush in the middle of my vegetable garden. Not wanting to just look at barren ground half the year, I chose a lovely evergreen shrub.

Each year, this bush requires some pruning to keep it looking neat, but it usually only grows about one to two feet. This year, the bush took off. It literally grew over four feet in every direction and was threatening to consume my vegetable garden.

Sometimes our publishing businesses are like my bush. They go along at a nice steady rate of expansion, and then one year, they experience exponential growth. This is a wonderful thing for a publishing company. However, like my bush, when this happens, it is time to do some pruning so that your business can keep growing in the right direction.

For some, pruning is required to keep your company on track. Often in the midst of exponential growth, we lose sight of our purpose and mission and begin to publish just about anything that comes our way. Pruning is required to get your publishing business back on track with a focus that keeps you doing what you do best.

For others, this pruning comes in reevaluating your marketing efforts. Each additional book published requires additional dollars for promotion. Take the time to look at how you are advertising and promoting your books. What is working? What isn’t? Where can you piggyback your efforts for multiple books and increase your sales without doubling or tripling your promotional dollars?

Still others may need to prune the dead weight, those books that are no longer selling. You may need to get rid of your stock to make room for new books in your warehouse. Consider selling these books as remainders or gifting them to a charity. If you do not want to part with a certain title but need room, you can transfer the book to a print-on-demand or ebook-only format and continue to make it available for sale without paying to store it.

Pruning is painful. My arms still ache from cutting my bush. Jesus knows the importance of pruning. In John 15: 2 he says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

The same is true for your publishing business. Pruning is required so that you can be more successful.

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