The State of Books

With ebook sales continuing to rise, people are beginning to ask, “How long until print books become extinct?”

With the liquidation of Borders Books, which includes the closing of 399 book stores across the country, the question is once again forefront in readers’ minds.

CNN recently did a short piece on this issue. John McClure, founder of Signalman Publishing, a member publisher of CSPA, was interviewed on his thoughts on the trend toward digital books.

Watch what he had to say.


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Booth #338

The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) is the largest gathering of Christian retailers in North America each year. It is hosted by CBA, the Association for Christian Retail.

As we have done for the past eight shows, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) had a booth at the trade show. We exhibited 30 titles from 15 of our member publishers, gaining these titles exposure with both domestic and international book buyers.

In addition, representatives and authors from six of CSPA’s member publishers attended the show with us and hosted five author appearances with book signings.

CBA reports that overall attendance at the tradeshow was up 5% from last year with the total of exhibitors, authors, and retail professionals attending the show at 4,918.

A tradeshow is largely about networking, making connections, and planting seeds. We planted many seeds for our members’ books that we are praying will grow into fruit.

If you have never attended a Christian book show, I urge you to consider doing so next summer when ICRS is in Orlando, Florida. It is a great place to learn more about the industry and your competition, and, above all, to network and make connections that will help you in selling your books.


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It’s a Small World

A publisher from Germany recently told me that 90% of the books sold in Europe are by American authors. The publisher stated that most of these books are translated versions of the authors’ original English works.

I was surprised that the figure was so high. This statistic showed me that American authors have a large audience for their books, even in well-developed countries. Then I wondered: If it is that high for Europe, could it possibly be higher in other less-developed countries around the world?

After I pondered that, I realized what this figure mean for publishers, self-published authors, and aspiring authors. I believe it means two things:

  1. If you write or publish works by Americans, there is a huge foreign market for you to tap.
  2. If you are not an American, but are an aspiring author, there is a market for your works right in your own country.

The American market is saturated with books. As people, we tend to have an ego-centric view of the world. We forget that other countries are not like the United States and Canada. There are many countries starved for good books and access to these books.

Foreign rights (selling the rights to translate and sell your books to publishers in other countries) is one way to expand your reach and sales. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) now has two foreign rights agents that we work with to help our publishers find foreign markets for their books. After all, it is a small world.

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What Coca-Cola Can Teach You

While in Atlanta for the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), I took the time to tour the Coca-Cola factory with my family. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour including the 4-D movie, watching the factory assembly line filling the Coca-Cola bottles, and the tasting of Coca-Cola products from around the world.

What fascinated me the most, was the branding of Coca-Cola.

John Pemberton created the formula for  Coca-Cola in 1886. Two years later, he sold the formula and his company to Asa Chandler. Asa was a marketing genius. He is responsible for making Coca-Cola popular. He employed a number of techniques to drive public awareness of the product.

To increase public awareness of Coca-Cola, Asa Chandler introduced free sampling coupons. These coupons gave individuals a small taste of Coke and served to create new customers. Sampling coupons were innovative for that era. By 1920, one out of every nine people in the United States had sampled Coca-Cola as a result of these coupons.

Today, Coca-Cola is the most recognized brand in the world. Three things helped bring Coca-Cola to world-wide popularity:

  1. Unique taste.
  2. Uniform quality.
  3. Universal accessibility.

I believe that publishers and self-published authors can learn a few branding and marketing lessons from Coca-Cola. These lessons can be transferred to marketing books and include:

  1. Free samples do increase customers.
  2. Quality matters, but it must be coupled with ready access to the product for success.
  3. Innovative marketing requires new or out-of-the-box ideas.

If you are ever in Atlanta, I encourage you to take the Coca-Cola tour. Not only is it fun, but it provides rich lessons in branding and marketing for eager learners!

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Challenging Times

The publishing industry is in the midst of a monumental change.

Change is not new for the publishing industry. Over the years, our industry has faced many changes that have shaken it up. Yet, it has adapted and not only survived, but thrived.

In the 1930s, the publishing industry underwent a revolution similar to the one it is experiencing today.

Penguin Books introduced the mass market paperback book – then known as the Pocket Book. Not only were these books cheaper than traditional hardcover books (they sold for a bargain 25 cents), they were also innovatively distributed for their time. Penguin distributed these paperback books through magazine wholesalers which placed them so they could be purchased in drugstores, variety stores, newsstands, and in bus and train stations across the country.

The special trip to the bookstore for reading material was over. People could buy books while they shopped for other items. There was no more need to go to the bookstore every time you wanted a book to read.

Think about it. Paperback books became a hit. They were less expensive than hard cover books, and they were easy to locate and purchase. Today, everyone has owned and read at least one paperback book. Everyone has given one to a friend. Everyone has at least one stashed somewhere in their living quarters. The paperback book has put more information and entertainment within the reach of more people than any other form at any other time.

The publishing industry is, again, facing the invasion of a new medium: The ebook.

eBooks are cheaper than the pervasive paperback book. They are easy to locate and purchase, and even better, there is no longer a drive to a store or the wait for a book to be delivered. With ebooks, readers can have instant access to the book.

The advent of ebooks, coupled with the perpetual access to the Internet from smart phones, e-readers, and tablets, is forcing publishers to find new methods of publishing and reaching consumers.

So began my talk titled “Trends in Marketing and Publishing” that I gave at Publishers’ Institute: Expanding Your Reach at ICRS on Monday. If you are interested in hearing more of what I had to say, stay tuned. Hopefully, we will have the audio version of the seminar available soon.

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