What’s Your Message?

I recently read a self-published autobiography (of which the title and author shall remain unnamed) by a gentleman in Christian ministry. The book started out telling the story of the author’s renegade years and subsequent conversion to Christianity. Then it quickly turned into story after similar story of names of people and ministries in various countries with whom this gentleman had worked.

Needless to say, after his conversion, the book rapidly became boring and pointless. I kept reading thinking there would be a message in the story somewhere for the reader. Sadly, I was wrong. It turns out the book was really just a walk down memory lane for the author.

The book may have been interesting to people who knew or worked with this gentleman, but for a stranger (like me) it was meaningless and not even uplifting or inspiring.

While it is true that people love to read biographies and memoirs (and this category of books usually sells well), just because a book is about someone’s life does not mean people will want to read it. I doubt the book I read will ever sell very well.

If you are thinking about publishing an autobiography or memoir from a person who is not famous, I recommend that you make sure the book is either 1) an unusual or fascinating story of interest such as Growing Up Yanomamö by Mike Dawson, a missionary to a stone-age tribal people in South America; or 2) a miraculous or inspirational story for a specific population such as Climbing Mountains: One Young Woman’s Journey through Breast Cancer by  Stacey Charbachi, a twenty-something young mother who faced and survived breast cancer.

People are not interested in reading someone’s ramblings about their life journey, especially if they do not know the person. We read memoirs or biographies either because we are interested in someone’s life story, or because a story speaks to a specific issue or problem that we face and we want to draw inspiration and courage from someone who has already walked and survived the path we find ourselves upon.

In short, make sure your memoir matters, or at least is entertaining.

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More eBook Sales Speculation

Exactly what is the future of ebook sales?

That is the question being asked in the publishing community. Recent data shows that for the first time in 4 years, ebook sales did not double in 2011.

Watch this interview from Digital Book World’s recent conference and hear what conference co-chairman and publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin  had to say on the matter.

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When not Will

Do you use Pandora, Rhapsody, or Spotify?

Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify are streaming services for music. With these services, it is no longer necessary to buy music either in digital or CD format.

By paying a monthly fee—Rhapsody charges $10 per month, Spotify charges $5 to $10 per month, and Pandora charges $3 per month— users can listen to any music the service offers either through a desktop app on their computer or through a mobile app for their mobile device.

Rhapsody houses 14 million songs, Spotify offers over 15 million songs, while Pandora (the cheapest service) has 900,000 songs. None of these services offer a completely comprehensive listing of every song ever recorded. While enormous, these databases are missing albums by Metallica, Frank Zappa, and The Beatles, to name a few. Many of these artists have been hesitant to license their music for streaming.

I wonder how long until we will begin to see similar services for digital books?

Amazon.com has already begun a service like this for their Amazon Premier members. It is the Kindle Lending Library. Amazon Premier members pay a monthly fee for special services from Amazon.com. One of these services is access to the Kindle Lending Library. Premier members can check out one Kindle ebook per month. They must return each book before they can check out another book.

To entice publishers to participate and allow their books to be placed in the Lending Library, Amazon has created a pool of money for each month of 2012. This money is being used to pay authors and publishers whose books are checked out through the Lending Library. Basically, the pool of money is divided among all the authors and publishers whose books have been checked out during the month, so payment is made based on the number of times a book has been checked out.

There are also a couple of startups that are in the process of setting up ebook subscription services for readers to have unlimited access the ebooks in their database, much like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify do for music. (Christian Small Publishers Association will take a look at these services in our next member newsletter). After all, it’s a matter not of will, but of when these services will launch.

The only question remaining is: Will your books be part of such a service?

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Encouragement

I recently read the memoir Peace Child by Don Richardson. It is the story of Don’s missionary efforts with the stone-aged Sawi people of New Guinea.

In the book, there is a quote from a missionary talking to Don before Don embarks on the mission field. This gentleman says, “You must be prepared in the strength of the Lord, to do battle with the prince of darkness, who, having held these hundreds of tribes captive these many thousand years, is not about to give them up without a fight.”

Satan does not like to relinquish a territory or area that he has in his power. He will not give it up without a fight.

I remember talking with an author a few years ago. This gentleman had written a book on prayer and listening to God’s voice. He told me that his computer crashed twice while he was working on the manuscript. One time, he had to start over, while the other time, he was able to hire someone to retrieve the work he had done. After he sent the book to the editor, he received a phone call. The editor called to tell him that she felt Satan did not want this book published. When questioned why she thought this, she stated that her computer had completely crashed while she was attempting to edit the manuscript.

Have you, or are you having a similar experience? Do you feel that there is strong opposition to a book you have or are trying to publish? Remember, the evil one does not want the message of love, hope, and peace to go forth. Maybe you are pushing against the forces of darkness.

If you are struggling, take heart. Remember that God is faithful; he has won the battle. Get down on your knees and pray your book into existence.

Take heart. Keep fighting in the strength of the Lord. God does not leave you to fight alone. He is fighting for you.

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Teens and eBooks

New data from online surveys conducted by R.R. Bowker last fall suggests that teenagers are the slowest age group to adopt ebooks.

The Bowker survey found that 66% of 13- to 17-year-olds say they prefer print books to ebooks. Only 8% of survey respondents reported that they preferred ebooks to print books. These findings surprised me.

One of the big reasons these teenagers cited for their reluctance to read ebooks is that they feel there are too many restrictions on using ebooks. In other words, with teenagers’ propensity toward social technology, these youth are put off by the inability to share digital titles.

Another reason many teenagers gave for preferring print books was that they felt that the size of their mobile screen was not conducive to reading.

If you author or publish books for teenagers, what does this information mean for you?

Since teenagers are slow to adopt digital books, you should not feel rushed to immediately jump on the digital book wagon. You can take your time in researching your best options for moving into digital books.

However, if you publish fiction works for teens, you should be aware that, on average, adults make up 50% of the sales for young adult fiction titles. In other words, adults read young adult fiction also. So, if you publish fiction for teenagers, you may want to move now to make your books available in digital format so you don’t lose some of your adult audience sales.

I have one final thought from the survey to share with you. While teenagers may not be adopting ebooks quickly, they are high users of social technology. Therefore, teens, more than any other age group, are likely to discover a book they purchase via a social network. So, whether you produce fiction or nonfiction titles, social media is an important avenue for your marketing efforts.

May God bless your efforts to reach the future leaders of God’s church and our world.

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