Musings on BookCrash

BookCrash is a books-for-bloggers review program. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) began the program in June 2011 with the intent of helping our member publishers receive wider exposure and more reviews for their books.

bookcrashlogo-FB

The program operates on the premise that bloggers agree to give a fair review of a book on their blog and on one retail site (Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, etc.) in exchange for a free copy of a book. BookCrash allows bloggers to request books that they are interested in. The program does not require that a given blogger read any specific book; rather, bloggers are free to choose books that interest them. The idea behind this is that bloggers are more likely to enjoy and write positive reviews for books they want to read and are interested in.

As with all such programs, there are pros and cons to the system.

Some of the cons include:

  1. CSPA cannot force bloggers to review a book they have requested, since the agreement is based on goodwill. The only leverage BookCrash has is that the bloggers cannot receive another book until they have reviewed a requested book. Over time, we have had some bloggers who have received a book that never wrote a review.
  2. Since bloggers are allowed to pick a book they are interested in, not all books in the BookCrash program receive the same interest. Some books are highly requested, while others receive only a handful of requests.
  3. BookCrash does not require that bloggers give a positive review, just a fair review. BookCrash bloggers tend either to love or hate a book. Therefore, opinionated negative reviews are sometimes given.

Overall, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Some of the pros include:

  1. Increased exposure for a book. Each blogger has a regular reading audience. These range from 10 readers to over 20,000, with an average of 1,250 readers. When a blogger writes about a book, the readers of the blog are exposed to the book.
  2. Positive reviews can bring sales. Blog readers tend to trust the opinions of the bloggers they follow. Therefore, a positive review can result in the blog’s audience purchasing and reading the book.
  3. Increased reviews on retail sites. Having customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites is important for shoppers (see my previous blog post “Are Reviews Really Important?”). Reviews on retail sites increase consumers’ confidence in the product, resulting in more sales.
  4. The cost to list a book as available for review on BookCrash is affordable. CSPA does not charge a large fee because we want our services to be accessible to all small publishers, but also because the BookCrash program does not guarantee that bloggers will want to read any given book or give it a positive review.

The important thing to remember is that a review is an opinion. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien said of his trilogy Lord of the Rings, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”

Opinions vary from person to person. BookCrash has had bloggers who have loved the illustrations in a children’s book and others who have thought those same illustrations were amateurish and uninspiring. When it comes to Christian books and theology, there are many different views. Hence, any book with an opinion on Christianity or a Biblical passage is going to be met with people who agree and those who disagree.

The bottom line is that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) will continue to offer our BookCrash program as long as we feel that the benefits of the service outweigh the negatives. Any author or publisher who places a book on BookCrash does run the risk of receiving negative reviews.

If you are only looking for neat, tidy reviews, then BookCrash is not the program for you. You would be better off paying $300 or more for a professional review by a review service such as Kirkus or ForeWord’s Clarion Review. Of course, you only receive one review for your money, the review is not a consumer review, and you do not receive the same exposure as a blog review.

The choice is yours.

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Free Houses for Writers

Yep, you read that right: Free houses for writers—in Detroit, Michigan.

Are you a writer? Are you looking for a place to write? Are you willing to write in exchange for a house to call your own? Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting offer.

WriteHouse_exterior_during_rennovation_front_viewWrite a House, a writer’s resident program in Detroit was founded in 2012 with the goal of urban rejuvenation. To that end, Write a House seeks to use vocational training to renovate vacant homes and then give these homes to writers.

Writers who are willing to move into a house that is 80% habitable in emerging, active, and diverse neighborhoods in Detroit can apply. Once accepted, the writer will be allowed to live in the house rent free in exchange for fixing up the rest of the house. In addition, for two years, the writer will be expected to contribute to the Write a House blog on a regular basis, participate in local readings and other cultural events, and be engaged neighbors, committed city residents, and good literary citizens. The writer will then own the house and be a part of the community.

I can’t help but admire this innovative strategy of partnering with writers to reinvigorate Detroit. What a great opportunity for young writers starting out!

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Simple, but Effective

Over the holidays, while visiting at a relative’s house, I discovered an interesting book marketing idea.

Jesus Calling

Over the years, I have encouraged the members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) to use the back pages of their books to advertise other books that they have published. I have also encouraged self-published authors who may not have more than one book to partner with other self-published authors with the same target audience to exchange ads for the back pages of their books.

The back pages of a book are a great place to advertise other books by the author, other books by the publisher, and upcoming titles, as well as any tie-in products that an author or publisher may be selling.

At my relative’s house, I spied a new twist on this idea. Sometimes, authors or publishers publish a new book long after a book has already gone to print. They don’t have the option of including an advertisement for the new book in an older book’s back pages, especially if the book was produced in mass quantity.

In 2004, Thomas Nelson published a book by Sarah Young called Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. This 365 devotional, has been on the best-seller lists for years. Then in 2012, Thomas Nelson published another book by Sarah Young titled Jesus Today: Experiencing Hope through His Presence.

I saw the Jesus Calling book sitting on a table. On the book was a sticker announcing Sarah Young’s newer book, Jesus Today.

What a great marketing idea. Do you have an older book that you are still selling? If it is an off-set book (not POD), then you can sticker these books with an announcement of a newer book either by the author or by another author writing to the same audience.

Simple, yet effective.

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Celebrating 10 Years!

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is now 10 years old!!

CSPA logo for Marketing Plan

Back in January of 2004, three independently published authors, each with a small publishing company, joined together to create Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). The goal of the newly formed organization was to help each other market and promote our books in the Christian marketplace.

How things have changed in the past 10 years! Some of these changes include:

  • In 2004, the majority of books were published by major publishing houses. Today, more books are published by self-published authors than are produced by the major publishing houses.
  • Print-on-demand was just making an entrance into book publishing. Back then the catch-phrase was “desktop publishing.”
  • The vast majority of books were sold in brick-and-mortar stores. Now, almost half of all books are purchased over the Internet.
  • eBooks were almost unheard of in 2004. Now, they capture 30% of all book sales.
  • The sheer number of books published grows each year.
  • CSPA has grown from its original three members to serving over 100 members publishing Christian books.

As the book publishing and marketing industry change, so we at CSPA continue to adapt and change our services to meet changing needs. Some of our newer benefits include:

  • A partnership with DeeperShopping.com to get our members books in front of more customers.
  • eBlasts announcing new titles to book-loving Christians.
  • A Strategic Book Marketing Plan Kit that includes a phone consultation with a book marketing expert.
  • Ongoing cooperative marketing opportunities.
  •  A monthly e-newsletter with fresh content that educates and informs our members of new trends, opportunities, and state-of-the-art publishing principles and techniques.

This year, get some support in publishing and marketing your Christian books. Join Christian Small Publishers Association and make use of the many benefits we offer publishers and independently published authors to help you reach more people with your books. Membership is just $85 for the calendar year. Join today!

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