How Do You Define Success?

As an author or publisher, what does success look like to you? I have asked this question and pondered it a number of times on this blog over the years. For each individual the answer is different.

ride the white horse

Eddie Donnally is an independently published author and a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). He recently wrote a book titled Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Racing, Rage, and Redemption. The book is Eddie’s memoir.

Eddie recently shared the following about his book:

I wrestled with God about writing the book at all. My past was past and the Lord had put me in a meaningful hospice and hospital chaplaincy. Why look back, I reasoned. It would be painful and not worth it. Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and finally said to God, “If you can put in my heart that one person will go to heaven through this book, I’ll write it.” God did and I wrote it.

Recently, working as a hospice chaplain, a team member told me about a long time race tracker I’ll call Jimmy who was near death but didn’t want to see a chaplain. I called, surprised to learn someone had sent him a copy of my book. He told me come by, but warned he wasn’t religious. During the visit, he sounded intrigued by my book, cited a long-past relationship with the church and asked questions. The visit ended with him saying he knew Jesus was God and in a prayer asked Christ for forgiveness. He found the spiritual peace the book invited. Three days later, Jimmy died.

No odds maker could compute the odds on Jimmy having my book. That one person in heaven I felt God had promised could not be mistaken.

Eddie is no slouch when it comes to marketing. He has invested time, money, and effort into marketing this book. Eddie understands the Biblical principle:

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 NIV

Even if you define your success like Eddie, marketing is required to get your book into the hands of people so that they can “hear” (or in this case “read”) the word and believe. After all, God uses our efforts to further his Kingdom.

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Wearable Books?

Technology keeps marching forward. Some ideas take hold and blossom, while others seem to never grab the public.

A new project out of MIT called Sensory Fiction is attempting to relay characters’ emotions in a book through networked sensors and actuators worn by the reader. It appears to be a little like a 4D movie for books (not just visual, but including sensory elements).

Watch this video to learn more about this interesting idea.

Then, tell me what you think. Do you think this is something that will catch on? Will there be “wearable books” in the future?

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FTC Review Disclosure: Positive or Negative?

Back in 2009, rules changed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) became concerned that companies were using bloggers to promote their products. Basically, companies were giving bloggers free samples in exchange for a review of their product on the reviewer’s blog.

up or down

The FTC wanted consumers to know that the blogger was receiving a “fee” for their review, even if this “fee” was just a sample of the product. In other words, the FTC wanted to make sure that “truth in advertising” was being upheld.

As a result, the FTC revised their guidelines to state that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers—connections that consumers would not expect—must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Now when an author or publisher gives a blogger or reviewer a free book in exchange for a review of that book, the reviewer must disclose that fact. Some authors and small publishers do not like this statement accompanying a review. A few members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have chosen to not use the BookCrash book review program because they feel that the statement that the reviewer received a free copy of the book from the author or publisher in exchange for a review cheapens the review.

I can see their point. If a review is mediocre, stating that the book was received free in exchange for a review does not help a reader decide whether to read a book or not. However, if a review is glowing and includes how the book enlightened, entertained, or helped the reviewer, then the fact that they received the book in exchange for a review usually will not lessen the impact of the review.

One excellent example of a positive review that incorporates the information that the reviewer received the book in exchange for the review was recently done by a reviewer of my newly released Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. In the review, the reviewer states:

I was given this book by the publisher for an honest review. It now sits on my desk right next to my stylebooks and other professional references. I highly recommend it.

The bottom line for authors and publishers is whether the good of having multiple reviews out ways that negative of having a statement in the review that the book was given to the reviewer in exchange for a fair review.

What about you? Do you think that getting numerous reviews and the exposure that goes with those reviews outweighs the impact of the required FTC statement?

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The Making of a Best Seller

Recent headlines report that Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, is under fire for using church funds to drive his latest book to best seller status. While the practice of an author buying large numbers of a book in a short period of time to game the best seller lists is not new or uncommon, using church funds to do so catches the attention of the media because it brings up the question of ethics.


For those who are unaware, best seller lists are driven by sales data. If an author either buys or has enough readers buy a large quantity of books in a short span of time, he can game the system to propel a title onto a best seller list, if even just for a week. The author can then claim that he is a best selling author having had a book on the New York Times Best Seller Books List.

According to the news story, Mark Driscoll, using church funds, paid a marketing firm $210,000 to make his book into a best seller. The firm did so—possibly in an unethical manner using techniques to game BookScan and others so that it would appear that multiple individuals purchased the books, not one entity, qualifying the book for the New York Times Best Seller List.

I think the question for any author goes back to motive. Is your intent in publishing a book to spread the gospel and glorify God, or is it to bring money and fame to yourself? Sadly, gaming the best seller list does nothing to further the Kingdom of God.

If you wish to promote the Gospel and bring glory to God, then I encourage you to make sure that your marketing techniques also do just that. Believe that God will empower your book to touch people’s lives whether it becomes a bestseller or not.

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Finding New Readers for Your Books

My son loves music. He would probably implant his headphones into his ears permanently so that he could have music 24/7 if he could. Due to his love of music, we are always looking for new and interesting musicians to check out.


In this quest, I read about a website called NoiseTrade. Started by an indie musician who wanted to get more exposure for his music and other indie musicians’ music, the idea behind NoiseTrade was to offer free songs by these musicians to introduce the listening public their music.

Noisetrade is doing what it set out to do and has grown exponentially. There are hundreds of musicians on the site, featuring all types of music, and offering free samples from a few songs to a whole album. While all song downloads on the site are free, NoiseTrade does recommend that listeners donate a few dollars for the music they enjoy.

NoiseTrade may have begun with music, but it did not stop there. It has now expanded to books. Fast becoming for indie authors what it is for indie musicians—introducing the reading public to the writings of indie authors—the site now features ebooks that can be downloaded for free (with a suggested donation if the reader likes the book) as a way for authors to acquire new readers.

One of the nice features of NoiseTrade is that you do not have to offer a full book on the site. You can offer a sample (a few chapters) of a book to introduce readers to your work.
Placing an ebook on NoiseTrade is easy. Any independent author or publisher can sign up at Just click on the “Author Sign-up/Login” button on the top of the front page and follow the instructions.

Whether you choose to give away an entire book or just a sample of your book on NoiseTrade, this site may be able to help you find more readers for your book. At any rate, check it out. Browse the NoiseTrade books and see what other authors are offering.

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