CSPA at ICRS 2014

Last week, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) represented our member publishers at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Atlanta, Georgia. CBA, the sponsors of the show, reported that buyer attendance this year was up 2.4% over last year.

ICRS is not just about getting books into the hands of retail (i.e. bookstore) buyers. It is also about making connections and networking. There are many other opportunities for authors and publishers at ICRS including securing foreign rights interest in your books, securing media attention and interviews, and finding marketing opportunities.

This year, CSPA celebrated its 10th anniversary at the show. For ten years, CSPA has been representing, promoting, and strengthening small publishers in the Christian marketplace. We had a gorgeous, delicious cake that we shared with show attendees in honor of our milestone in helping small publishers and independent authors with information and marketing opportunities.

Watch the slide show below to view CSPA’s booth at ICRS 2014 and some of our author book signings.

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A Shrinking Audience—Or Is It?

For years, studies have reported that the amount of time people spend reading is decreasing. I keep waiting to hear that this trend is reversing, but alas, I wait in vain.

reading around the world

Many people thought that the rise of ebooks would help reverse the slide of reading time, especially for children, many of whom appear to prefer digital apparatuses to physical books. However, the latest reports indicate that this is not the case.

According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.

As an author, an independent publisher, and someone who is in the business of helping authors and small publishers market their books to readers, I find these statistics depressing. It appears that we have an ever-shrinking audience to market books to.

I guess the silver lining on the cloud is that, with digital books, marketing and selling books worldwide has become easier. Being able to sell a book around the world increases the potential audience for a book, making up for the declining reading population in the United States.

Are you selling your book worldwide? If so, what countries are you having the most success in?

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Quality Matters

In her review of a book that contained a plethora of small grammatical and spelling errors, as well as typos, a BookCrash reviewer recently stated:

i found you!

“When Christians venture out into the public arena, they are representing their Savior, ‘who does all things well’. And so we should always strive for excellence.”

I wholeheartedly concur with this blogger’s statement. As authors and publishers, we should strive to ensure that our materials are excellent and reflect our Savior.

In addition to ensuring that a print book is free from typos and spelling errors, another area that continues to plague many independently published authors is the conversion of a print book into an EPUB format, especially if the author is doing the conversion him or herself.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools on the Internet that help authors ensure that an EPUB file is formatted and displays correctly. Online tools such as http://validator.idpf.org allow EPUB documents to be checked for validation and errors in conversion.

Smashwords, a digital publishing platform, even has a great resource for EPUB errors. They list some common errors an EPUB check will find and explain how to fix these errors on their website at https://www.smashwords.com/epubcheck.

Recently, another company, Firebrand Technologies, has released a new EPUB quality assurance tool called FlightDeck. FlightDeck gives publishers and authors clear and actionable information on the quality and salability of their EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 files. FlightDeck is currently being offered free in a 2-month open beta at http://ebookflightdeck.com.

Just as typos and spelling errors turn readers off in a print book, conversion errors that leave poor page breaks, website links that don’t work, and odd characters inserted into the text will turn a reader off to an ebook. Using the resources listed here and elsewhere on the web can help you produce higher quality digital books ensuring that your readers are not disappointed and your books reflect the excellence of the Gospel.

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Each chapter in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace starts with a Marketing Fundamental. These marketing principles are useful reminders to authors and small publishers when promoting books.

Recently, I have been playing with putting these marketing fundamentals into photos for posting on Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook. Studies show that social media users love images. One way to subtly promote your books is to put key principles, phrases, or statistics into photos and post these on your social media sites.

Marketing Fundamental 14

To makes these engaging photos with quotes, I downloaded free photos from StockVault. Then I headed over to PicMonkey, a photo editor, and typed in the Marketing Fundamentals. The final result is what you see here!

Using photos to re-purpose material from your book for use on your blog and social media sites is one good way to promote your book. Engaging photos help you gain a larger presence on the Internet, giving you exposure to more readers.

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BookCon: A Success!

In a struggling economy and changing book publishing and buying landscape, BEA (Book Expo America) the industry’s largest book trade show tried something new this year to breathe fresh life into the event. BEA added a consumer day to the final day of the show. They named this event BookCon and opened it to the reading public.


For $30 individuals could purchase tickets to attend BookCon (similar idea to the existing Comic-Con show). This final day of BEA show featured authors appearance, book giveaways, and other events for book lovers. The event was so successful that BEA had to cap the attendance at 10,000 individuals. As a result, they are looking to add an additional day to BookCon next year at the end of BEA for a three-day trade show and then a two-day BookCon event.

Interestingly, a number of years ago (I think 2009) ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) attempted a similar event. This event, Christian Book Expo, was held in Dallas. It turned out to be a complete flop.

I wonder if CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, will attempt a similar idea for the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in the next few years. After all, CBA generally follows BEA’s lead. For example, a couple years ago, BEA added a conference for self-published authors, uPublishU. CBA then added a conference to ICRS for self-published authors, Author BootCamp.

In a struggling industry with fewer Christian retail stores and larger consolidation of publishers (leaving fewer publishers to exhibit), CBA will have to do something to try to reinvigorate a trade show that has shrunk considerably since its heyday in the 1990s. It would not surprise me at all to see CBA attempt an event similar to BookCon with ICRS.

However, should CBA add a consumer day, I think getting the numbers would be more of a challenge as the Christian subset is a smaller portion of the reading public. I am sure holding the event in New York City helped boost BookCon’s attendance. ECPA felt Dallas was the right city to hold their Christian Book Expo in due to the high numbers of Christians in the city, yet the people did not show up.

Do you think CBA should add a consumer day to the International Christian Retail Show (a BookCon for Christian consumers)? If so, what city do you think would draw the biggest Christian reading crowd?

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