So You Want to Be an Author…

Now that the ceiling for having a book published has been lowered to the floor, self-publishing is growing exponentially. After all, self-published books topped 450,000 in 2013.

While I applaud the ability for anyone who wishes to be able to produce a book, I also recognize that hundreds of aspiring authors are just throwing their words together and making a book. As a result, the overall quality of books published is taking a hit.

I stumbled across this humorous look at how a number of aspiring authors decide to publish a book. I think it is worth the watch. I know what this video says is true, because, every week, I talk to aspiring authors who want to publish a book. Many of them share these same misconceptions.

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A Cautionary Tale

Humans are tactile beings. We have five senses: hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting, and touching. Good marketers know that one key to reaching people is to engage more than just one of the five human senses with your message.

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One problem with advertising using digital mediums is that it often only engages one of the five senses: seeing. Printed advertising, on the other hand, often engage at least two of the senses: seeing and touching. After all, you usually hold printed materials such as catalogs and mailings in your hands.

While print is able to engage more senses, it is often more expensive than digital for advertising. As a result, some companies have begun to do away with various forms of print advertising in an effort to save money. In this shift to the digital medium for advertising, the print catalog has been one of the casualties.

When was the last time you received a Sears catalog in the mail? How about one from JCPenney?

Interestingly, JCPenney (JCP) has recently announced that they are bringing back their print catalog. Five years ago, JCP ditched their printed catalog to focus on advertising more on the Internet. Now, they are switching their tactic and again putting money into a print catalog.

Why? Well, it seems that JCP has data that suggests that its online sales were driven, not by web advertising, but by what shoppers saw in a print catalog.

Publishers can take a lesson from JCP. I know some small publishers who have made the move to digital catalogs only. For those interested in continuing to drive sales of books, I would caution against getting rid of your print catalogs just yet. Large retailers like Ikea, JCP, and ChristianBooks.com know that print catalogs drive sales. That is why these retailers are still using print. So should you.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) we understand the value of print catalogs. That is why we are again producing our annual cooperative product catalog showcasing our member publishers’ products in print format for 2015. We distribute this print catalog to book buyers throughout the United States.

CSPA’s print product catalog is just one of the many affordable marketing benefits we provide our members. You can learn more about what membership in CSPA can do for you and your books on our website by clicking here. If you want to view the 2014 CSPA Product Catalog, you can do so by clicking here.

If you are not yet a member of CSPA but are eligible for membership and want to be part of our 2015 Cooperative Product Catalog, it is not too late. Simply become a member today by clicking here, and we will send you the information on how to be part of the 2015 CSPA Product Catalog.

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Are eBook Sales Stagnating?

eBooks lost a little bit of sales ground in the third quarter of 2014, according to data from the latest survey of book-buying behavior from Nielsen Books & Consumers. Here is what this survey found for sales of books from January through September 2014:

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  • eBooks accounted for 21% of book unit sales
  • Paperback Books made up 43% of book unit sales
  • Hardcover Books were 25% of book unit sales

In 2013, statistics showed that ebook sales increases were slowing. In other words, ebook sales were not growing at the same rate in 2013 that they had been in 2012. It appears that ebook sales continued to slow in 2014, creating a bit of an uptick in sales of print books.

Nielson’s recent book-buying behavior survey also showed where print books are being purchased:

  • 39% of books are purchased through e-commerce outlets (led by Amazon)
  • 21% of books are purchased through bookstore chains

For ebook sales, Amazon continues to be the leader with 57% of readers reporting buying ebooks through this retailer in 2014. Amazon’s closest competitor is Barnes & Noble, where 14% of reader purchased ebooks via the Nook store in 2014. Interestingly, only 6% of readers reported buying ebooks through the Apple store.

While it does appear that sales growth for ebooks is stagnating, keep in mind that digital books command one-fifth of all book sales. That means that about one out of every five books sold is an ebook. So, if you sell only ebooks, the growth of sales may not be where you hope they are. On the other hand, if you sell both print and digital copies of your books, you have your basis covered for maximizing book sales.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the growth of ebook sales is stagnating in the United States, it is growing in other parts of the world. This growth will especially be seen in developing countries where the use of smart phones is growing, allowing readers easy access to digital books. Making sure that your ebooks are available for sale worldwide is one way to tap into this growing ebook market.

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Sad, but True

eBooks have become a popular vehicle for authors to place their works into book form and make them available for sale. As the self-publishing trend has increased, services have sprung up to assist authors seeking to self-publish.

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One such service is BookBaby. BookBaby is the brainchild of the people who started CD Baby. CD Baby was developed to help independent musicians sell CDs and music downloads through distribution to music outlets as well as directly to consumers.

When the founders of CD Baby recognized this self-publishing trend, they opened BookBaby in 2011. BookBaby offers ebook conversion and ebook distribution services.

Since its inception, BookBaby has offered a variety of plans for authors, including plans that did not charge for distribution; instead, BookBaby received a commission on each sale made. These plans that provided free distribution are no more. BookBaby has recently dropped both of their lower–priced distribution service plans and raised the price of their premium plan.

BookBaby is now offering only one ebook conversion and distribution plan for $299. With this new plan, authors earn 100% of net sales, meaning that BookBaby is now charging all their fees upfront.

I find this change very interesting. It signals to me that BookBaby has been making very little (if any) money from commissions from ebook sales. Remember, historically, BookBaby’s lower-priced plans included a commission to BookBaby for each book sold. In other words, many of the independent authors using BookBaby’s service are selling very few books.

This does not surprise me. I have beaten the same drum for years—if you want to sell books, you have to engage in marketing and book promotion activities. Sadly, so many authors only put effort into publishing a book and not into promoting the book.

Don’t be like the average self-published author. Engage in marketing and promotional activities that connect people to your books. Make a goal to perform at least three to five activities a day that promote your book. Sales will follow.

If you are looking for ideas to better promote your Christian book, I suggest you read my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. It is full of ideas you can use everyday!

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National Readathon Day

The National Book Foundation, GoodReads, Mashable, and Penguin Random House have teamed up to create National Readathon Day. On National Readathon Day, readers are asked to read a book for four straight hours with the purpose of raising funds to support the National Book Foundation, which brings books to needy communities and promotes a lifelong love of reading.

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National Readathon Day is set to take place on Saturday, January 24, from 12 pm to 4 pm in each respective time zone. Bookstores and libraries are being invited to host “reading parties” on this day, so that readers can gather, connect and read silently together.

With the aim of raising money to support the National Book Foundation, readers can raise money individually or as organized teams (bookstores and libraries can organize teams under their names). National Readathon Day is partnering with FirstGiving.org for this effort, and all money goes directly to the National Book Foundation.

As an author or publisher, you can take advantage of National Readathon Day to spur your fans to read your books. This day can become a day for you to get some additional publicity for your works. Here are four easy steps:

  1. Inform your readers and fans via your email list, your blog, and your social media sites about National Readathon Day.
  2. Encourage your readers and fans to not only read for the four hours on National Readathon Day, but encourage them to read your book during those four hours.
  3. Inform your readers and fans that you will be donating a sum of money (e.g., $1 per hour of reading) to the National Book Foundation for every hour that your book is read during National Readathon Day.
  4. Tell your readers and fans that they can help raise the money you will donate by reading your book on National Readathon Day. All they have to do is submit a picture of themselves reading your book via email, your blog post, or one of your social media profiles with a note stating the amount of time they read your book that day.

Let National Readathon Day be a day for you to promote literacy as well as your books! Then, join the Twitter discussion about your reading experience for National Readathon Day by using the hashtag #timetoread.

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