The Value of Book Awards

Every good book marketing plan should include submissions for book awards. Winning a book award increases your visibility, expands your marketability, and solidifies your credibility. Consider the following three reasons to submit your book(s) for a book award.

Value

1. A book award raises the value of your book in the mind of the consumer.

Awards give merit. When consumers see that a book has won an award, they immediately assume the book has better value than a book that has not won an award. When faced with two similar books, one that has won an award and one that has not, consumers will consistently choose to purchase the book that has won an award.

Winning a book award is a boon to an author and publisher. An award opens new doors for publicity and marketing. Placing an award on all your marketing materials and on the book cover itself in subsequent print runs can boost sales and lengthen the life of a book. Of course, the better known the award is to the consumer group you are trying to reach, the bigger the payoff.

2. Book award entry fees are not wasted marketing dollars.

Entry fees for book awards range from $40.00 to over $100.00. Many publishers and authors take umbrage at having to pay to enter their book in an award. These individuals will say that they feel like they are “buying” an award. The fact is, running a book award costs money. It costs both to oversee and to publicize an award. Award programs charge entry fees to cover these expenses. Yes, some awards make quite a bit of money off of running an award. However, a publisher or author can be discerning about which awards to enter and choose not to participate in those that appear to be only for the purpose of making money rather than promoting fine books.

Smart marketers will even use entering a book award to their benefit. One independent publisher and author entered his book into the Christy Awards. He then put on all his marketing material that the book was “nominated for a Christy Award.” His statement was true. What most consumers will not know is that the author himself did the nominating. For many consumers just learning that a book was “nominated” for an award will raise the esteem of the book in their eyes.

3. Book awards bring benefits to everyone involved in the book industry.

Philippians 2:4 states “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Entering your books into book awards is good for the whole literary community. Book awards need nominations to exist. They need books to give their awards to. Most importantly, book awards help promote the value of books to consumers, and this benefits everyone involved in writing, publishing, and selling books.

Now that you know the value of entering a book award. I encourage you to head on over to Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award to nominate your Christian book for the 2016 award. Nominations are accepted in 14 categories. The award is open to Christian books published in 2014 and 2015, written in English, for sale in the United States, and published by an independent author or small publisher. Authors or publishers can nominate a title.

This is the Final Call for Nominations for the Book of the Year Award as nominations must be received by November 15, 2015.

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What Are You Promising?

The November issue of the CSPA Circular, Christian Small Publisher Association’s monthly e-newsletter, contains an article on “Four Steps to Effective Book Marketing.” In this article, I set forth the proposition that every book is a business. Therefore, launching a new book is like opening a startup business.

Redbox

Every business needs a brand, a promise they make to their customers. So too, your book must make a promise to your readers.

Consider some of these brand promises that you already are familiar with:

  • 7up: The uncola.
  • American Express: Don’t leave home without it.
  • eBay: The world’s online marketplace.
  • KFC: Nobody does chicken like KFC.
  • Jaguar: Don’t dream it. Drive it.
  • Lucky Charms: Magically delicious.

Each of these brands or products is promising you something, something different from their competition. Your book must also promise something different from the competition.

All services or products offer a benefit. That benefit fits into one of the following categories:

  • Economic
  • Emotional
  • Experiential
  • Functional

Think about this. Walmart, with its promise “always low prices,” offers an economic benefit. One of the US Forest Service slogans’ offers an emotional experience. That slogan is “give a hoot, don’t pollute.” Nike offers an experiential benefit with their “just do it.” You can experience the difference Nike makes in helping you get active. FedEx offers a functional benefit with “the world on time.” You know your packages will get delivered on time.

Your book must offer a benefit, or people won’t buy it. What is your book’s benefit? Is it functional or it is emotional? Most fiction books will have an emotional or experiential benefit, while most nonfiction books will tote an economic or functional benefit.

What promise are you making with your book? It needs to be something that your audience cares about that they can’t get anywhere else. Don Miller, the bestselling author of Blue Like Jazz and the founder of StoryBrand Workshops, says, “If you confuse, you lose.” So, too, your book’s promise not only needs to be unique, it also needs to be clear and simple, much like the examples from the businesses listed above.

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Is Your Book a Work of Beauty?

Practicality and beauty—can they go hand in hand?

I have been reading the book Whats Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. The book presents a gospel-oriented perspective on the proper motivation to drive productivity.

beauty

One of the interesting points that Matt makes in his book is that shoddy work is a failure of love. He quotes Proverbs 18:9, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Equating being slack with destroying, Matt shows that creating something of inferior-quality is not loving, because the Bible equates it with destroying.

Matt goes on to say that we are to care about good design and involve beauty in our work. That what we create should not just be about “usability” but also about “beauty.” He states that our products need to speak to the whole person, not just the practical, utilitarian side.

Matt has a great point. I have often said that when authors and small publishers produce Christian books that are inferior in cover design, internal layout and design, and in need of editing, that such books do not reflect well on our Creator whom each book is about. Inferior quality books actually reflect poorly on Christ and do not help to advance the gospel.

Some authors refute this saying that it is what is in the message that matters more than the presentation. However, Matt Perman’s take that shoddy work is a failure to love negates this idea. We are created in God’s image. That means humankind is designed to be both emotional and practical. God is beautiful. Our work should reflect his beauty and bring glory to him.

If we truly love God and others as ourselves, we will give them our best, not our haphazard efforts or leftovers. Presenting our message in a well-designed package (book design) demonstrates our love for both God and our fellow man. While there may be a good message in a cheap package, the message becomes more powerful when it is wrapped in beauty and hence speaks to the whole person.

What about you? Are you ensuring that your books are creations of beauty as well as utility? Are you taking the time, effort, and money to produce books that truly reflect your Creator? If you do, your message will have a greater impact.

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Are Your Book Sales Discouraging?

Are your book sales figures discouraging? Do you feel like you have spent much time, effort, and money on promoting your book for little result? Maybe you need a tribe.

tribes

I recently listened to a speech by master salesman Zig Ziglar given back in the 20th Century. In this speech, Zig says the following needs to happen for sales people to be successful. He states:

“Unless you can get your customers to:

  1. Help you sell,
  2. Give you references,
  3. Be part of your sales team,

you will not survive.” In other words, if you have to do all the selling on your own you will burn out.

In book marketing speak, this means that unless you can get your readers and fans to:

  1. Write great reviews of your book, and
  2. Tell others how good your book is and that it is a must-read,

you will not make much headway with book sales. Eventually, you will become discouraged and give up.

Seth Godin popularized this concept in the 21st Century with his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. Seth says that a tribe is necessary to successfully sell products (including books). He defines tribes as any group of people large or small who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. In other words, the people in the tribe believe in the idea and promote it.

Do you have a tribe? Every author needs one. Don’t confuse an audience with a tribe. You can have an audience and not have a tribe. A tribe is a group of people who believe in what you have to say and tell others about it.

Are your book sales lack-luster? Maybe you need a tribe. You can’t do it all on your own. But, remember, to have a tribe, you have to have a quality product (book) with a message that resonates with people. A message they believe in and want to share.

If your book is only generating mediocre reviews, it may need some work to improve its quality. Don’t attempt to turn your audience into a tribe until you have a quality product. It won’t work. A quality product is required to acquire a tribe.

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Do You Look Professional?

In my experience, many independently published authors are so focused on publishing their book and offering it for sale, that they miss other important steps in the process. With platforms like CreateSpace and Lulu, anyone can upload a book to sell. The process is easy and quick.

stationery

But publishing a book does not mean sales will follow. Authors must work at marketing and promoting their books for people to become aware of each book. Awareness comes first. Sales follow awareness.

With the ease of publishing platforms like Createspace, many authors aren’t putting much thought into the business side of publishing and selling books. I am surprised at the number of independently published authors nominating their books for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award who don’t have a professional website or email address. Instead, they only sell their book on Amazon and use a personal email for book-related issues.

If you are going to take producing and selling your book seriously, at a minimum, you need the following:

1. A name
Every product sold has a creator and a producer. The product is sold under one of those names. When selling books, having a brand or name to sell your book under is important. This can be your author name, the name of your book series (think Chicken Soup for the Soul), the name of a publishing company you have created, or the name of a ministry you run.

2. A professional-looking website
Websites are easy to create and host. However, don’t use a free website hosting service like Wix that runs ads on the bottom of your website. Doing so signals to your site visitors that you are engaged in a hobby, not a business.

3. A professional-looking email address
A professional email address simply is one that contains your name not one that contains a cute saying like “chocolatelover@yahoo.com” or is simply a string of numbers and letters like “aj2007@outlook.com”.

4. Business cards
Creating an attractive business card is easy. Services such as Vistaprint help you create and print business cards at extremely low rates.

5. Letterhead stationery
Creating professional-looking letterhead is not difficult. Your letterhead stationery should tote the business name you are using. Use your letterhead when you are sending out print copies of your book for reviews or other considerations (like endorsements).

Professional review services like the Midwest Book Review will not even consider a book that does not have a cover letter on letterhead accompanying it. A lack of letterhead stationery tells the recipient that the author is a novice or amateur. This can be a critical turn-off for book review publications, not to mention librarians, and other booksellers.

Jim Cox of the Midwest Book Review states:

“The use of letterhead stationery provides the distinctive impression that the book to be reviewed is coming in from someone who is experienced, professional, and knowledgeable about publishing in general, and book reviewing in particular.”

Professional-looking letterhead will be on quality paper and sport a logo. It will include the name of the publisher (even if that is just an author name), the publisher’s address, website, email, and phone number. Additionally, including the logo from a publishing association (such as Christian Small Publishers Association) sends an even stronger signal that the author is serious about publishing and promoting his or her book.

If you have not yet developed a business name, a professional website and email address, business cards or letterhead to use with your book, I encourage you to do so today.

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