Do You Have a Teachable Spirit?

As the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), I run into all sorts of authors and publishers. Each one is somewhere on the journey of penning, publishing, and promoting books. Some are just starting, others have published a few books, and still others have been publishing for years.

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The most surprising thing I run into are authors and publishers who have some knowledge and yet, they think they know all they need to know. Their spirits are not very teachable. These authors and publishers know the basics, but don’t take the time to educate themselves on the finer points.

Some of these finer points include:

  1. Crafting an intriguing book title.
  2. Writing an engaging author bio.
  3. Composing sales text that addresses people’s needs.
  4. Adding value to people’s lives in social media campaigns.
  5. Building trust with consumers.
  6. Learning effective marketing and sales strategies.

Almost anyone can slap together a book. Being open to learning the finer points in publishing and promoting books is what will make the difference between having a successful book or just having a book.

Even if you have been publishing for years, there are always new things to learn. When I first published Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, one woman who read the book wrote me and told me that even though she had been in the publishing business for nine years, she learned things she did not know before from reading my book.

The book Outliers made popular the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Very few independently published authors or small publishers have spent 10,000 hours on their craft. Even those that master a skill can still always improve and learn more.

Having a teachable spirit is important to success not only in publishing and promoting a book, but also in life.

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The Power of Word-of-Mouth

A few years back, I was lounging around the pool with some ladies from my neighborhood. One of the ladies suggested that we all go to Rita’s. I knew Rita’s was a new establishment about two miles down the street because I had seen the sign. However, I had not paid much attention to it, so I did not know what Ritas’ sold. Upon inquiring, the ladies all began to gush about the Italian Ice Rita’s serves, convincing me that I had to give it a try.

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I tried Ritas because of the recommendation from these ladies I knew. Word-of-Mouth is ten times more powerful than advertising. Here is why.

1. It is more persuasive.

It boils down to trust. Which do you trust more: an advertisement or someone you know who has tried the product or read the book? You trust your friend, co-worker, or neighbor more. We know that advertisements are trying to sell us something. People we know are simply making recommendations based on something they liked or that worked for them. Hence we are far more likely to believe people we know and act upon their recommendation.

2. It is more targeted.

Identifying and reaching your target audience—those people who are most likely to read your book and benefit from it—is the goal of any good marketing campaign. Advertisements will reach your target audience, but they will also reach a lot of people who are not. Word-of-mouth is highly targeted. When I like something, I usually don’t go and tell everyone I know about the product, restaurant, or book. I tell the people I know who would be most interested in what I have discovered. For example, I have a friend who only eats American food. If I try a fantastic new Indian restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant to her since she is not interested in Indian food.

Jonah Berger, the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is a marketing professor. He says that publishers frequently send him a review copy of a new marketing book they have published. The publishers do this hoping that he will read the book and decide to assign it to his students, hence bringing in multiple sales.

Jonah tells the story of one smart publisher. Instead of sending him one copy of the book, this publisher sent him two. The publisher included a note telling him that the second book was given to him so that he could pass it on to a colleague who might be interested in reading it.

What a brilliant strategy. By sending two copies and encouraging Jonah to give the second one to someone who might be interested in the book, the publisher was getting Jonah to provide word-of-mouth recommendation, even before he read the book and made a judgment on it.

If you want to increase word-of-mouth for your book, you could try this strategy. Give two review copies to someone in your target audience—a pastor, teacher, nurse, etc.—and suggest they give the second one to a colleague who might be interested in the subject. Exposure coupled with word-of-mouth is powerful.

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Creating an Augmented Reading Experience

Books have been around in one form or another for thousands of years—ever since man began writing. I believe books will continue into the future, but their form may change.

Originally books were written on stone tablets, then papyrus, then scrolls, until they evolved into the print books we know today. However, book forms have not stopped evolving. We now have digital books and audiobooks.

Google appears to have created a new technology that will bring the print book reading experience into the augmented reality of the 21st Century. Google’s recently patented a new technology called “Storytelling Device” or “Interactive Book”.

This “Storytelling Device” outfits a physical book with numerous page sensors, touch sensors, and motion sensors. Based on the reader’s movements and the story line of the book, the system adds augmented reality elements over the pages.

The augmented reality comes from a small hamburger-shaped device that plugs into an interface over the spine of the book and projects imagery over the pages, while a small speaker adds sound to the experience.

Googles patentOver the years, I have seen many companies come up with ways to integrate books and technology. Most are aimed at children as a way to get them interested and engaged in the reading experience. However, I have yet to see one that actually becomes popular and replaces the act of simply reading a book.

What do you think? Do you think Google’s patent has a potential to reinvent children’s books?

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March is Read Aloud Month

Do you write books for children? March is National Reading Awareness Month and Read Aloud Month. ReadAloud.org is a group that is the most active in bringing awareness to the importance of reading aloud to young children with their Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign.

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ReadAloud.org recently conducted an in-depth survey on whether parents are heeding the advice of experts to read aloud to their children at least 15 minutes a day. Reading aloud has an extremely positive impact on brain development.

Sadly, ReadAloud’s study found that less than half of the parents surveyed (just 46%) say their child is read books aloud at home every day, and only 34% say their child is read books aloud at home daily for 15 minutes.

Parents reported the following reasons for not reading aloud to their children:

• 40% said they “can’t find the time in the day.”
• Four in ten parents said it’s easier to find video games than books for their children.
• Half of the parents feel books for their child’s age are too expensive.
• One-third of the parents who don’t read to their children said their children won’t sit still long enough.

The Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign believes that reading aloud to children between birth and 8 years of age is extremely important. During this age span, there is a unique and fleeting opportunity for parents to foster language and social-emotional connections, to expand knowledge and imagination, and to stimulate brain networks that make reading and learning possible. Consistent reading aloud provides a simple and ideal way to do these things.

If you write and produce books for children, I encourage you to use the information and these survey results provided by ReadAloud.org to engage parents and promote your books. You can do the following to encourage parents to read aloud to their children and to use your books to do so:

  1. Educate your target audience about the benefits of reading aloud to children.
  2. Provide them tips on ways to work in reading to their children into their day, even in short segments. They can read during bath time, while waiting for an appointment, or even in line at the grocery story.
  3. Provide discounts and specials on purchasing your books for parents so they perceive your books as affordable and buy them.
  4. Set up readings of your books in your local bookstores and libraries and encourage parents to bring their children to hear the story.

Remember, the more value you provide to your potential readers, the more likely they will engage with you and purchase your book. Your Christian children’s book is not just a story for young children, it is a tool that parents can use to teach their children language and increase their ability to learn, as well as point them to their Creator.

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Reviving Advertisement-Supported eBooks

Ever since ebooks began growing in popularity, companies selling ebooks have come and gone. I find it difficult to keep track of the many companies providing innovative ways to sell ebooks. Services from adding music tracks, to the ebook to pay-as-you read, to pay-what-you-want, to offering free ebooks that come with advertisements embedded in the ebook are just a few examples.

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Advertisements in print books have come and gone. However, the idea of using them in digital books has hung around for a few years. Although, the idea appears to have met with little success.

In 2012, a company called eBookPlus offered free ebooks to readers. The catch was that these ebooks contained advertisements. The company claimed that a survey they conducted of 5,000 people in the United States revealed that 45.7% of readers would prefer free ebooks with advertising (in the form of a 15-second pre-roll at the beginning of chapters). Sadly, the company was unable to make the model successful, as they are no longer in business. Whether their demise came about from lack of advertisers for the books or lack of readers willing to sit through the ads, I don’t know.

Currently, two other small companies are trying the advertisements in ebooks idea.

Readfy, a German company, offers free access to 50,000 ebooks published by German publishers via their app. Readfy’s ebooks contain mobile ads. Banner ads occupy the upper edge of the screen, and Readfy also inserts ads at the chapter breaks.

Bookboon, another company based in Europe offers more than 800 academic textbooks free on their website. These free textbooks are financed by brand ads in the books.

Now a company in the United States has decided to try the idea again. Eleven will launch later this year. The company is offering readers free access to thousands of ebooks in exchange for ads placed at the beginning of each chapter. They will also offer a way for readers to pay the author at the end of the book if they like what they read (much like Poland’s’ OpenBooks.com).

Interestingly, Eleven will not just be offering ad-supported free ebooks. With the history of lack of success of other companies trying this, Eleven will also offer a paid subscription plan where users will not have to view ads.

Eleven is encouraging authors to publish their books to the Eleven site. They understand that authors looking to expand their audience can use this free method, while still earning a little money from royalties from the advertisement revenue. Readers get the chance to find new authors at no financial risk.

What do you think of this idea? Would you allow ads to be placed in your ebook in exchange for users reading the ebook for free as a strategy to expand your readership?

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