Do You Need an Excuse?

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Christian Small Publishers Book of the Year Award! If you are an independently published author or a small publisher with a Christian book intended for the Christian market that promotes the Christian faith in some way, I encourage you to nominate your book. For complete nomination guidelines and to nominate a book, visit

Of course, you might not want to nominate your book. If you need an excuse to not enter a book award, here are 10 Reasons to Not Enter a Book Award.


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Are You Developing an Audience?

Recently, I presented a workshop titled “Three Things to Do Before You Publish a Book” at a Christian writer’s conference. One of the three things I talked about doing was developing an audience.

One of the attendees asked, “Don’t you find an audience for your book?”


We think like that, don’t we? We need to find our target audience. Except, that is not true.

When you write a book, you should have a target audience in mind. Your target audience are the people who you are writing your book for and who are most likely to read your book. Are they single moms? Teenagers? Stay-at-home dads? Christians struggling with debt? New believers looking to understand God’s word? Grieving Christians?

Whoever your target audience is, you don’t find them. Sometimes, they find you. When someone “discovers” your book, reads it, and it speaks to them, this person becomes part of your audience. In these cases, your audience finds you; you don’t find them. However, most people read a book because someone they trust recommends the book to them, not because they find or discover a book.

Developing an audience is about trust. An audience is a group of people who listen to what you have to say. People only listen to what you have to say because they trust you.
Sometimes, people listen to what you have to say because someone they trust has told them to trust you. For example, when I speak at writer’s conferences, the people who attend my workshops don’t know or trust me. However, they trust the organizers of the event, and hence that trust is transferred to me as one invited by the organizers to speak. This transferred trust allows me to have an audience.

So, how do you develop an audience? By developing trust. First you must go hang out where your target audience hangs out. Then you start developing relationships by joining the conversations they have. As you speak to your target audience on a regular basis, they come to know and trust you. They become your audience.

The best ways to start developing an audience is online and through public speaking engagements. You do this by finding out where your target audience hangs out and join them there. A few basics to get you started include:

  1. Have a website that tells people about you and your book(s).
  2. Start a blog or be a guest on blogs that speak to your target audience.
  3. Have a couple social media profiles to help you start connecting with people. Get active on a couple sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
  4. Join discussion groups where your target audience talks to each other.
  5. Start a YouTube channel, a live-stream broadcast, or a podcast to regularly provide content that enriches your target audience’s lives.
  6. Seek out speaking engagements that are directed at your target audience.

Start providing content to your target audience that shows them they can trust you and your message. Once they trust you, they become your audience and listen to what you have to say. In turn, you gain more readers for your books.

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Are You on Second Shift?

According to author Dr. Harold Arnold, Jr., people on second shift are those who work at their passion after their day job is done. Many authors fit into this category.

Few authors can afford to quit their day jobs to become writer full-time. Hence, they must devote their “second shift” (after a day job) to their writing careers.


In his book, Second Shift: How to Grow Your Part-Time Passion into Full-Time Influence, Dr. Arnold looks at the frustration that comes from this position. He talks about DRAGONS (doubt, regret, apathy, guilt, obstinance, and narcissism) that can derail you from continuing to pursue your passion that is already marginalized in your life.

Addressing each one of these DRAGONS, and teaching the reader about each one’s antidote that comes from KINGDOM thinking (Knowledge, Insight, Novelty, Grace, Deference, Other-centered, and Much). Dr. Arnold encourages his readers to continue following their GODprint (the calling or passion that God has placed on your heart).

Dr. Arnold speaks from his own personal experience. For years, he has pursued his passion in his second shift, often running into discouragement and frustration with having to pour his “leftover” energy into these projects. I think my favorite quote from Second Shift that is great encouragement for anyone pursuing their passion in their spare time is:

Your obedience to God unlocks doors for someone else. You become the conduit through which God’s blessings flow to another.” (p. 202)

In his book, Dr. Arnold gives his readers four strategies for success in their second shift. They are:

1. Sacrifice security
2. Fail forward
3. Tame time
4. Promote partnerships

If you are a second shifter, take heart. Digital Book World’s 2014 Author survey found that only one in ten (10%) of writers actually make a livable salary ($40,000+) writing full-time. Another study found that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

If you are a second-shift author who needs some encouragement to continue on your path, Dr. Arnold’s words might just be the encouragement you need.

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Reading Rates Remain Consistent

Every author needs readers. Without readers, there would be no one to buy books. Every year, the Pew Research Center studies reading rates. Recently, Pew released its newest findings. Here is what they found.

In spite of competition from a vast menu of entertainment choices, the average book readership of Americans is holding steady. In their report “Book Readership 2016”, the Pew Research Center records that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year. This number remains largely unchanged from 2012 levels (although it is down from 2011 at 79% when Pew began tracking reading habits).


A few of the interesting findings from the survey are:

  • 40% of Americans read print books exclusively.
  • Only 6% read ebooks exclusively.
  • Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.
  • College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks, and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audiobooks, compared with those who have not graduated high school.
  • Women (77%) are more likely than men (68%) to read books in general, and are also more likely to read print books (70%).Men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.

One additional piece that this study looked at was why people read. Interestingly, the percentage of people reading for fiction and nonfiction reasons were about the same:

  • 84% read to research specific topics.
  • 80% read for pleasure.

The Pew survey was conducted from March 7 through April 4, and used a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states in the United States.

The fact that reading rates are not declining in the United States is good news for authors and publishers. Better news would be that reading rates are on the upswing.

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An Interesting Book Cover Icon

The book group I belong to recently decided that the next book we would read and discuss would be It’s Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs. So, I needed to purchase the book.

I called my local Christian book store to see if they had the book in stock. Sadly, I got handed around to three different sales staff before getting an answer. Obviously, this store needs to work on their customer service—something I think is important since many Christian book stores are struggling. Fortunately, they did have the book in stock, so I stopped in to pick it up.

Pulling the book out of the bag when I got home, I notice something new on the cover. Being in the book business, I tend to notice new trends and ideas that are useful marketing gimmicks to pass along to you, my readers. So, I am bringing the “new” thing on the cover of this book to your attention.


The front cover of this book totes a little icon of an open book and reads “Study Guide Inside”. Now, it has been a trend for quite a few years to include either a discussion guide or a study guide in the back of both fiction and nonfiction books. These discussion guides are meant to make the book practical for reading groups or study groups to use.

Including discussion or study questions in the back of your book provides an additional selling point for your book. You can market your book as great for individual reading or a group study. I believe that it is best to put the discussion questions right in the book. Some authors choose to include a link to the study or discussion questions, but putting the questions or guide right in the book makes it convenient for the consumer—increasing the chances they will act on the information.

The publisher of It’s Good to Be Queen has run with the idea that having a guide in the book increases the book’s potential for sales. They have taken the concept one step further by adding a little icon to the book’s cover to immediately draw people’s attention to the fact that the book contains a study guide. This increases the likelihood that readers will consider using the book for a group study.

The Study Guide Inside icon is a great little marketing strategy that costs nothing. By simply adding a small icon to the front cover of the book, this publisher has raised the awareness of the book’s usefulness for another purpose besides just reading it.

The idea of adding this type of icon to a book’s cover is a solid marketing idea. If you produce a book that has a study or discussion guide, you, too, can add an icon to your book’s cover to alert readers to this additional resource you are providing with your book.

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