Connecting with Readers

Every author wants to make a difference. You want your book to encourage, inspire, or delight your readers.

The only way to know if your book is making the difference you want is to actually hear from your readers.

I love hearing from readers how my books have made a difference in their lives. Recently, a parent sent my husband and I a picture of their child reading one of our books. It is clear in the photo that the little girl is enjoying the book.

bbbb-child-3My husband and I produced Baby Bible Board Books with the hope that they would do the following:

  1. Be just the right size for little hands to hold by themselves to inspire a love for books and reading.
  2. Introduce little ones to Jesus and help them develop a connection with him.

When we receive feedback from readers—like this photo—we know that all the effort, time, and money we poured into the project was worth it.

Are you hearing from your readers? I certainly hope so. If not, consider the following ideas to help your readers connect with you:

1. Ask your readers to contact you in your book.
You can put an invitation in your author bio for readers to connect with you and let you know their thoughts about your book.

2. Invite your readers to connect with you on your website.
Include an appeal to your readers right on your website encouraging them to let you know how they liked or benefited from your book.

3. Include a call to action for readers to give you feedback in your emails and social media posts.
If you are active on social media, or if you use a regular email newsletter to connect with your audience, use some of this space to invite your readers to connect with you on a personal level.

Reviews are great and help you sell books. Sometimes just hearing personally from readers about how your book touched them or changed their lives is just the motivation you need to continue your call to write and produce books for the Glory of God.

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Trends in Digital Publishing

For the past few years, Bowker has teamed up with Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc. (DCL) to conduct a Digital Publishing Survey. This year, the two companies surveyed 698 publishers and authors to discovered trends in digital publishing. This year’s survey found that the number of publishers and authors publishing digitally continues to rise.

Here is an infographic with the survey’s findings:

2016-digital-publishing-survey

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Infographic courtesy of Data Conversion Laboratory Inc. and Bowker

Are You Grammatically Correct?

Knowing what keeps readers engaged and what turns them off is important when producing written materials.

Surprisingly, the most often cited complaint in book reviews by BookCrash reviewers (Christian Small Publishers Association’s Books for Bloggers program) is grammar and spelling errors. Reviewers will state things like:

  • “I would have given the book a higher rating if it had been edited better.”
  • “The grammar and spelling errors kept me from enjoying the book.”

Turning readers off through grammar and spelling errors is not just true for books. It is true for your marketing materials as well.

grammar

Boomerang, an email management tool, ran a study on this idea. The company used an automated grammar-checking software to spot errors in email subject lines. The company found that grammatical mistakes in email subject lines correlates with fewer responses to the email. Here are the particulars:

  • Mistake-free email subject lines received a 34% response rate, while those with errors only had a 29% response rate.
  • The more errors in the subject line, the less likely email recipients responded.
  • Response rates fell 14% when subject lines had two or more mistakes when compared with those that were mistake free.
  • The mistake most punished by non-response was not capitalizing the first letter in a subject line sentence.

In addition, a previous study by Boomerang found that email subject lines that were extremely short or long also had reduced response rates. Surprisingly, Boomerang’s study also found that emails sent on Monday were more likely to contain grammatical errors than those sent Tuesday through Friday.

So, if you use emails as part of your marketing efforts to promote your books, you can take a few lessons from this study.

  1. Don’t write your emails on Monday. If you are going to send out an email on Monday, write it the week before and save it for Monday.
  2. Don’t make your email subject lines too long or two short. The six-word rule for headlines is a good one to follow for email subject lines.
  3. Check your emails for grammatical errors before sending. You can use a free online tool like Grammark to do this quickly and efficiently.

Email is still one of the strongest marketing tools that independent authors and small publishers have at their disposal. When used correctly, email marketing can bring good results. Make sure that poor grammar does not get in the way of people responding to your messages.

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Photo courtesy of NordWood Themes

Does Your Book Stand Out?

As an author or small publisher, you think you want your book to stand out. You believe that a book that stands out from the crowd will catch people’s attention. Maybe, maybe not.

While a book that stands out from the crowd does catch people’s attention. The question you should ask yourself is: What type of attention are you catching?

stand-out

Does your book make people say, “That looks intriguing!” or “That looks odd or out of place!”?

While you want your book to stand out, if you have independently published, it is more important that your book looks like everyone else’s book. In other words, you want your book to look professional and conform to the expectations readers have for the genre you are writing in.

For example, if you write romance novels, using photographs of real people or places in your book’s cover design will make you look like the other books in your genre. If, instead, you use a pencil and ink drawing on your book’s cover, your book will stand out, but it may send a bewildering message to regular romance readers. These readers will wonder if your book is really a romance novel.

Valerie Andrews, a book award judge, says, “The design sets that tone for the book and either calls out to the reader or sends the reader on to the next book.”

The KISS principle (Keep it Simple Sweetheart) is important in book design. It is better to err on the side of having your book design be too simple than too complicated and cluttered.

All the elements of a book’s design—cover design, interior layout, fonts, trim size, binding, and even paper stock—should conform to industry standards. Remember that keeping your book design (both cover and interior) simple will be more effective in grabbing readers’ attention.

Instead of focusing on a cover design to make your book stand out, focus on a title that grabs attention and sales text that draws a reader in. Obtaining strategic endorsements can also help your book stand out. Strive for your book to stand out with superior writing and compelling story.

If you are a new or unestablished author, it is more important that your book looks and feels like other professionally published books than that it stands out from the crowd. Strive to distinguish yourself through your words and message, not the design of your book.

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Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zhenina

Are You Lacking Motivation?

Maybe you know that you should get started on or finish your next book, but haven’t found the drive. Maybe you know you need to do more book promotion, but can’t find the urge.

Sometimes discouragement is the cause of the lack of motivation. What you expected didn’t happen. What you hoped for did not come true. Your book has not sold as many copies as you thought it would.

motivation

Sometimes lack of inspiration is the culprit. You don’t feel sparked with a story or topic. You don’t feel emboldened with ideas to add value to people’s life through content marketing.

When you find yourself lacking the desire or impetus to move ahead on your book or marketing project, try these four ideas to arouse your motivation.

1. Find Your Mantra.

A mantra is a saying that you repeat to yourself to remind yourself of a truth. Your mantra does not need to be long, it can be short. It just needs to be meaningful. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing for creating a mantra that helps you stay motivated when your momentum flags.

  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.
  • Excellence does not require perfection.
  • God holds my hand and says do not fear, I will help you.
  • I can and I will.
  • God has called me to do this thing.
  • Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

2. Set Daily Goals.

Create a daily goal for yourself that is achievable. Your goal may be to spend an hour everyday working on your manuscript. It might be to engage in three book promotion activities every day. Make your goal specific and achievable.

3. Establish a Routine.

Once you have set your daily goals, establish a daily routine that includes time to perform the task of your goal. You might decide to go to bed an hour earlier every night so you can get up an hour earlier to write. You might choose to engage in your marketing activities right after lunch each day so that you don’t get to the end of the day and say, “I didn’t have time.” It’s all about making time in your day for the activities that are important.

4. Reward Yourself.

When you have accomplished your goal, give yourself a reward. If your long-term goal is to finish your book, then rewarding yourself when you complete the book is great. However, you can also give yourself intermediate rewards for just writing every day during the week. At the end of the week, give yourself a reward.

I encourage you to remember that God is your strength. Any task that he has called you to, he will help you accomplish. Simply start. Implement these four ideas and keep moving forward!

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Photo courtesy of David Mao.