Children’s Book Sales Hold Strong

Those of us who are older than Millennials often feel a small amount of distress when we see children playing on phones and tablets and not reading. We wonder if reading is becoming a thing of the past. We fret over how to keep literacy alive and thriving when the competition of video games and electronic entertainment on screens is so prevalent.

Surprisingly, the news on children’s reading is not as bad as we fear. Families today invest a lot in their children. Many young parents are placing parenthood above career and financial success. With such a high value on good parenting, it is no surprise that children’s books are selling well and will most likely continue to sell well in the future.

Nielsen, a company that tracks book purchases and uses the data to help publishers stay abreast of industry trends, reports that following in regards to sales of children’s books:

  • The U.S. book market is stable, with little change year over year.
  • The children’s book market shows more growth than the overall U.S. book market. While the overall book market has grown 33 percent since 2004, the children’s book market has grown 52 percent growth since 2004, with a four percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Children’s book formats have seen growth since 2013–2014, with the most rapidly growing formats board books and boxed sets.
  • Religion is a category that is growing in both children’s fiction and nonfiction year over year.
  • The age group five to eight years accounts for almost 40 percent of children’s book purchases.

This last point—that books for 5- to 8-year-olds account for almost half of all book purchases—is good news for those who produce picture books. Picture books are generally designed for four- to eight-year-olds. So, if you are or have published a picture book, be encouraged by these statistics.

In fact, even though children are spending so much time on screens, it appears that they still prefer to read print books. Nielsen’s studies have found that only four percent of children’s fiction is sold in digital format. This means 96 percent of children’s fiction books are sold as print books.

Children need engaging books that point them to their creator. The news that children’s religious book sales are growing is heartening. The fact that the vast majority of children’s books are still purchased in print format means that the demand for print picture books is strong.

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How to Bring Attention to Your Book

Every author wants to bring attention to their book. Finding a way for your book to stand out from the crowd in an eye-catching way is good for publicity. What’s the best way to do this without standing out in an “odd” way?

Give your book some BLING.

Bling can be seen everywhere. It is simply ornamented accessories that are worn or carried. Your book can wear bling by sporting a sticker.

Stickers bring attention to a book. Stickers are great for helping a book stand out from the crowd, especially when an author is doing a physical book event such as a book signing, a trade show, a book festival, or anytime an author is showcasing his or her book in person.

There are all kinds of stickers that bring attention to your book. I recently saw a book sporting a sticker that proclaimed it was a “Five-Star Amazon Book”. The sticker caught my attention. I wondered whether the book really had all five-star reviews on Amazon, or just some. So, I looked it up. Sure enough, the book had three five-star reviews. That’s all the reviews it had on Amazon, just three, but all three were five-star.

You, too, can use stickers to bring attention to your book. Here are some ideas from stickers I have seen on books over the years:

  • Book Award stickers
  • Local Author stickers
  • Autographed Copy stickers
  • Five-Star Review stickers (from various review sources including Amazon and Readers Favorites)
  • Award Winning Author stickers (can be used on a book that has not won an award if the author has won an award on another title).

Where can you obtain these stickers? You have a few options.

  1. Book award stickers are purchased from a book award where your book is declared a winner.
  2. Some review services (like Readers Favorites) also allow authors to purchase stickers or a seal to use to make stickers for their books.
  3. There are a few services that sell local author, autographed by, and award-winning author stickers. One of these is http://autographedbytheauthor.com.
  4. Be creative, create your own. Create your own Amazon Five-Star Review sticker or other sticker that will draw attention to your book. A number of printing services offer printing of stickers at a reasonable cost. These include Vistaprint and PrintRunner.

Bling in the form of stickers is an affordable, easy way to make your book eye-catching. If you are doing in-person events with your books, stickers will draw people’s attention to your book.

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It’s All About Hope

I recently had a conversation with a lady who suffers from a mental illness that is mostly stabilized with medication. This woman also struggles from a chronic illness (she is facing possible dialysis) and is in a difficult marriage. She shared with me that someone in her church recently gave her a book of prayers.

This lady started to read some of these prayers at night and they are helping her. I asked her how they were helping. She replied, “By giving me hope. I often feel hopeless at night and reading a couple of the prayers brings me hope.”

This is why we write and publish Christian material—to bring people hope. Hope:

  • For God’s healing.
  • For God’s provision.
  • For God’s comfort and peace.
  • That life is not in vain.
  • For a purpose to keep living.
  • That life can get better.
  • That God will work all things together for good.
  • For eternal life in heaven where there will be no effects of sin, thus no pain or sadness.

I believe hope is needed more than ever today. Over the past three decades, Americans’ view of the Bible as the literal word of God has been declining, while their view that the Bible is a collection of fables, myths and history recorded by man has been increasing. A recent Gallup poll shows that fewer than one in four Americans (24%) now believe the Bible is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word.” This is the first time in Gallup’s four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism.

But what about you, author, have you lost your hope? Are you discouraged, wondering if your writing is making a difference in anyone’s life?

Ask yourself: Is it worth it for one? If only one person were encouraged and found hope in your book(s), would your effort be worth it?

This is a tough question. If you can’t answer this question in the affirmative, I would suggest that you check your motives. Are you writing for God—or for human glory? Hebrews exhorts us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” James tells us that “whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

One is enough.

To bring hope is a noble calling. Your book might mean the difference for someone between a hopeless existence and a hopeful life. Keep writing and publishing for God’s glory.

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Photo courtesy of Blake Richard Verdoom

Are You Looking for a Formula?

As Americans, we love prescriptions and formulas to follow. Just prescribe a program for people to lose weight, get in shape, de-clutter their house, or extend the life of their vehicle, and thousands race to put the formula into practice.

Sadly, there is no formula for marketing a book to make it a best-seller. Many authors who have found the right mix of marketing strategies for their own book will try to sell you their formula, but never does one marketing formula work for all types of books. If one formula did, it would have already been patented.

Since books are sold mostly through bookstores (whether online or physical), authors and publishers rarely have the ability to find out how their readers discovered their books. Hence, it is difficult for authors and publishers to know which of their marketing efforts are providing the best results.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) asks on our membership application how the applicant heard about CSPA. Here are the responses from the most recent eight applications:

  • Word-of-mouth and internet browsing
  • The Christian Writer’s Market Guide
  • Christian Writers Conference
  • CSPA was referenced in various online forums
  • A friend who is an editor for various ministries and small publishing houses
  • Referral from another independent author
  • Email
  • Internet

As you can see, there is no one referral source. Other than word-of-mouth from various places, the ways that these authors and publishers heard about CSPA varied greatly.

The same is most likely true for your books. While surveys of readers reveal that word-of-mouth is the number one way people decide to purchase a book, this word-of-mouth can vary greatly from a friend, relative, coworker, a blog post, a social media post, or from someone who knows the author.

Remember, there is no formula. No two books can be marketed the exact same way and receive the same results. You must experiment to find the sweet mix of marketing activities that reaches your target audience effectively.

I encourage you to heed the advice of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

These words, penned thousands of years ago, are still true. In marketing a book, you do not know which activities will succeed, so sow numerous and diverse efforts for the best results. I believe that it is the mix (not one thing) that provides the best results.

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Book Awards Produce Winners!

Nominations are open for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards! The awards are sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Christian Books published in 2016 and 2017 are eligible for nomination. For complete nomination guidelines and to nominate a book, visit www.ChristianAward.com.

Not sure if you should enter a book award? Check out these 10 reasons to do so.

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The Value of Book Awards
What’s So Great About Book Awards?

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