Are Millennials Buying Your Books?

By 2020, Millennials will account for 30% of retail sales in the United States. Studies show that Millennials read books. In fact, 88% of Millennials read a book in the past year, and they are twice as likely to read a print book over an ebook.

As a publisher or author, knowing how to market to Millennials is becoming increasingly important as they begin to take up a larger share of purchasing power. The infographic below can help you learn more about the Millennial mindset and how to effectively market your books to this group of consumers.

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Is Your Audience Growing?

The other day my teenage son was lamenting that he had lost seven subscribers. The boy runs a YouTube channel that boasts a few thousand subscribers. He watches how many people he has following him like a hawk and gets disheartened when followers unsubscribe.

I had a conversation with my son about how you can’t please everyone all the time. I talked with him about how losing subscribers is part of running a YouTube channel (or any business). Sometimes people outgrow your information, other times they change interests, and sometimes they just decide what you have to say is not worth their time.

I encouraged my son to look at the big picture. Was his audience growing or shrinking? He reported that his audience is growing, albeit not as fast as he would like.

The same principles I told my son apply to authors:

  • You can’t please everyone all the time.
  • Your fans can outgrow your information.
  • Your followers may lose interest in what you are sharing.
  • Your readers may re-prioritize their interests and no longer have time for your content.

When evaluating your own marketing efforts and reach, you should ask yourself:
Is my audience growing or shrinking?

If you find that your audience is growing, even though you lose some followers from time to time, then you know that you are on the right path. However, if you find that your audience is shrinking, then it is time to re-evaluate your marketing and book promotion activities. Ask yourself:

  1. Have I lost my passion?
  2. Have I strayed from my unique voice or message?
  3. Have I drifted off track and off topic?
  4. Am I consistently and diligently providing information that entertains, informs, or inspires my audience?

If your audience is shrinking and you answered yes to any of these questions, take some time to refocus and regain your footing. Take an inventory of your marketing activities. Create a new reinvigorated plan to follow.

Do you need some inspiration? Start by reading or re-reading my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace or watch one or more of the on-demand seminars on marketing that Marketing Christian Books University offers.

I asked my son to consider what percent of his audience he had lost in losing seven subscribers. He reported less than one-tenth of a percent. The next morning, he told me that he had gained 15 subscribers overnight—double what he had lost.

I encourage you to check your filter. Are you focusing on the negatives or the positives? When we focus on the negatives, we lose our passion and enthusiasm. This can have negative effects on our efforts. In addition, remember to keep the long view in sight. The short viewed is always skewed.

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Photo courtesy of Edwin Andrade.

Are You Staying True to Your Calling?

I have often heard it said that the church is one of the most segregated institutions in the United States. I sometimes wonder if the Christian publishing industry is helping or hurting this issue.

I recently met an author who wrote a Christian novel set in Africa. When she tried to pitch the idea to editors and literary agents for a traditional Christian publishing contract, they told her they did not think they could sell a novel set in Africa—that setting was not a popular read.

So, feeling called of God to produce the novel, the author independently published her story. Her cover art contained a picture of an African-American man and woman. This author then began showing the published book to other Christian publishing industry experts to talk about marketing the book. She got the same message from almost every expert.

She was told to not expect to sell many copies of her book due to the cover art including African-American people. The experts advised that she take off the images of the people on the cover to help the book sell better.

As this author relayed this story to me, it made me think that, for the most part, the traditional Christian publishing industry is not concerned about racial integration in the body of Christ. Rather, publishing houses are a business. As a business, their top priority is profit. The one question they ask when considering a book is, “How many copies can we sell?” If they don’t think it will sell enough copies to meet their financial requirements, they pass it up.

Traditional publishing’s mission is not about challenging the status quo and daring people to confront difficult issues within the body of Christ. After all, some of the largest Christian publishing houses are now owned by secular publishing conglomerates. Rather, traditional publishing houses are businesses. As such, they focus on the bottom line.

I am thankful for Indie publishing. While indie authors and publishers need to be wise in their publishing and marketing efforts, how many copies a book will sell does not need to be the foremost priority. Rather, indie authors and publishers can be led by their mission and what God is calling them to do.

Interestingly, a new study by the American Bible Society showed that African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group. Among this racial group, 71 percent are friendly toward or engaged with the Bible compared to just 58 percent of all Americans. If Christians of non-African heritage will be turned away by this author’s book’s cover, she may still have a vibrant audience in among African-American Christians.

What about you. Have you gotten off track? Has your attitude become one that mainly focuses on the number of books you can sell rather than on staying true to your mission and the calling that God has placed in your heart?

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Photo courtesy of John-Mark Smith.

The Importance of a Cover

Eight seconds. That is all the time you have to convince a reader to check out your book. If your book’s cover does not engage the reader in these few seconds, you lose.

People do judge books by their cover. As a result, your book’s cover is:

  • A reader’s first impression of your book.
  • Your most important marketing tool.

Jellybooks, the company that provides free books to readers in exchange for the ability to track the reader’s interaction with the book. From this information, Jellybooks can tell when people read, how long they read, how far they read in a book, and how quickly they read.

The company then uses this information to give the book’s publisher feedback. A few of the questions Jellybook answers for publishers include:

  • Does the book have a high word-of-mouth potential?
  • What are the optimal cover, title, and description for a book?
  • Is the audience a narrow, loyal niche—or a broad, less-committed mass-market audience?

Jellybooks has been collecting and analyzing data on books since 2012. They have made two important discoveries regarding book covers from the data they have collected.

1. Book covers influence readers greatly in their choices.

One interesting discovery from Jellybooks is that readers are greatly influenced by a book’s cover, however, they are usually not aware of it. Jellybooks reports that, when it comes to book covers, it is not about standing out. Rather, a cover has to be appropriate for the targeted audience, fit the title, and match the description. In addition, it has to raise expectations, but not create misleading expectations. There are no hard rules as to why one cover works better than another in regards to sending the “pick me” message.

2. The probability that someone will recommend a book is heavily influenced by the cover.

Jellybooks feels that this is one of the most important findings they have made. It is important because word-of-mouth is the number one driver of book sales. As with being influenced by the cover, most people aren’t even aware that the cover also influences whether they recommend a book or not. But, since people are concerned about being judged, they are only going to recommend a book if they perceive that the book’s cover is worthy and won’t get them negatively judged by someone they recommend the book to.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good book cover. Your book cover matters. You and your book will be judged by your cover. Make sure that the judgement is a favorable one.

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Photo courtesy of Leah Kelley.

Attitude: Is Yours Helping or Hurting?

Thirty-five miles of dirt and gravel. The Virginia Creeper Trail runs along an old train rail from Whitetop to Abingdon, Virginia. The plan was to ride the complete 35 miles on bicycle in one day.

As often happens, the plan got derailed. One teenage boy wiped out when he hit a tree root in the trail. One trip to urgent care and three stitches later he was patched up and on the mend.

This one event could have ruined our family vacation had we let it. We choose not to. The teenager struggled at first, but decided to master his attitude and make the most of the rest of our time.

Attitude is important. After all, God’s Word talks about our attitude:

  • “Make your attitude that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:4-6)
  • “Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Ephesians 6:7)
  • “You were taught…to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” (Ephesians 4:22-23)

Studies show that a positive attitude produces more favorable results. According to a Stanford Research Institute study, the path to success is comprised of 88 percent attitude and only 12 percent education. This is not saying that education is not important, rather, the study points to the importance of attitude.

What about your attitude?

  • Do you believe deep down that you have an important message for your readers?
  • Are you excited to share your passion with your readers and potential readers?
  • Do you have a positive attitude toward promoting your books?

Or are you struggling?

  • Has the competition for readers’ attention made you discouraged?
  • Are slow book sales causing you to doubt your calling?
  • Has the overwhelming and difficult task of marketing caused you to become disheartened?

Take a moment and check your attitude. It is one thing that you can control. Life is difficult. After all, the way to life is narrow and difficult and only a few find it. Your calling is to help people enter this narrow gate and encourage them on this difficult path. You will have more success in fulfilling your calling if you keep a positive attitude.

Do you need an infusion of encouragement or inspiration to renew your attitude toward marketing and promoting your book and carrying out your calling? If your answer is yes, I encourage you to watch one of my Marketing Christian Book University on-demand seminars. Not only will watching one provide you new ideas, it will also fill you with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for your task.

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