Are You Making It Hard?

Recently, I went to Best Buy to help my teenage son buy a computer. He had worked hard and saved his money to buy a special gaming computer (he is a typical teen). We chose Best Buy because they had a sale on the computer and also offered a student discount. We went to our local Best Buy because I believe in supporting retail stores and because my son wanted his computer sooner rather than later.

As we were at the register ringing up the purchase, I inquired about the student discount. The sales clerk told me that I had to apply for the discount on their website. I asked him if we could do it in the store. He told me that I could use my cell phone to make a Best Buy account and apply for the student discount.

I asked the sales clerk what the point of coming into the store was if I had to “apply online” for this discount and the store did not offer a way for me to do this in-store (i.e. a kiosk with a computer for such purposes—or a store clerk willing to assist me in doing this). I pointed out that Best Buy was making it hard for me to make an in-store purchase, ensuring that I would, instead, make my next purchase online.

Retail stores in America are struggling. They are struggling because people are buying more online. But, they are also struggling because they are not providing good customer service. The Editor of Christian Retailing recently wrote that she stopped at a chain Christian bookstore to make a purchase. She asked the sales clerk where the biographies were located and was told “in the back of the store”. She contrasted this experience with shopping at Publix grocery store where the sales clerk will walk you to a specific aisle when asked about a product and point it out.

This whole experience made me think about building a platform and selling books. What are independent authors doing that might be “making it hard” for potential customers to give their email or buy a book? Here is my conclusion.

1. Buying Books

We make it hard for readers to buy our books when our books are only offered for sale in a few select places. Not everyone shops on Amazon. Some people actively avoid Amazon because of its practices. Others want to support Christians, and so prefer to buy books at Christian outlets. Still others want to support authors, thus preferring to purchase books directly from an author or publisher.

Are you books for sale in multiple channels? Can a reader easily find your book in his or her preferred shopping venue? If not, you are making it hard for people to buy your book.

2. Collecting Personal Data

Most authors are working on building a platform. This means that you are trying to collect email addresses so that you can communicate directly with readers and potential readers on a regular basis to build trust and increase loyalty. Collecting email addresses is great, but if you are asking too much information, you are making it hard and losing out.

Studies show that the more information you ask of people in exchange for a freebie, the greater the drop out rate. When building your email list, all you really need is a first name and an email. Don’t ask for more. Make it easy, not hard and you will grow your email list faster.

Are you making it hard? I hope not. Ease and convenience drive more sales.

Related Posts:
Don’t Make It Hard
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How to Become a Best-Selling Author

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Photo courtesy of Vera Arsic.

Follow These Four Steps to Success

Success is defined as “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Before you can have “success” you have to define what it is for you. What goal do you want to accomplish?

Once you have set your goal, then follow these four steps to success—accomplishing that goal.

1. Set Specific Goals

A goal is something you are aiming for. If you want to publish a book or sell 1,000 copies of your book, this is your goal. To reach this goal, you need actionable steps consisting of smaller goals to move you toward your larger goal.

If you want to publish a book, your first actionable step or goal is to start writing. You can do this by making the goal that you will write 1,000 words a day for your book. If you want to sell 1,000 or more copies of your book, then your first actionable step goal might be to start blogging once a week or to develop a media kit or speaker kit.

Write your goals down. Tell them to other people. Doing this makes your goals more real and keeps you more accountable. A gentleman I know told me that he made a vow to God at a retreat that he would hold a block party in his neighborhood. The purpose was to get to know his neighbors so that he could start sharing the Gospel with these people. For years, he did not go anything about this vow. Then a new neighbor moved in next door and he told her that he wanted to host a block party. She got excited about the idea and together they hosted a block party. That block party ended up changing the life of a family in his neighborhood. However, it wasn’t until this gentleman began talking about his goal to others that he acted upon it and made it happen.

2. Ditch the Distractions

Once you make a plan with specific goals, then you have to set aside distractions so that you can focus on the tasks you have to do to reach your goal. Cell phones are a huge distraction. Studies show that, depending on age, people check their phone between 35 to 75 times each day. Do what you need to minimize distractions so you can focus. You can turn your phone off. You won’t miss much. I promise. Try it.

3. Be Persistent

Perseverance is required for success. Ninety percent of success is showing up on a regular basis. Show up day after day, do the job, and add value to people’s lives. Obstacles and distractions will come your way, but you can’t let them stop you from your goals. If you get off track, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the ring. Persistence is required. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.

4. Trust God to Help You

If you are doing what God has called you to do, if what you are doing brings Glory to God, and if your purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God, then you can trust that God will help you. He will provide what you need to accomplish your goal. According to Peter, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him who has called us to his excellence and glory.

What’s your goal? Write it down. Then follow these four steps to help you have success—the accomplishment of your goal.

Do you have a goal you need to tell others so you start working on it? You can share it with me in the comments below.

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Proof! Author Platform Building Works

Do you have a moment? There is something I need to tell you.

Thus began the conversation I had with an attendee at the recent Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference where I was teaching. The conferee speaking to me had attended another writers conference I had taught at earlier this year. At that conference, I had taught principles from my MCB University’s on-demand seminars Develop an Audience for Your Books and Grow Your Audience with Content Marketing.

This conferee told me that at the conference earlier this year, I had given her two simple steps to follow to begin to build her author platform. I told her to write a blog post once a week and share it on social media. She reported that she had followed this advice and now she was on week 19.

I asked her if anyone was reading her blog posts. She replied that her friends were reading, commenting, and sharing her posts. I replied that this was a great start.

This conferee went on to tell me that a magazine had contacted her and asked if they could reprint one of her blog posts in their publication. She was delighted to give them permission.

Then an organization contacted her and asked her to come speak on her topic. She thought they would want to interview her on the phone when she contacted them, but they simply proceeded to set her up with not one speaking opportunity, but five. She shared with me that she assumed that her blog posts and website made them decide without an interview.

I was thrilled for this emerging author. Even before she has published her first book, she is getting published in a magazine and has received speaking engagements—without even seeking these opportunities out—all from building her platform through blogging and sharing what she has blogged.

I share this because it is encouraging feedback and it gives other authors hope. If you are writing about things that resonate with your audience and provide hope, people will respond. The efforts you put into building and maintaining your author platform will pay off.

If you are unsure about how to go about building your author platform, I suggest that you watch my on-demand seminar on Grow Your Audience on Content Marketing. As always, these on-demand seminars are free to Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

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Photo courtesy of Cytonn Photography.

Are You Following the Five-Hour Rule?

Many an Indie author has lamented to me that they can’t do all the marketing tasks that full-time, best-selling authors do to promote their books. The simply do not have the time.

These Indie authors work a full-time job and then write and publish their books in the hours that they are not devoting to their job or family. Most feel pinched for time.

One of my suggestions to these authors is to implement the five-hour rule into their marketing plan. I suggest that they set aside an hour each work day (before or after work) to engage in marketing activities for their books.

Can five hours a week really make a difference?

I believe it can and so does Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact, and the man who coined the five-hour rule.

Michael Simmons came up with the term after learning that, throughout Benjamin Franklin’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day to learning.

Benjamin Franklin had to leave formal schooling at age 10 to become an apprentice to his father. Hence, most of his learning came through reading books.

Michael Simmons realized that the most successful people were the ones most likely to devote time to reading. After looking at other successful people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk who consistently read a book a week, Michael Simmons concluded:

“No matter how busy successful people are, they set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that can be classified as deliberate practice or learning.”

Similar to setting aside an hour a day to read and increase your knowledge, you can take just five hours a week and apply it to marketing activities.

Just like the five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are consistent and deliberate learners. So too, the most successful Indie authors are those that consistently and deliberately market their books.

One of the things I like about the five-hour rule is that it is manageable. Everyone can carve out an hour from their day to read a book or conduct deliberate marketing tasks.

I challenge you to apply the five-hour rule to your life for the next month and watch the difference it makes.

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Are You Ready to Give Up?

Sometimes I feel like quitting. I know I am not alone. We all have those days.

We all have days where we feel that what we have to say does not matter. Days where we are discouraged and wonder if our message is making any difference in the world. We all struggle at times feeling like all our hard work is for naught.

When this happens, I remind myself that God has called me to this task and I must continue until He tells me to stop. I remind myself that I that I will overcome and that better is coming as Revelation 3 says:

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

So often, we don’t see the results of our hard labor. Yet you never know, tomorrow might just be the day that everything comes together or you hear from a reader just how important your message was in her life.

If you are having one of those days where you feel like quitting, then read this poem is for you.

Don’t Quit
By John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns.

And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

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