But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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Awareness Is Not Enough

“I need distribution for my book right away. I am doing radio and TV shows and bookstores are wanting to order my book.”

This caller’s frantic plea for help is something that I have run into a number of times. It turns out that this author published her book via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). The only place it was for sale was on Amazon.com.

The author had hired a publicist—spending thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the publicist was doing a good job of lining up radio and television interviews. The problem: no distribution.

So, while this author was getting lots and lots of publicity for her book, her book was not positioned for that publicity.

I have seen this happen to a number of independent authors. It is not a publicist’s job to educate her client on book publishing and distribution. After all, the publicist’s specialty is publicity. As a result, many publicists fail to make sure that their clients’ books are in distribution and widely available for sale in numerous outlets before booking media interviews. Sadly, when this happens, much of the publicity achieved goes to waste.

Publicity alone does not sell books. Most book sales are determined by three factors.

1. Awareness

People have to know your book exists to be able to purchase it. This is where publicity is very helpful. The more exposure you have for your book, the more people you make aware of your book.

2. Decision

Decision comes after awareness. Only after readers know about a book can they decide to purchase the book.

3. Availability

Once a reader decides to buy a book, the book must be available in the format and place he or she wants to buy the book. If readers cannot find the book where they usually shop, the sale is easily lost. Not everyone shops on Amazon.

When it comes to selling books, awareness is not enough. Availability (think ease of purchase) is just as important a factor in the buying process. Having your books available for sale in multiple places enhances your ability to sell your book.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) offers our Members ease of access to distribution through IngramSpark and Lightning Source. Member publishers and authors of CSPA can use their CSPA membership benefit to upload titles for free with these print-on-demand services that also provide distribution through Ingram—ensuring that their books are widely available for sale.

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Photo courtesy of Pablo García Saldaña.

 

What Is Your Next Action?

I recently met a poet who wants to become published. This lady is trusting that God will guide her steps on her quest to become a published poet. She has tried a number of avenues and most have been dead ends.

She told me that, not too long ago, she decided to share one of her poems at a local open mic night. This was not a Christian event; it was a general market affair. This author writes Christian prose. She took the opportunity afforded her and spoke one of her poems at the event.

At the end of the evening, a gentleman approached her. He asked if she had ever recorded any of her poems. The poet answered that she had not. This gentleman stated that he thought her lyrics were powerful and should be recorded. He then invited her to use the studio in the basement of his house to records some poems.

Later the poet asked the man with the studio if he was a regular at open mic night. His response was that the night she spoke had been the first and only time he had attended the event.

The way God works is often mysterious and awesome. One thing we do know is that often, before God works, he requires us to act. We have to step out in faith and do something. Then God shows up. He provides or performs a miracle, or simply points us down the next path he wants us to take.

The process starts with an action on our part. Sadly, we often don’t act because we are scared. We fear failure, or embarrassment, or even not doing what God wants.

A Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently took a giant leap with her publishing business. She told me that she often questions whether this is what she should be doing or if it is what God wants her to be doing. I assured her that anytime we are doing something with the intent of bringing Glory to God, our actions are pleasing to God.

Just as this poet had to move out of her comfort zone and perform her poetry in public for a door to open, so too, you must act. What action do you need to take?

Is fear holding you back? If so, ponder these lyrics from Zach Williams’ song Fear is a Liar. The chorus states:

Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

Don’t let fear keep you from experiencing the blessings that God has for you and your books.

I would love to hear your testimony. If you have stepped out in faith, taken action, and God has met you, please share in the comments section.

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The Book Industry Is Still Strong

Selling books is big business. According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) 2018 StatShot Annual Report, 2.72 billion book units were sold in 2017 generating $26.23 billion in net revenue.

Book Sales Hold Steady

Book sales held fairly steady from 2016 to 2017. The report revealed the following about book sales:

1. Paperbacks still reign.

Paperback books were the number one selling format. More than 1 billion paperback books were sold in 2017. Paperback sales made up 36.9% of all book sales.

2. Nonfiction book sales grew in 2017.

Nonfiction book sales saw an increase of 5.4% in publisher revenue from 2016 to 2017.

3. The number of Children and Young Adult books sold is growing.

Both fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults saw more units sold in 2017 than in 2016. Fiction sales grew by 1.1%, while nonfiction book sales in these categories grew by 4.4%.

4. Book sales through physical and online retail channels are now equal.

For years, book sales through physical stores were higher than book sales through online stores. In 2017, this pattern changed. Now sales through these two outlets are just about equal. In 2017, $7.6 billion dollars worth of books were sold through physical retail outlets while $7.5 billion dollars worth of books were sold through online retail channels.

Interestingly, for online sales of books, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 43.2% Print Books
  • 27% eBooks
  • 16.3% Instructional Materials
  • 10.5% Downloadable Audio
  • 3% Physical Audio or other format

In case you did not catch it, 70% of online sales of books are print and ebooks. Print books are still the number one format for book purchases. Print books engage more of our senses. We see them. We feel them. We smell them.

Flipback Books

Credit: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

The book industry is constantly innovating to keep books fresh. The newest type of print book to hit the market is a tiny flipbook. These new books, the brainchild of Penguin Young Readers, are designed to be small and easily portable. Made with extremely thin paper (think Bible pages), the books are read horizontally with the pages flipped up rather than across. These books are meant to resemble reading on a screen.

This type of book has been sold in European countries for almost ten years. In Europe they are referred to as Flipbacks or Dwarsliggers. Whether these new tiny flipbooks with a full-length novel inside will be widely accepted with U.S. readers is still to be seen. The first ones do not release until October 23 and feature three books by John Green: Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars.

Would you read a Flipback? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Photo credit: MegMoggington on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Sell More eBooks with Walmart

Did you know that Walmart is the third largest online shopping destination? According to Business Insider, only Amazon.com and Ebay.com have more online customer traffic than Walmart.

Some sources claim that Walmart is the second largest bookseller in the United States. To compete with Amazon, Walmart has teamed up with Rakuten Kobo to sell Kobo e-readers and ebooks. Walmart’s new service, Walmart eBooks by Rakuten Kobo, launched late last month.

According to Walmart’s website, the new Walmart eBooks brings customers:

  • Kobo’s library of more than six million titles – from New York Times best sellers to a wide variety of indie titles and children’s books.
  • A new monthly audiobook subscription – Customers will be able to subscribe to the audiobook service for $9.99 per month, which includes one audiobook per month.
  • The ability to purchase digital book cards in 3,500 Walmart stores
  • Access to Kobo’s eReaders online and in-store – Customers can choose from a variety of Kobo eReaders on Walmart.com. In 1,000 stores the Kobo Aura will be for sale.

All Walmart eBooks are accessible through co-branded (Walmart and Kobo) iOS and Android apps and on Kobo eReaders. Interestingly, Walmart.com receives more mobile traffic than Amazon.com; 64% of Walmart.com’s traffic is from mobile devices, while only 58% of Amazon’s traffic is mobile.

To mark the launch of the ebook partnership site, Walmart eBooks is offering first-time customers $10 off their first ebook or audiobook purchase. And consumers who sign up for the audiobook subscription will get their first 30 days for free.

What does this mean for you?

If your ebooks (and audiobooks) are not available for sale on Kobo, you will lose out on potential sales. Every author should make sure that his or her books are listed for sales on Kobo. This will ensure that your books are also listed for sale on Walmart eBooks.

There are a number of options for placing your ebooks on Kobo. Here are three:

  1. Self-publish your ebook directly to Kobo via their publishing platform (think KDP for Kobo).
  2. Upload your ebook to Smashwords and list it in their expanded catalog.
  3. Publish your ebook through Draft2Digital and use their ebook distribution service.

Don’t miss out on sales. Make sure that your ebook is available through Kobo so that it is available for sale on the new Walmart eBooks.

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