5 Affordable Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

It’s the season of giving. As an author or publisher, you know a lot of book lovers (at least I hope you do). To help you with Christmas gift ideas this year, I have collected five affordable, yet unique, ideas for gifts you can give the bibliophiles in your life.

1. Book Magic Book Clip and Stand

This book clip and stand is a great gift for those who love to read while they eat. It holds a book or magazine upright and open. It is also small, lightweight, and portable—it will easily fit into a purse.

2. Over Tub Caddy

If the book lover in your life prefers to read in the bathtub, then this bathtub caddy is the gift for her. The book holder in the caddy is adjustable and great for keeping books dry.

3. Mighty Bright Book Lamp

This is the perfect gift for those who enjoying reading in bed at night. This clip-on book lamp sports a rechargeable battery with a life of up to 60 hours. The lamp lets you read all night if you want!

4. Knock Knock Personal Library Kit

For a bibliophile, there is pleasure in sharing beloved books, but also pain in losing from for good. This personal library kit helps ensure that books that are loaned are returned.

5. Lit Chat: Conversation Starters about Books and Life

This 50-card conversation deck is perfect as an icebreaker or a conversation starter at any party. The cards give readers of all persuasions an excuse to talk about books, ideas, and life itself.

If you have another unique gift idea for book lovers, please share it in the comments section!

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Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.

Counting Blessings

We live in a world filled with suffering and struggles. As residents in this world, we often lose sight of the fact that our stay here is temporary and that, as Christians, we have an afterlife that is free of suffering and struggle to look forward to. This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful that I can look forward to a better life once this one has passed.

Thanksgiving is a day for us to count our blessings. Counting our blessings keeps us mindful of how good God is. I have always been fond of the words in this hymn.

Count Your Blessing

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Five Christian Book Publishing Trends for 2019

With a new year around the corner, I thought that I would share five trends I see for those involved in writing and publishing Christian books.

These are not predictions. They are trends that I have been a witness to. Trends tell us where we need to adjust our behaviors to stay effective.

Christian book publishing trends 2019

1. Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores will continue to shrink in number and size.

In 2017, after declaring bankruptcy, Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of their brick-and-mortar locations. This closure affected the whole book publishing industry. Publishers and distributors lost thousands and thousands of dollars, causing a few to shutter their doors and others to consolidate.

Fifteen of these Family Christian locations were purchased by the CEO of Harrison House. The stores were renamed Empowered Life Christian Books & Gifts. After one year of business, all 15 of these stores were closed this year (2018). Unable to make enough profit to sustain operation, millions of invested dollars were lost.

The decline of Christian bookstores continues. CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, has also been struggling. In an effort to keep their international retail show open, CBA partnered with investor Ed Roush, who poured one million dollars into the summer trade show. After the show, Roush cleaned house at CBA to save money, leaving only a skeletal crew. Since summer, CBA has been very quiet and has not released any new issues of their monthly Christian MARKET magazine of their Christian MARKET Weekly e-newsletter.

In response to these upsets in the Christian book-selling industry, Munce, a marketing service group for independent Christian retailers, recently formed a new trade association, Christian Retail Association. In addition, they are restructuring their Christian Product Expo (CPE) into a national and international show.

Brick-and-mortar retail across America is struggling. Business Insider reports that retailers are filing for bankruptcy at record-high rates this year. These retailer stores include Toys R Us, Claire’s, and Sears. No winds of revitalization appear to be blowing for Christian bookstores. Thus, the trend for shrinking numbers of Christian bookstores will continue.

2. Independent publishing of Christian books will continue to grow.

According to Bowker, the ISBN agency, the number of self-published titles has grown by 156% over the past five years to just over one million books self-published in 2017. There are no signs of this trend slowing. Amazon is publishing the lion’s share of these books, having published over 750,000 titles through CreateSpace in 2017. And if you are not already aware, CreateSpace is being folded into Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing.

For authors and publishers, the increasing numbers of books published each year means increased competition for readers’ time and money. As the competition continues to grow, the effort it will take to convince readers that your book is the one to spend their money on will continue to become more difficult.

After all, research shows that having too many choices has a negative effect on customer satisfaction. People become stressed out when presented with too many choices. They can also become paralyzed and simply not be able to make a decision. In her book, The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar recounts a study that discovered that when offered a small assortment of jams (6) to choose from, 30% of customers who tasted a sample made a purchase. However, when presented with a large assortment of jams (24), only 3% of customers who sampled the purchased a jar. While choice is appealing, too many choices can be debilitating, which means that more persuasion will be needed to sell your books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA)

As the competition for readers’ attention increases, the importance of belonging to a publishing association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) grows. Associations provide cutting-edge information and resources to help you be successful. Those authors and publishers who stay abreast of trends and changes in both publishing and marketing will be the most effective and successful.

3. There will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed books.

For years, self-publishing has had a bad rap. Readers have complained about the poor writing, grammar, and spelling errors in self-published books. While the quality of self-published books has improved overall, there are still those authors who just want to publish, that they don’t take the time to have their books properly edited and designed. These bad apples threaten to ruin the whole batch.

The number of self-publishing services that have cropped up to take advantage of authors wanting to be published has not helped this issue. Many of these self-publishing services are just after the money they can earn for publishing the book. They get their money up front from the author to produce the book. As a result, they don’t care about the quality of the book or how many copies the book sells.

As it has now become affordable for just about anyone to publish a book, I can guarantee that there will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed self-published books. One of the best ways that you can help your book stand out above the competition is to ensure that your writing is compelling, your book has been professionally edited, and the cover and interior are professionally designed. Doing these three things will greatly improve your ability to sell your book.

reading trends4. The external competition for readers’ time and money will continue to increase.

The reading rates in American have not increased since 2012. One recent study by the National Endowment for Arts found that reading for pleasure actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2017.  With so much competing for people’s time and attention, reading seems to fall by the wayside.

In addition to all the things that compete for our attention in our time-strapped lives—television, moves, YouTube videos, social media, and numerous other activities—concentrating on long form reading is becoming a problem. Professor Gloria Mark of the Department of Informatics at the University of California says email, social media, notifications and countless other digital distractions are eroding our ability to concentrate on individual tasks in the 21st Century. I have heard personally had numerous individuals tell me that they have lost their ability to concentrate to read books.

Due to this increased competition, authors will be forced to spend more time building a platform and cultivating readers for their books. Today, with so many reading choices, there is no guarantee that people will read a book just because it exists. Instead, authors must now develop trust with a reading audience so that they can sell their books.

5. The sales of audiobooks will continue to grow.

Audiobook sales have grown steadily over the past couple years. This trend will continue to grow. With Smartphones, the growth of digitally downloaded audiobooks is booming. Downloadable audiobook sales grew about 30% from 2016 to 2017. That was the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for downloadable audiobooks.

This trend shows no signs of slowing. As more competes for our attention, people are turning to audiobooks for entertainment and self-improvement. With audiobooks, individuals can multi-task—workout and listen, drive and listen, clean house and listen, etc.

While a couple services help independent authors produce audiobooks at a reasonable price—ACX and Findaway Voices—it is important to note that currently, audiobooks only make up 4% of all book sales (including print and ebooks). Audiobooks are going to continue to grow. However, simply producing an audiobook will not guarantee more sales. Unless your book is already selling well in print or ebook format, I suggest you not take the plunge.

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Have You Identified Your Target Audience?

If you aim at nothingyou will hit it every time.” ~Zig Ziglar

Are you aiming at a target audience? Or are you aiming at nothing?

When I consult for indie authors, I ask them to send me a list of their questions prior to the consultation so I can structure the time to best meet the author’s needs.

I have yet to have an author ask that I help her identify or refine her target audience. Most simply jump into questions about marketing. And yet, many have not spent any time distilling who the audience for their book is.

Here is the problem. You cannot develop an effective marketing plan without FIRST identifying your target audience. And, many indie authors fail to do just that.

Many marketing plans often fail for the following reasons:

  • Failure to identify target audience.
  • Failure to plan and execute marketing activities for multiple targets.
  • Failure to balance marketing activities to primary, secondary, and tertiary targets.

Think of your target audience as a target with a bull’s eye and expanding rings. The bull’s eye and each ring of the target represents a segment of your target audience.

A target audience is made up of a primary audience, a secondary audience and a tertiary audience. How does this look in practice?

With the recent growth in religious children’s book sales, let’s take a children’s picture book as an example. Let’s use a Christmas story picture book.

The primary target audience for this book would be children ages four to eight years of age who celebrate Christmas. However, children don’t buy books, so we need to include the parents in the primary target. Here is the breakdown of target audiences for a children’s Christmas picture book.

  • Primary Audience: Parents of children aged four to eight years who celebrate Christmas.
  • Secondary Audience: Grandparents and aunts and uncles of children aged four to eight years who celebrate Christmas who give Christmas-themed gifts.
  • Tertiary Audience: Churches, Christian preschools and elementary schools, and libraries.
  • Quaternary Audience: Collectors of all things Christmas.

Looking at this breakdown of audiences for the sample book, you can see that there are at least four distinct audiences for this book. Each audience requires a different marketing approach and strategy.

Identifying your target audience in this manner lets you prioritize your marketing efforts and expenditures. Of course, you will spend the most time and money on your primary audience. But you do not want to neglect your secondary and tertiary audiences.

Remember, the first step in creating a marketing plan is identifying your target audience. Only after you identify your target audience can you develop specific action steps to reach your audience.

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