Bringing Hope, Healing, and Life

On a recent Sunday, my church hosted an international worker (that’s the new fancy term for missionary) from Kosovo. This missionary talked about how she was developing oral Bible stories as part of her ministry outreach.

Books Bring Hope, Healing & Life

I was struck by her talk of “oral stories” since Kosovo is a literate nation. I asked her about this. Her response was that while the people of Kosovo can read, many don’t take the time to do so and are more willing to engage with an auditory or visual story. Interestingly, half the population of Kosovo is under the age of 29.

This trend away from reading for young people is not just in the United States. It appears to happening in other countries also. It saddens me. I believe that reading has great benefits and that books bring hope, healing, and life to people in a way that movies and audio stories cannot touch.

Wise King Solomon said, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22) King Solomon is referring to written words when he states “Let them not depart from thine eyes.”

A friend of mine enlightened me about a program that the United States government operated for soldiers in World War II. Keeping up morale for American soldiers was a national concern. The Library Section of the U.S. War Department partnered with over 70 book companies to create and print pocket sized paperback books. Over 123 million copies of a total of 1,322 books were printed and distributed to service members for free. These included Westerns, mysteries, comics, humor, biographies, anthologies of poetry, and classic and contemporary fiction.

A Tree Grows in BrooklynOne of the books selected for the program was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Smith received a flood of mail from soldiers telling her how her book had helped them get through the dark days and horrors of war. One GI expressed in his letter to Smith after reading her book, “I can’t explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine. . . . I only know that it happened. A surge of confidence has swept through me and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all.

Let’s now forget that books are powerful. They bring hope, healing, and renewed life to people. As an author, you are ministering to your readers. Don’t get discouraged. Someone today is in need of a touch from your words.

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Photo courtesy of Nacho Juárez.

Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch

Over lunch, my friend related a recent experience she had with a book. This friend told me that she had taken her daughter to a local bookstore to shop for new books to read.

While browsing, she picked up a nonfiction book whose title caught her attention. She read the back cover. Then she turned to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages.

Don't Pull a Bait and Switch

My friend shared that the story at the beginning of the book drew her in and had her intrigued. She was excited to read the rest of the book.

As her daughter continued to browse, my friend carried the book around the store with her. Just before checking out, she thought that maybe she should read something halfway through the book just to make sure she was spending her money wisely.

My friend reported that, to her horror, the rest of the book was not like the opening. The opening had been a lovely story that drew her in. She had thought that the book would contain more stories like this. Instead it turned out to be a long succession of dry writing about the historical event the book covered. Needless to say, my friend put the book back on the shelf.

My friend shared this story because she had been sorely disappointed with her experience. The opening pages of the book promised something that the rest of the book did not deliver. In essence, she experienced a bait and switch.

The first few pages of your book are extremely important. You must draw the reader in right from the start. But, be careful that you don’t create a bait and switch. In other words, your book’s opening needs to be engaging, but it also needs to reflect what can be found in the remainder of the book.

Draw the Reader in

By the way, the process my friend went through in selecting the book she thought she wanted to buy is the same process most people use when looking at books. When choosing a book, studies show that readers consider in order:

  1. The Title
  2. The Cover
  3. The Back Cover
  4. The Table of Contents
  5. The First Few Paragraphs of a Book’s Content
  6. The Price

Each phase of this process either encourages the reader on to the next step and closer to a purchase, or turns them off and sends them on to the next book.

Delivering on your book’s promise is essential. Readers that don’t receive what is promised in a book will not recommend it to their family and friends. Remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is the most powerful driving force in book sales.

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Content Marketing Ideas for Authors

Content marketing is all the rage. Content marketing is a long-term strategy for building relationships with customers and potential customers by giving them something valuable for free.

Authors who create content around their books and offer this content free in their email newsletters, on their websites and blogs, and on social media can gain trust with an audience. Trust leads to more sales. Remember, people do business with those they trust.

Creating content can be time consuming. Some authors complain that create content takes away from the time they have to write more books.

Enter content curation. Content curation is the act of collecting, assembling, and presenting content that relates to your books. With content curation, instead of creating all the content they share, authors can share content that others have created that relates to their topic.

There are a number of services online that will help you collect and curate content for free or a small fee. These include:

  • Pocket: Pocket is a great place to capture and store the content that comes your way. You can store images, videos, and articles in Pocket for later reference when creating a curation of content to share with your readers.
  • Scoop.it: Scoop.it allows you to research and publish content through its curation tool.
  • Feedly: Feedly allows you to aggregate content by storing the information from your favorite sources all in one place.

An interesting and different idea of content curation for fiction authors recently crossed my path. I found the idea intriguing and creative.

Content curation does not just have to just be articles, memes, or videos. Content curation can also apply to lists. You can share lists with your readers. These lists don’t just have to be a list that the author recommends, they can be a list one of the characters in your book might have.

list of ideas

For example, you can have your characters create some lists. These could include:

  • A list of song that your protagonist would have on his Spotify playlist.
  • A list of books that your protagonist would have on her bookshelf.
  • A list of favorite recipes from one of your main characters.
  • A list of relationship tips from one of your book’s characters.

You can then share these lists with your readers on your website, in your emails, as a Pinterest board, and on your social media sites. Get creative.

Content marketing does not just have to be the material you create. You can share material others create. When sharing curated content, be sure to give credit to the author and include a link to where the author originally posted the material.

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Two Strategies for Creating Effective Marketing Messages

Most authors love words. We love to string words together to make powerful and memorable statements. Words create emotions in people and can move them to action.

Many authors are intimidated by the idea of marketing. Yet, marketing is simply using words to draw people to your books. Good marketing is about finding the right words and phrases to hook people to action—either finding out more or buying the product.

Create Effective Marketing Messages

Words, of course, are not enough. Which words you choose and how you present these words are both important.

1. Choosing Marketing Words

There are many websites that provide marketing phrases that have worked successfully for marketing campaigns. You can use the information gleaned from studies and experts to help you craft marketing messages that draw readers in.

Some of the most effective marketing words and phrases include:

  • Sale
  • Best Seller
  • New
  • Guaranteed
  • Hassle-Free
  • Value
  • Proven
  • Act Now
  • For a Limited Time
  • You Deserve

2. Presentation of Marketing Words

Words are not enough. Your presentation of these words matters when it comes to creating marketing messages. The places you use marketing messages include:

  • Your book’s back cover
  • Your book’s online description
  • Your book’s website
  • Your blog posts
  • Your online and print ads
  • Your other marketing materials
  • Your social media posts

All these messages should contain words that draw potential readers in, but they also need to be easily read and easy to skim. In other words, dense paragraphs and long descriptions are best left for your books.

A study out of San Jose State University found that the new normal in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. The study found that many readers use an F or Z pattern when reading. With these patterns, readers sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text.

Your marketing text must be easy to skim so that skim readers will comprehend what you are saying. When we skim read, we don’t grasp complex issues. Therefore, it is important to keep your marketing messages short and simple. Include headlines and bullet points to allow for easy comprehension for skim readers.

Remember, your marketing messages are supposed to entice people to want to learn more about your book. So, present your marketing words and text layout in a manner that will engage your potential readers.

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What To Do When Your Book is Pirated

Authors should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. This is the conventional wisdom. However, piracy does happen. When it happens to you, do you know what to do about it?

Not too long ago, I received a Google Alert that my books had recently been listed on some websites I had never heard of; so I checked it out. It turns out that the websites were pirate sites that allow free PDF downloads of books.

Lo and behold, my books had been pirated. They were being offered for anyone to download free-of-charge on these sites.

Fortunately, I knew what to do and flew into action. I immediately sent each site a DMCA Takedown Notice. Both sites responded—surprisingly—quickly to my notices and reported that they had removed the books.

Do you know what to do if your books are pirated? Here are my suggestions.

1. Sign up for alerts.

To stay on top of where you and your books are appearing on the world wide web, you should subscribe to an alert service. Alert services include:

These services search the Internet for the words you give them and let you know where these words are showing up online. These sites will send you an email notifying you each time a new listing is found.

If you use your name or the title of your book, the alert service will send you a notice when it finds a new listing of the phrase on the web. These alerts allow you to know who is talking about you and your books, and they allow you to monitor if your books are being pirated.

2. Send a DMCA Takedown Notice.

If you find a site that is listing your books as a free ebook download, you need to take immediate action. The best thing to do is to send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the site administrators. DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

To make it easy for small publishers and independent authors, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) offers a free downloadable Reference Guide on DMCA Takedown Notices to our Members. This Reference Guide includes a DMCA Takedown Notice template to follow when sending such notices.

If you write and publish Christian books, you can join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) for just $90 for the calendar year. Then you will have access to this Reference Guide and the many other supports and guides that the organization offers its Members.

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