The Benefit of Thanksgiving

Psychology has come to understand what God has always known and told us in His word—that giving thanks is good for our mental health.

In Psalm 42:5, King David says “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Thanksgiving is a form of praise and it lifts our spirits.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, on our national day of Thanksgiving, I invite you to give thanks to God for all the blessings he has bestowed upon you. You can ponder some of those blessings through the words of this hymn “O Give Thanks to Him Who Made” by Josiah Conder.

O give thanks to Him who made
Morning light and evening shade;
Source and Giver of all good,
Nightly sleep and daily food;
Quickener of our wearied powers,
Guard of our unconscious hours.

O give thanks to nature’s king,
Who made every breathing thing;
His, our warm and sentient frame,
His, the mind’s immortal flame.
O how close the ties that bind
Spirits to the Eternal Mind!

O give thanks with heart and lip,
For we are His workmanship;
And all creatures are His care:
Not a bird that cleaves the air
Falls unnoticed; but who can
Speak the Father’s love to man?

O give thanks to Him who came
In a mortal, suffering frame—
Temple of the Deity—
Came for rebel man to die;
In the path Himself hath trod
Leading back His saints to God.

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Do You Need Inspiration?

A woman I know was charged with the task of writing a formal, yet difficult, letter to a government entity. She, along with a group of other parents, are making a formal complaint hoping to change the way a certain demographic of students is treated in public schools.

Writing inspiration

This woman was not sure how best to phrase and format the official complaint. She told me that in this advocacy process, she was learning to wait on God to guide her. So, unsure how to proceed, she waited and prayed.

A couple days later, she opened her Bible and happened to read the beginning chapters of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was the cup bearer to King Artaxerxes, in the land of Persia. Nehemiah had received a report that the walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair.  As a Jewish man, this news saddened him. The King noticed his demeanor and asked him what was troubling him.

Nehemiah told the King what was troubling him and made a serious request of King Artaxerxes. He asked the King to allow him to return to Jerusalem to oversee the repairing of the walls of that city. The woman charged with writing a formal complaint to the government, told me that as soon as she read this passage, she knew how she was to phrase and format her letter. She knew she needed to follow the same outline that Nehemiah had used to make his request to King Artaxerxes.

Often, as writers, we face this same issue. We wrestle with the best way to present an idea, frame a conversation, or illustrate a point as we write. We also struggle with the next actions we should take to take to move our works to publication. Sometimes, we lack direction for the next steps in promoting our books.

As I listened to this woman’s story, the words from a song I learned as a teenager played in my mind. The lyrics go:

I must wait, wait, wait on the Lord.
I must wait, wait, wait on the Lord.
And learn my lesson well.
In his timing, he will tell me where to go,
What to do, what to say.

Are you following this advice? When you struggle with the best way to write or present something or the next action to take with your book, do you pray and ask God for guidance—and then wait for his response?

A regular discipline of writing or marketing activities is an important practice. However, this practice should never replace waiting on God for inspiration and guidance. Putting something aside for a time as you wait to hear from God can bring better results than pushing through in your own strength.

If God has called you to write or publish something, give yourself the time and space to allow God to direct with divine inspiration. When you allow God to inspire and direct, your writing and marketing activities have more impact and produce more fruit.

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Photo courtesy of John-Mark Smith.

Your Christian Book Is Crucial

The United States is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Only 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christian today. This represents a 12-point decrease in the past decade. In 2009, 77% of American adults identified as Christian.

65% of Americans are Chrisitan

In this same period, those who describe themselves as having no religion, referred to as “nones” in the United States have grown. Currently about 17% of the American adult population identifies as “nothing in particular” when asked about their religion. This is up five points from 12% in 2009.

The Pew Research Center data shows a wide gap between older Americans and younger generations. More than eight out of ten members (84%) of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) describe themselves as Christians, as do three-quarters (76%) of Baby Boomers. In contrast, only half of Millennials (49%) describe themselves as Christians, while four out of ten are religious “nones”.

The need for Christian witness in the United States in great. Christian books are needed today as much—if not more—then they ever have been.

Christian books are lights—shining beacons that accomplish two important purposes:

1. Christian books point people to God.

Studies show that Millennials read. In fact, adults aged 18 to 35 purchase and read more books each year than those in other age groups. Your Christian books can be a tool in proclaiming the Gospel and drawing people to God.

2. Christian books strengthen believers.

Christian books reveal truth about God’s Word to believers. Your Christian book serves to encourage and strengthen Christ followers so that they can shine the light of Jesus to the dark world around them.

Christian author, don’t give up. Your Christian book is needed in America today. Our country (and the whole world) needs to know God and his son Jesus.

My prayer is that your Christian books would touch people’s lives. I pray the Caleb Prayer for our country. I invite you to pray it with me.

O High King of heaven,
Have mercy on our land.
Revive your church;
Send the Holy Spirit
For the sake of the children.
May your kingdom come to our nation.
In Jesus’ might name.
Amen.

P.S. If you live in or around the Capital of our country, I invite you to join me at the Capital Christian Writers Fellowship Conference on January 25, 2020. I will be presenting a keynote talk on “What Makes a Book Christian?”

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5 Book Publishing Trends You Need to Know for 2020

The year 2020 is now in sight. It’s important to take stock of where you are and where you want to go periodically. A new year provides a great chance to do just that.

The five book publishing trends for 2020 presented here are meant to help you take stock of your publishing and marketing activities so that you can remain viable and effective for another year.

Book Publishing Trends

1.  Self-Publishing Will Continue to Skyrocket

 Self-publishing is showing no signs of slowing down. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of self-published print books increased by over 400,000 each year.  Here is the breakdown:

  • 2016:  657,062
  • 2017:  1,060,821
  • 2018:  1,547,341

The majority of these print books—1,416,384 in 2018—were published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon allows anyone to produce a print or ebook through their service free of charge. This means that anyone who wants to publish a book now can with no entry barrier.

Since 80% of people surveyed feel they have a book inside them, the number of self-published books will continue to skyrocket as more people learn that they can actually publish that book inside of them easily and at no-cost.

Marketing Takeaway:

As the number of books published rises, the number of book choices readers have increases. “Choice overload” is real. In fact, a recent study found that 42% of consumers admitted to abandoning a planned purchase altogether because there were too many choices. Authors who want to sell books will have to convince people to choose their books over all the others available.

2.  Audiobooks Will Continue Their Rise in Popularity

The audiobook format is booming. Over the past few years, the number of audiobooks produced has increased, the revenue from the sales of audiobooks has grown, and more people are listening to audiobooks. This trend shows no sign of slowing down.

According the Audiobook Publishers Association (APA), there has been double digit revenue growth in audiobooks year over year for the past seven years. U.S. audiobook sales in 2018 rose 24.5% from the previous year.

Audiobook Listening on the Rise

Audiobook listening is also on the rise, as supported by data from The Infinite Dial 2019, which shows 50% of Americans age 12 and older have listened to an audiobook (that’s 144 million people). This is the first time that audiobooks’ consumer penetration has reached the 50% mark, up from 44% in 2018.

Marketing Takeaway:

Do you need to get on board with audiobooks? If your books are selling well in print and digital format, making these titles into audiobooks can help you reach a broader audience and bring in more book sales and revenue.

3.  The Competition for Reading Time Will Continue to Be Fierce

Reading faces stiff competition for consumer attention from other entertainment activities. According to The NPD Group, nearly three out of four consumers in the U.S. reported reading a book or listening to an audiobook in the past six months. Even though there is plenty of reading going on, NPD survey respondents reported reading roughly 9 percent less this year than they did last year overall.

This downward trend is not going anywhere but down. With the ease of watching video, many people are turning to this medium for their entertainment. In fact, Cisco predicts that 82% of all consumer web traffic will be video in 2020 and Wyzowl says that 79% of consumers currently prefer watching video to reading about a product.

So, while the number of books self-published has increased exponentially, the amount of time people spend reading is decreasing. This means that finding readers for your books keeps getting more difficult.

Marketing Takeaway:

 Every author should be involved in literacy efforts and promoting reading. You should be recommending books—other than your own—to your audiences as well as reminding your audience of the incredible health benefits of reading.

4.  Discoverability Will Be Increasingly Challenging

Gone are the days when authors easily found readers for their books. The number of books available on any given topic is astounding. The challenge to get a book to rise to someone’s attention in this field of fierce competition has become increasingly challenging.

In addition, the sharp decrease in organic traffic to websites from engine searches is not going to be reversed. Google will continue to capture the majority of their engine searches, keeping people on their own sites. The increase in voice search via smart speakers means that the number of options given for search terms will continue to decline. Comscore research estimates that in 2020, half of all internet searches will be through voice.

Marketing Takeaway:

Successful authors will be those who actively build an audience who trusts them. Building such an audience takes deliberate marketing that includes media exposure through multiple books, social media presence, speaking engagements, articles in print and online publications, and podcast and radio and television interviews.

Save our Planet

5.  Emphasis on Green Initiatives and Sustainability Will Increase

The price of paper has been rising over the past few years. This is because the demand for paper products keeps increasing. e-Commerce has driven the demand for cardboard packaging—a paper product. Increasingly people are becoming concerned about the sustainability of forests due to our paper consumption.

Most American paper products come from Canadian forests. Between 1996 and 2015, more than 28 million acres of these forests were logged, mostly through clear cutting. New trees will take decades to mature. To work toward increasing sustainability for paper, a few companies are beginning to innovate with producing more sustainable paper products and greener packaging.

One company in Australia has developed books made from stone. Karst notebooks are made by mixing ground slate stones with a small quantity of resin (a type of plastic)., These notebook pages feel like paper, but are waterproof and tear-resistant. The books are fully recyclable, biodegradable, and carbon neutral.

 Marketing Takeaway:

Many consumers, especially Millennials, want to know that businesses they frequent are socially and environmentally conscience. These consumers prefer to purchase from companies that are using some of their profits to help make the world a better place. As an author, you can address this concern with your readers by choosing to give a portion of the proceeds of your book to a good cause.

I encourage you to make one of your New Year’s resolutions to never stop learning, but to continue to grow in knowledge and tools to be effective in your publishing and marketing efforts. As one step to keeping that resolution, I invite you to join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

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The Growing Demand for Paper

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Publishing Myths Busted!

Over the years, I have heard writers make some fairly outrageous claims like:

  • “My book is going to rock the Christian world.”
  • “Everybody needs to read my book.”
  • “I just write; I don’t read.”

These writers have bought into ideas that are not true. Sadly, there are numerous publishing and marketing myths that newer writers and authors often believe.

Publishing Myths Busted

In his new book, 10 Publishing Myths, W. Terry Whalin sets out to debunk 10 popular publishing myths while educating writers on the reality of book publishing and marketing.

This small book is packed with useful advice and resources for aspiring and new authors. For each myth, Terry provides an MBA—not a Masters of Business Administration—but a Myth Busting Activity for the reader to do.

Terry Whalin knows the publishing industry. As both an editor and a writer, Terry has written over 60 books and numerous articles. He has worked as a magazine editor and is currently an acquisitions editor. His advice is sound.

In debunking the “My Book Will Be a New York Times Bestseller” myth, Terry states:

With over 4500 new books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for any author to find readers—and to find readers who will write a few sentences of honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads and other sites.”

I agree with Terry. The competition for readers’ time and money is stiff. Authors have to devote time and energy to promoting and marketing their books to reap sales. I have often said that book reviews are your second most important marketing tool—your book’s cover is your number one marketing tool.

In the “My Editor Will Fix All My Mistakes” myth chapter, Terry writes:

One of the ways we can grow as a writer in the knowledge of our craft is to read how-to books. Even though I have an undergraduate degree in journalism and have shelves of how-to write books, I continue to read books on the craft of writing. For years, I’ve read at least one of these types of books each month. New how-to books continue to be created and published—and I learn something from each of them.

Every writer and author can benefit from this piece of wisdom. There is always room for improvement, and there is always more to learn. As an author, you should follow Terry’s advice and encourage others to do so also. One way you can put this into practice is to gift Terry’s book or another book on writing or marketing to one or more writers in your life this Christmas.

Authors should be readers. Read books in your books’ genres and read books to improve your writing and marketing skills. I suggest that you start with this book and then read all the additional resources and books that Terry recommends in the book.

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Photo courtesy of Patrick Fore.