A Positive Outlook for Christian Retail

A Christian consumer survey conducted in January 2020 with over 2,600 responses found that 48% of respondents said they shop (or would shop if they had one) at their local bookstore for faith-based content. Only 11% of respondents reported that they would not shop in-store.

Percentage of People shopping in Christian stores

The Parable Group compiled data from analysis of $66 million in Christian product sales, 2.1 million consumer receipts, and survey results from retailers and publishers in their recent 2020 State of Christian Retailing. During a time when the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that sales in bookstores declined 5.7% in 2019 from sales in 2018, the Parable Group found less discouraging data from Christian bookstores.

The Parable study found that same store sales were only down by 2.5% in 2019 over 2018. That is encouraging news for Christian bookstores when compared to the bookstore market overall.

Three other significant findings in this report may surprise you.

1.  Books are the leading sales for Christian retail, making up one-third of all in-store sales.

Books make up one-third of in-store sales.

2.  Half of all Christian book sales come from three categories: Christian Living, Devotionals, and Fiction

Half of all Christian book sales comes from these three categories.

3.  Hosting more store events is not a high priority for most Christian retail stores.

Store events not a high priority for retail stores.

The Christian retail industry is a niche market. While there have been numerous store closures over the past few years, what remains is not dying.

The landscape is changing as Christian bookstores are now almost exclusively independently owned stores. In fact, 75% of Christian retail respondents in The Parable Group’s survey had a positive outlook for the future. One store stated, “We’re reaching new people and retaining current customers better than ever.

If you are a Christian author and you have a Christian bookstore in your city, I suggest that you become a regular patron. Booksellers need our support. Bookstores help sell books. Whatever we can do as Christian authors to support Christian book sales impacts the Kingdom. If you are part of God’s Kingdom, then you reap the benefits.

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Photos courtesy of The Parable Group.

Double Your Book Marketing with This Little Trick

What would you think if I told you that you could double your marketing efforts with just one little move?

Double Your Book Marketing

It is possible—and indie author David Winters has done it.

David recently published a “making faith real” book for men. Exercise Your Faith: Defeating the Lies Men Believe examines thirty plus lies that can derail effectiveness and steal satisfaction.

Playing on his title, Exercise Your Faith, David decided that using a healthy, fit male as the image for his book’s cover would have the most impact in drawing men to the book. David happens to have a friend who is a fitness guru and owns a gym.

In a brilliant move, David asked his friend Nick Singer if he would like to be on the cover of his book. Of course, David’s fitness friend said yes. After all, who wouldn’t want that type of exposure? Who wouldn’t want to be able to talk about their fame from being featured on the cover of a book?

Exercise Your FaithBut, the exchange was not been just one-way. In being featured on the David’s book cover, Nick Singer became invested in the book.

Nick is a Christian. He wants to serve God and further His kingdom. To that end, he got onboard with helping David promote the book.

One of the marketing activities that the two have done together is to hold the book launch party at the Nick’s gym Fitology. At the launch party, David and Nick did a double book signing. The fitness guru signed the cover (since that is where he is featured) and David, as the author, signed the interior of the book.

So, in addition to selling books to people who know+like+trust the author, David is also able to sell books to people who know+like+trust his friend Nick, the fitness guru.

In case you don’t do math, two people promoting a book to their respective audiences means double the book marketing.

Do you want to sell more books? Then, consider who you might feature on the cover of your next book.

After all, in giving someone celebrity status by featuring them on your book’s cover, you will invest them in the sales of the book.

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Photo courtesy of Jill Wellington.

Personal Growth Books Are Popular

The pace of change in our world is accelerating. Change, like a ball rolling downhill, gathers momentum as rolls. The speed at which information doubles is getting faster and faster. Experts report that the information doubling speed has now reached every one to two years.

Personal Growth Books are Popular

The book publishing and selling industry is not immune from rapid change. Staying abreast of the trends in the book industry is useful for helping you know the challenges and to develop plans and programs for overcoming these challenges in selling books.

Book Sales by Category for 2019

After small annual gains over the past few years, unit sales of print books dipped 1.3% in 2019 compared to 2018 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan, which tracks 80% to 85% of print sales. Here is the breakdown of print book sales by category for 2019:

Adult Nonfiction: sales fell 1%

  • Self-Help: sales rose 11.4%
  • Juvenile Nonfiction: sales rose 4.5%

Adult Fiction: sales fell 2.9%

  • Graphic Novels: sales rose 16.1%
  • Science Fiction: sales fell 19.7%
  • Westerns: sales fell 17.2%
  • Romance: sales fell 12.4%
  • Mystery / Detective: sales fell 3.5%

Print sales of science fiction and romance have seen annual double-digit declines since the advent of ebooks. These books are still selling well in digital format.

Personal Growth Books Popular

The Self-Help or Personal Growth category has experienced continued growth over the past six years. In fact, it has nearly doubled in size since 2013.

Self Help Book Sales Graph

Industry experts report that this is not just a U.S. or Western phenomenon. A similar trend can be seen in China where self-help—especially positive personality imaging and self-worth books—are showing up on the bestseller lists.

The publishing industry is crowded. Whenever a book category becomes popular many publishers and authors jump on it. As a result, the number of Personal Growth titles published has outpaced the rate of the sales growth in this category.

Indeed, the number of ISBNs assigned to books in this category rose from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019. That is more than the 11% annual growth rate this category has seen.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that if you are an author of a Self-Help / Personal Growth book, people are reading books in this category. People are yearning for meaning, peace, and calm amidst the trials of life. Your book fills a need.

The bad news is that the competition is fierce. Just because Personal Growth books are selling well does not mean that your book will fly off the shelves. People have to first hear about your book. Then they have to trust you as the author to buy the book. Marketing is required.

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Image courtesy of Criativithy.

Do You Want to Sell More Books?

Do you want to sell more books?

1,416,384

This is the number of print books that were self-published in 2018.

91.5%

This is the percentage of those self-published print books that were published through Amazon’s KDP.

Amazon is huge. It is a dominant factor in the book-selling industry. However, it is not the only place books are sold. Currently, the breakdown of print books purchased online versus in physical stores is:

  • 34% of print books purchased in stores.
  • 66% of print books purchased online.

Amazon is not the only book seller in town (or state, or country, or world). If you are an independent author who has published through KDP, you are probably missing out on sales. In fact, you may only be selling half as many books as you could be selling.

The major publishers—those companies whose business is to sell books for profit—do not get all their sales from Amazon. In fact, here the breakdown for where major publishers sell their print books is:

  • 50% Amazon
  • 25% Libraries and specialty accounts
  • 17% Barnes & Noble
  • 8% Independent bookstores

Sales Breakdown

Only half of all print book sales for major publishers comes from Amazon. So, if you are only selling your books on Amazon, you are missing out on sales.

If you want to sell more books, here are some suggestions:

1.  Sell your book through multiple channels.

Not everyone shops on Amazon. If half of the major publishers print book sales come from other channels (both online and physical), then you are missing out on sales by exclusively selling your book through Amazon.

2.  Think outside the box.

One-fourth of the major publishers print book sales comes from library and specialty accounts. While you may have some difficulty getting libraries to pick up your book as an independent author, thinks about specialty stores. There are thousands upon thousands of gift stores in the United States. What type of gift, museum, or novelty shop might your book be a good fit for? Pursue these type of stores (both online and physical) for selling your book.

3.  Do more in-person events.

People buy books from authors they know, like, and trust. The quickest way to get people to know, then like and trust you is to do an in-person event. This could be a book signing, an author reading, a seminar, or other speaking engagement. These types of events allow you to sell your books during or after the event, increasing your sales.

4.  Pursue media coverage.

The number one reason people buy a book is because they are familiar with the author. People cannot become familiar with you unless they have exposure to you. One great way to expose yourself to people is through an interview on a radio or podcast show.

If you don’t know where to begin, I suggest that you join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) and download our list of over 80 radio and podcast outlets interviewing authors. The list is a steal of a deal and worth more than the Association’s annual dues.

If you need help in knowing how best to approach radio and podcast hosts to request an interview, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) can also help with that. After you become a Member, you can download our Reference Guides on Media Pitches and Media Interviews to learn what to do to be a successful media guest.

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Photo courtesy of Goumbik.

Is Your Book Available in More Than One Format?

Do you know the answers to these questions?

  • Who reads the most books overall?
  • Who reads the most ebooks?
  • Who listens to audiobooks the most?

College graduates read books in a variety of formats

These three questions all have the same answer. The answer is:

College Graduates—especially those making more than $75,000 per year and living in an urban or suburban environment.

The Pew Research Center’s most recent survey found that adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree are more likely to be book readers than those who have only attended some college, high school graduates, and those with less than a high school education. And adults ages 18 to 29 are more likely to read books than those 65 and older.

college graduates read in a variety of formats

One interesting takeaway from this study is that well over one-third of college graduates consume books in digital and audiobook format. Those who read the most consume books in multiple formats: print, digital, and audio.

As an independent author or small publisher, this means that you should be making your books available for purchase in at least two, if not all three, of these formats. The more choices customers have, the more likely they will find your book in their preferred format, increasing your sales.

For many independent authors and small publishers, the price of audiobooks is too steep for their budget. Both ACX and Findaway Voices both offer more affordable audiobook production through royalty sharing with a narrator so that authors pay less upfront costs to produce an audiobook.

As artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to improve, I believe that within a few years, production of audiobooks will be as affordable as production of print books is currently. I think that text to speech programs will evolve to sound just like a human reading, making audiobook production affordable for everyone.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Redfield.