About marketingchristianbooks

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), the owner of CREST Publications, and the author of 7 books including Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace and numerous articles. She is also the editor of the CSPA Circular, the monthly newsletter of Christian Small Publishers Association. A clinical social worker by education and experience, Sarah stumbled into the world of publishing after her two self-help books were published by a small publisher. Sarah and her husband, a fiction author, then collaborated on a set of board books for infants and toddlers after the birth of their children. After much thought and research, they decided to publish the project themselves. This decision led to the creation of CREST Publications and Sarah’s journey into marketing. Navigating the Christian marketplace began as a rather solitary learning experience for Sarah as no guide books or associations were available for marketing in this unique marketplace. After meeting and dialoging with other small and self-publishers marketing books in the Christian marketplace, it became clear that an organization was needed to provide assistance and information to new and emerging publishers. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) was founded in January 2004 with Sarah Bolme as Director. Sarah’s passion is educating others to help them improve their situation whether that is helping them get unstuck in their lives through counseling or marketing their books into the Christian marketplace.

Is Your Author Website Scaring People Away?

Caution! Slippery When Wet!

The sign, often used in public places, warns people to take care. The floor is wet, therefore slippery, increasing the risk of falling. This warning sign catches people’s attention and helps prevent accidents.

Is your website scaring people away?

The internet also has warning signs. As fraud increases, the internet community has bumped up their concerns about safety. As a result, internet browsers now warn people whether a website is safe or not.

If a website is safe and secure (featuring an https:// in the URL), the browser shows a lock:

secure website

If a website is not secure (featuring an http:// in the URL), the internet browser will show some type of warning:

not secure website

website not secure warning

These signs tell a visitor to your website whether your website is a safe and secure place. Savvy internet users recognize these signs. If your website does not sport an https:// and the browser features a warning sign, potential customers visiting your book or author website may be scared away.

Recently a Member of Christian Indie Publishing Association sent in an announcement about a new book for the Association’s newsletter. When checking the URL for the newsletter, I noticed that his website appeared as “not secure” in my browser. I sent this member the following note:

By the way, you should update your website from http:// to https://. Just ask your hosting service for an SSL Certificate. Many now provide them for free. Google’s SEO is now paying attention to https and you will rank higher if you have it.

The Member sent back this response:

Thank you for the SSL tip. I was able to set up my website for free with a certificate from my hosting service (I just always assumed that they would charge me extra for it).

His response surprised me. Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) has been encouraging all our Members to update to https:// with an SSL Certificate for the past year. The Association neglected to tell our Members that many hosting services provide this for free. In reality, the benefit of having an https:// outweighs any small cost some hosting companies may charge.

So, I am passing this information on to you so that you can make sure your website is:

  1. Not scaring away visitors by being unsecure, and
  2. Ranking higher in search engine results because it is secure.

If your website still sports an http:// in the URL and shows up as not secure in a browser, check with your web hosting company. You can get an SSL Certificate for little or no cost.

Your website sends a message to the world. Make sure your website says you are professional and can be trusted.

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Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels.

Can This One Little Word Help You Sell More Books?

Every marketer must overcome obstacles to making a sale. People don’t readily part with their money unless they are convinced to do so. In his book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman’s states that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

Other research has shown that people make purchases on their emotions even though they think they are making a logical choice. Humans are driven by feelings. In order to get people to engage with you and your book, you must appeal to their emotions.

If you are only marketing the attributes of your book, your sales results may end up being lackluster. If, instead, you combine the attributes of your book with appealing to a reader’s emotions, you can have greater success with your book sales.

One way to appeal to people’s emotions is to give them a reason to act. In 1978, three Professors of Psychology at Harvard, published a research study about the power of the word “because“.

The professors had research participants request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine on a college campus. The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  • Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Interestingly, the first phrase achieved 60% compliance with the request. The second and third phrases achieved 93% and 94% compliance. The researchers concluded that using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance.

Gregory Ciotti of copyblogger says that certain words hold more sway over our decision-making process than others. “Because” appears to be one of those words. Other words that have power in helping people make a decision to purchase are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Instantly
  • New

If you want to improve your book sales and persuade people to buy your book, try using the word “because”. In other words, give them a compelling reason to part with their money in exchange for a copy of your book.

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Photo courtesy of aykapog.

A Branding Lesson

We live in an ever-changing world. New people are born, others die. Businesses come and go. Technology continually grows, changing the way we interact with others and do business. New products are invented. And new books are written daily.

A Branding Lesson

One Christian book company has had to make the move to change their branding after developments in the United States outside the book industry began to impact the book company’s business.

For twenty years, Christianbook.com has operated under three distinct brands: Christian Book Distributors, CBD, and Christianbook.com. The company recently announced that they are moving all their brands to one brand: Christianbook.

The company made the following statement about their branding move:

Over the last 12 months, there has been a rise in popularity of a medicinally used product derived from the cannabis plant—cannabidiol, commonly referred to as “CBD.” Across the country, people see signs for “CBD sold here,” which creates brand confusion. In the past, a Google search for “CBD” would place our company at the top of the results page. Now “our CBD” is nowhere to be found in the search results, only sites for the cannabis product are listed, and paid ads are no longer allowed. As this wave of popularity over the “other CBD” is not likely to subside, we will stop referring to ourselves as “CBD” and will also drop the word “Distributors” from our company name. Going forward, we will operate under the name of “Christianbook.”

Christianbook is not alone. Any company that has been in business for a number of years has the potential to run into branding confusion. As our world grows—now 7.7 billion people, a growth of 54% in the past 30 years—so do the number of businesses, brands, and acronyms.

The lesson for small publishers and authors is not to hold too tightly to your brand.

As CBD became more widely known for the product derived from the cannabis plant than a Christian book company, changing their brand was the wise choice for Christianbook.  Wise authors and publishers will monitor their brand and be willing to make changes should a more popular similar name or acronym become more of an impediment to their brand than an asset.

Changing a brand does not destroy a business. In fact, sometimes it can help a business by bringing more attention to it. When a business changes their branding, it creates an opportunity for both media exposure and messaging to their audience.

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How’s That Working for You?

“How’s that working for you?” This little, yet powerful question was made popular by Phillip McGraw, of the Dr. Phil show.

Let me ask it of you, author. When it comes to social media, “How’s that working for you?”

How's That Working for You?

When I consult with authors, I frequently hear this phrase—or one similar:

“I’m on Facebook. I have a lot of followers. They like and comment on what I post, but people aren’t buying my book.”

In fact, studies show that, on average, 53% of people who follow brands (businesses) on social media don’t buy anything from them at all. They just want the content (the information) the brand shares.

Authors hear “build a platform” and jump into social media trying to gain an audience. Often, they gain followers, but get frustrated when they don’t see these followers convert to book sales.

One reason for this is that people are not in a buying frame of mind when they are browsing social media. It is much easier to sell someone a book or product when they are already “shopping”. Someone who is engaged in the shopping process is much easier to persuade to buy something than someone who is not thinking about buying a book or product.

This does not mean that you can’t or won’t ever sell a book to someone via social media, it just means that it is harder. This is why I tell authors to not just use one tool (social media) to market their books.

Social Media is not your only marketing tool.

Instead, social media should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools like:

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is about giving your audience useful information that has value for them. It is information that your target audience is thirsty for. It’s about creating blogs, articles, video, and audio that provides valuable information and insight for your audience. One study showed that 7 out of 10 consumers would rather learn about a product or company from interesting content than from an ad.

2. Email Marketing

Email is more effective at reaching consumers than social media. Emails prompt purchases at a rate of at least three times that of social media. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message. When people like the content you are creating, they will give you their email address in exchange for receiving more content directly. This gives you the opportunity to market your books directly to a group of interested people.

3. Media Interviews and Speaking Engagements

Speaking is one of the best ways to sell books because people buy books from authors they know and trust. Speaking to a group of people develops that trust and allows an audience to get to know you. Media interviews work similarly. After people hear you on the radio or a podcast, they feel they know you and are more likely to purchase your books.

Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference

I will be teaching four continuing sessions on “You CAN Indie Publish & Market Your Book” at the upcoming Great Philly Christian Writers Conference in August. This seminar focuses both on how to publish your book as well as how to begin marketing your book—using more than social media. I invite you to attend the conference and get the information and knowledge you need to successfully publish and promote your books.

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Make the Most of Summer Reading Intentions

A large majority of American readers (80%) plan to put away their cell phones to focus on reading this summer, according to an independent survey of 1,500 reading adults commissioned by Barnes & Noble. Of those expressing the desire to make reading a priority, many have vowed not to look at their phones for between 30 minutes and two hours during each reading session.

Types of Books

Among the full sample of readers, 48% said they plan to read books in the mystery genre this summer, 37% in the history genre, 34% in the fantasy genre and 33% in the science fiction genre. Fifteen percent of summer readers said they plan to join a book club this summer, with seven percent saying they are already in a book club.

Sixty-nine percent of summer readers said they will most often read a print book. Nearly a quarter (24%) of summer readers will most often read a book on an electronic device, while seven percent will listen to an audiobook. Of those reading or listening on a device, 34% will use an e-Reader, 34% will use a cell phone and 32% will use a tablet.

Kids and Reading

The survey, conducted in early May by the market research company Atomik Research, also showed nearly 90% of parents with children between six- and 17-years old plan to ask their youngsters not to use electronic devices like cell phones and video games during certain periods of time during the summer.

In fact, 61% of parents surveyed said summer reading is very important to their families, and 70% said summer reading for their kids is just as important as reading during the school year. In a sign that reading is a shared activity in many households, 69% of parents said their families read together during the summer, with more than half of parents (55%) planning to read the same books as their children this summer so they can have a bonding experience.

Summer Reading

Parents also have high expectations of the number of books their children should read this summer.  Of the 1,500 readers surveyed, 38% hope to read one to three books this summer, while 37% hope to read four to six books. Among parents, 35% want their child/children to read four to six books this summer, 26% want them to read 10 or more books, and 25% want them to read one to three books.

Capitalize on Summer Reading

Following are two great ways you can capitalize on the readers’ effort to read more this summer:

1. Offer a summer sale on your books.

Summer is also a great time to offer a discount or coupon on your books. With readers making an effort to read more this summer, they need books to read and a sale or special can more them to purchase and read your book.

2. Host a summer reading program at your church.

As an author, you want to encourage reading. The more people read, the more likely it is that they will read your book(s). You can use the results from this survey to encourage your church library or church children’s ministry to run a summer reading program. Offer to help facilitate the program and donate some of your books for prizes for those who read a certain number of books over the summer. After all, as a Christian, you don’t just want to promote reading, you want to promote reading Christian books to bring hope and encouragement and draw people closer to God.

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