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.

Paper is Not Going Away

Recently the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released the sales numbers for books sold for the 2015 calendar year. Overall, book sales were up 0.8 percent ($7.2 billion in 2015 sales compared with $7.1 billion in 2014 sales)—good news for publishers and authors.

AAP

The AAP reported that for 2015, ebook sales declined. In fact, ebook sales declined to pre-2012 levels. In 2012, overall ebook sales were $1.5 billion. In 2015, ebook sales were $1.4 billion.

AAP’s report stated that most of the ebook sales loss was from the Children’s and Young Adult categories (down 43.3% from 2014). This seems to indicate that these younger generations continue to hang on to print reading over digital reading. They may also be buying fewer books as the Children’s and Young Adult category overall sales (both print and ebook combined) were down 3.2% in 2015 from 2014.

Even among books in the Adult category, ebook sales declined. The report showed that for Adult books in 2015, downloadable Audiobooks was up 38.9% and paperback was up 16.2%; however, eBooks sales declined 9.5%.

If you produce print books, take heart. People are still buying print books. In fact, they are buying about four times more print books than digital books.

I believe paper is here to stay. This humorous video testifies to this fact.

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Never Pass Up Publicity Opportunities

If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” ~Tom Peters

I love this quote. I see many independent authors doing just what it says not to do. They pull down the shade on publicity opportunities.

shade

Publicity is any information, article, or advertisement issued to secure public notice or attention. Publicity is a marketing activity. Marketing is any activity that draws people’s attention to your product.

There are two ways I frequently see independently published authors pass up publicity opportunities:

  1. They don’t seek out publicity opportunities.
  2. They pass up opportunities offered to them.

Why do these authors pull down the shade? I think it often boils down to feeling inadequate. Following are some of the statements I hear from authors passing up a free publicity opportunity:

  • I only have one title—with plans for future/additional titles. I’m not sure that this is appropriateness or right for me.
  • Having only published one book, I don’t feel that I have much to say.
  • I am just too busy right now.

None of these statements are true. If you are an author, you always have something to say. If gaining more sales for your book is important to you, you make the time. If someone asks you to talk about your book or company, it is always appropriate or right.

Sometimes authors will pass up a publicity opportunity because they feel that it is “too small”. No opportunity is too small if you are seeking more sales for your book. Yes, authors selling thousands of books can be more choosy about their publicity opportunities, but most independent authors who are passing up publicity opportunities do not fall into this category.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking: “I wish more free publicity opportunities would drop in my lap.” You don’t have to wait for them. You can go seek them out. Free publicity opportunities are presented to you every day. Some of these include:

1. Commenting on blogs that speak to your target audience on your subject.
2. Offering to write a guest blog post for a blog that speaks to your target audience.
3. Offering to be a guest on Blog Talk Radio shows seeking guests with your expertise.
4. Writing articles for publications including placing them for others use in article banks online (like ezinearticles.com).

One study by Microsoft found users needed to be exposed to a message between 6 and 20 times before it sunk it. Publicity gets your message before your audience. Your potential readers need to hear your message again and again before it sticks.

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What is Your Purpose?

Do you want to avoid discouragement and burnout?

It takes more than doing something you are passionate about to avoid becoming weary. You must also keep your purpose forefront in your thoughts.

purpose

What is your reason for writing, publishing, and marketing your book?

This is a very important question—one that should not be ignored or taken lightly. Producing a book, publishing a book, and selling a book are hard work. It takes time, dedication, and lots of effort. We can easily become discouraged when the results we want to see don’t roll in.

That’s where purpose comes in. Purpose keeps us grounded. When we lose sight of our purpose, we can become lost and wander.

I heard a story about a world class tennis player. This woman reached the rank of #5 in the world in women’s tennis. When she reached that spot, she began to lose consistently. She started to hate tennis and viewed practicing as a chore. What happened to her? She lost sight of her purpose: the reason she played tennis. Once she regained her purpose—which had nothing to do with how many games she won or lost—she began to enjoy playing tennis again and started climbing the ranks.

The same thing can happen for authors and publishers. If you lose sight of your purpose, your work can become tedious, boring, and uninspiring. Your productivity suffers. You no longer look forward to the next book or even talking to people about your current book. It just seems like a chore.

Knowing your purpose is key to success. Why? Because purpose defines your success. How you define your purpose is just as important as having a purpose. If your purpose is to be a best-selling author, you will easily get discouraged when you fall short of it. Your purpose must be deeper. It should not be tied to performance. With a purpose such as helping your readers live a more productive or Godly life, you are less likely to become discouraged because your purpose does not depend on how many books you sell or how popular you become. Simply helping your readers will give you the satisfaction you crave.

Have you defined your purpose? Take some time to ponder these questions:

  • What is my purpose in writing this book?
  • What is my purpose in publishing this book?
  • What is my purpose in marketing and selling this book?

These don’t have to be three different purposes, they might be the same. Your purpose should inspire you. It should ring true in your gut and renew your passion for your work.

I would love to hear how you define your purpose. Share it with me in the comments section.

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Sales Text That Sells

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled “It’s Okay Not to Know”. In this post, I talked about how we all start at the same place—not knowing much about writing, publishing, and marketing books. We are all on a journey and we need each other so we can learn and grow. In my post, I encouraged readers to ask if they don’t know.

sales-training-goes-off-cou

One reader, Elsa, a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) took my advice to heart. Elsa is new at publishing books. She recently purchased a cooperative ad through one of the many membership benefits CSPA offers. For the ad, we requested a 50-word description of the book.

Elsa put together sales text for her book ad. She asked me to give my input on her ad text as this was the first time she had put one together for the book. She reminded me that I had encouraged newbies to ask questions in my recent blog post.

I was happy to provide Elsa some feedback on her sales text. After all, she is a member of Christian Small Publishers Association and was purchasing a service CSPA provides. Here is what Elsa wrote for her original ad copy about a book titled The Listening Book by James Webb.

Jesus reached out to us using parables—and we can do the same. Quirky tales of a strange troll, troublesome blackbirds, and hidden treasure keep you coming back for more. Have you ever tried saying to someone: ‘That reminds me of a story’? Try it sometime—and see what happens.

I gave Elsa the following feedback on this advertising copy:

1. Sales text needs to be emotional. Purchases are not a logical decision. They are largely an emotional decision. Sales text for ads and other marketing materials should have an emotional pull. Warm emotions work better for pulling people in than cold emotions. Elsa’s use of “quirky” felt fairly cold. Why would readers be drawn to read “quirky” stories? Most people would rather read “heartwarming” or “inspiring” stories (that’s why Chicken Soup for the Soul series is so wildly popular).

2. Answer the WIIFM question. WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” Elsa’s sales text doesn’t make it clear what I would get out of reading this book. Her sales text needs to address what benefit her audience will get through buying and reading this book.

3. Include a call to action. Good sales text includes a call to action. Elsa’s original sales text had a call to action—telling someone ‘that reminds me of a story’—which has nothing to do with reading or buying the book. The call to action in good sales text should encourage the reader to read and purchase the book.

Elsa took my thoughts to heart and rewrote her sales text. Below is the revised ad copy.

Jesus reached out to us using parables—and we can do the same. Have you ever said to someone: ‘That reminds me of a story’? These 25 beautifully illustrated short stories include seeds and sofas, treasure and tragedy. They offer precious nuggets of personal encouragement and help us reach out to others with the truths of God’s kingdom.

I found Elsa’s rewrite much clearer. It has warmer emotions and includes a strong message about why her audience should read this book.

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God is in the Mix

God is at work. We can see his handiwork all around us if we just keep our eyes open for it.

2016 CSPA Catalog Cover

I love it when God works and we don’t even realize we need his intervention. It’s not that we aren’t praying, its just that we are going about our normal activities and then God shows up to help.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) we recently had one of those moments. Each year we put together a cooperative book catalog featuring a number of CSPA members’ books. The catalog is quite an undertaking. We wrangle information from 25 to 30 authors and publishers on 70+ books that needs to be compiled into a coherent layout.

Before going to print with our CSPA catalog, each CSPA member participating in the catalog must proof and give approval for their individual ad in the catalog. This year, we had a God incident.

After much hard work, we sent the catalog to the printer. The printer mailed us hard-copy proofs of the catalog. Upon receiving these proofs, we noticed that an error had occurred in the final prep stages of getting the catalog ready for print. We had a design glitch on five pages. We found it curious that the design glitch showed up on the first four pages, and then on a outlier page closer to the back of the catalog.

We made the necessary corrections and resent the pages to the printer. This time, the printer sent us PDF proofs. All appeared in order, except the outlier page. This time, it had a strange blue box around some text—something that had not been there previously.

Both the catalog designer and I were baffled by this strange blue box. We fixed it and sent the correction off to the printer. Upon receipt, the printer sent back a PDF proof of the one outlier page ready for print.

On this proof of the outlier page, one line of text was half wiped out. I thought that this was really odd. This strange error forced me to read the text and, to my chagrin, I discovered a glaring error that the publisher, the catalog designer, and I all missed when the ad was designed and the proof was approved by the publisher.

God must have a sense of humor. It took him three tries to get our attention to see this egregious error. First, it was the outlier page, then it was a strange blue box highlighting the error that we missed, and finally, it was the incorrect text that looked like someone had taken an eraser to it.

Thankfully, God is patient and persistent. I am grateful that he has my back and takes care of that which seeks to glorify his name.

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