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.

Are You Lacking Motivation?

Maybe you know that you should get started on or finish your next book, but haven’t found the drive. Maybe you know you need to do more book promotion, but can’t find the urge.

Sometimes discouragement is the cause of the lack of motivation. What you expected didn’t happen. What you hoped for did not come true. Your book has not sold as many copies as you thought it would.


Sometimes lack of inspiration is the culprit. You don’t feel sparked with a story or topic. You don’t feel emboldened with ideas to add value to people’s life through content marketing.

When you find yourself lacking the desire or impetus to move ahead on your book or marketing project, try these four ideas to arouse your motivation.

1. Find Your Mantra.

A mantra is a saying that you repeat to yourself to remind yourself of a truth. Your mantra does not need to be long, it can be short. It just needs to be meaningful. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing for creating a mantra that helps you stay motivated when your momentum flags.

  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.
  • Excellence does not require perfection.
  • God holds my hand and says do not fear, I will help you.
  • I can and I will.
  • God has called me to do this thing.
  • Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

2. Set Daily Goals.

Create a daily goal for yourself that is achievable. Your goal may be to spend an hour everyday working on your manuscript. It might be to engage in three book promotion activities every day. Make your goal specific and achievable.

3. Establish a Routine.

Once you have set your daily goals, establish a daily routine that includes time to perform the task of your goal. You might decide to go to bed an hour earlier every night so you can get up an hour earlier to write. You might choose to engage in your marketing activities right after lunch each day so that you don’t get to the end of the day and say, “I didn’t have time.” It’s all about making time in your day for the activities that are important.

4. Reward Yourself.

When you have accomplished your goal, give yourself a reward. If your long-term goal is to finish your book, then rewarding yourself when you complete the book is great. However, you can also give yourself intermediate rewards for just writing every day during the week. At the end of the week, give yourself a reward.

I encourage you to remember that God is your strength. Any task that he has called you to, he will help you accomplish. Simply start. Implement these four ideas and keep moving forward!

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Photo courtesy of David Mao.

Should You Use Live-Stream Video?

Facebook Live. Periscope and Twitter #golive. Live-stream video seems to be a huge fad. A number of these services have come and gone (Meerkat and Blab to name two). With video watching so prominent on the Internet, why does live-stream appear to be floundering?

Blab, the most recent live-stream video service to go belly-up, shared some insights in an article one of the founders wrote. In his writeup, Shaan Puri reports that in its first year of operation, Blab grew to 3.9 million users. The average daily user spent over 65 minutes per day on Blab. So, why did the service die?


Shaan believes there are two reasons that contributed to the demise of Blab.

1. Most live-stream videos aren’t engaging enough.

With Blab, only 10% of the 3.9 million users returned to the service on a regular basis. The reason was because most live-stream videos aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what you are doing to watch.

2. Blab became a place to hang out with friends, not create content.

In essence, content creators quit using Blab because they did not get enough traction from viewers. The people who stayed on Blab did so to hang out with friends.

I think authors can learn a couple lessons from Blab’s closing.

1. Your video content must be engaging and informative.

Whether people are stopping what they are doing to watch your video or they are taking time away from other activities to watch your video, your content must be compelling enough to capture and keep your audience’s attention. It is best to keep your videos short—under two minutes in length. Studies show that 60% of viewers stop watching a video by two minutes.

2. Your video content should be accessible on the viewer’s time frame, not yours.

It would appear that live-stream is not the best channel to collect an audience. Instead, providing videos that people can access at any time that is convenient for them is more important. This may explain why Periscope recently updated its app so that users can stores their videos long-term, not just for 24 hours.

Internet video watching will continue to grow in 2017. Experts predict that video watching will consume 69% of Internet traffic this year. Because people view so much video on the web, it can be a very useful tool in marketing books.

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Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market

I recently wrote “Four Publishing Trends for 2017” to talk about what I believe the industry is going to continue to witness this year. One of the trends I mentioned was that the number of books published will continue to exponentially outpace the growth rate of reading.

This idea is not novel. After all, I reported that it was a trend. It is a trend that has been happening and will continue to happen. I am not the only person in the publishing industry who has noticed this trend.


Mark Coker the founder of the ebook publishing and sales platform Smashwords recently released his predictions for 2017. In these predictions, he states:

The glut will grow more pronounced. There’s a glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks. These ebooks are immortal and will never go out of print. Thanks to low-cost virtual shelf space, retailers can stock these ebooks forever—even if the books don’t sell. Although it’s great that your book will forever occupy the shelf, and forever be discoverable and purchasable by new readers, it also means that the virtual shelves are becoming more overcrowded every day. The major ebook retailers each stock millions of ebook titles in their online stores, with Amazon fast approaching five million titles. Every day from yesterday forward it will become more challenging to stand out.

This statement is not just true for ebooks; it is true for print books as well. Online bookstores have unlimited shelf space for print books, and since these books can sit in POD until they are ordered, no actual shelf space is needed to store the books.
In an overcrowded market, it is difficult for any one book to stand out and catch readers’ attention. Authors who want to sell books in this overpopulated environment must focus on developing an audience for their books.

If you are interested in learning more about audience development, I encourage you to watch my new on-demand seminar Develop an Audience for Your Books. This 50-minute streaming video walks you through the steps you can take to develop an audience of people who will purchase your books. Instruction covers what an audience is, the importance of an audience, and strategies to develop an audience. You can view this on-demand seminar for just $20 at http://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

As always, members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have free access to this on-demand seminar on CSPA’s website.

If you want to sell books, audience development is not an option. It should be an integral part of marketing strategy, not an afterthought.

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Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

Amazon is a massive giant and growing. Consider the following facts:

  • Half of all U.S. households are subscribed to Amazon Prime.
  • Half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
  • Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online.
  • Amazon sells more books and toys than any retailer online or off.
  • Amazon sells 67% of all ebooks and 64% of online print book sales.


As an author, you cannot ignore Amazon.

Recently, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) published the results of a study they conducted. The study “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities” provides in-depth details on how Amazon is monopolizing the economy, undermining job growth, and weakening communities. Consider a few more interesting factoids:

  • Amazon increasingly controls the underlying infrastructure of the economy.
  • Amazon’s Marketplace for third-party sellers has become the dominant platform for digital commerce.
  • Amazon’s Web Services division provides the cloud computing backbone for much of the country, powering everyone from Netflix to the CIA.

ILSR warns that Amazon’s power as a gatekeeper in our economy will increasingly have negative consequences. One example ILSR sites is that “Amazon’s power to manipulate what products we encounter is especially concerning in the book industry, where it now commands more than half of sales, and where it can stifle the exchange of ideas simply by removing a book from its search and recommendation algorithms, as it did two years ago, in its dispute with the publisher Hachette.”

Christian authors, do not take this warning lightly. ISLR is on to something very important here. Amazon is not a Christian company, nor are they friendly to Christian books. Yes, Amazon lists almost every book for sale on its website, but that does not mean that the company is sympathetic toward Christian books. In fact, the opposite is true.

A member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently brought this to my attention. This gentleman had published an ebook on prayer via the Kindle Direct Publishing program. He then signed up to use Amazon’s Marketing Services to run an ad campaign on his book. Amazon denied his ad campaign and cited their “Creative Acceptance Policy”.

I urge you to go to Amazon and read this policy. This policy states the following:

  • Unacceptable Books: Books with content that is threatening, abusive, harassing, or that advocates or discriminates against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category.
  • Restricted Ad Content and Books: There are several customer experience sensitive categories that are not appropriate for a general audience. The following categories may be restricted from the homepage and Kindle E-reader placements: Religious or spiritual content.

In addition, the email that Amazon sent this author stated, “we are unable to approve your ad if it contains overtly religious or spiritual ad copy, images, or symbols (for example, the Star of David, a crucifix, the Star and Crescent).”

I believe that moving forward, Amazon will increasingly restrict religious content on their site through the means mentioned above. Personally, I find it sad that the Christian Retail Industry has not done more to embrace small publishers and independent Christian authors. In not doing so, they have partly been responsible for the rise in Amazon’s power, as these publishers and authors were forced to rely on Amazon for book placement and sales.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Every Author

New Year’s Resolutions are becoming passe. That’s because most people rarely keep their resolutions. By mid-January, most people have fallen off the proverbial wagon when it comes to their New Year’s declarations.


I think making resolutions is a necessary ingredient for success. The key is to make resolutions that are reasonable and attainable. One can make resolutions (goals) at anytime during the year. Since we are entering a new year, now is a great time to determine to take the next step in your journey. I encourage you to consider the following resolutions I think every author should make and keep this year.

1. Get Connected.

Writing may be a solitary activity, but nothing else about producing and marketing a book is. Successful authors know that being connected to a community of authors and readers is essential. Authors benefit from a community that encourages them and gives them honest feedback. Connections provide opportunities. We were not created to exist in isolation.

If you are not connected to a group of authors and readers, make it your goal this year to get connected. Join a local writer’s group or an online writing group. Join an association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) where the collective group bring opportunities you would not have as a solo flyer. Become a member of a book social networking community like Goodreads, LibraryThing, or Booklikes.

2. Keep Learning.

When we stop learning, we stop growing. Scientists will tell you that you must use your brain, or you will lose your brain. Learning keeps us fresh and on the top of our game. With the rapid changes in publishing and technology, authors who don’t keep learning risk extinction.

There are many places to continue your learning. You can attend a writers conference. (I encourage you to check out the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. I will be presenting at both this year.) Read industry blogs (including this one). Watch online webinars and on-demand seminars related to publishing and marketing books (Marketing Christian Books University offers some good on-demand seminars). Read books related to publishing and marketing (including mine if you have not yet read it).

3. Write More.

Set aside time to write each day. Writing only improves with practice. Additionally, the research shows that authors who write and produce multiple books sell more copies overall than one-time authors. So, keep writing, keep producing books.

4. Increase Your Marketing Activities.

Few authors promote enough. Most authors find marketing difficult. After all, you are a writer, not a marketer. But, marketing is required if you want to sell books. So, aim to increase the number of marketing activities you are doing on a daily basis. If you are not engaging in at least one marketing activity everyday, make it your goal to do so in 2017. If you are already doing one marketing activity a day, increase it to two. Put more effort into promoting your books and watch for the results.

5. Be Thankful.

Research shows that thankful people are happier people. Happier people are more productive. Researchers at the University of Warwick found that happy employees are on average 12% more productive than non-happy employees. So make it your New Year’s resolution to be thankful, and productivity will follow.

Every author can benefit from making these five New Year’s resolutions. Just do it and make 2017 your best year yet as an author!

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