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.

A Tool to Help You Reach More Millennials

The Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book. It is also the most translated book in the world, having been translated into 531 languages with 2,883 languages having at least some portion of the Bible.

Now a group of devout Christians has developed a new translation of the Bible. In an effort to reach more millennials with God’s word. This group has translated the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible into emoticons and emojis. Yes, you read that right. The Bible is now available in Emojis.

Bible EmojiThe complete emoji Bible is available on iTunes for $2.99. However, the creators of this Bible translation have made their Bible Emjoi Translator available for free to everyone on the Internet. The website, www.BibleEmoji.com, allows users to put in a Bible verse and receive that verse translated to “emoji awesomeness” instantly.

Of course, all the words in the Bible cannot be translated into Emoji’s since there is a limited number of Emojis (see Can Emojis Help You Reach More People?). The authors of this new translation say that about 10 to 15 percent of the translation is in Emojis while the rest is in regular, old alphabet characters.

While some people may think that this new Bible translation is over–the-top or even sacrilegious, I think it is a tool that authors and publishers can use to reach more Millennials in their marketing efforts.

If you have a Christian book, especially a nonfiction book that uses God’s word, you can use an Emoji-translated Bible verse in your marketing materials and online posts to grab this younger generation’s attention and direct them to your books.

Go ahead, try the Emoji Bible Translator out at www.BibleEmoji.com, and have some fun!

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How Many Languages Does Your Book Speak?

It happened again. Leafing through my mail recently, I found another royalty check for the Indonesian foreign rights sales for Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus.


My husband and I published Baby Bible Board Books back in 2004 through our publishing company, CREST Publications. We sold the foreign rights to translate and sell the books to an Indonesian publisher in 2008. Here we are in 2016, still receiving royalty checks on the continued sale of those books in Indonesia.

That, my friends, is why foreign rights are worth pursuing. Foreign rights contracts provide you revenue from your books for little to no effort on your part—and they broaden the audience for your books.

Foreign Rights is a big market. Riggins International Rights Services, a company that helps publishers and authors find foreign rights deals for books, conducted a survey of their core Inspirational (Christian) licensees around the world last year. Their survey indicated that 49% of these foreign publishers plan to acquire one to 10 titles for translation each year with 29% acquiring more than 10 titles. This means that foreign publishers are looking for quality books to acquire to translate and sell in their countries of residence.

The Asian market for books continues to grow. In China, translated titles and imports account for 22% of the market, with American and U.K. authors accounting for 57% of these sales in China. Germany also acquires numerous English-language books where about 40% of their books come from translations.

Riggins International Rights Services reports that the top six foreign languages they license books to are:

  1. Korean
  2. Chinese
  3. Portuguese
  4. Spanish
  5. German
  6. Indonesian

If pursuing foreign rights for your books is not in your marketing plan, I encourage you to include it. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) provides our members a number of avenues for foreign rights opportunities because we believe this is an important piece of marketing a book.

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Notable Data on Book Sales

The Nielson company studies consumers in more than 100 countries to provide the most complete view of buying trends and habits worldwide. Through their BookScan program, Nielson tracks book sales for the book industry. This program captures the data from around 80 percent of all book sales in the United States.

Each year Nielson releases reports about the data they collect. These reports give authors and publishers valuable information on what is happening in the book industry, especially in terms of book sales. Nielson’s 2015 report has some interesting information.

Nielson’s 2015 data shows that the self-publishing movement continues to grow. It is taking market share away from big publishers, especially in the ebook arena. Over the past four years, the big publishers market share for sales of ebooks fell from 46% to 34%, while self-published and small press ebook sales market share grew from 19% to 42% (see chart below).

Nielsen-1-market-shareWhat I found the most fascinating in this report is how people discovered books in 2015. There is a big difference in how consumers discover print books versus ebooks.

Nielson found that in-store browsing was still the number one way that people discover new print books to read. The second was through in-person recommendations from friends and relatives. However, this did not hold true for ebooks. The top way consumers discover ebooks to read is through browsing online sites. Family and friends recommendation still held high sway for ebooks, but not as high as for print books. Most notable was that the third and fourth most common ways for readers to discover ebooks was through reading a free sample online and through online recommendations based on what they have previously purchased or read (see chart below).

Nielsen-3-discovery-US-a-710x569I believe this data gives you some good information for marketing your books. eBooks are digital, therefore, people discover them in the digital realm (the Internet). So, concentrating your marketing efforts in the digital realm makes sense for ebooks. Print books, on the other hand, are physical. Readers predominately discover these books in the physical realm. Therefore, if you are selling print books, you can’t just concentrate your marketing in the digital realm. You must also market in the physical realm with print materials and physical displays of your book to attract buyers.

I am grateful that Nielson shares its data so that we, as authors and publishers, can stay abreast of how best to promote our books.

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Get to Know Your Target Audience

Content marketing is all the rage. According to Copyblogger.com:

Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.


Content marketing is about creating interesting, useful, and engaging things to share with your target audience. These include photos, statistics, tools, comics, how to guides, and stories. It’s about giving your audience content that they want to share with others and engage with you to get more interesting and useful stuff.

Good content marketing helps you attract and convert people in your target audience to become customers and buy your book. However, you can’t share valuable information with your target audience unless you know them. You have to know your audience to meet them where they hang out, speak their language, and give them the information they want.
If you want to get to know your target audience better so that you can create content that grabs their attention, try these two ideas.

1. Ask your readers questions.

As an author or an inspiring author, you should have already or be in the process of developing a platform online. This means that you have followers on a couple social media sites and maybe even a blog. Start by asking the people who have shown interest in you and your writing questions to get to know them better.

Following are some simple questions you can ask to learn more about your audience. You can ask these questions directly or through the use of polls.

  • What is the last book you read and recommended to your friends?
  • Why did you buy the book you are currently reading?
  • Where do you buy the majority of your books?
  • What is your favorite social media site?
  • What two blogs do you read regularly?
  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • Whose advice do you listen to the most?

Once you know where your audience is hanging out, what they are reading and what they like to watch, you can begin to mold the content that you share to get their attention. For example if your target audience likes to watch “Game of Thrones”, you can create content to grab their attention. You might post about “5 Books You Might Like if You Watch Game of Thrones”.

2. Profile a reader in your target audience.

To profile a reader in your target audience, find someone online who is clearly a fan of your book’s specific genre. Such a person may frequently post reviews on these types of books on Amazon or Goodreads. Study this individual’s profile. Find out what they like and what types of things they share. Figure out where they hangout on the Internet and who they are influenced by. This profiled reader will give you a snapshot of your target audience.

Getting to know your target audience better can take a little effort. Winston Churchill said, “Success always demands a greater effort.” Put in the effort to get to know your target audience and you will find that your marketing efforts reap more success.

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An Industry Shakeup

Back in 1998, Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer wrote a book titled BLUR: the speed of change in the connected economy. In the book they state, “Welcome to the new economy—a world where the rate of change is so fast it’s only a blur.”


The book industry is no exception. Changes happen all the time. The industry is blurry because things are constantly changing. Here is the most recent shakeup for the Christian book industry: Send the Light Distribution (STL) is closing.

Citing the lack of funds to remain competitive with the current supply chain for Christian products, STL is liquidating. The company has told suppliers of Christian products that they can keep their product with STL for 90 days while they search for another distributor. During these 90 days, the company will keep their suppliers’ products on the market to their entire customer base.

STL is a large distributor. They sell products for more than 500 suppliers (publishers and authors) to over 10,000 retail locations. However, they can no longer compete in an industry with shrinking store space and growing online print-on-demand sales.

The closure of STL leaves three main distributors in the Christian marketplace that small presses and independent authors have access to: Anchor Distribution, BookMasters, and Spring Arbor. Of course, small presses and independent authors have easy access to distribution with Ingram and Spring Arbor via print-on-demand services Lightning Source and IngramSpark (Christian Small Publishers Association offers its members discounts on these two services).

Nothing is constant. Publishers and authors must be willing to adapt and adapt quickly to changes to stay vital and continue to reach readers. STL was slow to change. They did not incorporate ebook distribution into their services, and they did next to nothing to promote a little known print-on-demand program they had with Snowfall Press for independent authors.

Years ago, I spoke with a Senior Executive at STL about their need to incorporate ebook distribution to stay relevant in the changing marketplace. Sadly, they did not take my advice. The Christian industry still lacks a distribution program for ebooks…and now they lack one distributor as well.

Related Posts:
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A Shakeup in the Christian Book Industry
Embracing Change

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