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 Limiting Yourself?

“This book is for men,” the author said to my daughter as she stood at the book display looking at his book.

“This book caught my eye because I like to travel,” my daughter responded.

“But it’s really for men,” the author countered. “It would make a great dad gift. It’s really for men.”

At that point, my daughter, feeling embarrassed for showing interest in a book “for men” walked off.

Later, she related this story to me. She told me that the book was a travel book with maps and a journal written by a male author. She stated that the author was actively discouraging her from reading his book, even though she was showing interest.

Clearly, this author knew his target audience—men who enjoyed travel. However, he was so tuned to his target audience, that he was limiting himself to “men only”.

Maybe he was not aware that women read books geared for men and that men read books geared for women. While this author may not want to spend his marketing efforts and advertising dollars on women, he could sell more books by keeping in mind that some women might be interested in his book. This mindset would help him keep from shutting out females who show an interest in his book.

One author at CBA Unite shared that she had written a book for young adult females ages 13 to 18. She, too, knew her target audience. However, she went on to say that many moms and dads also read the book. She stated that one of her best reviews was from a dad who read the book.

Knowing your target audience is important. It helps you hone your marketing message and efforts. However, don’t limit yourself to your target audience. After all, a target is just a place to aim.

You should encourage anyone showing interest in your book to read it because:

  1. God can speak to anyone he chooses to through your written words.
  2. Stereotypes are generalizations. They don’t apply to everyone.
  3. The person may be considering purchasing the book as a gift for someone.
  4. Even if your message is not for the person reading the book, they might recommend the book to someone they know will enjoy it.

Whatever you do, never discourage interest in your book. Don’t limit yourself. Keep an open mind when considering who might be interested in reading your book.

Related Posts:
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Are You Developing an Audience?
Which Mindset Do You Have?

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Photo courtesy of Oscar Keys

Best Practices for Selling eBooks

Smashwords, an ebook self-publishing and distribution platform, analyzes their aggregate ebook sales across their distribution network each year. This analysis of over 450,000 ebooks by 130,000 authors and publishers provides information for best practices for selling ebooks.

The vast majority (87.5%) of Smashword’s sales are fiction titles—well in line with digital book sales trends.

In his 2017 Smashwords Survey, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, provides insights to help authors make their books more accessible, desirable, and enjoyable to readers. Here are three questions the most recent Smashwords survey answers.

1. Should I offer a free promotion of my ebook?

Smashwords survey found that free still draws readership, but that best results come from offering a first in series book free to hook readers on the series.

  • The number of downloads from free ebook offers has declined over the past three years. In 2016, offering an ebook for free produced 33 times more downloads on average compared to priced titles in the past 12 months. However, in 2015, the number was 35 times more and in 2014, that number was 41 time more.
  • Free is still a powerful sales catalyst for series or backlists. Series that offer the first book free earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first book free.

2. What is the best price for an ebook?

On average, nonfiction ebooks sell at a higher price point than fiction titles. The Smashword’s survey found that the most common price point for indie authors fiction ebooks is not the price point that maximizes earnings.

  • The most common price point for indie author selling fiction books is $2.99.
  • The top four price points for maximizing unit sales (other than free) are $3.99, $4.99, $0.99, and $2.99.

3. Do shorter ebooks sell better than longer ones?

On interesting takeaway from the Smashword’s analysis is that the average length of books that are selling the most copies has decreased over the past few years.

  • In 2012, the average wordcount for the top 60 best-selling romance titles was 112,195.
  • In 2016, the average wordcount for the top 70 best-selling titles romance was 92,725.

I would love to see more statistics about Christian ebook sales. Sadly, Smashword’s does not break out statistics by categories. However, they do provide ranking for sales of books by category for overall sales. Smashword’s survey found that Christian fiction ebook sales ranked 14 out of 17 categories. For nonfiction books, the Religion & Spirituality category ranked fourth out of 16 categories.

I think the two most noteworthy takeaways from this study are that the best price points for maximizing earnings for a fiction ebook is $3.99 or $4.99 and that free can still drive discoverability for an author.

Related Posts:
Global eBook Sales are Within Your Reach
What You Need to Know About Selling eBooks
Sales Data Worth Mining

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Photo courtesy of Dylan Siebel

Four Benefits of Winning a Book Award

“The best piece of advice you gave me was to enter my book into book awards.”

Of all the marketing advice this independent author had received from me, he felt that the encouragement to enter his book into book awards was the most valuable. Holding up his book, the author pointed to the new book award logo on the cover. He shared with me how winning the book award opened doors for promotion and sales opportunities.

Winning a book award provides many benefits. Following are four ways authors benefit from a book award. Winning an award:

1. Gives your book a seal of approval.
Your award sticker signals to the world that your book is excellent, that it is a quality book worth readers’ time and money.

2. Helps your book stand out from the crowd.
An award sticker gives your book’s cover bling, making it eye-catching. Additionally, studies show that when buyers are presented two books on the same topic, they will pick the one with an award sticker over the one without.

3. Brings you prestige.
When you win an award, you get to bill themselves as an award-winning author. Having this type of clout opens doors of opportunity.

4. Provides you and your book publicity opportunities.
The media will pay more attention to a pitch from an award-winning author. Winning a book award gives you additional opportunities to tell your audience about your book and persuade them to buy.

There are numerous book award contests available for authors to enter. One award, the Christian Indie Awards, sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is open for nominations. This award honors Christian books by small publishers and independent authors.

If you are an independent author or a small publisher, you can nominate your book for the Christian Indie Awards. Nominations are open at www.christianaward.com.

Related Posts:
Announcing Christian Indie Awards
Book Awards Produce Winners
Receiving a Coveted Book Award

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Do You Have the Wrong Expectation?

“If you self-publish, expect to sell less than 100 copies of your book.”

These words were spoken by a Christian author on a marketing panel at the recent CBA Unite International Show. This particular author was both a traditionally-published author and an independently-published author. She had published books using both routes.

The authors on this panel were sharing the lessons they had learned in marketing their books. After making this statement, the author neglected to talk about what authors could do to help ensure that they sold more than 100 copies of an independently-published book.

I am happy to say that I strongly disagree with this author’s statement. I don’t believe that any self-published author needs to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies of a book.

Expect means “to regard as likely to happen.” Truthfully, up to 99% of self-published books do sell less than 100 copies. However, this statistic does not reflect what an author should “expect.”

Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies because the author does not market the book effectively. Too many self-published authors have the idea “if I publish my book, people will buy and read it.” This mindset sets an author up for failure.

With over 1,300 books are published every day in America. The competition for readers’ money and attention is stiff. How many copies you sell of your book is largely dependent on the quality of your book and on your marketing efforts.

Having sold thousands of copies of an independently-published book, I can attest to the fact that you do not need to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies. What you do need is:

  1. A basic understanding of the book publishing and selling industry.
  2. A strong selling point or promise to your reader.
  3. To know and understand how to reach your target audience.
  4. To invest time and money in marketing your book to your target audience.

If you need to gain knowledge and information in any of these four areas, resources exist to help you. Some of these resources include:

Don’t expect failure. Instead, plan and act for success. You can expect to sell more than 100 copies of a self-published book with some knowledge and effort.

Related Posts:
Expectations
Are You Expecting Fast Results?
Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market

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Photo courtesy of Vincent van Zalinge

Christian Retail is Struggling

This past year has been a tough year for Christian bookstores. Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of its stores earlier this year. Only about 20 of those stores have been purchased by other entities and will continue to operate under new names.

According to CBA’s recent State of the Industry report, 45 independent Christian bookstores closed in 2016, while only 20 new stores opened. This represents a net loss of 25 independent retail stores (not including the 220 store closures from Family Christian Stores). Within the same period, there has been a 6 percent decline in sales of Christian retail, according to the same CBA report.

I have been attending CBA’s International Christian Retail Show now CBA Unite, with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) for the past fourteen years. Each year I have watched the show grow smaller. This year’s show was by far the smallest with the fewest attendees that I have experienced, reflecting the industry’s struggle.

At CBA Unite 2017, I noticed:

  • Fewer vendors
  • Fewer book buying attendees
  • Fewer international attendees
  • Fewer author appearances
  • Fewer exhibitor sponsored evening events (there was one this year)
  • Fewer educational opportunities
  • Only a couple big-name personalities appearances including best-selling authors, music artists, or actors (as compared to multiple in previous years)
  • Lack of a show smart phone app (as offered in previous years)

CBA is not releasing official attendee or exhibitor numbers this year—indicating that the numbers were poor. Publishers Weekly reports that attendance at the CBA Unite show dropped 43 percent from 2014 to 2016, and observations from the floor this year indicate that 2017’s turnout continued to fall. While BookExpo, the industry book trade show for the general market, reported that their trade attendance was significantly up this year from last year’s show in Chicago, that show’s attendance is still significantly down from 20,895 attendees in 2015 to 7,425 in 2017.

Authors attending CBA Unite with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) this year still received exposure for their books. Additionally, most were able to score quite a few media interviews since they were not competing with big name authors for these spots. You can watch the video featuring pictures of CSPA’s booth and author book signings at the show below:

Related Posts:
The Demise of the Christian Bookstore
How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore
ICRS 2016 Recap

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