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.

The State of Christian Fiction

If you write or publish Christian fiction books, then you should know about the recent survey of Christian fiction readers and the results. Christian Fiction Readers: Worth Pursuing, Worth Keeping, a reader survey conducted through a cooperative effort of CBA, The Parable Group, The Baker Publishing Group, and American Christian Fiction Writers, used an online survey to compile information from around 1,500 Christian fiction readers—largely female readers (over 90% of respondents).

Fiction Reading

The survey found that Christian fiction readers are purchasing more titles today than five years ago, but their buying and reading behaviors have changed. Here are some key findings from the survey:

  • Christian fiction readers read more than the national average and are more frequent book buyers. Nearly 50% of Christian-fiction readers read more than 10 books annually; by comparison, only 36% of American adults read more than 10 books per year, according to a 2014 Pew Research study.
  • The top Christian fiction genres reported by surveyed readers were historical fiction (66%), romance (52%), contemporary (51%), romantic suspense (50%), suspense/thriller/legal thriller (47%), and mystery/espionage (45%), which also reveals that many Christian fiction readers read more than one genre.
  • Trade paperbacks are still the most popular format for readers at 41% despite what some may presume is the age of digital dominance, with 28% of Christian fiction readers responding that they read on ebooks or digital formats.
  • Nearly 50% report purchasing more Christian fiction titles today than five years ago.
  • Almost 50% of Christian fiction ebooks are downloaded for free rather than purchased.
  • The top sales drivers for Christian fiction are the story itself (94%), the desire to keep reading a story in a series (69%), recommendations about a book (68%), and author familiarity (89%).
  • Most Christian fiction readers don’t want their stories to include sex, bad language, or violence.

While the number of respondents to this survey represents a fairly small subset of Christian fiction readers, the findings represent good news for Christian fiction books and those who produce them.

One finding I found interesting was that over two-thirds of respondents reported that one of the top reasons they buy a Christian fiction book is the desire to keep reading a story in a series. If you want to sell more books, take this to heart. To keep readers coming back for more, write and publish series of stories.

Which finding in this survey caught your attention?

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Impacting Lives

Why do you write and publish? Most authors write and publish to impact people’s lives. If you write nonfiction, you want to help improve an area of someone’s life. If you write fiction, you probably don’t want to just entertain, but also inspire people to live better lives. For Christians, our writing is also aimed at bringing people into a closer relationship or understanding of God.

As an author, I want to impact people’s lives. My book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is a handbook that is designed to help Christian authors and publishers effectively promote their books to reach people. I love to hear feedback from my readers—especially feedback that tells me that my book has made a difference to them in their book marketing journey.

Here is a video testimony from one of the readers of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. I recently met Lee Ann Mancini, the author and publisher of the Adventures of the Sea Kids series, at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). After she told me how much my book had helped her in her journey, I asked her to share it with others. Here is what Lee Ann had to say about Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

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Is Your Message Narrow Enough?

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read “I’m Straight Not Narrow”. Most people don’t want to be considered narrow, rigid, or closed-minded. However, narrow is not always bad.


Matthew quotes Jesus as having said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” So, in the spiritual world, narrow is good.

Narrow can also be good when it comes to promoting a book. There are two ways to utilize narrow to more effectively promote your book:

1. Narrow Your Audience
Narrowing your audience can help you do a better job of promoting your book because it helps you spend your time most effectively. When authors throw their audience net too wide, they catch fewer readers. Why? Because the message does not touch the right people. The net is too wide and the message becomes weak and diluted. However, when you are able to narrow your audience to those who most need or want the message you have to share, you can utilize your time efficiently to reach the people who are most likely to read your book.

2. Narrow your Message
Too many messages are confusing. One message that is repeated over and over is more likely to be remembered. Narrowing your marketing message can help you promote your book more effectively. Choose one message for your book marketing campaign. Your message should be what need your book meets for your audience. Messages like “pray more effectively” or “improve your financial stewardship” tell your audience in direct way what reading your book will do for them. Remember, people can only remember a limited number of items. By narrowing your message, you increase the chances that your audience will remember it.

As you craft your next book promotion campaign, remember this narrow concept. Narrow your audience and your message for the most success.

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Whose Responsibility Is It?

In the past few weeks, I have run into two authors who told me that they were having books published by a small publisher. Each stated that she did not know what, if any, marketing the publisher would be doing for her book. Both inquired for help in knowing the best way to ask their publisher for this information.


Knowing what your publisher will be doing to promote your book is important. You do not want to waste time or money on services or advertising that your publisher is going to be doing. You need to know so that you can make the best use of your resources in promoting your books.

What type of marketing do traditional large publishers do for books they publish? The answer all depends on the author. For best-selling authors, traditional publishers provide complete marketing services including hiring a publicist. For new authors, traditional publishers often do little marketing aside from securing pre-publication reviews, sending out press releases, and paying for a minimal amount of advertising.

New authors wanting to break into better sales, even though published by a traditional publishing house, often have to spend their own money to promote their book. They may hire a designer to create a website, pay for an advertising campaign, or hire their own publicist.

Communication between a publisher and author is important. Knowing who is responsible for each piece in the book promotion puzzle creates the most comprehensive marketing plan. Following is my response to these authors as well as a message for small publishers.

Message to Authors:
If you are having your book published by a small publisher, don’t be shy about asking what they will be doing to market your book. You don’t have to beat around the bush or be tactful. You need to know what the publisher is doing so that you can augment their marketing activities on your behalf. Ask outright: “What type of marketing can I expect from you for this book?” “What marketing efforts do you want me to engage in?”

Message to Small Publishers:
If you are publishing authors other than yourself, be clear with your authors about what marketing efforts (if any) you will do on behalf of their books. Preferable, this should be included in your author contract. Additionally, you should make clear to the author that they have some responsibility in marketing their book. Providing authors a helpful guide listing ways to market a book including having a website, utilizing social media, as well as speaking engagements, should be part of your regular communication with authors.

Authors and publishers working together to promote a book produce the best results. Lone rangers aren’t as effective as teams.

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A Good Marketing Guideline

How much money should you spend on marketing your book? This is a question that new authors and small publishers often ask.


I recently heard a former vice-president of marketing for Thomas Nelson share his rule for how much money to spend on a book marketing campaign. This gentleman said that his marketing expenditure rule is to plan to spend at least $1 per book you want to sell. So, if you want to sell 50 copies of your book, plan to spend $50. If you want to sell 1,000 copies of a book, plan to spend $1,000.

I think that this rule is a decent rule of thumb for book marketing expenditures. However, I think it is a guideline, not a rule. A rule implies that if you do “this thing”, then “that thing” will happen. A guideline suggests that doing “this thing” makes it more likely that “that thing” will come about.

Just because you spend $500 on marketing does not mean that you will sell 500 copies of your book. Knowing when and where to spend your marketing dollars is just as important as how much you spend. It is easy to squander marketing dollars on services and advertising that may not produce any results. Conversely, some authors spend very little on marketing and end up selling many copies of a book.

I think that planning to spend $1 per book you want to sell on marketing is a good starting guideline. If you are planning your marketing budget, I encourage you to use this guideline as a starting figure for your marketing budget. Since many independently published authors and small publishers don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing, the $1 per book guideline is an attainable goal.

Asking other authors what types of marketing have given them the best return for their investment and using cooperative marketing programs are two ways you can make good use of your marketing dollars so they are not squandered.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) strives to help independent authors and small publishers spend your marketing dollars wisely by offering information and affordable cooperative marketing opportunities. Right now, CSPA is offering a summer special on our membership. For just $120, you can join and receive membership through December 2016 (that’s 18 months of membership for less than $7 per month). Membership signup is available on our website.

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