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.

Develop a Global Strategy

To develop a global strategy is a vital move for indies if they want a profitable future. With the media so globalized, and readers all over the world able to find and buy books online, independent publishers can be ‘much more confident and active’ in global markets.” ~Sandy Grant, CEO of Hardie Grant Publishing

Sandy Grant is right. To maximize sales and profits, publishers and independent authors should move to the global market.

A new Pew study backs up this strategy. The study found that Internet use in emerging and developing countries is highest among younger, more affluent, better educated users who read English. The study also found that people who read or speak English are more likely to access the Internet overall (irregardless of other factors). This is significant for English-language book publishers. English-speaking people around the world are the most likely to use the Internet. This means that these people are also more likely to purchase ebooks.

eBook subscription services are aware of the profit potential in global access. Oyster is already beginning to expand internationally and Bookmate (a Russian-based digital subscription reading service) has launched its service in Singapore.

PG_15.03.11_Internet-Access_640px_WebThe Pew study found that Chile, Venezuela, Russia, and China have Internet access rates higher than 60%, with the United States having an Internet access rate of 87%. Many developing countries rates are still under 50%.

The study noted that once online, Internet users in emerging and developing nations have embraced socializing as their most preferred type of digital activity—with most saying they stay in touch with friends and family online. Many also use cyberspace for getting information about politics, health care and government services. Less common are commercial and career activities, such as searching or applying for a job, making or receiving payments, buying products and taking online classes.

So, while Internet access and activity is increasing around the world, buying products (including books) online is still lagging. However, as Internet activity continues to increase, buying of ebooks will also increase. Making your books available worldwide may not reap immediate profits, but the global strategy is one that will need to be embraced as we move into the future.

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Amazon’s New Review Options

Book reviews are important. Consumers read reviews before buying a product. In fact, studies show that six out of ten consumers refer to online reviews before they decide what to buy. Books are not exempt. Reviews sway readers to either buy or not buy a book.

amazon rating

Amazon knows that reviews are important. That is why they allow reviews on their site and why they purchased Goodreads. Goodreads is all about reviewing and recommending books to other readers. Amazon knows that this drives book sales.

Additionally, Amazon has made it extremely easy to post reviews on their e-commerce site. All one has to do is 1) have purchased a product, 2) write a sentence, or two, or three about a product, and 3) select a star rating (1 to 5 stars) for the product.

It appears that Amazon is testing a new way to write reviews on books. They are beta testing a series of drop-down menu items that reviewers can complete in addition to rating the book (1-5 stars) and writing their thoughts. These drop-down menu selections include four questions from a variety that Amazon is using including:

  • How is the author’s writing? Responses: poor, okay, good, great
  • Is there violence? Responses: no, some, graphic
  • Is there sexual content? Responses: no, some, explicit
  • How would you describe the pace? Responses: slow, steady, fast
  • How would you describe the characters? Responses: one-dimensional, well-developed, complex
  • How is the story narrated? Responses: first, second, third, alternating, I don’t know
  • How would you describe the plot of this book? Responses: predictable, some twists, full of surprises
  • Which of these words best describes the mood? Responses: hopeful, dark, nostalgic, light-hearted, suspenseful, thoughtful

As of yet, it appears that Amazon is not including these ratings from the drop-down menu items in the posted review. It will be interesting to track to see if they begin aggregating this information for each book and posting it in one area in the review section or if each individual reviewer’s ratings will be shown.

What do you think about this new rating system Amazon is testing for reviews of books?

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Do You Have a Bookmark?

With more print books still being consumed than digital books, bookmarks are still important. Print book readers need to mark where they are when they put a book down for a while. Most people don’t like to dog ear the pages of their books.

Since readers still need bookmarks, bookmarks remain a good marketing tool for authors. If you are promoting a book, make some bookmarks to give away. Bookmarks are inexpensive to create and they can help promote your books.

Carry your bookmarks with you and hand them out wherever you go. At the doctor’s office, if you see someone reading offer the person one of your bookmarks. In the airport, offer readers your bookmark to use in their book. Give some of your bookmarks to your local church library to offer to their patrons. Give them to your friends and acquaintances. The places you can hand out bookmarks are endless.

Check out this humorous look at what people do when they don’t have a bookmark.

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Endorsements: How Many Is Too Many?

Let’s agree that endorsements are important. Endorsements sell products.


Since we agree that endorsements are important, here’s the question:

How many endorsements should you get for a book?

Recently, I picked up the novel Iscariot by Tosca Lee. It is a story about Judas Iscariot so I thought it would make a great Easter read. In case you don’t know, Tosca Lee is a New York Times bestselling author. She has penned at least seven novels, three of which she co-authored with Ted Dekker. Just for fun, I counted how many endorsements were listed in the Iscariot book.

Tosca Lee had acquired 22 endorsements for this novel. Five were listed on the back cover of the book. All 22 (including the ones from the book cover) were published on the initial pages of the book. Most of these endorsements came from other authors. Some came from professors and other Christian personalities.

I hope you are asking: “Why does a New York Times bestselling author need 22 endorsements?”

The answer is that Tosca Lee knows something that many small publishers and independently published authors have yet to learn. Tosca knows that endorsements sell books.

Yes, a bestselling author will sell books based on her name alone. However, endorsements help sell more books. Sadly, huge numbers of books by small publishers and independently published authors cross my desk not toting one single endorsement.

An endorsement by a known Christian figure can help seal sales. However, if you do not know any famous people, you can still get effective endorsements. The next best thing to having a famous Christian endorse your book is to have a pastor endorse your book. Use the name of the pastor’s church with the endorsement. This sends potential readers the message Christian leaders think the book has value. Having other authors from your local writing group read and recommend your book is another great resource for endorsements.

Take notice. If you want to sell books, get endorsements. Don’t stop at one or two. Go for 20 or more! More will never hurt you, but less will.

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Independent Bookstore Day

Free Comic Book Day! Record Store Day! The events are used to raise awareness and drive sales for small independent stores. Not to be outdone, independent bookstores have decided to have their own day.


Independent Bookstore Day will be held May 2, 2015. Last year, the event started as California Bookstore Day and was a success. This year, the event is going national, so that all independent bookstores across the nation can be involved and benefit from the publicity with the goal of increasing sales.

Truth be told, many independent bookstores are struggling. Last month, in the Christian bookstore industry, announcements were made about stores closing.

Tree of Life Christian Outlet announced that it will be closing the doors on all eight of its retail locations effective June 30. Tree of Life cites one main factor in its closing is that the costs of operating the business continue to increase, while sales decrease as competition online gets harder to compete with.

Cedar Springs Christian Stores also announced that it will be closing two of its three stores. At one time, Cedar Springs Christian Store was the largest independent Christian bookstore in the country. Cedar Springs cites that changing habits is a major factor in its decline as more people shop from the Internet.

Independent Bookstore Day is meant to bring attention to booksellers in these changing times. While independent bookstores only account for about 10% of all book sales in the United States, they continue to be an important piece of the bookselling puzzle. Traditionally, small independent bookstores have been instrumental in helping small and local authors gain traction for their books.

Yes times are changing. More books are purchased online then in brick-and-mortar stores. However, books are still purchased in stores. As authors and publishers, supporting local bookstores not only helps the overall book market, it also helps you since you are part of that book market.

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