Book Buying Trends in Canada

Our northern neighbor Canada likes to emphasize that they are different from the United States. After all, Canadians are not “Americans”. The most popular sport in Canada is ice hockey. Canadians use the metric system. The legal drinking age in Canada is 18 years. Shoes are not worn inside the home. The quasi-national dish in Canada is poutine—fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.

However, in many ways, Canadians are similar to Americans. After all, they speak English (for the most part). They drive their cars on the right side of the road. Both countries were founded on Judeo-Christian ethics. And Canadians read books, most of which are published in the United States. The top-selling books in the United States are often the top-selling titles in Canada as well.

I like to pay attention to the Canadian book market because I think it frequently mirrors the U.S. book market. A recent report on the Canadian book market by BookNet Canada reflects the input of over 2,000 book buyers and sales data from 4,700 book purchases.

In addition to breaking down sales performance for books in over 50 subject categories, BookNet’s report also covered what drives book purchase decisions and where Canadians buy books. Following are two nuggets from the study.

Book Purchase Decision Factors

The BookNet study asked respondents to identify the reason for their most recent book purchase (either for themselves or as a gift). Close to half of all respondents (55% for self-purchase and 46% for gift) reported that the reason they purchased the book was “reading for pleasure”. The second strongest book purchase motivator was self-help/improvement.

Interestingly, Canadians purchased more adult nonfiction books (32%) than adult fiction (26%) in 2017. While close to half of all books bought in Canada last year were children’s books (40%).

Where Canadians Buy Books

Online book purchases accounted for 52% of overall book sales in 2017, an increase of 5% over 2016. The most frequent brick-and-mortar place that Canadian residents purchased books was in retail chain stores, which made up 26% of book sales. Only 9% of book sales were made through bookstores in Canada in 2017.

The trend in Canada is clear, and the same trend is evident in the United States. The percentage of books purchased online continues to grow while the percentage of books purchased through bookstores continues to dwindle. As the percentage of books “discovered” in stores dwindles, your marketing focus must shift to aiming the majority of your promotional resources directly at your target audience and increasing online discovery of your books.

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Joseph Petty.

Expecting Fast Results: What A Mistake!

We live in a fast society. A Boeing 787 can fly around the world in 42 hours and 27 minutes. With Google Fiber, Internet connection speeds reach up to one gigabit per second. FedEx allows you to have a package delivered the very next day to almost any location in the world. China’s new Fuxing bullet trains travel at 350 km/h (over 200 m/hr).

We have become so accustomed to fast, that we expect it. Except not everything delivers fast results.

This is true of promotion and marketing efforts. Rarely, do these activities deliver fast results. After all, research shows that it takes on average:

  1. Seven to twelve exposures of a product before a person decides to purchase it.
  2. Nine months of regular blogging to develop a strong, loyal readership base.
  3. Seven contacts to secure a media interview.

I recently received a call from a woman who heard about a book that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) represented at the CBA Unite International Retail Show last summer (in July 2017). The woman had recently talked with a gentleman who attended the show and told him of her need. He informed her that he had seen a book that met her need in CSPA’s booth at the trade show last summer.

The woman looked up CSPA on the Internet and gave us a call. She did not know that name of the book, but was able to tell me her need and I immediately identified which book the gentleman was referring to. I gave this woman the information on the book and the contact information for the publisher.

It has been six months since the 2017 CBA Unite show. Six months after viewing a book, a show attendee told this woman about a book he saw at the show that met her need.

Here’s the deal. Marketing activities usually don’t reap fast results. However, they do reap results for those who are patient.

Even though word spreads fast in today’s digitally-connected world, personal word-of-mouth can still take time. At the right moment, when faced with a need, a product or book is remembered and passed along.

Remember, marketing is all about exposure. It’s about introducing people to your books so that they know they exist. Your job is to get the word out. God’s job is to bring the harvest.

I have always said that promoting a book is a marathon, not a sprint. So, keep marketing. Keep spreading the word that your book meets a need that someone has. It may take months, but the people who need your book will hear and respond.

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Enhance Your Marketing with Bonus Content

Recently, BookBub ran a compilation of New Year’s Resolutions from bestselling authors. Each of these resolutions focused on what the author is planning to do in 2018 to more effectively market her book.

One author’s resolution stood out for me. I thought it was worth sharing.

Debbie Macomber is an extremely successful American author. She writes romance novels and contemporary women’s fiction. Six of her novels have become made-for-TV movies and her Cedar Cove series of novel was adapted into the television series of the same name. Many of her books have been on the New York Times bestselling list.

I am seriously impressed by the extras she provides her readers. Here is what she said on BookBub:

“I have always been an author that wanted to do more, something extra above and beyond. In many of my books I have included a recipe used in the book, a knitting pattern or anything to enhance the reader’s experience of connecting to the story while reading the book. Something little, not a lot, but that has garnered big results. I have also built up my reading list by expanding on the experience while reading the books by providing town maps, character lists, and newspaper articles surrounding the series. In today’s digital world, I often offer themed recipe and holiday cards for readers to print and use as well as desktop wallpapers. Each book has a Pinterest page associated with it to help inspire readers to connect to the story in as many ways as possible. Since these efforts have allowed me to engage more with my readers, I’d like to create more of these types of assets in 2018.”

I think this concept of bonus content is worth exploring further. Let me break out for you the type of bonus content that Debbie Macomber gives her readers:

  • Themed recipes
  • Knitting patterns
  • Maps
  • Character lists
  • Newspaper articles related to her story
  • Desktop wallpapers
  • Dedicated Pinterest Board for each book related to topics in the book

Whether you are a fiction or a nonfiction author, you can take a lesson from Debbie Macomber. Providing your readers with bonus content is a great marketing tool. Bonus content rewards your readers and enhances a connection between you (the author) and your readers.

I encourage you to follow Debbie’s example and make one of your goal’s this year to create bonus content to enhance your marketing efforts.

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All Good Things…

It’s a familiar phrase: All good things must come to an end.

Sadly, another good thing has come to an end in the world of book publishing.

Since 2007, Goodreads has provided an online community for book lovers. This social networking site allows readers to catalog books they have read, keep lists of books they want to read, provide reviews of books they have read, talk about books they are reading, and enter contests to win free books. For authors, Goodreads is a wonderful place to connect with readers, gain wider exposure for books, and potentially garner more book reviews.

Up until the beginning of this year, the Goodreads book giveaway program was a free program for all—both the author giving a book away and the reader receiving the book. Starting January 9, Goodreads’ new policy goes into effect making this book giveaway program a “pay to play” arrangement.

Moving forward, to place your book into a Goodreads’ book giveaway contest will cost you $119 (if you want premium exposure, you can pay $599).

With the change to a paying program, Goodreads now allows authors to giveaway either a print copy of the book or a Kindle version of the book (remember, Goodreads is owned by Amazon). They have also added a few additional features including:

  • Readers who enter a giveaway automatically have the book added to their Want-to-Read list.
  • The author’s followers and everyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list get a notification about the giveaway.
  • Eight weeks after your Giveaway ends, winners receive an email from Goodreads to remind them to rate and review the book.

I believe that one reason Goodreads has implemented this pay-to-play policy is because the number of book giveaways on their site has grown exponentially as the number of independently published books has grown over the past few years.

In creating a pay-to-play program, Goodreads can keep the number of giveaways contests running at one time to a more reasonable level. My most recent count showed that on one day in December, Goodreads was running 2,700 book giveaways. In other words, as a Goodreads member, I could enter to win 2,700 separate book giveaways.

The beauty of the Goodreads free giveaway contests was that they allowed authors to gain exposure for their books for free. Book discovery is a huge challenge for independently published authors—one that will only become greater as the number of books published continues to grow.

Sadly, there are no quick and surefire methods to ensuring that your book is discovered by dozens of readers. I believe that the best advice for promoting a book was given by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11:6:

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

Heed this advice. Do a little of this and a little of that, and slowly people’s awareness of your book will grow.

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Photo courtesy of Skitterphoto.

Are You Shouldering This Responsibility?

Are you an author or a publisher of books? Ask yourself:
Which do I spend more time doing: reading books or watching videos or TV?

While you might not think this is an important question, it is. Since you are in the business of making books, you should also be involved in the consumption of books.

I am in the process of updating my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. While working on the Fourth Edition, I was surprised to discover that it’s not just bookstores that are on the decline. I already knew that reading rates were holding steady while the number of books published each year grows, but I was saddened by another trend I discovered.

Everyone knows that readers have begun buying more books online than they do in physical stores. As a result, bookstores are declining. After all, the largest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian, shuttered the doors to its 240 stores in February of this year. The fourth largest general market bookstore chain, Book World, which operates 45 stores in the Midwest, will close all their stores in January 2018.

But it’s not just bookstores that are struggling. What surprised me is that church libraries are becoming nonexistent. This year, two of the largest church library associations shuttered their doors. Both associations cite declining membership and lack of interest in church libraries.

My first thought was maybe most churches were simply shuttering their libraries in exchange for church bookstores. However, research shows that this is not the case. While church bookstores thrived in the early part of the century, the number has actually shrunk over the past five years.

Here is the point. If we are publishing books and we want people to read these books, we must also be putting effort into helping people see the benefit of reading and encouraging them to read more.

How do we do this? We start by first modeling—being an example. That means that as an author or publisher you spend time reading books and talking about them with people. Then we move on to encouraging others to read. There are many ways that we can do this. Here are six ideas to get you started:

1. Regularly recommend books to people.
Don’t just recommend the books you write or publish, but talk about any good Christian title that will enrich people’s lives. Give these recommendations in person, on your blog, and on your social media sites.

2. Give books as gifts.
Books have the power to change people’s lives. Give them as gifts to encourage reading.

3. Start a lending library at your church.
If your church does not have a lending library, start one. It does not have to be large, simply a shelf or bookcase will do. Start with your own titles and books by other local Christian authors.

4. Make sure your church’s children’s ministry is stocked with good books.
Check out the children’s ministry rooms in your church. Are they stocked with good Christian books for the kids to engage with? If not, donate some or get others in the church to donate books to the Children’s ministry.

5. Start a book group.
Start a book group in your church or community. Gather interested people to read and discuss a good book once a month.

6. Put up a Little Free Library in your neighborhood.
Little Free Libraries encourage reading. You can find information on how to build or purchase a Little Free Library box on the organization’s website.

I believe that if we write and publish books, we also need to be about the business of promoting reading. Unless we encourage reading on a regular basis, we may wake up one day to find nobody reads books anymore.

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