Are You Making It Hard?

Recently, I went to Best Buy to help my teenage son buy a computer. He had worked hard and saved his money to buy a special gaming computer (he is a typical teen). We chose Best Buy because they had a sale on the computer and also offered a student discount. We went to our local Best Buy because I believe in supporting retail stores and because my son wanted his computer sooner rather than later.

As we were at the register ringing up the purchase, I inquired about the student discount. The sales clerk told me that I had to apply for the discount on their website. I asked him if we could do it in the store. He told me that I could use my cell phone to make a Best Buy account and apply for the student discount.

I asked the sales clerk what the point of coming into the store was if I had to “apply online” for this discount and the store did not offer a way for me to do this in-store (i.e. a kiosk with a computer for such purposes—or a store clerk willing to assist me in doing this). I pointed out that Best Buy was making it hard for me to make an in-store purchase, ensuring that I would, instead, make my next purchase online.

Retail stores in America are struggling. They are struggling because people are buying more online. But, they are also struggling because they are not providing good customer service. The Editor of Christian Retailing recently wrote that she stopped at a chain Christian bookstore to make a purchase. She asked the sales clerk where the biographies were located and was told “in the back of the store”. She contrasted this experience with shopping at Publix grocery store where the sales clerk will walk you to a specific aisle when asked about a product and point it out.

This whole experience made me think about building a platform and selling books. What are independent authors doing that might be “making it hard” for potential customers to give their email or buy a book? Here is my conclusion.

1. Buying Books

We make it hard for readers to buy our books when our books are only offered for sale in a few select places. Not everyone shops on Amazon. Some people actively avoid Amazon because of its practices. Others want to support Christians, and so prefer to buy books at Christian outlets. Still others want to support authors, thus preferring to purchase books directly from an author or publisher.

Are you books for sale in multiple channels? Can a reader easily find your book in his or her preferred shopping venue? If not, you are making it hard for people to buy your book.

2. Collecting Personal Data

Most authors are working on building a platform. This means that you are trying to collect email addresses so that you can communicate directly with readers and potential readers on a regular basis to build trust and increase loyalty. Collecting email addresses is great, but if you are asking too much information, you are making it hard and losing out.

Studies show that the more information you ask of people in exchange for a freebie, the greater the drop out rate. When building your email list, all you really need is a first name and an email. Don’t ask for more. Make it easy, not hard and you will grow your email list faster.

Are you making it hard? I hope not. Ease and convenience drive more sales.

Related Posts:
Don’t Make It Hard
Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market
How to Become a Best-Selling Author

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Photo courtesy of Vera Arsic.

Proof! Author Platform Building Works

Do you have a moment? There is something I need to tell you.

Thus began the conversation I had with an attendee at the recent Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference where I was teaching. The conferee speaking to me had attended another writers conference I had taught at earlier this year. At that conference, I had taught principles from my MCB University’s on-demand seminars Develop an Audience for Your Books and Grow Your Audience with Content Marketing.

This conferee told me that at the conference earlier this year, I had given her two simple steps to follow to begin to build her author platform. I told her to write a blog post once a week and share it on social media. She reported that she had followed this advice and now she was on week 19.

I asked her if anyone was reading her blog posts. She replied that her friends were reading, commenting, and sharing her posts. I replied that this was a great start.

This conferee went on to tell me that a magazine had contacted her and asked if they could reprint one of her blog posts in their publication. She was delighted to give them permission.

Then an organization contacted her and asked her to come speak on her topic. She thought they would want to interview her on the phone when she contacted them, but they simply proceeded to set her up with not one speaking opportunity, but five. She shared with me that she assumed that her blog posts and website made them decide without an interview.

I was thrilled for this emerging author. Even before she has published her first book, she is getting published in a magazine and has received speaking engagements—without even seeking these opportunities out—all from building her platform through blogging and sharing what she has blogged.

I share this because it is encouraging feedback and it gives other authors hope. If you are writing about things that resonate with your audience and provide hope, people will respond. The efforts you put into building and maintaining your author platform will pay off.

If you are unsure about how to go about building your author platform, I suggest that you watch my on-demand seminar on Grow Your Audience on Content Marketing. As always, these on-demand seminars are free to Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Related Posts:
Are You Developing an Audience?
Are You Using This to Build Your Author Platform?
Do You Need Marketing Confidence?

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Photo courtesy of Cytonn Photography.

Are You Following the Five-Hour Rule?

Many an Indie author has lamented to me that they can’t do all the marketing tasks that full-time, best-selling authors do to promote their books. The simply do not have the time.

These Indie authors work a full-time job and then write and publish their books in the hours that they are not devoting to their job or family. Most feel pinched for time.

One of my suggestions to these authors is to implement the five-hour rule into their marketing plan. I suggest that they set aside an hour each work day (before or after work) to engage in marketing activities for their books.

Can five hours a week really make a difference?

I believe it can and so does Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact, and the man who coined the five-hour rule.

Michael Simmons came up with the term after learning that, throughout Benjamin Franklin’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day to learning.

Benjamin Franklin had to leave formal schooling at age 10 to become an apprentice to his father. Hence, most of his learning came through reading books.

Michael Simmons realized that the most successful people were the ones most likely to devote time to reading. After looking at other successful people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk who consistently read a book a week, Michael Simmons concluded:

“No matter how busy successful people are, they set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that can be classified as deliberate practice or learning.”

Similar to setting aside an hour a day to read and increase your knowledge, you can take just five hours a week and apply it to marketing activities.

Just like the five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are consistent and deliberate learners. So too, the most successful Indie authors are those that consistently and deliberately market their books.

One of the things I like about the five-hour rule is that it is manageable. Everyone can carve out an hour from their day to read a book or conduct deliberate marketing tasks.

I challenge you to apply the five-hour rule to your life for the next month and watch the difference it makes.

Related Posts:
What Are You Learning?
Are You Practicing These Habits of Success?
Are You Showing Up?

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Bible Reading in America

Each year, Barna conducts an annual State of the Bible survey, in partnership with American Bible Society, to examine behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults. The results this year show that, despite shifting cultural trends, Americans still read the Bible.

Among the study’s findings were the following:

1. Half of Americans Are Bible Users

Overall, about half of Americans are “Bible users”—that is, they engage with the Bible on their own by using, listening to, watching, praying or using Bible text or content in any format (not including use at a church service) at least three to four times a year (48%). Bible use has remained relatively consistent since 2011.

2. Bible Use More Likely Among Boomers, City Dwellers and Southerners

City dwellers (53%) and small town or rural (49%) residents report higher use of the Bible than do adults who reside in the suburbs (42%). Above-average use can also be found among residents of the South (55%), particularly compared to the other regions: the Northeast (42%), the West (44%) and the Midwest (49%). Millennials (47%), Gen X (45%) and Elders (48%) are slightly less likely to use the Bible than Boomers (51%).

3. Two-Thirds of Americans Express Bible Curiosity

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) express at least some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says, including one in three (29%) who express a strong desire. A similar number of adults (63%) are interested in knowing more about who Jesus Christ is.

4. Half of Americans Ponder How the Bible Applies to Life

Just over half of adults who used the Bible in the past week (53%) say they give a lot of thought to how it might apply to their lives. Although the number of those who think deeply about scripture in this way is statistically on par with 2017, it has slipped since 2011 (61%). Those with higher levels of Bible engagement are predictably more likely to say they give a lot of thought to the Bible’s application.

I think these findings offer both encouragement and support for small publishers and indie authors. If you are writing and producing Christian books, then, most likely, your books are helping people understand and apply Biblical principles to their lives.

So, be encouraged. Half of all Americans still read the Bible (at least occasionally) and two-thirds are curious about the Bible. Half who read the Bible ponder how the Bible is applicable to their own lives.

What great information to encourage your marketing efforts. You can use this knowledge in your marketing messages to whet people’s appetite for more information. Use phrases in your marketing that raise people’s curiosity in an area where they already want more information. This will hook their attention. A few examples include:

  • Find out how John’s Gospel can change your life.
  • Are you familiar with the eleventh commandment?
  • Discover what Jesus said about pain and suffering.
  • Did you know that the Bible says…

Of course, you will tailor your own phrases to your subject matter.

It is encouraging to know that people in America are still hungry for God’s word and his message. This means that there is still a demand for Christian books that help people learn and grow and get to know God and his Word better.

Related Posts:
Why Reading the Bible Matters
Are You Staying True to Your Calling?
It’s All About Hope

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Photo courtesy of Ben White.

How to Capture Attention from the Beginning

Attention spans are shrinking! In this era of multi-tasking, our attention to any one particular activity is getting shorter. One British study found:

  • The average British person has an average attention span of just 14 minutes.
  • While watching television the average adult loses concentration—usually to look at a mobile device—after just seven minutes.
  • A good book keeps the average adult’s full concentration for 15 minutes.

Eight seconds! Studies show that this is the amount of time you have to engage people online with your content.

We live in a world where people read more headlines than they do articles. As a result, grabbing your readers’ attention with your headline and your first few sentences are more important than ever.

Any content you create—a book, an article, a blog post, a newsletter, a podcast, a video—needs to capture people’s attention from the beginning. Strong starts are not only important in a book, they are important in any content that you create. A strong start draws people in by seizing their attention so that they want to read, hear, or view more.

With so little time to snag someone’s attention, a strong beginning is extremely important. You can use the following five ideas to hook people into staying for more in your next piece of content.

A quote
An interesting quote that creates an emotional connection, especially from a famous person, is a good hook. An emotional pull will keep your reader engaged.

A question
Draw your reader in and create intrigue with a question that resonates with your target audience. The reader will stay engaged to get the answer to the question.

A surprising statistic
A statistic that startles your reader grabs and holds attention. It is a great way to keep your audience reading to learn more.

A controversial statement
Nothing grabs attention like controversy. That’s why the media tends to highlight contentions. You can hook readers with an opening statement that is controversial and emotional for your readers.

An anecdote
People relate to stories. Sharing a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident in your life or someone else’s life connects the reader to the material you are sharing. People love to read about life-changing moments or moments that create an “aha” experience where clarity is gained. Funny or embarrassing stories also draw readers in.

Related Posts:
How to Get More Attention for Your Books
Are You Paying Attention?
Five Tips for Staying Focused

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Photo courtesy of Olivia Spink.