Don’t Just Be Anyone

The growth of independent publishing is truly astounding. Consider these figures from Bowker (the ISBN provider):

  • The number of print books independently published grew from 235,639 titles in 2012 to 879,587 in 2017. That is 273% growth in six years.
  • In 2017, 85% of all independently published print books were published through Amazon (CreateSpace) for a total of 751,924 titles.

Amazon has leveled the playing field for publishing a book. Almost anyone can publish a book through Amazon (using Kindle Direct Publishing—previously through CreateSpace). Of course, the ability for anyone to publish a book has both positive and negative consequences.

Positive Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone means anyone. Amazon does not discriminate with respect to whom they allow to upload a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
No subject is taboo. No one has to approve of the content, style, or quality of the writing.

3. It’s free.
Yes, absolutely free to upload a book to Amazon. It does not cost a cent. All it requires is Internet access.

Negative Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone can be an author whether or not they take the time to hone the craft of writing, understand proper book design, or learn anything about marketing a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
Anything goes. This means that there is no check on quality. There are no guarantees for buyers.

3. It’s free.
The easier and cheaper it is to publish a book, the more people will publish books. The more books published, the more competition all books have for readers’ eyes.

Here’s the deal: Don’t just be anyone.

In other words, be an informed author. If you are thinking about publishing a book, don’t do it just because you can. Take the time to hone your writing, learn about proper book design and layout, and understand what you need to do to market your book. Both you and your book will be better for it.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

I am thankful that it is both easy to independently publish a book and it is easy to learn what you need to know to do this. Many sources exist to help independent authors who want to learn.

You have the opportunity to learn directly from me at the upcoming Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park May 15-18, 2019. I will be teaching a Continuing session on “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book.” This session will teach you what you need to know to publish an industry standard book and to begin the process of promoting your book.

If you can attend this conference, I encourage you to do so. You will learn valuable information, not just from me, but from the other presenters as well. Don’t take my word for it; here is what a couple people said about my “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book” sessions on Facebook:

Don’t just be anyone. Learn what you need to know and be an author that people want to read and share with others.

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Photo courtesy of NeONBRAND.

What To Do When Your Book is Pirated

Authors should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. This is the conventional wisdom. However, piracy does happen. When it happens to you, do you know what to do about it?

Not too long ago, I received a Google Alert that my books had recently been listed on some websites I had never heard of; so I checked it out. It turns out that the websites were pirate sites that allow free PDF downloads of books.

Lo and behold, my books had been pirated. They were being offered for anyone to download free-of-charge on these sites.

Fortunately, I knew what to do and flew into action. I immediately sent each site a DMCA Takedown Notice. Both sites responded—surprisingly—quickly to my notices and reported that they had removed the books.

Do you know what to do if your books are pirated? Here are my suggestions.

1. Sign up for alerts.

To stay on top of where you and your books are appearing on the world wide web, you should subscribe to an alert service. Alert services include:

These services search the Internet for the words you give them and let you know where these words are showing up online. These sites will send you an email notifying you each time a new listing is found.

If you use your name or the title of your book, the alert service will send you a notice when it finds a new listing of the phrase on the web. These alerts allow you to know who is talking about you and your books, and they allow you to monitor if your books are being pirated.

2. Send a DMCA Takedown Notice.

If you find a site that is listing your books as a free ebook download, you need to take immediate action. The best thing to do is to send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the site administrators. DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

To make it easy for small publishers and independent authors, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) offers a free downloadable Reference Guide on DMCA Takedown Notices to our Members. This Reference Guide includes a DMCA Takedown Notice template to follow when sending such notices.

If you write and publish Christian books, you can join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) for just $90 for the calendar year. Then you will have access to this Reference Guide and the many other supports and guides that the organization offers its Members.

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Are You Using Publishing Industry Standards?

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” ~Stephen Hawking

Standards. Every industry is governed by standards. These are a set of criteria within an industry that defines the standard functioning and carrying out of operations.

The publishing industry has standards. Anyone involved in publishing and selling books should be aware of these standards.

Sadly, many independent authors don’t take the time to educate themselves on publishing industry standards. This lack of knowledge often becomes apparent when these authors interact with others in the industry. Then, these authors’ ignorance reflects poorly on themselves and their books.

One place where I frequently see a lack of knowledge on industry standards with independently published authors is the ISBN. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This is a unique number assigned to a book that identifies the book within the industry. All industry players use the ISBN number to identify a book, much like the government uses a social security number to identify an individual.

The ISBN is a 13-digit number, not a 10-digit number. Yes, Amazon lists both a 10-digit ISBN and a 13-digit ISBN. Yes, Amazon lists the 10-digit ISBN first. This does not mean that it is the industry standard. The industry standard is a 13-digit ISBN.

Go to a bookstore. Pick up any book in that bookstore and look at the barcode on the back. You will see a 13-digit ISBN, not a 10-digit ISBN.

The publishing industry switched from 10-digit ISBNs to 13-digit ISBNs back in January 2007. That almost 12 years ago folks. The only reason that Amazon provides both the 10-digit and 13-digit ISBNs is because they want to be repository for every book published. As a result, they house many books that were published prior to the change to the 13-digit ISBN. Therefore, these books host a 10-digit ISBN. So, Amazon provides both so that any book can be located in their system.

I am surprised by how many independent authors list the 10-digit ISBN when nominating their book for the Christian Indie Awards. The awards do not specify whether to give the 10-digit or the 13-digit number because the 13-digit is industry standard. Since only authors and publishers are allowed to nominate titles, every person nominating a book should know that the 13-digit ISBN is industry standard. Yet, they don’t.

If you are going to publish and market a book, do yourself a favor and take the time to become familiar with industry standards. Read some books or join a publishing association like Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA). Don’t let your lack of knowledge become a stumbling block that hinders your ability to secure publicity in any form.

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Christian Small Publishers Association Gets a New Name

This month, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) celebrates its 15th anniversary and embraces a new name. The organization has changed its name to better reflect the current publishing landscape and the authors and publishers it serves. The association is now known as Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

Over the past 15 years, the publishing industry has undergone tremendous changes. According to R.R. Bowker, the official U.S. ISBN agency, the number of independently published books has grown by 156% over the past six years. Since CSPA’s membership is comprised of both small publishers and independently published authors, the name change was instituted to better reflect who is being served.

The mission and focus of the organization stays the same: To provide information, tools and resources to strengthen small publishers and independent authors, and to continue to represent this group to the larger Christian book industry.

Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) offers the same great benefits as CSPA, with new benefits being added for 2019. Membership benefits include:

  • A monthly e-newsletter packed with marketing tips and industry updates.
  • Cooperative advertising opportunities including a print catalog, magazine ads, and eblasts.
  • Quick reference guides and on-demand seminars on publishing and marketing.
  • List of radio and podcast media actively interviewing authors.
  • Book Launch Marketing Checklist.
  • Tradeshow representation.
  • A book review program.
  • Free title setup and revisions with IngramSpark.
  • Free title setup with Lightning Source.
  • Discount when ordering ISBN.
  • Discount on Publishers Weekly subscription.

Membership in Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) is just $90 for the calendar year. You can join today at www.christianpublishers.net.

Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) will continue to sponsor the Christian Indie Awards for Christian books by small publishers and independent authors. Voting for the 2019 Awards opens February 1, 2019. Watch for the announcement.

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Selling Books is Challenging!

Industry statistics show that, while print book sales have been slowly growing over the past few years (about 2% to 3% per year), sales of fiction books have declined. According to 2017 estimates by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult fiction fell 16% between 2013 and 2017.

Selling books is challenging. On any given day, more nonfiction than fiction books are sold in the United States. While there are numerous best-selling novels, year after year Americans still buy more nonfiction books than fiction. In fact, one recent report reveals that, in the United Kingdom, nonfiction outsells fiction by a two to one margin.

Why this decline in sales?

The most commonly shared view is that reading for pleasure is declining and it has become extremely difficult to generate exposure for novels.

As fiction sales decline, so do the vehicles that authors have available at their disposal to promote their books. Over the fifteen years that I have been involved in the Christian book industry, the number and breadth of vehicles that authors can use to reach readers has steadily declined.

The latest vehicle to fall by the wayside is Book Fun Magazine. Citing a drop in readership as well as a drop in revenue, Book Fun Magazine recently announced that their final issue will be released in December 2018.

With fewer avenues available for marketing and advertising both fiction and nonfiction books, authors need to become more creative at reaching readers directly.

1. Developing Your Audience Is More Important than Ever

Instead of relying on publications and other historically industry-standard venues to reach readers, authors now have to become more creative in their marketing efforts. Knowing your target audience and where they hang out and get their information has become more important than ever. More and more authors need to engage their target audience through avenues like professional organizations, online interest groups, church leaders, partnering with parachurch organizations, and speaking engagements.

Targeting your audience effectively is not enough. It takes seven to twelve exposures to a product before a consumer decides to make a purchase. Your goal in developing an audience is to offer a free lead magnet to hook your target audience into giving you their email. Then, you develop this audience by building trust with these people through providing them ongoing content that meets a need they have and enriches their lives in some way.

2. Format for Quick Reading Is Becoming More Important

We now create more data in one year than in the 5,000 that came before. Information overload is present in almost every area of our life. Numerous studies reveal that people’s attention spans are getting shorter. Long-form reading is on the decline.

People no longer want to read dense passages of prose. Instead, we want the facts and we want them in an easily digestible format. Authors need to make it easy for readers to consume the next line and keep going. This means that the interior layout of books is becoming more and more important in attracting and keeping readers.

In essence, authors need to make their words as visually appealing as possible. This means using more space and separators in your chapters. For nonfiction books, include bolding, italics, underlining, and pull quotes to attract the eye. In fiction books, keep your chapters shorter with cliff-hanging hooks at the end of each one.

As times change, are ways of doing things also need to change so that our books remain relevant. Selling books is not an easy task. The growing number of distractions in our society that pull people away from long-form reading is only going to continue.

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Photo courtesy of PatheMathos.