How Long Does It Take to Read Your Book?

So many books… so little time.

Wise King Solomon said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

How long does it take someone to read your book?

We are all strapped for time. Numerous outlets clamor for our attention. As a result,  some people find it hard to commit to reading articles and books. These individuals feel like reading the article or book will take too much of their time.

To combat this issue, some website have begun to post the “read time” for articles on their site. Amazon’s Kindle provides readers a “time left in book” feature that tells each reader how long it will take him to finish reading the book.

Some publishers are also beginning to include the a “read time” on their print books. Morgan James Publishing is one publisher that is listing the read time on the back cover of their books.

Read Time on Book Cover

I think this is a great strategy. Putting a read time on a book lets a reader know approximately how much time it will take them to read your book. This small piece of information might be the deciding factor in purchasing your book for some readers.

How to Determine Reading Time

Reading time is based on the average reading speed. This is measured in words-per-minute. The average reading speed is between 265 and 300 words-per-minute. It appears that 275 words-per-minute is a commonly used number.

To determine how long it will take the average reader to read your book, simply take the number of words in your book and divide this by 275 words-per-minute. This will give you the  number of minutes it takes to read your book. You can leave the read time in minutes, or you can convert it to hours and minutes.

Adding your book’s read time to the back cover of your book is a brilliant idea. Consider using this little tip, especially if your book is a quick read.

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Photo courtesy of suju.

How Many Christian Bookstores Remain?

The number of Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores has shrunk rapidly over the past few years. In 2017, Family Christian, the largest Christian bookstore chain, declared bankruptcy and closed the doors to its 240 stores.  Earlier this year, Lifeway announced that they would close all 170 of their stores by year end. The company is moving to an online only presence for selling books. A number of independent Christian bookstores have also shuttered.

How many remain?

All told, the Christian book selling industry has lost well over 400 Christian bookstores in the last four years. This raises the question:

Are Christian bookstores a dying breed?

The 2019 Walker Sand’s annual Future of Retail report looks at shopping behavior. This year’s report reveals:

1. Consumers are buying less

Two-thirds of respondents of all ages, and 72% of those age 18-35, say they are buying fewer things because they have become more conscious of keeping a clean, organized lifestyle.

2. In-store is still in demand

Brick-and-mortar remains popular with consumers for buying things like food and other daily necessities: Some 83% of respondents say they purchased groceries in-store in the past year, and 76% say they purchased consumer packaged goods.

One exception to in-store shopping is purchasing books. Books are the only type of product that consumers shopped for more on third-party online marketplaces like Amazon than in-store.

Shopping Behavior

Number of Christian Bookstores

The increase of online book buying raises the question:

Just how many Christian bookstores remain?

This is an important question for publishers and authors. While both the size and scope of bookstores focused on selling Christian products have diminished over the past decade, physical book browsing is still one way a number of Christians discover new books.

In 2018, CBA launched the Get It Local Today program. The program was designed to help drive traffic to brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. The program recently reported that their database—the largest online directory of verified independent Christian retailers—features more than 1,800 stores.

Each of these stores is part of the Get It Local Today program and are featured on a new interactive map on the program’s website.

Get It Local Today Bookstore Map

I encourage you to check out the map and find how many Christian bookstores are near you. Then, make an effort to support these stores.

I find the news of 1,800+ Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores heartening. How about you?

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This Book Buying Behavior Can Affect Your Book Sales

Convenience stores have been around for decades. These small shops, usually attached to a gasoline station, offer everyday items that customers can purchase without having to make a specific trip to a grocery store. Clearly Americans like convenience because the number of these shops has steadily grown over the years.

Buyers Like Convenience

In a recent survey, BookNet Canada found that the single most important reason Canadian book buyers choose a particular store or website for their purchases is convenience. In the study, convenience ranked higher than other factors like good service and cheap delivery.

Amazon, the retail giant, understands this desire for convenience. To be more convenient, the company stores your credit card information and provides you with a “one-click” buying option. Amazon’s Prime one-day shipping is also convenient, unless you live in a remote location. Prime members in Alaska and Hawaii have to wait up to seven days and pay expedited shipping fees.

Clearly, what is convenient for one person is not necessarily convenient for another person. This is why it is important for your book to be available for consumers to buy where they shop. After all, not everyone shops on Amazon.

Just about half of all online paperback book purchases are made on Amazon. That’s 50%. The other half of paperback books are being purchased in other places. Since three-quarters (about 75%) of books purchased are print books, this is important.

If your book is only for sale on Amazon, then you are losing out on sales. Your book could potentially be selling twice as many copies if it were available in multiple online stores—think Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and ChristianBook—to name a few.

I am continually surprised at how many authors publish their book through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and that is all they do. These authors act as if Amazon is the only store in town. I have news for them: It’s not!

One of the twenty marketing fundamentals listed in my award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books is:

The more channels through which consumers can purchase your books, the more books you will sell.

If you want to sell more books, then your book has to be available for sale in multiple places. How many places online can people buy your book? If you are unsure, do a Google search for your book’s title or ISBN and see what comes up in the search results.

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Good News: Religious Book Sales Are Strong

What is trending?

This is a common question no matter what industry you are in. Book publishing is not different. Publishers and authors often want to know what is hot and what is not.

There are a number of ways to find out what is trending. You can:

1. Follow Bestseller Lists.

Looking at bestseller lists is a great way to find out what books are currently in demand and selling well. There are a number of bestseller lists including those hosted by the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, Amazon, Smashwords, and ECPA. Keep in mind, however, that just because a topic is popular today does not predict that the same topic will sell well next year. Trends change.

2. Review Book Sales Statistics

Both NDP BookScan and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) track book sales. Publishers can subscribe to these reports. For those on a budget, each company makes a summary of their findings available to the public.

Which Books Are Selling

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently released its analysis of book sales for 2018. Here is what they found:

  • Nonfiction books, both Adult and Children’s and Young Adult, experienced the largest percentage revenue growth for publishers over the past five years. Adult nonfiction revenues grew 22.8 percent and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction revenues grew 38.5 percent from 2014 to 2018. Unit sales for Adult nonfiction and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction grew 20.9 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, over the same five-year period.
  • Publisher revenue for adult fiction was flat (0.4 percent) at $4.40 billion in 2018, while Children’s and Young Adult fiction grew slightly (1.6 percent) to $3.72 billion.
  • Religious presses’ revenue grew 14.7 percent in 2018 to $1.22 billion with 75.7 percent of that revenue coming from print formats.
  • Downloaded audio remained the fastest growing format, with 28.7 percent year-over-year revenue growth from 2017 to 2018 and 181.8 percent revenue growth over the past five years.
  • eBook sales were down 5.2% from 2017.

The good news is that Religious books are selling well. This report did not break down specifically what type of religious titles are selling well. However, NDP BookScan, recently presented this information in a webinar. BookScan reported that sales of Autobiographies and Biographies are growing, as well as sales of Self-Help books (think Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis).

Book Formats

Popular Book Formats

There has been a lot of talk about the growth of audiobooks—and sales in this category are growing. Yet, audiobooks only make up about 15% of total book sales, while print books comprise almost half of all book sales. Here is the breakdown:

  • 45% of publishers’ sales were in trade print formats.
  • 24% were ebooks.
  • 13% were downloaded audio.
  • 2% were physical audio or a different format.

Words of Wisdom

I believe that Christian authors and publishers should be governed less by which books are trending and more by what God is calling you to write and publish. Knowing what is popular can help inform your marketing efforts. But, if you are publishing for the Glory of God, then what he is leading you to put into print is more important than what statistics report is selling well.

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Photo courtesy of geralt.

How to Sell More Books

Super Mario Maker 2, a Nintendo video game, released this summer. The game allows players to create game levels and post them online for other players to play. The game allows for creativity as well as game play.

How to Sell More Books

My son is a huge fan of this game. He played the first version and downloaded the second version as soon as it became available. He loves to create levels and post them for other gamers to play. The other day, my son was over-the-Moon happy. Of the thousands of levels that players create, Nintendo featured one of the levels my son created in a video showcasing exceptional player-created levels.

In talking with my son, he told me that he had studied the formulas the makers of the video game used to create levels within the game. He then used those same formulas to create his levels. It was successful.

Yet, it was not just following a formula that got my son’s game level noticed. Rather, it was a combination of strategies that came together. My son followed a formula to create better game levels, but he also showcased these levels on his YouTube Channel that is dedicated to Nintendo games. So, it was a combination of skill, marketing, and plan old luck (or providence).

Authors also love formulas. Just give us the formula for writing a best-selling book, and we will write it. Just give us the formula for marketing to sell thousands of books, and we will do it.

Every time I turn around, someone is peddling a course with a formula for authors on how to sell thousands of books or create a bestseller. Some of the courses I have seen are:

  • How to Sell a Thousand Books in Three Months
  • Launch a Bestseller
  • 3 Steps to a Bestselling Author Platform
  • Nonfiction Writers: Create Six Figure Classes (how to build an online class business)

Authors jump on these classes and pay anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars to learn how they can sell thousands of copies of their book.

I wish it were that simple: Get the formula, follow it, and sell thousands of books. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

There is no proven formula for creating a best-selling book

There is no proven formula for creating a best-selling book.

If there were:

  1. Every book published would become a bestseller.
  2. Someone would patent the formula and use it to create best-selling books, making themselves a lot of money.

Often the people selling these online courses on how to sell thousands of books are authors who have written and published a book that sold well. They then think that they know the “formula” to do this and decide to teach others how to do the same thing.

JA Konrath, a best-selling author, raises a good question about these authors. He asks, “If you know how to write a bestseller, why aren’t you writing bestseller after bestseller? Why are you writing How-To books (or courses)?”

The bottom line is that there is no formula. What works for one type of book may not work for another type of book. Additionally, selling a general-market book is vastly different from selling a Christian book to a niche market. Selling a self-help book is vastly different from selling a Bible study book or a memoir.

So, how do you sell more books?

First, you have to write a compelling book. Second, you have to publish it with a professional-looking cover and interior layout design.

Then, you have to market the book. This is the tricky part. No single marketing technique is a surefire way to sell your book. Instead, you must use a variety of techniques that can include:

  • A launch team
  • Book reviews
  • Media exposure
  • Developing an audience
  • Connecting with influencers
  • Advertising

Just like my son’s game level, any book that sells well is due to a combination of factors including sometimes just being in the right place at the right time.

Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books

If you need marketing ideas for your Christian book, I encourage you to read my award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books. As one reader said:

“Wow, this book provides so many marketing ideas that it would take years to implement them all. As I am reading, I am making a list of all the tasks I need to perform to improve my book sales.” —Susan

Remember, there is no marketing formula that guarantees success. You have to use a variety of marketing strategies to sell more books.

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