Lessons from Self-Publishing

Whenever you embark on a new adventure, there is usually a steep learning curve. Often those who have already completed the adventure forget that steep learning curve and can make the process seem easy.

I have often run into this with self-publishing books. Self-publishing a book is not easy. There is a lot to learn and understand not just about book design and the publishing process, but also on marketing a book.

Lessons from Self-Publishing

Sandra Beckwith on her blog, Build Book Buzz, recently shared statements from 25 self-published authors on “I wish I’d known before I self-published.” These statements not only show how much there is to learn, but also how important it is to get support in the publishing and marketing process.

A couple of the 25 statements made by these self-published authors caught my eye. I believe they illustrate why belonging to a professional association is important in navigating the publishing and marketing maze.

1.  Get Your Information from Experts.

One “I wish I’d known before I self-published…” author said:

“Use IngramSpark for your print books! I just learned this valuable lesson. Bookstores and libraries don’t buy from Amazon – they use IngramSpark to purchase books, and if you don’t publish there, you are missing out on many sales.”

Sadly, this author has it mostly correct, but not completely correct. IngramSpark is a print-on-demand platform. They are not a distributor. However, IngramSpark will place your books into distribution through their parent company Ingram (and Spring Arbor for Christian books). Retailers and librarians order books through Ingram (the distribution arm) not IngramSpark.

This is important information to know. When you are promoting your book to retailers and librarians, you want to let them know that your book is available for order through Ingram, not IngramSpark.

In addition to getting your information from experts, membership in a professional organization like Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) can save you money. Members of CIPA receive free title uploads to IngramSpark a savings of $49 per book.

2.  Don’t Reinvent the Wheel.

Another “I wish I’d known before I self-published…” author said:

“Writing the book was the easy part. When you decide to embark on the self-publishing journey, you need to have a marketing plan zipped up and ready to launch.”

In addition to having a solid marketing plan, your marketing needs to start long before the launch of your book. The good news is that you don’t need to come up with a marketing plan from scratch. There are numerous book marketing and book launch plan templates that provide you a guide to help steer your personalized strategic book marketing plan.

Here is where a professional association can, again, provide you the information you need. Members of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA), have access to numerous reference guides and checklists including:

  • Checklist for Creating a Professional-Looking Book
  • Book Launch Marketing Checklist
  • Metadata Checklist

Both are great templates to make sure you have the basics covered when publishing and marketing a book.

If you are not a Member of a professional publishing association and are independently publishing books or thinking about publishing a book, I encourage you to join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

Christian Indie Publishing Association

Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA)’s goal is to provide authors and publishers with the tools you need for success in publishing and marketing Christian books. The organization provides numerous resources to help those who are embarking on the publishing journey find success.

Right now, CIPA is offering a Fall Membership Special. For just $110 you can gain Membership in the organization through December 2021. Join today and get the tools and resources you need to be more successful in publishing and marketing your books.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska.

Is Self-Publishing a Gamble?

I recently came across an article in the New York Times titled:

“Self-Publishing Is a Gamble. Why Is Donald Trump Jr. Doing It?”

It appears that Donald Trump, Jr., has written a book titled Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible. He plans to release the book in early September.

Is Self-Publishing a Gamble?

Interestingly, even though Center House, an imprint of Hachette—the publishing house that published Trump Jr.’s first book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us—made an offer to publish Liberal Privilege, Trump Jr. turned them down.


Because self-publishing is not the gamble that the authors of the article believe.

Trump Jr.’s book Triggered has sold 286,000 copies since last November when it released, according to NPD BookScan. It is still selling steadily.

By self-publishing, Donald Trump, Jr., a public figure, can easily sell thousands of copies and make a much larger profit then he can with a traditional publishing contract.

The New York Times article states:

Authors who sign with a publisher typically receive an advance payment before the book goes on sale, then about 10 to 15 percent of hardcover sales after they earn back their advance. If the book is self-published, there is no advance but an author can generally walk away with anywhere from 35 percent to as much as 70 percent of the sales.

Trump Jr. is a savvy business man. He already has his own platform, so, he does not need the publicity that a major publisher can create. He is a New York Times best-selling author as his book Triggered was a No. 1 best seller last year. In addition, the Republican National Committee will use this new book for fund-raising—ensuring Trump Jr. large quantity orders of his book.

Of course, self-publishing comes with its own challenges, including editing and proofing. This summer, Trump Jr. posted a photo on Twitter of his new book. The cover image contained a typo. The apostrophe was in the wrong place. The cover has since been corrected.

Book Cover Error

What this story demonstrates is that self-publishing, rather than being a gamble, has become mainstream. As with starting any business, self-publishing a book comes with risks. You have no guarantee your venture will succeed. But, neither does any other startup.

The good news is that indie authors are no longer on the fringe. After all, even public figures are ditching traditional book contracts to self-publish.

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Photo by fotografierende.

Does Your Book Title Grab People’s Attention?

The other weekend, my husband and I were chatting with some neighbors around a table at our community pool. I noticed that one of the men had a book with him.

Book Title

Being the book person that I am, I asked this gentleman what he was reading. He held up the book. The title read:

What Radical Husbands Do

Upon seeing this, another neighbor told this gentleman that he wanted to read the book when the man was finished reading it. Then, as an afterthought, he added, “If you think it’s good.”

This little interchange reminded me how important book titles are. This book title was enough to spark the attention of two males in my neighborhood. Why? Because they want to excel in their role as husbands. This book title promised to give them information on how to do that.

Your book title is extremely important. In fact, studies show that your book’s title is the first thing people consider when learning about your book.

Your title will either draw people in—as was the case at my neighborhood pool—or it will send them on their way. This is why it is important—especially with nonfiction titles—for your title to clearly tell the reader what your book is about.

When I teach at writers conferences on self-publishing, I encourage authors to use the PINC acronym to guide them as they craft titles for their book titles. PINC was created by Michael Hyatt, a former CEO of Thomas Nelson. It stands for:

Make a Promise

  • Example:  21 Seconds to Change Your World by Mark Rutland

Create Intrique

  •  Example:  Why Keep Praying? By Robert Morris

Identify a Need

  •  Example:  Steps to Peace with God  by Billy Graham

State the Content

  •  Example:  The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

In addition to using PINC, I suggest that you float your title by a number of people in your target audience. Ask them for their initial reaction on hearing or reading the title. This will give you more information as to whether your title resonates with your target audience and draws them in to want to read your book.

By the way, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) is still offering our Summer Membership Special of membership through December 2021 for just $120. Join today and got access to more resources to help you be successful in publishing and marketing your books.

Related Posts:
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Photo by Angello Pro on Unsplash.

The State of Book Sales

Have your book sales been suffering this year? Maybe you blame COVID, and you may be right, but not because book sales have suffered through this pandemic.

In truth, according to NDP, book sales increased by 3.6% in the first half of 2020 over the same time period last year. This means that more books were sold in the first six months of this year than in the first six months of last year.

So, your book sales are not struggling because of lack of book sales, your book sales are probably struggling because of the “types” of books people are buying.

Sales by Category

At the beginning of 2020, before the coronavirus hit, religious books were the top-selling book category, while juvenile fiction books were in sixth place. After March 1, when COVID became an issue in the United States, these two categories swapped places.

Sales by Category

As you can see from the graphic above, sales of religious books took a hit with the pandemic. Book sales increased during the pandemic, but the types of books people were buying changed.

Sales Trends

Additionally, NDP found that sales of Adult Nonfiction books took a hit during the first part of quarantine. Sales for this category declined during March and April, but fortunately, Adult Nonfiction sales have been climbing since the end of April—and are returning to normal sales volume.

eBook Sales

The good new is, that with quarantine, sales of ebooks rose. After years of declining ebook sales, traditional publishers report that they saw a 4.3% growth in ebook unit sales in the first part of this year. The bulk of this growth came in April when brick-and-mortar bookstores were shut down.

eBook sales

While even print book sales have risen this year—largely driven by children’s and young adult books—sales through bookstores are way down. The US Census Bureau publishes preliminary estimates of bookstore sales, this report shows bookstore sales declining by 33 percent in March, 65 percent in April, and 59 percent in May. Clearly, the pandemic has accelerated the trend of online book buying.

Bible Reading

A survey by the Pew Research Institute found that 89% of Americans watched TV or movies to cope with the pandemic, while only 29% reported reading the Bible as a coping support.

Scripture Reading

Sadly, as much as we would hope that this pandemic would turn people to God, this survey and the drop in religious book sales, seems to indicate that this is not happening.

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A Manifesto for Christian Writers

IngramSpark recently conducted a survey of the authors who use their service. They found that out of 100 authors, only 17 are between the ages of 16 and 35 years.

This means that 83% of independent authors who use IngramSpark are over 35 years of age. I assume that IngramSpark’s author population is representative of indie authors overall.

A Manifesto for Christian Writers

With the majority of indie authors outside the Millennial and Generation Z demographic, reaching those in these generation groups may be challenging. If trying to market to readers in these age groups, be aware of these trends among social media usage.

  • Millennials are gravitating toward Instagram and Reddit. Some still use Facebook, but usage of Facebook among this age-group is declining.
  • Zoom is the videoconferencing platform of choice for Millennials.
  • Generation Z gravitate to Instagram and Snapchat.
  • TikTok use is growing rapidly among Generation Z. TikTok added 12 million users in the month of March this year.

When it comes to fiction books, readers in these generational groups prefer real, raw, and gritty. They are looking for characters that they can relate to that are flawed and wrestle with the same issue and faith questions as they do.

A few Christian authors have pooled their resources and created a platform to help Christian fiction writers to improve their writing. Story Embers believes that Christian storytelling is facing a crisis. They believe that many Christian stories in the 21st century are “cheesy, unrealistic, and artistically bland.”

Story Embers

This group is seeking to help Christian fiction writers improve their writing. To that end, they have created a manifesto—Christian Storytellers Manifesto— that urges Christian storytellers to embrace the key philosophies, principles, and practices seen in the best Christian stories.

The manifesto lists 15 resolutions including:

  • We resolve to be passionate and dedicated in our pursuit of excellent storytelling, knowing that we are reflecting the Creator’s image within us and fulfilling God’s commands to take dominion over the earth, love fellow image bearers, and steward the resources He has provided.
  • We resolve to infuse our storytelling with truth, being bold and unafraid of our stance while presenting it with love and tact, recognizing that truth in storytelling is best communicated when shown, not told.
  • We resolve to seek to understand readers’ thought processes, emotions, and worldviews so we can connect meaningfully with them in our storytelling, knowing that human nature is repelled by simplistic representations.

You can read and sign the complete manifesto at https://storyembers.org/manifesto.

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