New Record: One Million Self-Published Books

Over one million books (both print and ebooks) were self-published in the United States in 2017! This is an increase of 28% from 2016, where 879,587 books were self-published.

These figures come from Bowker, the agency that issues ISBN numbers. Each year, the agency releases a report showing how many ISBNs were assigned to each self-publishing platform or company. Since 2012, CreateSpace has led the pack. Bowker’s report reveals that in 2017, the number of ISBNs assigned to CreateSpace grew 50% from 500,000 in 2016 to 750,000 in 2017.

one million self publishing books

Did you catch that? Independent authors published three-quarters of a million books via CreateSpace last year!

This means that the competition for eyeballs for your books keeps growing. Remember, the reading rate has held steady since about 2012 while the number of self-published books has grown by an average of 21% each year.

Unlike the number of books published, the reading population has not grown 156% since 2012. This means more and more books are competing for reader’s attention—yours included.

It is no longer enough to just publish a book. In today’s book publishing and reading climate, you must be more than an author. You have to become a marketer to effectively sell your book.

Don’t expect someone to do the work for you. There are numerous people and companies out there willing to take a large amount of money from you with the promise of promoting your book. Sadly, most of these services render little result.

If you are an independent author, then I encourage you to embrace the idea that you are not just an author, but you must also be a marketer. It’s really not that difficult. A little education goes a long way.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) exists for just that reason—to provide information and tools for success in publishing to small publishers and independent authors. CSPA has numerous educational tools, as well as affordable cooperative marketing programs, to give you the information you need to market your books effectively.

For just $90 for a year-long membership with CSPA, you will have access to numerous on-demand seminars and a monthly newsletter all packed with marketing information. CSPA Members also have access to a Book Launch Marketing Checklist and a List of Radio and Podcast Media interviewing authors.

You can become a Member today and receive Membership through December 2019 on CSPA’s website. Once you join, you will have access to the numerous educational videos, reference guides, and checklist to help you become a better marketer to find more eyeballs for your books.

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Photo courtesy of Laura Kapfer.

The #LoveYourBookstore Campaign

Retail is struggling. Just this year, Toys R Us went out of business. Claire’s, the jewelry chain store in 99 % of U.S. malls, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Many other retailers are also closing stores this year including: Sears, Macy’s, JC Penney, Walgreen, Gymboree, Gap and Dress Barn. Bookstores are also struggling. Every month, I read about more stores—both general market and Christian—closing.

#loveyourbookstore

Yet, retail stores are an important piece of the book-selling equation for authors and publishers. In recognition of the importance of bookstores and the need to do more to support bookstores, a number of book industry players have teamed up to launch #LoveYourBookstore challenge.

The #LoveYourBookstore challenge is designed to draw attention to all physical bookstores as the holiday shopping season begins. The challenge is a week long challenge that will run Saturday, November 10 through Friday, November 16. The challenge encourages readers (and authors) to go into a local bookstore and take a picture of either a book you are most excited to gift this holiday season or a book you want to receive as a gift.

Participants can then post their photos to Instagram or Twitter between November 10 and 16 with the hashtag #loveyourbookstore. Anyone making a post with this hashtag will be entered to win book-related prices.

I encourage all authors and small publishers to participate in the #LoveYourBookstore challenge. I have put it on my calendar and plan to participate.

This challenge presents a great way for all authors to get involved in not only promoting bookstores (whether they carry your books or not), it also helps promote reading and literacy.

 

 

I recently read an article on Generation Z and how this generation is not reading, instead they are watching videos to learn. One teenager was quoted in the article as saying, “Books are so old fashioned.”

We need both the printed word and videos. We retain information that we read differently than information that we hear. Studies have long shown that both reading and hearing the same information provides more pathways in the brain for greater retention of the material.

I hope that you will take part in the #LoveYourBookstore challenge next month. You can learn more about the program at www.loveyourbookstore.com.

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Don’t Overlook Micro-Influencers

One important piece of advice I frequently give authors is for them to get some endorsements for their books.

Endorsements are important. They provide authors with three valuable benefits:

  1. They lend credibility to a book.
  2. They state a book has quality.
  3. They enlarge the audience for the book.

Many new authors tell me that they do not know or have access to any famous personalities to endorse their book. You don’t need a famous person to endorse a book. Any influencer—as long as they have influence with your target audience—will do. Micro-influencers have sway with an audience, albeit a small audience. This influence can add up if you secure endorsements by a few micro-influencers.

Check out the infographic below that shows the power of micro-influencers.

Also, if you are wondering how to go about securing endorsements, then check out my on-demand seminar “Endorsements Help You Sell More Books.” Of course, this course is free for Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), but nonmembers can pay a small fee to view the seminar.

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Is Reading in Trouble?

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts found that reading for pleasure fell slightly between 2012 and 2017. According to the report, the percentage of adults 18 and older who read any book that wasn’t for work or school in 2017 was 52.7%, compared to 54.6% in 2012.

The study, called the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, is based on responses from 27,969 adults. Results were based on what, if any, books adults read in the 12 months prior to taking part in the survey, which was conducted in July 2017.

Another study, Trends in U.S. Adolescent Media Use, 1976 to 2016, revealed that less than 20% of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine, or newspaper daily for pleasure in recent years. Yet, more than 80% say they use social media every day.

This study, which had a representative sample of 50,000 teenagers, found that, compared with previous generations, teens spend more time online and less time with traditional media such as books, magazines and television.

The findings of these studies disturb me. As an author, a reader, a literature lover, a writer’s conference speaker, and a book marketing expert, I believe in the power of the written word. I am not alone.

Jean M. Twenge, lead author of the adolescent study said, ““Being able to read long-form text is crucial for understanding complex issues and developing critical thinking skills.”

The marketing challenge for authors and publishers is no longer just getting exposure for your books. The challenge is becoming finding readers—people who actually read books. It’s becoming necessary to persuade busy, distracted people to invest time in reading a book.

I believe that authors and publishers must to do more than just write, publish, and market books. If we want to have a reading populace to sell books to long-term, we must also engage in activities that help cultivate reading among young people. After all, these young people are our next generation of book buyers.

Some activities that all authors and publishers can engage in to promote reading with young people include:

  • Sponsor a reading program for kids with incentives and prizes in your church, community, or local Christian school.
  • Lead a book group for teens through your local bookstore, church, or neighborhood.
  • Share your love of reading with the young people in your life by giving books as gifts.

There are plenty more activities we can do to promote reading. I would love to hear your ideas.

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But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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