A Little Yeast…

“Please note that if I review this book, I would have to give it a 2 star based on its poor punctuation and grammar. The story is great and wonderful, but the writing is sub-par.”

“For the story content and the impact it had on me, I would definitely award this book 5 stars. But, I could not give it 5. Sadly, the book is riddled with typos, wrong words, formatting mistakes, misspellings, and other editing issues that kept jerking me out of the story and making me wish the publisher had edited it properly.”

I cringe when I read comments like these from book reviewers. Indie publishing has come a long way in shedding the stigma attached to it. This stigma said that self-published books were sub-par. Poor covers, bad editing, and mediocre content is what people expected from these books.

Fortunately, the stigma attached to self-publishing is fading. However, every time a book reviewer writes a statement like the ones above, indie publishing takes a hit.

I often feel like a broken record because I repeat myself so much about this issue. If you choose to publish a book yourself, professional editing, layout, and cover design is a must. If your book is a Christian book, it not only has an impact on God’s reputation, it also has an impact on the reputation of indie published books.

After all, Paul says in I Corinthians 5:6: Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Is your yeast good or bad?

I interact with a lot of indie authors. Many are frustrated because they have trouble selling their books. However, I find that often many of the authors that vent this frustration did not take the care or money to have their books properly edited.

Indie publishing is an incredible gift. We live in a time when almost anyone can afford to publish a book. But, just because you can publish a book doesn’t mean you should. Before you decide to publish, be sure that have done your homework so that you know what an industry-standard book looks like and you know the basics involved in promoting and marketing a book to readers.

Part of the mission of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is to strengthen small publishers and independent authors in the Christian marketplace. One way CSPA does this is by providing tools and information to help you produce quality books.

Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have access to the on-demand seminar “Create a Professional-Looking Book” as well as the “Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book.”

You can join CSPA for just $90 for the 2018 calendar year and have access to this great information and more. Join today at http://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member.

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Is Your Book a Work of Beauty?
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How Not to Sell a Book

Nominations for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards are rolling in. One recent nomination demonstrates how not to sell a book. I thought I would share it with you, so you can know what not to do.

The Christian Indie Awards nomination form requests various information. The form asks the nominating party to list the publisher of the book along with contact information. This contact information is very important, because it is who we contact should the book win an award.

One recent nomination listed CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gave contact information for CreateSpace. Folks, CreateSpace is not a publisher. Yes, you can request that they assign your book an ISBN number and then they list themselves as the publisher of the book on Amazon, but they are not the true publisher of the book.

If you are an independent author, you are the publisher. If you use any print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lightning Source, BookBaby, or LuLu, you are still the publisher. These companies are simply printing platforms that allow you to independently publish your book.

So, this independent author lists CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gives the contact information for CreateSpace. Now, if this nominated title were to win an award, we would have to send the announcement to CreateSpace. Do you think CreateSpace cares? Do you think they would contact the author and let the author know that he won an award? No, they won’t. CreateSpace is simply a revenue stream for Amazon. The company exists so that Amazon has more books to sell, and thus can make more money.

In an attempt to see if I could scare up other contact information for this author, I Googled the book’s title. To my dismay, the only place this book is listed on the internet is Amazon. The author does not have a website for the book. Neither the author nor the book are listed on Goodreads. There is not even a Facebook page for the book. Nothing.

Next, I strolled on over to Amazon to check the Author Page to see if I could scare up some information on the author. This time, I was not too surprised when I found that this author had not even completed the author profile for his Author Page on Amazon.

The book in question was published in November 2016. That was a year ago. In that time, the author has done almost nothing (from what I can tell) to promote this book. That’s like saying you are a missionary, but all you do is put some tracts in a local café and spend the rest of your time sitting in your house. How will people hear about the Gospel unless you tell them? How will people know about your book unless you tell them?

Having your book for sale only on Amazon with no other online presence will ensure that your book won’t sell. You must tell people about your book for them to know about it. Telling on the internet includes (at a minimum) having a website and a presence on social media.

By the way, nominations for the Christian Indie Awards are open through November 15, 2017. You can nominate your books at www.christianaward.com.

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Oh, The Places Your Book Will Go!
It’s Never Too Late
How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Kawamura.

Your Book: A Needle in a Haystack

The number of self-published titles continues to grow. Bowker, the company that assigns ISBN numbers recently announced that 786,935 ISBN numbers were assigned to self-published titles in 2016. This is an increase of 59,810 titles, an 8.2% increase over 2015.

According to the 2016 Bowker report, ISBNs assigned for print books rose 11.3% to 638,624 titles, while ISBNs assigned to ebooks fell 3.2% to 148,311. Since Bowker measures the number of self-published books by ISBN, its count does not include ebooks released by authors through Amazon’s KDP program, as Amazon Kindle uses ASIN identifiers rather than ISBNs.

Small publishers—defined as those authors and publishers who purchase their own ISBN numbers (rather than using an ISBN number provided by a publishing platform like CreateSpace) and produce 10 or fewer titles—grew by 7.67%, up 3,863 titles to 54,206 from 2015.

These figures indicate that the self-publishing industry is beginning to stabilize as it is growing to maturity. According to Bowker’s report, self-published titles grew 30% from 2013 to 2014 and 21% from 2014 to 2015. Then this past year, from 2015 to 2016, the growth rate of self-published titles slowed to about 8%.

If you released a book in 2016 or 2017, your book is simply one book in a sea of three-quarters of a million other books released the same year. That is a lot of competition. It is much like being a needle in a haystack.

Marketing a book among millions can seem a daunting task. How can you make your book stand out and get noticed? Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help your book get noticed. Here are three.

1. Build a platform.
Building a platform is all about developing an audience of people who trust and listen to what you have to say. You can develop your audience online with a blog, podcast, or video series, or you can develop an audience through speaking engagements. Readers buy books from authors they trust. For more information on building a platform and developing an audience, watch my on-demand seminar Developing an Audience for Your Books.

2. Go Niche.
Niche means a distinct segment of a market. It’s all about narrowing your audience to focus on those most likely to read your book. For example, if you have a book on parenting, instead of targeting all parents, you would refine your target audience. You might refine it to Christian parents and then refine it further to Christian parents of disabled children and then refine it even further to Christian parents of disabled children who need special care. Refining helps you find the best niche audience for your book.

3. Partner with Influencers.
Seek out those who already have influence with your niche audience and partner with them. Influencers can be other authors already writing to your audience. They can be bloggers speaking to these people. They can also be civic leaders, church leaders, educational leaders, or famous personalities. Work with influencers to receive endorsements, reviews, recommendations, and support for your book. Partnering with influencers helps you expand your audience and gives you and your book credibility.

Your book does not need to get lost in the haystack. A little effort on your part can make your book stand out and receive the attention it deserves.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Is Fear Paralyzing You?

Fear—it is a powerful emotion that can paralyze even the best. Fear robs us of faith, peace, hope, and confidence. It keeps us from realizing our dreams and all the blessings that God has for us.

Fear is wide-spread and powerful. Some Christian authors claim that the term “fear not” is the single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other. Lloyd Ogilvie in his book 12 Steps to Living without Fear claims that the command “fear not” is stated 366 times in the Bible—one for every day of the year and an extra one for leap year.

Author Rachel Van Dyken recently said, “Fear has one goal for your life: to paralyze you, to keep you in the same state you were in five years ago. It wants you stuck, afraid, and isolated.”

Is fear keeping you tied up and unable to write that manuscript, bring your manuscript to publication, or step out and promote your book? Maybe you struggle with:

  • Fear of failing.
  • Fear of public ridicule.
  • Fear of judgment.
  • Fear of not being good enough.

In essence all these fears really boil down to the fear of failing—not being good enough or doing it “right.”

Has God called you to write, publish, or promote a book and you are battling fear?

I once heard a missionary say that there is no failure in God’s Kingdom except the failure to obey. Isn’t that true? If you do what God asks, who is responsible for the outcome—you or God? The test is in the obedience, not in the outcome.

A wise, saintly woman I know once received this message from God: “Failure comes in not trying, in not engaging.

If God is calling you to write or publish a book, then you are good enough. You are the one he is asking because he knows you are capable. The beauty is that he never makes us do it alone. He is always there to guide and cheer us on.

So often, our inner critic, that whisper in our ear, tells us to play it safe, not take risks, and not risk failure and public humiliation. These self-doubts and shameful feelings that tell us we are not “good enough” are not God’s voice.

If God has or is calling you to do something, remember, you can only fail if you don’t obey. Obey and lean on God’s limitless provisions to complete the task he has called you to.

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Are You Afraid of Failure?
Do You Struggle with This?
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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Are You Making Use of Fiction Apps?

Reading habits are changing. The time that people spend reading each day is decreasing with reading time spent in shorter spurts or in soundbites. Often, rather than sitting down and reading for the sake of reading, many people are reading in-between their many other activities.

BookNet Canada, a non-profit book industry research organization recently surveyed 750 Canadians about how they use their leisure time. Since BookNet Canada is interested in books and reading, the survey asked a number of questions about reading habits. Here are are a few interesting findings from the survey.

  • Reading is the fifth most popular choice for leisure-time activity, after browsing the Internet, spending time with family, watching TV, and watching a movie.
  • The use of smartphones to read ebooks rose 6% over last year’s survey, meaning that 20% of respondents read books on their smartphones.
  • Word-of-mouth remains the most common way survey respondents learn about new books to read (50%). Interestingly, respondents were evenly split on finding new books through browsing online and brick-and-mortar stores (38%). While another 30 percent found new books via social media and 21 percent reported learning about new books to read through online communities like Goodreads.
  • Finding books through e-reading apps is growing. Eleven percent of survey respondents reported that they discovered new books through these apps.

I believe this combination of reading in short spurts of time in-between activities and the rise of reading on smartphones has led to the growth of serialized fiction apps. If you write fiction, you can use these serialized fiction apps to grow your audience for your books.

Serialized fiction apps allow writers to write, share, and monetize bite-sized serial fiction stories. Most of these apps use a freemium model, where readers begin reading for free, but can then purchase installments of stories that they really enjoy, tipping, or an ad-based model for revenue earning.

One of the largest online sites and apps for sharing stories is Wattpad. With Wattpad, authors earn money from ads. Two newer serialized fiction apps that are open to all authors are Radish and Tapas.

As an author, you can take a story you have already written and break it down into bite-sized chunks for one or more of these apps, or you can write a serialized story specifically for the app. I think BookNet’s finding that 11 percent of survey respondents had discovered new books (and authors) on an e-reading app shows that putting your stories on these apps can indeed help you grow your audience.

Are you an author who has already put your writings on a serialized app? If so, I would love to hear which app you used and what your experience has been. You can share your experience with me in the comments section below.

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Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?
The State of Christian Fiction
The State of Fiction Reading

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