Does Your Book Stand Out?

As an author or small publisher, you think you want your book to stand out. You believe that a book that stands out from the crowd will catch people’s attention. Maybe, maybe not.

While a book that stands out from the crowd does catch people’s attention. The question you should ask yourself is: What type of attention are you catching?

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Does your book make people say, “That looks intriguing!” or “That looks odd or out of place!”?

While you want your book to stand out, if you have independently published, it is more important that your book looks like everyone else’s book. In other words, you want your book to look professional and conform to the expectations readers have for the genre you are writing in.

For example, if you write romance novels, using photographs of real people or places in your book’s cover design will make you look like the other books in your genre. If, instead, you use a pencil and ink drawing on your book’s cover, your book will stand out, but it may send a bewildering message to regular romance readers. These readers will wonder if your book is really a romance novel.

Valerie Andrews, a book award judge, says, “The design sets that tone for the book and either calls out to the reader or sends the reader on to the next book.”

The KISS principle (Keep it Simple Sweetheart) is important in book design. It is better to err on the side of having your book design be too simple than too complicated and cluttered.

All the elements of a book’s design—cover design, interior layout, fonts, trim size, binding, and even paper stock—should conform to industry standards. Remember that keeping your book design (both cover and interior) simple will be more effective in grabbing readers’ attention.

Instead of focusing on a cover design to make your book stand out, focus on a title that grabs attention and sales text that draws a reader in. Obtaining strategic endorsements can also help your book stand out. Strive for your book to stand out with superior writing and compelling story.

If you are a new or unestablished author, it is more important that your book looks and feels like other professionally published books than that it stands out from the crowd. Strive to distinguish yourself through your words and message, not the design of your book.

Related Posts:
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Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zhenina

Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

Amazon is a massive giant and growing. Consider the following facts:

  • Half of all U.S. households are subscribed to Amazon Prime.
  • Half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
  • Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online.
  • Amazon sells more books and toys than any retailer online or off.
  • Amazon sells 67% of all ebooks and 64% of online print book sales.

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As an author, you cannot ignore Amazon.

Recently, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) published the results of a study they conducted. The study “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities” provides in-depth details on how Amazon is monopolizing the economy, undermining job growth, and weakening communities. Consider a few more interesting factoids:

  • Amazon increasingly controls the underlying infrastructure of the economy.
  • Amazon’s Marketplace for third-party sellers has become the dominant platform for digital commerce.
  • Amazon’s Web Services division provides the cloud computing backbone for much of the country, powering everyone from Netflix to the CIA.

ILSR warns that Amazon’s power as a gatekeeper in our economy will increasingly have negative consequences. One example ILSR sites is that “Amazon’s power to manipulate what products we encounter is especially concerning in the book industry, where it now commands more than half of sales, and where it can stifle the exchange of ideas simply by removing a book from its search and recommendation algorithms, as it did two years ago, in its dispute with the publisher Hachette.”

Christian authors, do not take this warning lightly. ISLR is on to something very important here. Amazon is not a Christian company, nor are they friendly to Christian books. Yes, Amazon lists almost every book for sale on its website, but that does not mean that the company is sympathetic toward Christian books. In fact, the opposite is true.

A member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently brought this to my attention. This gentleman had published an ebook on prayer via the Kindle Direct Publishing program. He then signed up to use Amazon’s Marketing Services to run an ad campaign on his book. Amazon denied his ad campaign and cited their “Creative Acceptance Policy”.

I urge you to go to Amazon and read this policy. This policy states the following:

  • Unacceptable Books: Books with content that is threatening, abusive, harassing, or that advocates or discriminates against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category.
  • Restricted Ad Content and Books: There are several customer experience sensitive categories that are not appropriate for a general audience. The following categories may be restricted from the homepage and Kindle E-reader placements: Religious or spiritual content.

In addition, the email that Amazon sent this author stated, “we are unable to approve your ad if it contains overtly religious or spiritual ad copy, images, or symbols (for example, the Star of David, a crucifix, the Star and Crescent).”

I believe that moving forward, Amazon will increasingly restrict religious content on their site through the means mentioned above. Personally, I find it sad that the Christian Retail Industry has not done more to embrace small publishers and independent Christian authors. In not doing so, they have partly been responsible for the rise in Amazon’s power, as these publishers and authors were forced to rely on Amazon for book placement and sales.

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Why Reading the Bible Matters

If you are an author or publisher producing Christian books, the Bible is important to you. After all, your books are meant to encourage people on their journey with God, and the ultimate guide for this journey is the Bible.

In fact, no other book has had a greater impact on history than the Bible. No book has sold more copies. The average American household owns four Bibles. However, they usually sit unread on the shelf.

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Studies show that in one generation the number of occasional Bible readers fell by 20 percent—the equivalent of about 700 people per day. In fact, fewer than 20% of Americans read the Bible outside of church. If this trend continues, by 2040 two-thirds of Americans will have no meaningful connection with the Bible.

In an effort to reverse this trend, the Institute for Bible Reading was launched last month on November 15. A team of executives from the Bible publishing industry came together to form the Institute for Bible Reading (IFBR), an organization focused on combating the silent crisis of Bible disengagement. The group is committed to changing the prevailing assumptions and practices around Bible reading, which they claim perpetuate a hyper-individualized and fragmented Bible-reading experience.

IFBR’s mission is to give people tools and frameworks that fundamentally change the way they read the Bible so it can achieve its mission and become the story that defines their lives. The group plans to launch a major campaign to introduce new Bible reading practices for the church soon.

I applaud the efforts of IFBR. The Bible is extremely important book. It is our greatest source of spiritual food. Regular consumption is required to be a healthy growing follower of Christ. As authors and publishers, we need to be regularly feasting on the Word of God in order to be able to feed and provide guidance to others.

If you care about Bible engagement, you should check out the Institute for Bible Reading. It may be a resource that you can offer the people who read your books and are in need of some resources to begin to read and understand God’s Word better.

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Have You Defined Your Purpose?

Do you find yourself lacking motivation? Do the things that you used to do for your books now seem like a chore? Do you feel like you are pushing uphill most of the time?

Maybe you have lost sight of your purpose. Purpose is the “why” behind what we do. It’s the mission that drives our actions.

purpose

As we enter into a new year, revisiting and reviewing your purpose is the starting point for preparing your goals for the coming year. Goals flow from purpose.

For example: If my purpose is “to write so that other’s experience God”, then my goals would center around my own personal time experiencing God, improving my writing skills, and producing articles or books that draw people to God.

Sometimes people confuse purpose and goals. Your purpose is not your goal. Your purpose is the foundation of your work. Your goals (the work you do) build on your foundation.

Maybe you have not taken the time to define your purpose in writing and publishing books. If not, now would be a great time. You can use this little sentence to help you define your purpose:

I help __________________________, do ____________________________ better, so that they can ____________________________.

Here is one example of a purpose statement from an author who writes organization books for Moms:

I help mothers organize their life better so that they can be less stressed and spend more quality time with their children.

The beauty of a purpose statement is that it keeps you on track. Often, we get sidetracked by information we hear that tells us that we should be focusing our time on this or that to be more successful. These things can be really good, but they can also sidetrack us from our purpose. Having a purpose statement keeps you on track.

With a purpose statement, you can incorporate new activities into your routine or goals, but each of these new activities will advance your purpose, not hinder it.

How do you define your purpose? I would love to hear from you. Share your purpose statement with me in the comment section below.

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What is Your Purpose?
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Four Publishing Trends for 2017

As the end of 2016 draws near many are glad that the election is over and political news has returned to a manageable level. Yet, we wonder what challenges lay ahead in the coming year.

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For authors and publishers, I believe that the publishing landscape will continue to develop in the direction it has been growing over the past decade. Here are four publishing trends I see for 2017.

1. Self-publishing will continue to grow.

For the past decade, self-publishing has experienced tremendous growth. The number of self-published books will continue to grow in 2017 as more services arise to guide authors to publish their own books. Services that now offer free book layout software and cover designs (think Reedsy and Createspace) have made the playing field easily accessible for anyone desiring to publish a book. After all, surveys show that 80% of Americans feel they have a book inside them.

2. The number of books published will continue to exponentially outpace the growth rate of reading.

The reading rate in America has remained steady since 2012 (with a slight decrease from 2011 reading rates). Pew Research Center reports that about 73% of Americans read a book each year. However, the number of books published in the United States has grown exponentially since 2010. The number of self-published titles has grown from 133,036 published in 2010 to 727,125 published in 2015. That is a 446.5% increase in the number of self-published titles in five years.

3. With more books than readers, finding readers for your books will become increasingly more difficult.

Discoverability has been a buzz word in 2016. That’s because with the increase in books published, it is harder for any one book to get discovered by a reader. Enter a search in Amazon.com for “prayer” and you will receive 133,759 book results. That is a lot of books on prayer to choose from. Readers are inundated with books. Authors will be increasingly taxed to provide convincing evidence to readers that their book is worthy of a reader’s attention.

4. Audience development will be crucial for an author’s success.

No longer can authors count on readers discovering their book. Instead, authors will need to work on developing an audience for their books. Developing an audience is about gaining people’s trust. It’s about sharing your message with them in bite-size pieces in a way that enriches their lives so that they want to hear or read more of what you have to say.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), we believe that audience development will be crucial for success in publishing in the coming years. To help our members become more skilled at developing an audience, CSPA will release an on-demand seminar on Audience Development at the start of 2017.

As you make your plans and set your goals for 2017, don’t let this news discourage you. If God is calling you to write and publish, then he has readers who need to hear your message. Your part is to be faithful to your calling, not just to write and publish, but to also let people know that your book exists so they can read it.

Related Posts:
Reading Rates Remain Consistent
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Are You Developing an Audience?

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