An Industry Shakeup

Back in 1998, Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer wrote a book titled BLUR: the speed of change in the connected economy. In the book they state, “Welcome to the new economy—a world where the rate of change is so fast it’s only a blur.”

blur

The book industry is no exception. Changes happen all the time. The industry is blurry because things are constantly changing. Here is the most recent shakeup for the Christian book industry: Send the Light Distribution (STL) is closing.

Citing the lack of funds to remain competitive with the current supply chain for Christian products, STL is liquidating. The company has told suppliers of Christian products that they can keep their product with STL for 90 days while they search for another distributor. During these 90 days, the company will keep their suppliers’ products on the market to their entire customer base.

STL is a large distributor. They sell products for more than 500 suppliers (publishers and authors) to over 10,000 retail locations. However, they can no longer compete in an industry with shrinking store space and growing online print-on-demand sales.

The closure of STL leaves three main distributors in the Christian marketplace that small presses and independent authors have access to: Anchor Distribution, BookMasters, and Spring Arbor. Of course, small presses and independent authors have easy access to distribution with Ingram and Spring Arbor via print-on-demand services Lightning Source and IngramSpark (Christian Small Publishers Association offers its members discounts on these two services).

Nothing is constant. Publishers and authors must be willing to adapt and adapt quickly to changes to stay vital and continue to reach readers. STL was slow to change. They did not incorporate ebook distribution into their services, and they did next to nothing to promote a little known print-on-demand program they had with Snowfall Press for independent authors.

Years ago, I spoke with a Senior Executive at STL about their need to incorporate ebook distribution to stay relevant in the changing marketplace. Sadly, they did not take my advice. The Christian industry still lacks a distribution program for ebooks…and now they lack one distributor as well.

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What is Your Purpose?

Do you want to avoid discouragement and burnout?

It takes more than doing something you are passionate about to avoid becoming weary. You must also keep your purpose forefront in your thoughts.

purpose

What is your reason for writing, publishing, and marketing your book?

This is a very important question—one that should not be ignored or taken lightly. Producing a book, publishing a book, and selling a book are hard work. It takes time, dedication, and lots of effort. We can easily become discouraged when the results we want to see don’t roll in.

That’s where purpose comes in. Purpose keeps us grounded. When we lose sight of our purpose, we can become lost and wander.

I heard a story about a world class tennis player. This woman reached the rank of #5 in the world in women’s tennis. When she reached that spot, she began to lose consistently. She started to hate tennis and viewed practicing as a chore. What happened to her? She lost sight of her purpose: the reason she played tennis. Once she regained her purpose—which had nothing to do with how many games she won or lost—she began to enjoy playing tennis again and started climbing the ranks.

The same thing can happen for authors and publishers. If you lose sight of your purpose, your work can become tedious, boring, and uninspiring. Your productivity suffers. You no longer look forward to the next book or even talking to people about your current book. It just seems like a chore.

Knowing your purpose is key to success. Why? Because purpose defines your success. How you define your purpose is just as important as having a purpose. If your purpose is to be a best-selling author, you will easily get discouraged when you fall short of it. Your purpose must be deeper. It should not be tied to performance. With a purpose such as helping your readers live a more productive or Godly life, you are less likely to become discouraged because your purpose does not depend on how many books you sell or how popular you become. Simply helping your readers will give you the satisfaction you crave.

Have you defined your purpose? Take some time to ponder these questions:

  • What is my purpose in writing this book?
  • What is my purpose in publishing this book?
  • What is my purpose in marketing and selling this book?

These don’t have to be three different purposes, they might be the same. Your purpose should inspire you. It should ring true in your gut and renew your passion for your work.

I would love to hear how you define your purpose. Share it with me in the comments section.

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God is in the Mix

God is at work. We can see his handiwork all around us if we just keep our eyes open for it.

2016 CSPA Catalog Cover

I love it when God works and we don’t even realize we need his intervention. It’s not that we aren’t praying, its just that we are going about our normal activities and then God shows up to help.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) we recently had one of those moments. Each year we put together a cooperative book catalog featuring a number of CSPA members’ books. The catalog is quite an undertaking. We wrangle information from 25 to 30 authors and publishers on 70+ books that needs to be compiled into a coherent layout.

Before going to print with our CSPA catalog, each CSPA member participating in the catalog must proof and give approval for their individual ad in the catalog. This year, we had a God incident.

After much hard work, we sent the catalog to the printer. The printer mailed us hard-copy proofs of the catalog. Upon receiving these proofs, we noticed that an error had occurred in the final prep stages of getting the catalog ready for print. We had a design glitch on five pages. We found it curious that the design glitch showed up on the first four pages, and then on a outlier page closer to the back of the catalog.

We made the necessary corrections and resent the pages to the printer. This time, the printer sent us PDF proofs. All appeared in order, except the outlier page. This time, it had a strange blue box around some text—something that had not been there previously.

Both the catalog designer and I were baffled by this strange blue box. We fixed it and sent the correction off to the printer. Upon receipt, the printer sent back a PDF proof of the one outlier page ready for print.

On this proof of the outlier page, one line of text was half wiped out. I thought that this was really odd. This strange error forced me to read the text and, to my chagrin, I discovered a glaring error that the publisher, the catalog designer, and I all missed when the ad was designed and the proof was approved by the publisher.

God must have a sense of humor. It took him three tries to get our attention to see this egregious error. First, it was the outlier page, then it was a strange blue box highlighting the error that we missed, and finally, it was the incorrect text that looked like someone had taken an eraser to it.

Thankfully, God is patient and persistent. I am grateful that he has my back and takes care of that which seeks to glorify his name.

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It’s Okay Not to Know

The other day, I was talking with a member publisher of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) on the telephone about one of the association’s services. The gentleman stated that he did not want to appear dumb, but that he really did not know much about the service, so much so, that he was even unsure what questions to ask.

dontknow-blog

I assured this publisher that he was in no way appearing dumb. That we all start out on the same playing field—knowing little to nothing. I was once there myself. However, I admired that he was willing to candidly admit that he did not know and to reach out with questions so that he could learn.

Sadly, not every new author or publisher is as candid as this gentleman. I run into authors and publishers who want to dictate how things are done. These individuals clearly have little knowledge about the workings of the book industry, but still insist on having things done their way.

These individuals often don’t take advantage of the expertise of the consultant or professional they are working with. Instead, they persist in having things done the way they want them done, instead of asking the industry expert why he is choosing to do something different than what they think should be done.

One of the benefits of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is that we will create a professional media sheet for authors. Sometimes authors want information included on their media sheet that will make them look like “newbies” or “amateurs”. One of the reasons CSPA provides this service is to help our members conform to the industry standards and appear professional. After all, that is one of the benefits of belonging to a publishing association: creating an impression of professionalism.

One of the benefits of winning a book award is that foreign publishers exposed to your book will be more inclined to consider the book for translation rights. CSPA often receives requests for review copies of books that have won the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award. Foreign publishers making the request want to consider translation and publication rights of the book for their country. Yet, often winners of the award that receive these requests ignore them because they don’t know how to handle such requests. All these authors and publishers need to do is ask for a little direction from those who have already walked the path. Yet another reason to belong to a writers or publishers group or association: information at your fingertips.

Anyone writing and publishing books is on a learning journey. There are always new things to learn. Anyone who thinks she has arrived is fooling herself.

What questions do you have? Ask some in the comments section below.

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Do You Have a Focus Group?

A recent BookCrash reviewer wrote the following in her review of a children’s book:

The premise of this book is lovely…There are a few things in the book that are a little puzzling, such as sentence structure, and capitalizing the first word of each line… Random words are also capitalized throughout the story for no apparent reason… I also feel flirting, dating, and marriage are too advanced for a children’s book. .. I feel this book is a little complex for a children’s book.

Focus Group

Here is a book that would have benefited from a focus group before moving to production.

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, or idea.

Organizations use focus groups to gather information before launching or revising a product. The purpose of a focus group is to give the business data that helps them enhance, change, or create a product or service targeted at a key consumer group.

Had the author of this book used a focus group, the issues this reviewer raised would already have been addressed by the focus group and corrected by the author.

A critique group can double as a focus group for an author. Critique groups are great for helping authors with weak plots and inconsistencies in the story line. However, by going one step further and asking a few questions of a critique group, authors can gain valuable information on making their book conform to the expectations of their target audience.

Asking pointed questions can ferret out issues around content that is inappropriate or too complex content for a certain age group or audience before the book is published.

I find that too many independently published authors rush their book to publication. They don’t take the time to do many of the steps that traditional publishers do to ensure a book is marketable. One of these steps is having knowledgeable people that can discern whether a book’s content works with various audiences. Having a focus group that provides an honest critique of your book is important.

Don’t rush your next book to production. Take the time to seek out people who will provide you honest and thorough feedback. You want your book to shine, not just be published.

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