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.


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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Staying Relevant

Everything flows; nothing remains. All is flux, nothing is stationery. All is flux, nothing stays still. All flows, nothing stays. Nothing endures but change.” ~Heraclitus of Ephesus

Change is the one constant in our lives. Nothing stays the same. Publishers and authors who do not keep up with changes effecting publishing and promoting books get left behind and are less successful in the long run. Over time, technology, services, and trends all change, effecting how books are published and marketed.


1. Changes in Technology

Technology keeps changing. As technology shifts, so does the way books are published, marketed, and sold. As an authors or publisher you need to keep up-to-date on the changing technology so that you can effectively communicate with your audience.

For example, while press releases are still a useful piece of a book promotion campaign, technology has changed the way journalists acquire and receive information. No longer can an author or publisher simply send out a release announcing a new book. New books are no longer news. With thousands of books published every day, a new book being published is not news. To catch a journalist’s eye, your press release must tie your book into a current trend or breaking news story that journalists are already tuned into. Yet, I still see press releases from authors and small publishers simply announcing a book.

2. Changes in Services

New services for publishing, promoting, and selling books are constantly cropping up, while others are shutting down. Every day, I hear of new, innovative services for publishing and selling books and ebooks. More and more companies are offering services to independent authors. Some services close their doors while others open. Knowing where you can go to get the services you need to be effective is important.

A few years ago, IngramSpark opened its doors. IngramSpark is a POD and ebook distributor geared toward independent authors and small publishers. Ingram opened the service as a counterpoint to Lightning Source and as a more user-friendly place for the growing population of independently published authors. Yet, I still run into small publishers who have been in the business for years who are not familiar with IngramSpark or don’t really understand what they do.

3. Changes in Trends

Trends in how people find out about books and where they purchase books change over time. Staying on top of these changing trends is essential for success in selling your books.

About eight years ago, when the trend was swinging away from buying books in brick-and-mortar stores to purchasing books online, a member publisher of CSPA was able to get their author on a major talk show. The publisher was extremely excited as they told me about the event that had occurred that morning. As we talked, I used my computer to check the book’s ranking on Amazon since the coverage had been nationwide. I was dismayed to see that the book was not for sale on Amazon—it was listed, but Amazon was not actively selling it. I immediately informed the publisher that this would hurt sales, to which the publisher responded, “But the book is available in the Christian bookstores as well as Borders and Barnes & Noble.” Not staying on top of changing trends had cost this publisher sales.

Fortunately, there are many ways for you to stay on top of changes that affect your publishing journey. Reading blogs, books, industry journals, and belonging to industry associations are all great ways to keep learning.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) part of our mission is to strengthen independently published authors and small publishers producing materials for the Christian marketplace. One of the ways we do that is by providing our members cutting-edge information that keeps them informed of trends and changes that affect their ability to remain viable and successful.

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Do You Have a Teachable Spirit?

As the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), I run into all sorts of authors and publishers. Each one is somewhere on the journey of penning, publishing, and promoting books. Some are just starting, others have published a few books, and still others have been publishing for years.


The most surprising thing I run into are authors and publishers who have some knowledge and yet, they think they know all they need to know. Their spirits are not very teachable. These authors and publishers know the basics, but don’t take the time to educate themselves on the finer points.

Some of these finer points include:

  1. Crafting an intriguing book title.
  2. Writing an engaging author bio.
  3. Composing sales text that addresses people’s needs.
  4. Adding value to people’s lives in social media campaigns.
  5. Building trust with consumers.
  6. Learning effective marketing and sales strategies.

Almost anyone can slap together a book. Being open to learning the finer points in publishing and promoting books is what will make the difference between having a successful book or just having a book.

Even if you have been publishing for years, there are always new things to learn. When I first published Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, one woman who read the book wrote me and told me that even though she had been in the publishing business for nine years, she learned things she did not know before from reading my book.

The book Outliers made popular the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Very few independently published authors or small publishers have spent 10,000 hours on their craft. Even those that master a skill can still always improve and learn more.

Having a teachable spirit is important to success not only in publishing and promoting a book, but also in life.

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