Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

Related Posts:
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Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?
The Importance of a Cover

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.

Five Christian Book Publishing Trends for 2019

With a new year around the corner, I thought that I would share five trends I see for those involved in writing and publishing Christian books.

These are not predictions. They are trends that I have been a witness to. Trends tell us where we need to adjust our behaviors to stay effective.

Christian book publishing trends 2019

1. Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores will continue to shrink in number and size.

In 2017, after declaring bankruptcy, Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of their brick-and-mortar locations. This closure affected the whole book publishing industry. Publishers and distributors lost thousands and thousands of dollars, causing a few to shutter their doors and others to consolidate.

Fifteen of these Family Christian locations were purchased by the CEO of Harrison House. The stores were renamed Empowered Life Christian Books & Gifts. After one year of business, all 15 of these stores were closed this year (2018). Unable to make enough profit to sustain operation, millions of invested dollars were lost.

The decline of Christian bookstores continues. CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, has also been struggling. In an effort to keep their international retail show open, CBA partnered with investor Ed Roush, who poured one million dollars into the summer trade show. After the show, Roush cleaned house at CBA to save money, leaving only a skeletal crew. Since summer, CBA has been very quiet and has not released any new issues of their monthly Christian MARKET magazine of their Christian MARKET Weekly e-newsletter.

In response to these upsets in the Christian book-selling industry, Munce, a marketing service group for independent Christian retailers, recently formed a new trade association, Christian Retail Association. In addition, they are restructuring their Christian Product Expo (CPE) into a national and international show.

Brick-and-mortar retail across America is struggling. Business Insider reports that retailers are filing for bankruptcy at record-high rates this year. These retailer stores include Toys R Us, Claire’s, and Sears. No winds of revitalization appear to be blowing for Christian bookstores. Thus, the trend for shrinking numbers of Christian bookstores will continue.

2. Independent publishing of Christian books will continue to grow.

According to Bowker, the ISBN agency, the number of self-published titles has grown by 156% over the past five years to just over one million books self-published in 2017. There are no signs of this trend slowing. Amazon is publishing the lion’s share of these books, having published over 750,000 titles through CreateSpace in 2017. And if you are not already aware, CreateSpace is being folded into Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing.

For authors and publishers, the increasing numbers of books published each year means increased competition for readers’ time and money. As the competition continues to grow, the effort it will take to convince readers that your book is the one to spend their money on will continue to become more difficult.

After all, research shows that having too many choices has a negative effect on customer satisfaction. People become stressed out when presented with too many choices. They can also become paralyzed and simply not be able to make a decision. In her book, The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar recounts a study that discovered that when offered a small assortment of jams (6) to choose from, 30% of customers who tasted a sample made a purchase. However, when presented with a large assortment of jams (24), only 3% of customers who sampled the purchased a jar. While choice is appealing, too many choices can be debilitating, which means that more persuasion will be needed to sell your books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA)

As the competition for readers’ attention increases, the importance of belonging to a publishing association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) grows. Associations provide cutting-edge information and resources to help you be successful. Those authors and publishers who stay abreast of trends and changes in both publishing and marketing will be the most effective and successful.

3. There will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed books.

For years, self-publishing has had a bad rap. Readers have complained about the poor writing, grammar, and spelling errors in self-published books. While the quality of self-published books has improved overall, there are still those authors who just want to publish, that they don’t take the time to have their books properly edited and designed. These bad apples threaten to ruin the whole batch.

The number of self-publishing services that have cropped up to take advantage of authors wanting to be published has not helped this issue. Many of these self-publishing services are just after the money they can earn for publishing the book. They get their money up front from the author to produce the book. As a result, they don’t care about the quality of the book or how many copies the book sells.

As it has now become affordable for just about anyone to publish a book, I can guarantee that there will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed self-published books. One of the best ways that you can help your book stand out above the competition is to ensure that your writing is compelling, your book has been professionally edited, and the cover and interior are professionally designed. Doing these three things will greatly improve your ability to sell your book.

reading trends4. The external competition for readers’ time and money will continue to increase.

The reading rates in American have not increased since 2012. One recent study by the National Endowment for Arts found that reading for pleasure actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2017.  With so much competing for people’s time and attention, reading seems to fall by the wayside.

In addition to all the things that compete for our attention in our time-strapped lives—television, moves, YouTube videos, social media, and numerous other activities—concentrating on long form reading is becoming a problem. Professor Gloria Mark of the Department of Informatics at the University of California says email, social media, notifications and countless other digital distractions are eroding our ability to concentrate on individual tasks in the 21st Century. I have heard personally had numerous individuals tell me that they have lost their ability to concentrate to read books.

Due to this increased competition, authors will be forced to spend more time building a platform and cultivating readers for their books. Today, with so many reading choices, there is no guarantee that people will read a book just because it exists. Instead, authors must now develop trust with a reading audience so that they can sell their books.

5. The sales of audiobooks will continue to grow.

Audiobook sales have grown steadily over the past couple years. This trend will continue to grow. With Smartphones, the growth of digitally downloaded audiobooks is booming. Downloadable audiobook sales grew about 30% from 2016 to 2017. That was the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for downloadable audiobooks.

This trend shows no signs of slowing. As more competes for our attention, people are turning to audiobooks for entertainment and self-improvement. With audiobooks, individuals can multi-task—workout and listen, drive and listen, clean house and listen, etc.

While a couple services help independent authors produce audiobooks at a reasonable price—ACX and Findaway Voices—it is important to note that currently, audiobooks only make up 4% of all book sales (including print and ebooks). Audiobooks are going to continue to grow. However, simply producing an audiobook will not guarantee more sales. Unless your book is already selling well in print or ebook format, I suggest you not take the plunge.

Related Posts:
New Record: One Million Self-Published Books
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
Is Reading in Trouble?

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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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Your Book: A Needle in a Haystack
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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.

Related Posts:
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
Authors: Start Local
Promote Your Books as Christmas Gifts

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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.

Related Posts:
Enlarge Your Audience with Micro-Influencers
Endorsements: How Many Is Too Many?
Are You In a Rush?

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