I Don’t Know Anything About Publishing

“I don’t know anything about publishing.” The gentleman standing before me started with this sentence. Then he went on to state, “…but I published a book on CreateSpace.” He reached into his brief bag and brought out a book. Next, he asked, “What can Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) do for me?”

I explained that one of the things CSPA does is help authors like him learn about publishing. That we have on-demand seminars that teach indie authors how to publish an industry-standard book and we offer a Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book as a resource for our members.

“What would you suggest I change on my book?” The author asked next. I gently pointed out the following to him.

  1. His book title needs to be able to be easily read from six to 10 feet away and also in a small thumbnail sketch. I noted that I had difficulty reading his book title two to three feet away due to the fancy font he used and that I definitely could not read it six feet away.
  2. I suggested that his interior was not laid out to industry standards. His margins ran too close to the edges and his font-size and layout made the book look like it was for a middle-grade reader, not an adult.

The author insisted that he did not want to change the font he chose for his title—that he liked it. He stated that he liked the interior layout because he had envisioned such a layout for a larger landscape book (however, this book was a traditional smaller portrait paperback). He kept insisting that he liked what he had done.

I suggested that if he had just published the book for himself and his family, that liking what he had chosen was perfectly acceptable and sufficient. However, if he wanted to sell this book beyond his small circle, as he had indicated to me, then he needed to make the book industry standard.

I explained to him that readers know what a book is “supposed” to look like. When a book does not look like what they expect, they will often pass it up. In publishing, looking different or out of place does not sell books. What sells books is compelling covers and prose.

Next, the author asked me what I would do to help get more attention for his book on Amazon. I suggested the following.

  1. Make sure that his Amazon author page was complete. To have a good author photo, a bio, and links to his websites on his Amazon author page.
  2. Use great keywords to help people discover his book. I explained that his book was an Advent devotional, yet he did not use Advent anywhere in the title or subtitle. As a result, he is missing out on people searching for Advent books. I pointed out to this gentleman that this was the type of information CSPA regularly provides to our members in our monthly newsletter.

The author told me that he did not want to change his title or subtitle, that he liked it. I told him that he did not have to take any of my suggestions. I reminded him that he had asked my advice after telling me he did not know anything about publishing.

Advice is just that—advice. I give it. You don’t have to take it. It’s your book, your life, your goals and dreams. But, let me offer one last piece of advice.

If you want to sell books, you can’t be too tied to your first idea. Let your idea germinate and grow. Let others water it and help nurture it to maturity so that your end product is something that is beautiful and excellent and actively fulfills the purpose for which God birthed it in your heart.

Related Posts:
Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?
First Impressions Matter
Sales Text that Sells

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Don’t Start at the Beginning

Jellybooks, a service that tracks reading habits, has found that readers don’t get past the first 50 to 100 pages for the majority of fiction ebooks they read. Why? Because they can’t get into the story. The same principle applies for memoirs.

I like to read biographies and memoirs. It is one of the genres I read on a regular basis. I am a social worker by training, so I am very interested in people and their stories. I have read hundreds of memoirs.

The number of books in the memoir genre is growing substantially with indie publishing. Many people, especially Christian authors, feel they that their life story is worth sharing so that they can encourage others to seek and follow God.

However, I find that many of these authors don’t take the time to find out how to write a compelling memoir. They simple want to tell their story. As a result, many start at the beginning—just like this author:

“I remember the house I lived in until I was three years old. I can walk through the entire house in my head. My mother was an amazing homemaker.”

I recently read this memoir that started at the beginning and I almost didn’t keep reading. However, since I had met the author in person, I persevered. This was actually a story of overcoming addiction. That author started by talking about how “normal” her life was prior to four years of age (boring) and proceeded to chronicle her life from there.

A memoir is a story. Authors need to remember this. All stories have to start with a hook—something that draws the reader in to want to read more. This hook should be a compelling story that has an emotional draw.

Remember, most people don’t care about your life story. I know, ouch. The truth hurts. Other than your family and friends, most people are not going to care about your story—unless—they can relate to or are interested in what you have to talk about. Readers are drawn to stories that speak to a specific issue or problem they face. They want to find inspiration and courage from someone who has already walked and survived the path they find themselves on.

Don’t start at the beginning. Start with a fascinating story that draws the reader in. For example:

  • If your book is about following the call of God to the mission field, then start with a captivating story from your time on the mission field, like being surrounded at spearpoint by a group of tribal men.
  • If your book is about surviving cancer, then start with an emotional story about receiving the cancer diagnosis, the surgery, or chemotherapy treatments.
  • If your book is about recovery from addiction, then start with a perilous story about purchasing drugs or trouble you got into while high.

Selling books is already a tough job. Don’t make it harder by starting at the beginning so readers abandon your book. You want readers to find your memoir a fascinating read that they recommend to others.

Related Posts:
What’s Your Message?
Have You Written a Memoir?
Starting Strong May Not Be Enough?

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The Current State of Book Sales

Are ebook sales growing? Are indie published book sales growing? What percentage of print books are purchased on Amazon?

These are questions I hear a lot. Fortunately, the people over at Author Earnings do a great job of putting out reports that reflect not only what is happening in the overall book purchasing market, but also the market for indie published books.

Author Earnings most recent report covers book sales for the last three quarters of 2017. I am going to summarize a few of the salient points here. If you want to read the entire report, you can do so on the Author Earnings website.

Bookscan captures between 70 to 80 percent of all hardcover and paperback book purchases in the United States (both physical and online purchases). Author Earnings only looks at online book purchases. Here are some of their findings.

  • Over half of all print books are purchased online. In 2017, 45.5% of all print book were purchased through Amazon. Did you catch that? Almost half of all print books alone are sold through Amazon. Amazon is a giant in the world of book sales!
  • The Indie share of the book market continues to grow, especially in the ebook realm. Indie published titles made up 28% (284 out of the top 1,000) of the top selling ebook authors in the United States.
  • The sweet spot for pricing an ebook is still $2.99 to $4.99. eBooks in this price range sold the most units on Amazon.

One of the big takeaways from Author Earnings most recent report was the highlighting of how vastly different the top selling genres for print and ebooks are.

eBook sales are largely fiction. Romance readers largely purchase digital books—90% of all romance purchases are ebooks. Science Fiction & Fantasy readers also prefer the digital format—75% of all this category is now ebook and audio. However, Children’s books are still largely print purchases, as are Poetry (82%) and Drama & Plays (85%).

According to Author Earnings, the top 10 Print and eBook genres in 2017 were:

Indie publishing is truly becoming mainstream. Of course, this means more competition for all authors as the number of books published continues to grow. The Author Earnings reports is full great information that you can use to both effectively price and position your books for more sales.

Related Posts:
Sales of Indie Books Continue to Grow
Are You Considering Publishing a Book?
Global eBook Sales are Within Your Reach

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What Do Books and Music Have in Common?

When was the last time you purchased a music CD in a physical store?

Over the past decade, the music industry has undergone a huge shift. Consider the following:

  • Sales of CDs have declined while sales of MP3 music downloads purchased via the Internet have increased. Digital music sales overtook physical format sales in 2015.
  • Music streaming has become big business. Music subscription services allowing individuals to listen to their choice of music for a low monthly fee saw a 60 percent growth in 2017.
  • Indie music talent is growing. Artists are ditching the big label name records and attempting to break through to fame via streaming platforms.

When was the last time you purchased a print book in a brick-and-mortar store?

The book publishing industry is following the same movement as the music industry. Think about these trends:

  • Sales of print books in physical bookstores has greatly declined. The vast majority of books are now purchased on the Internet.
  • Sales of ebooks have stalled out to around 25 percent of book purchases, yet book subscription services continue to thrive—think Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Bookmate.
  • Indie authors are growing. Many authors are ditching the big publishing companies and publishing their works independently, taking them directly to consumers.

The big announcement in the news that recently caught my attention was:

With the popularity of digital music surging, Best Buy is officially pulling the plug on music CDs, and another retail giant (Target) may soon join them. Although CDs remain a relatively popular format worldwide, sales in the U.S. dropped more than 18% last year, prompting Best Buy to drop the format entirely. The retailer will stop selling CDs and pull them from shelves on July 1. Although Best Buy used to be the top music seller in the U.S., nowadays its CD sales generate a relatively low $40 million per year.

Most mass merchandise stores have already shrunk their book and music sections. Now some big box stores are dropping their CD sales. Since book industry trends appear to be following music industry trends, how long until these stores also drop their book sales?

Yes, print book sales are still strong, but don’t let that fool you. We are now in a digital era. Moving forward, the trend for the book industry is that a higher percentage of revenue from books will come via audiobooks, ebooks and subscription services.

Subscription services are on the rise. Audiobook streaming services are beginning to pop up—think Audible and StoryTel. Serialized books via apps will also grow—think Radish and Tapas. As publishers and authors, embracing digital in the coming years will be required to stay relevant.

Related Posts:
Publishing is Big Business
The eBook Subscription Model is Still Alive
Christian Retail is Struggling

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Are You In a Rush?

I remember being 37 weeks pregnant and eager to give birth. Tired and big as a whale, I just wanted the baby out of my body. Yet, my baby just refused to be rushed.

One of the fun things I do at writers conferences is provide consultations to attendees. At a recent conference, I was consulting with a pair of authors who were bent on having their indie published book available for sale within four short weeks.

The pair had just finished a final run-through of the manuscript. The interior of the book was not yet laid out, nor did they have a final cover copy.

“What’s the rush?” I asked them. The response was that they had already sent out press releases announcing that the book would be coming out.


I then asked the authors if they had had any responses from their press release. The response was “No.”

I told them that if they did not have any responses from the press release, they could just move forward as if they had never sent it out. This way, they could have more time to make sure their manuscript and cover were in top shape, and they could develop a book launch plan—which they had not yet done (other than send out press releases).

One of the authors remained adamant. “We can’t change the on-sale date (also known as the book release date), the press releases have gone out.”

I tried to gently explain to this author that if they had received no response from their initial press release blast, that it was highly unlikely that anyone would notice that they changed their on-sale date. I educated these authors that, due to the number of press releases that media personnel are inundated with, it often takes more than one contact for them to notice a press release. I attempted to educate the pair on the Rule of Seven (which I have previously written about on this blog).

Rarely is there a reason to “rush” a book to press. Take your time. The following elements should be firmly in place before you choose the date your book will release.

  • Your manuscript has been edited, proofread, and professionally laid out.
  • A beautiful cover design has been selected.
  • Beta readers have reviewed the book.
  • You have a website and a social media presence for the author/book.
  • Endorsements for the book have been secured.
  • You have a comprehensive marketing plan in place.
  • You have built and are continuing to build anticipation for the release of the book.

I know that your book is your baby. As you near the end, your desire to have the finished product increases. However, just like a baby in the womb, your book needs to complete its gestation period so that the final product is ready to thrive outside the incubation vessel.

Don’t let your eagerness to see your book in print or your excitement about your book’s impending publication run ahead of your preparedness.

Remember: “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Don’t rush, take your time. Your book will be better for it.

Related Posts:
Does Your Book Stand Out?
Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?
How Effective Are Your Press Releases?

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Photo courtesy of Jean Wimmerlin.