Finding Connections and Opportunities

If you have published or are thinking about publishing a Christian book, I encourage you to attend at least one trade show that the book industry hosts. These venues present wonderful opportunities to learn about the book industry and understand what is important in promoting and marketing a book, as well as provide you with a number of new opportunities.

Below are testimonials from two members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA)—one an independently published author and the other a small publisher—who attended ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) with us this summer in Cincinnati. Hear what they have to say about their experience at the show, then consider how attending a trade show might help you in marketing and promoting your book(s).

If you are not yet a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), I encourage you to join. One of the benefits of membership in CSPA is that we offer a cost-effective way to attend industry trade shows like ICRS. CSPA is offering a summer membership special of $120 for membership through December 2017—that’s 18 months of membership for less than $7 per month. Join today on CSPA’s website!

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What Are You Learning?

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. ~Chinese Proverb

Once you learn something new, you are never the same. Yet there is always more to learn, especially when it comes to publishing and marketing books. Even those who have been in the industry for years must always learn more because trends are always changing.

Book_Rapid-eLearning

The learning curve when you are starting something new—such as publishing or marketing a book—is extremely steep, but the learning curve never goes away because there is always more to learn.

What are you doing to keep learning and staying relevant in publishing and promoting your books? If you are reading this blog—kudos to you. You probably read other blogs on publishing and marketing as well. Reading blogs is one way to learn so that you can improve your craft. Four additional ways to keep learning include:

1.  Join organizations that provide services to authors and publishers and read their newsletters and publications.

There are many organizations that provide information to help authors and publishers improve their craft. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) provides services for small publishers and independently published authors creating materials for the Christian marketplace. There are many associations that serve writers. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) is a large organization that helps Christian fiction writers improve their craft. The Word Guild is a writer’s group for Canadian writers.

2.  Read books on publishing and marketing.

There are hundreds of books on publishing and marketing books, and hundreds more on the craft of writing. Books on these subjects are being published each month. The Director of the Midwest Book Review, Jim Cox, highlights new book on writing, publishing, and marketing books in his monthly newsletter. If you are a Christian author or small publisher, and you have not yet read my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, I suggest you do so.

3.  Attend conferences.

Conferences are designed for learning. Wherever you are in your publishing journey, you can benefit from conferences. Industry trade shows like the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) has seminars that show attendees can sit in on and learn new things. I learn new things every year when I attend. Writer’s conferences are also great places for learning more about the craft of writing as well as learning more about publishing, and promoting and marketing books. You can find a list of Christian writers conferences held in the United States at Christian Manuscripts Submissions website.

I will be presenting a seminar the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference put on by Writer His Answer next month. This conference features over 55 authors, editors, and agents presenting their expertise. There is something for every Christian author at this conference. Check out their online brochure on their website and make plans to attend if you live near Philadelphia.

4.  Join discussion groups and interact with other authors and publishers.

There are numerous discussion groups and forums online for authors and publishers. Both Facebook and LinkedIn feature many such groups. Another resource is Christian Writers. This online forum provides a venue for Christian writers to interact with other Christian writers to gain feedback, information, and insight into the writing and publishing process.

I encourage you to regularly engage in activities that help you learn how to become a better writer, publisher, or book promoter. You will not only become better at your craft, you will also become a better person for it. After all, the Chinese proverb reminds us that whatever new thing we learn stays with us and overflows to all areas of our life.

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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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