An Interesting Letter

I recently received a snail mail letter from a gentleman who had self-published a book via a large self-publishing press. In the letter, he requested my help with marketing his book.

The letter stated:


I understand that you help self-published authors market their books…I do not have email, so I have to correspond by postal mail. I have limited funds which is another drawback.

This author reported in his letter that he had done some advertising in Christian magazines with limited results.

Since this author does not have email, I can conclude that he also does not have a blog, nor is he present on any social media sites online. In other words, he is not an Internet user. Therefore, his book promotion efforts are severely limited. He can do the following two things:

  1. Advertising—which can be very expensive and usually has limited results.
  2. In-person marketing efforts such as speaking and book readings—although many of these are scheduled via email (again, the Internet).

In essence, this author is missing out on connecting with potential readers through numerous marketing opportunities that can be done for low- or no-cost using the Internet including:

  • Internet presence through a website
  • Internet presence through blogging and joining blog conversations
  • Connecting with readers via social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
  • Email marketing
  • Internet radio and podcast interviews
  • Video or live broadcasting
  • Connecting with media through press releases and scheduling interviews, since this is now done largely through email.

Self-publishing houses or subsidy presses—like Xulon, Xlibris, and Westbow—receive all their money upfront when publishing a book. The author pays the company to produce the book. Therefore, these publishing houses have no vested interest in helping their authors promote and market their books to produce sales.

The bottom-line is that authors must meet readers where they hang out to promote their books. Since most readers hang-out online, if you are not marketing online, you are missing most of your audience.

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Are You Prepared for Lightning?

Lightning is dangerous. One estimate is that 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world each year and about 240,000 more are injured.

Are you prepared for a lightning strike in your life?


Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office was recently a victim of a lightning strike. The lightning did not strike the building directly, but somewhere just outside. It came into CSPA’s office via the DSL Internet line.

Everything connected to the DSL line was fried—a modem, a fax machine, a printer, and a computer. All were wiped out in a blink of the eye.

Having written an article on the importance of keeping your data secure for the CSPA Circular, Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) monthly newsletter for members, I knew the importance of backing up data on a regular basis. The article included a number of resources for free or cost-effective backup and storage of data that CSPA members could utilize. Fortunately, I had followed my own advice and the most important data on the obliterated computer was safely backed up and stored.

Keeping your data secure is important. No one wants to lose a manuscript. No one wants to lose the press-ready files for a book they are publishing. No one wants to lose the data on their website. No one wants to lose precious research data stored for marketing purposes.

Because I had backed up and stored important data, I was able to meet a number of impending deadlines despite the inconvenience of having to purchase and set up all new equipment. One deadline was for the upcoming Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference where I will be presenting a workshop. The organizer of the conference told me that she needed to take my warning to heart and improve her own backup procedures.

Don’t get caught unprepared. If you are struck by lightning, a flood, a fire, a theft, a crashed computer, or any other catastrophe, be prepared. Backup your data regularly and securely.

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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.


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.”


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.

Related Posts:
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A Shakeup in the Christian Book Industry
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