You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for”—so the saying goes.

While there are a few exceptions, this statement is generally true, especially for what you get for free.

What is offered for free is never top-of-the-line. Free products are usually samples. They are a taste of what the full model offers. When a full model product is offered for free, it is usually an older model—the one that has already been replaced by a newer, better version.

The same principle holds true for free information. Free information posted on the Internet is not the premium stuff. Don’t get me wrong, this free information can be useful, but the providers usually save the best information for their books or services.

I provide a lot of free information on this blog. It is good valuable information, if a little basic, but it’s only a drop in the bucket. I provide the most valuable information in my book (Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace), my on-demand webinars (MCB University), CSPA’s monthly newsletter (the CSPA Circular) for Members of the organization, and my workshops at writers’ conferences (see the upcoming seminars at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference).

Independent authors who think that everything they need to be successful is available online are operating under a false assumption. Free will only take you so far. The truth is that with online research:

  1. You won’t find all the valuable information in any reference or resource book on publishing or marketing.
  2. You won’t find the information all in one place. You will have to spend a lot of time researching.
  3. Some of the advice on the internet is bad advice. Listening to bad advice can cost you money.

Spending some money to purchase a book, membership, or conference attendance where you will hear from experts will save you time and money in the long run. Additionally, you can be confident that the information comes from reputable experts.

I run into a lot of newly published independent authors who are operating under many false assumptions and information, which causes them to flounder. Take the time to find and purchase the valuable information you need. It’s worth the investment.

If you are planning on publishing a book or have already published a book and need information on how the Christian marketplace works and how to effectively promote your book, I suggest you invest in one or more of the resources listed in this post.

Related Posts:
Getting What You Paid For?
Are You Asking?
Pay with a Tweet

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Photo courtesy of Timothy Muza

Evaluating Your Social Media Interactions

Many authors wonder whether the time they spend on social media is treasure or trash. Few can directly equate time spent on social media with increased book sales. For most, increased time on social media does not usually correlate to an uptick in book sales.

How do you determine which social media sites to engage on and how much time to spend there?

There are no hard and fast rules to these questions. However, the following information may help you shape a useful plan for yourself in regards to which social media platforms to use and expectations for the time you spend.

1. The world has embraced social media.

The company, We Are Social, tracks internet and social media usage worldwide. Below is their chart showing that 50% of world’s population uses the internet and three-fourths of these internet users (37% of the world’s population) are actively engaging on social media online.

2.  A majority of Americans use social media.

The Pew Research Center tracks social media usage in the United States. Their studies show that ten years ago, only 7% of Americans used social media. That number grew to 65% in 2016, with 76% of U.S. internet users active on social media.

3.  Facebook remains the most popular social media site across generations.

According to Sprout Social, some 65% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers report that Facebook is their favorite social media site, while 33% of Millennials rate it as their favorite.

4.  Facebook has a greater engagement rate per follower than Twitter or LinkedIn.

Instagram has the greatest engagement rate of all the social media sites—an average of 50 interactions per post per 1,000 followers. However, Facebook’s engagement rate is higher than Twitter or LinkedIn. According to TrackMaven, Facebook’s boasts an average of five to six interactions—likes, comments, and shares—per 1,000 followers per post, while LinkedIn’s rate is three interactions per 1,000 followers and Twitter’s is one per 1,000 followers.

If you are an author, you should be using social media as one strategy to connect with readers and draw people to your books. It’s a medium you can’t afford to overlook since the majority of internet users engage in social media usage.

I believe that knowing the average number of interactions per 1,000 followers for each social media site is valuable information. These figures let you know whether your social media interactions are above average, average, or below average. This knowledge can help you evaluate your social strategy and make adjustments to improve your engagement rates.

Related Posts:
How to Make Your Social Media Interactions More Fruitful
Social Media: An Integral Part of Life in America
A Successful Social Media Strategy

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Five Benefits of Reading

Reading is good for you. Numerous studies back up this claim. New research shows there is one more reason to read.

Do you want to live longer? Try reading.

A new study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine shows that people who read live longer than people who don’t read.

The study focused on people over 50 years of age. It found that those people who read over 3.5 hours each week lived 23 months longer than those people who did not engage in reading.

The study also found that those who read books benefited the most. The research found that any level of book reading gave a strong survival advantage over reading periodicals. The reason that reading books showed greater benefit than reading periodicals is because reading a book involves more cognitive faculties. Thus, this type of reading helps maintain cognitive status.

Reading books involves two major cognitive processes: deep reading and emotional connection. Deep reading is where the reader engages with the book and seeks to understand it in its own context and that of the world. Emotional connection happens when the reader empathizes with the characters in a story. Both of these processes appear to help sustain longevity.

This new study gives all authors more ammunition to encourage people to read their books. After all, regular reading increases lifespan.

Feel free to share the graphic in this post outlining the benefits of reading with your fans. It will encourage them to keep reading! This in turn will benefit all authors.

Related Posts:
Why Reading the Bible Matters
Reading Rates Remain Consistent
Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?

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Using Videos to Promote Your Book

Internet video consumption just keeps growing. Here are some interesting statistics:

  • YouTube is the second-largest social networking site (behind Facebook).
  • 63% of Internet users view videos on YouTube.
  • Experts estimate that by 2019, video watching will account for 80% of Internet traffic.

The bottom line is that many people prefer watching videos online to reading text. More importantly video drives sales. It drives sales of products, including books.

Savvy authors are using videos to promote their books. Yes, many are making book trailers, but that is not the only type of video you can use to promote a book. If you are a nonfiction author, you can upload how to and tip videos to promote your book. You can actually upload any video related to the subject of your book to promote your book.

However, uploading a video is not enough. You want each video that you upload to point back to your book. Otherwise, you are simply just sharing something that is interesting or entertaining. Fortunately, YouTube makes it easy for you to promote your book in each video you upload to your YouTube channel.

Many authors will put information about their book (including a website) at the beginning or end of a video. That is great, and I encourage you to do that. But, when viewers only watch part of a video, they may miss the information about your book. With YouTube’s Branding Watermark tool, you can point people to your book throughout your entire video.

The YouTube Branding Watermark allows you to place an image in your YouTube videos. This image shows up on the bottom right hand side of the video as it plays (see photo below). You can choose whatever image you want to include in your videos. However, since this is a branding watermark, the one image you choose will appear in all the videos on your channel. You can’t choose different branding images for different videos on the same channel.

As an author, you can place your book’s cover image as your Branding Watermark in your videos. That way, each video you upload will carry the image of your book’s cover throughout the video, pointing viewers to your book.

Here are the steps to include a Branding Watermark in your YouTube videos:

  1. Go to “Creator Studio” on your YouTube Channel (you can access this by clicking on your channel icon picture in the upper right hand corner).
  2. Then select “Channel” from the list that appears.
  3. Under “Channel” select “Branding”.
  4. The Branding Watermark screen will appear. This screen allows you to choose a file on your computer to upload.
  5. Choose the file on your computer that contains your book’s cover image.

Don’t waste space in your YouTube videos. Use the Branding Watermark tool on YouTube so that your viewers are continually pointed to your book.

Related Posts:
Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market
Creating a Book Video Trailer
Should You Use Live-Stream Video?

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Photo courtesy of Seth Doyle

To Give or Not to Give?

The Internet abounds with advice. Some of it is good and some of it is not.

When it comes to advice for independently published authors, often what you find on the Internet is contradictory. Some authors assert one thing, while others assert the opposite.

One area where advice given for independently published authors on the Internet contradicts itself is in the area of giving books away. Some advice givers say you should, others say you shouldn’t.

Advice is cheap. Anyone can give advice. The advice taker must discern whether or not the person has the knowledge or experience to give good advice.

Whether you, as an independent author, should or shouldn’t give books away for free is not the question to ask. Rather, you should ask: What is the industry standard?

1. Giving books for free in exchange for reviews is standard in the book publishing industry.

Providing a free book in exchange for a review is a publishing industry practice. In fact, it is such an integral part of the book industry, that when Amazon recently stopped allowing the giving of free products in exchange for reviews on their websites, they exempted books from this policy. Amazon even stated in their policy revision, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

2. Giving away books as part of a book promotional campaign is industry standard.

If you have ever attending an industry convention—think BookExpo (BEA) or CBA Unite—then you would be aware that giving away free copies of books to decision-makers (retail buyers and influencers) is standard practice. Most publishers include a certain number of books to be given away for promotional purposes as part of a book’s advertising budget.

At the recent NRB Proclaim 17 convention, one Member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) told me that while he was giving away books for free, he wondered if he was just throwing his books away. I encourage him to consider the investment he was making in giving away free books as part of his advertising campaign. After all, the attendees at NRB are influencers. If they read his book and write a review or recommend the book to someone else, he has not wasted his money.

Henry Ford said, “At least half of my advertising budget works…I just don’t know which half.

The same is true for giving books away as part of your advertising budget. Some of the books you give away will help with your promotional efforts, others won’t.

So, if you need an answer to the question of whether you should give away books or not, the answer is: You should. After all, it is industry standard and as an independently published author, you are now part of the book publishing industry.

Related Posts:
Book Review Scare
Scarcity vs. Abundance
Thoughts on Book Reviews

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Photo courtesy of Dev Benjamin