Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market

I recently wrote “Four Publishing Trends for 2017” to talk about what I believe the industry is going to continue to witness this year. One of the trends I mentioned was that the number of books published will continue to exponentially outpace the growth rate of reading.

This idea is not novel. After all, I reported that it was a trend. It is a trend that has been happening and will continue to happen. I am not the only person in the publishing industry who has noticed this trend.

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Mark Coker the founder of the ebook publishing and sales platform Smashwords recently released his predictions for 2017. In these predictions, he states:

The glut will grow more pronounced. There’s a glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks. These ebooks are immortal and will never go out of print. Thanks to low-cost virtual shelf space, retailers can stock these ebooks forever—even if the books don’t sell. Although it’s great that your book will forever occupy the shelf, and forever be discoverable and purchasable by new readers, it also means that the virtual shelves are becoming more overcrowded every day. The major ebook retailers each stock millions of ebook titles in their online stores, with Amazon fast approaching five million titles. Every day from yesterday forward it will become more challenging to stand out.

This statement is not just true for ebooks; it is true for print books as well. Online bookstores have unlimited shelf space for print books, and since these books can sit in POD until they are ordered, no actual shelf space is needed to store the books.
In an overcrowded market, it is difficult for any one book to stand out and catch readers’ attention. Authors who want to sell books in this overpopulated environment must focus on developing an audience for their books.

If you are interested in learning more about audience development, I encourage you to watch my new on-demand seminar Develop an Audience for Your Books. This 50-minute streaming video walks you through the steps you can take to develop an audience of people who will purchase your books. Instruction covers what an audience is, the importance of an audience, and strategies to develop an audience. You can view this on-demand seminar for just $20 at http://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

As always, members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have free access to this on-demand seminar on CSPA’s website.

If you want to sell books, audience development is not an option. It should be an integral part of marketing strategy, not an afterthought.

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Are You Developing an Audience?

Recently, I presented a workshop titled “Three Things to Do Before You Publish a Book” at a Christian writer’s conference. One of the three things I talked about doing was developing an audience.

One of the attendees asked, “Don’t you find an audience for your book?”

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We think like that, don’t we? We need to find our target audience. Except, that is not true.

When you write a book, you should have a target audience in mind. Your target audience are the people who you are writing your book for and who are most likely to read your book. Are they single moms? Teenagers? Stay-at-home dads? Christians struggling with debt? New believers looking to understand God’s word? Grieving Christians?

Whoever your target audience is, you don’t find them. Sometimes, they find you. When someone “discovers” your book, reads it, and it speaks to them, this person becomes part of your audience. In these cases, your audience finds you; you don’t find them. However, most people read a book because someone they trust recommends the book to them, not because they find or discover a book.

Developing an audience is about trust. An audience is a group of people who listen to what you have to say. People only listen to what you have to say because they trust you.
Sometimes, people listen to what you have to say because someone they trust has told them to trust you. For example, when I speak at writer’s conferences, the people who attend my workshops don’t know or trust me. However, they trust the organizers of the event, and hence that trust is transferred to me as one invited by the organizers to speak. This transferred trust allows me to have an audience.

So, how do you develop an audience? By developing trust. First you must go hang out where your target audience hangs out. Then you start developing relationships by joining the conversations they have. As you speak to your target audience on a regular basis, they come to know and trust you. They become your audience.

The best ways to start developing an audience is online and through public speaking engagements. You do this by finding out where your target audience hangs out and join them there. A few basics to get you started include:

  1. Have a website that tells people about you and your book(s).
  2. Start a blog or be a guest on blogs that speak to your target audience.
  3. Have a couple social media profiles to help you start connecting with people. Get active on a couple sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
  4. Join discussion groups where your target audience talks to each other.
  5. Start a YouTube channel, a live-stream broadcast, or a podcast to regularly provide content that enriches your target audience’s lives.
  6. Seek out speaking engagements that are directed at your target audience.

Start providing content to your target audience that shows them they can trust you and your message. Once they trust you, they become your audience and listen to what you have to say. In turn, you gain more readers for your books.

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Audience Development

“If you build it, they will come.” While this may be true for a Field of Dreams, it does not translate to publishing a book. “If you publish it, they will read it” is not an axiom. Rather, getting people to read a book that has been published takes work.

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Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) seeks to equip publishers in marketing their books. One of the ways we strive to do this is by offering an annual seminar for publishers and anyone interested in becoming a publisher at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

This year, our seminar, Publishers’ Institute: Tools for Success, focused on helping publishers enrich and expand the audience for their books. The buzz word circling the publishing world for this concept is “audience development.”

The seminar covered three areas of audience development:

  1. Acquiring foreign rights for your books (and as a side, CSPA now has two foreign rights agencies’ services available to our member publishers).
  2. Developing your audience to create a self-sustaining system that grows.
  3. Marketing trends to take advantage of to enlarge your audience.

If you want to find out ways that you can develop and enlarge an audience for your books, then I recommend that you listen to the audio version of this year’s Publishers’ Institute seminar. It is available on CSPA’s website at this link (http://www.christianpublishers.net/?page_id=8) for you to order and download. The cost is just $16 and this will give you access to both the audio recording of the speakers as well as to each speaker’s PowerPoint presentation.

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