Five Christian Book Publishing Trends for 2019

With a new year around the corner, I thought that I would share five trends I see for those involved in writing and publishing Christian books.

These are not predictions. They are trends that I have been a witness to. Trends tell us where we need to adjust our behaviors to stay effective.

Christian book publishing trends 2019

1. Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores will continue to shrink in number and size.

In 2017, after declaring bankruptcy, Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of their brick-and-mortar locations. This closure affected the whole book publishing industry. Publishers and distributors lost thousands and thousands of dollars, causing a few to shutter their doors and others to consolidate.

Fifteen of these Family Christian locations were purchased by the CEO of Harrison House. The stores were renamed Empowered Life Christian Books & Gifts. After one year of business, all 15 of these stores were closed this year (2018). Unable to make enough profit to sustain operation, millions of invested dollars were lost.

The decline of Christian bookstores continues. CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, has also been struggling. In an effort to keep their international retail show open, CBA partnered with investor Ed Roush, who poured one million dollars into the summer trade show. After the show, Roush cleaned house at CBA to save money, leaving only a skeletal crew. Since summer, CBA has been very quiet and has not released any new issues of their monthly Christian MARKET magazine of their Christian MARKET Weekly e-newsletter.

In response to these upsets in the Christian book-selling industry, Munce, a marketing service group for independent Christian retailers, recently formed a new trade association, Christian Retail Association. In addition, they are restructuring their Christian Product Expo (CPE) into a national and international show.

Brick-and-mortar retail across America is struggling. Business Insider reports that retailers are filing for bankruptcy at record-high rates this year. These retailer stores include Toys R Us, Claire’s, and Sears. No winds of revitalization appear to be blowing for Christian bookstores. Thus, the trend for shrinking numbers of Christian bookstores will continue.

2. Independent publishing of Christian books will continue to grow.

According to Bowker, the ISBN agency, the number of self-published titles has grown by 156% over the past five years to just over one million books self-published in 2017. There are no signs of this trend slowing. Amazon is publishing the lion’s share of these books, having published over 750,000 titles through CreateSpace in 2017. And if you are not already aware, CreateSpace is being folded into Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing.

For authors and publishers, the increasing numbers of books published each year means increased competition for readers’ time and money. As the competition continues to grow, the effort it will take to convince readers that your book is the one to spend their money on will continue to become more difficult.

After all, research shows that having too many choices has a negative effect on customer satisfaction. People become stressed out when presented with too many choices. They can also become paralyzed and simply not be able to make a decision. In her book, The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar recounts a study that discovered that when offered a small assortment of jams (6) to choose from, 30% of customers who tasted a sample made a purchase. However, when presented with a large assortment of jams (24), only 3% of customers who sampled the purchased a jar. While choice is appealing, too many choices can be debilitating, which means that more persuasion will be needed to sell your books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA)

As the competition for readers’ attention increases, the importance of belonging to a publishing association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) grows. Associations provide cutting-edge information and resources to help you be successful. Those authors and publishers who stay abreast of trends and changes in both publishing and marketing will be the most effective and successful.

3. There will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed books.

For years, self-publishing has had a bad rap. Readers have complained about the poor writing, grammar, and spelling errors in self-published books. While the quality of self-published books has improved overall, there are still those authors who just want to publish, that they don’t take the time to have their books properly edited and designed. These bad apples threaten to ruin the whole batch.

The number of self-publishing services that have cropped up to take advantage of authors wanting to be published has not helped this issue. Many of these self-publishing services are just after the money they can earn for publishing the book. They get their money up front from the author to produce the book. As a result, they don’t care about the quality of the book or how many copies the book sells.

As it has now become affordable for just about anyone to publish a book, I can guarantee that there will continue to be a glut of poorly written, edited, and designed self-published books. One of the best ways that you can help your book stand out above the competition is to ensure that your writing is compelling, your book has been professionally edited, and the cover and interior are professionally designed. Doing these three things will greatly improve your ability to sell your book.

reading trends4. The external competition for readers’ time and money will continue to increase.

The reading rates in American have not increased since 2012. One recent study by the National Endowment for Arts found that reading for pleasure actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2017.  With so much competing for people’s time and attention, reading seems to fall by the wayside.

In addition to all the things that compete for our attention in our time-strapped lives—television, moves, YouTube videos, social media, and numerous other activities—concentrating on long form reading is becoming a problem. Professor Gloria Mark of the Department of Informatics at the University of California says email, social media, notifications and countless other digital distractions are eroding our ability to concentrate on individual tasks in the 21st Century. I have heard personally had numerous individuals tell me that they have lost their ability to concentrate to read books.

Due to this increased competition, authors will be forced to spend more time building a platform and cultivating readers for their books. Today, with so many reading choices, there is no guarantee that people will read a book just because it exists. Instead, authors must now develop trust with a reading audience so that they can sell their books.

5. The sales of audiobooks will continue to grow.

Audiobook sales have grown steadily over the past couple years. This trend will continue to grow. With Smartphones, the growth of digitally downloaded audiobooks is booming. Downloadable audiobook sales grew about 30% from 2016 to 2017. That was the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for downloadable audiobooks.

This trend shows no signs of slowing. As more competes for our attention, people are turning to audiobooks for entertainment and self-improvement. With audiobooks, individuals can multi-task—workout and listen, drive and listen, clean house and listen, etc.

While a couple services help independent authors produce audiobooks at a reasonable price—ACX and Findaway Voices—it is important to note that currently, audiobooks only make up 4% of all book sales (including print and ebooks). Audiobooks are going to continue to grow. However, simply producing an audiobook will not guarantee more sales. Unless your book is already selling well in print or ebook format, I suggest you not take the plunge.

Related Posts:
New Record: One Million Self-Published Books
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
Is Reading in Trouble?

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Staying Relevant

Everything flows; nothing remains. All is flux, nothing is stationery. All is flux, nothing stays still. All flows, nothing stays. Nothing endures but change.” ~Heraclitus of Ephesus

Change is the one constant in our lives. Nothing stays the same. Publishers and authors who do not keep up with changes effecting publishing and promoting books get left behind and are less successful in the long run. Over time, technology, services, and trends all change, effecting how books are published and marketed.

be-relevant

1. Changes in Technology

Technology keeps changing. As technology shifts, so does the way books are published, marketed, and sold. As an authors or publisher you need to keep up-to-date on the changing technology so that you can effectively communicate with your audience.

For example, while press releases are still a useful piece of a book promotion campaign, technology has changed the way journalists acquire and receive information. No longer can an author or publisher simply send out a release announcing a new book. New books are no longer news. With thousands of books published every day, a new book being published is not news. To catch a journalist’s eye, your press release must tie your book into a current trend or breaking news story that journalists are already tuned into. Yet, I still see press releases from authors and small publishers simply announcing a book.

2. Changes in Services

New services for publishing, promoting, and selling books are constantly cropping up, while others are shutting down. Every day, I hear of new, innovative services for publishing and selling books and ebooks. More and more companies are offering services to independent authors. Some services close their doors while others open. Knowing where you can go to get the services you need to be effective is important.

A few years ago, IngramSpark opened its doors. IngramSpark is a POD and ebook distributor geared toward independent authors and small publishers. Ingram opened the service as a counterpoint to Lightning Source and as a more user-friendly place for the growing population of independently published authors. Yet, I still run into small publishers who have been in the business for years who are not familiar with IngramSpark or don’t really understand what they do.

3. Changes in Trends

Trends in how people find out about books and where they purchase books change over time. Staying on top of these changing trends is essential for success in selling your books.

About eight years ago, when the trend was swinging away from buying books in brick-and-mortar stores to purchasing books online, a member publisher of CSPA was able to get their author on a major talk show. The publisher was extremely excited as they told me about the event that had occurred that morning. As we talked, I used my computer to check the book’s ranking on Amazon since the coverage had been nationwide. I was dismayed to see that the book was not for sale on Amazon—it was listed, but Amazon was not actively selling it. I immediately informed the publisher that this would hurt sales, to which the publisher responded, “But the book is available in the Christian bookstores as well as Borders and Barnes & Noble.” Not staying on top of changing trends had cost this publisher sales.

Fortunately, there are many ways for you to stay on top of changes that affect your publishing journey. Reading blogs, books, industry journals, and belonging to industry associations are all great ways to keep learning.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) part of our mission is to strengthen independently published authors and small publishers producing materials for the Christian marketplace. One of the ways we do that is by providing our members cutting-edge information that keeps them informed of trends and changes that affect their ability to remain viable and successful.

Related Posts:
Embracing Change
Publishing Industry Trends for 2016
Spending Precious Marketing Dollars

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Success in 2012

Knowledge is vital for success in publishing and selling books. Where do you get the knowledge you need to be more successful?

One great way to stay abreast of the trends in publishing and selling books, to better understand your competition, and to stay up-to-date with rules and regulations for publishing books is to join a professional association.

If you want to take your publishing efforts to new levels in 2012, I encourage you to join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). CSPA exists to represent, promote, and strengthen small publishers in the Christian marketplace.

In addition to providing our members with vital information, CSPA also offers affordable avenues to help you promote your books.  A full list of membership benefits is listed on our website.

Member publishers of CSPA often tell us how helpful they find the information and services that we provide. Here are a few of their comments:

“Thank you for CSPA—it is the best single asset I have as a Christian publisher, bar none.” —Joseph

“The newsletter for the Christian Small Publishers Association is worth the price of membership all by itself—we get gems from every issue. Thanks for what you are doing for the industry!” —Melanie

“As a new member, we have been extremely impressed with both the professionalism and the breadth of services from the CPSA. We are just getting started as a company and you have been a huge help.” —Tim

Joining CSPA is now as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Go to the URL www.christianpublishers.net.
  2. Click on “Become a Member.”
  3. Fill out the online form and then either pay the $75 annual membership dues with the PayPal link, or mail us a check for $75.

I wish you much success with publishing and selling books in 2012.

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