Three Challenges in Selling Books

Selling books is challenging. A challenge is something that requires special effort. Special effort is required to sell your books.

Challenges in Selling Books

The book selling climate is fiercely competitive. Every author must meet and overcome the following three challenges to sell books.

1. Attention

In today’s economy, attention is a valuable commodity. People have numerous entertainment options all clamoring for their attention: social media, movies, television, podcasts, sports, hobbies… and the list goes on. Reading faces stiff competition for attention from other entertainment activities.

Every author faces the challenge of hooking an audience into noticing their books. Catching people’s attention is becoming more and more challenging. With over 4,200 books published every day in the United States, even avid readers have a vast array of books they can pay attention to.

2. Time

Twenty-first century life is busy. Between work, family, church, and other activities, people have less time to devote to leisure activities like reading.

In fact, a recent study found that people spent 9% less time reading in 2019 than they did in 2018. Time is a precious asset. More and more, people are spending bite-sized minutes on content. For example, Facebook users spend an average of 2.5 seconds on any given piece of content.

3. Declining Readership

The number of people who do not read a single book in a given year is growing. In 1978, that figure was 8%. In other words, only 8 out of every 100 people did not read a book during the year. Now that number is closer to 25%. This means that one out of every four people in the United States did not read a book last year.

Woman reading

In addition, readership for Christian books is declining. Only 49% of the largest consumer group in America—the Millennials—identify as “Christian.” In the past decade, the percentage of all Americans who identify as “Christian” has dropped from 77% to 65%. The upshot is that the number of people in the target audience for any given Christian book is shrinking.

Overcoming these Challenges

The good news is that these challenges are not insurmountable. In fact, religious books have been selling well over the past five years. Following are three suggestions to help you overcome each of these challenges.

1. Increase your Familiarity Factor

The number one reason people buy a book is because they are familiar with the author. The best way to grab attention is by being known. Become known by writing and publishing multiple books. Those people who read one of your books and like it will go on and read your other books, helping you sell more books.

2. Shorter is Better

Time is tight for most people. As a result, we are consuming content in bite-sized chunks. Write to accommodate this new way of reading. Use shorter chapters that can be finished in a few minutes. Also keep your paragraphs short so that readers don’t become overwhelmed when viewing a page. Remember, most people are going to read your book in spurts using short chunks of time.

3. Become Irresistible

Write and publish a compelling book. Your book should not just be good. It should be “too good to not read.” When people feel they are missing out on something good, they will make time for it. Make your book so good that people won’t want to miss out.

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Words that Sell

Consumers are bombarded by marketing messages. Just about every website or social media site you visit online showcases numerous ads and promotional material. Any marketing messages that you add to this storm can easily get lost in the deluge.

So, how can you help your marketing messages get noticed? Try using words that truly speak to your audience.

Persuasive words that evoke emotion work best to motivate readers to pull out their credit card and buy your book right now. People respond best to positive emotions that give them a sense of hope, belonging, or accomplishment.

To help you craft better marketing messages using words that sell, check out the infographic below.

Words that Sell

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Sticking to the Basics

The new CEO of Barnes & Noble has a plan to rejuvenate the ailing bookstore chain. His plan is fairly simple. It involves getting back to basics and sticking to them.

In a recent interview with Publishers Weekly, James Daunt, the new CEO, said, “Basic book selling is what grew this company, and that is what we want to get back to.” To this end, Daunt has begun to implement changes with the overall goal of putting more emphasis on books in the Barnes & Noble stores.

Barnes & Noble

It’s easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of your calling and goal.

I believe many Indie authors struggle with getting sidetracked. It’s easy to in today’s fierce book market.

Most Christian Indie authors want to write and sell a book that God has laid on their heart. Then, when they hit the marketing path, they can get sidetracked and lose sight of the basics.

Basic marketing is simple. It’s about providing something that people need and drawing people’s attention to this need and the solution your book provides.

Yet, marketing is a world of its own that one can wander in forever. Advice abounds in this world. Everyone has an idea and an opinion of which path you should take:

  • Grow Your Social Media Presence
  • Hire a Publicist
  • Start a Podcast
  • Speak to Groups
  • Pay for Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest Ads
  • Build an Email List and Offer Lead Magnets
  • Host a Contest
  • And…

All these are great ideas, yet each one takes time and energy because each involves a learning curve and requires attention and feeding. Hence it is easy to get sidetracked and lose focus of your original calling.

Don't lose focus

It’s good to stop and take stock, especially as we move into a New Year. Ask yourself:

  • Have I become sidetracked?
  • Do I, like Barnes & Noble, need to “get back to the basics”?
  • Do I need to simplify and streamline my marketing activities so that I have time to focus on what I feel called to do?

One Indie author who is a Member of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) recent sent us the following note:

I am less than 200 book sales away from 10,000!Is Your Fruit Sweet or Sour?

This Indie author, Karen Finn, has just one book that she published in 2012. She has spent the past seven years diligently marketing her book—and it has paid off.

Karen has stuck to basic marketing. She did not get sidetracked into marketing that sucked her time and focus away from her goal of getting the word out about her book and how it can help people.

Instead, Karen focused on her audience. She considered all the audiences who could use her material and implemented a marketing plan that included social media, radio interviews, press releases and announcement letters to friends and family. She reports that word-of-mouth referral is not overrated—it provided her with a strong support base right away and created a platform that she could build upon.

Karen says, “Membership with the Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) has been a worthwhile investment; I am able to keep abreast of the ongoing trends in the publishing business and obtain additional support and information specifically relating to my marketing efforts.

As we head into 2020, I encourage you to join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) to get the tools, information, and support you need to experience success in your publishing and marketing endeavors. Membership dues are just $90 for the year. Join today at www.christianpublishers.net.

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A Book Marketing Recipe

I once met an author who wrote a book that she was promoting as a Christian book. I spoke with this author and really liked her. She had a charming, likable nature. She was very personable. However, during our conversation, she told me that she did not read the Bible. In fact, she did not even know some of the more familiar Bible stories such as Esther.

A Marketing Recipe

When I discovered this piece of information, I decided to not read her book. Why? Because I did not trust that her book was really a Christian book. On another level, I did not trust this author. After all, she was promoting her book as a Christian book, yet she did not read the Bible.

Relationships follow a predictable pattern. First you must meet someone and get to know them. As you get to know the person, you start to like him or her. Then, as you spend more time with that person, your trust in the individual grows.

This pattern—Know + Like + Trust—is repeated over and over in our life with each new person we meet and befriend. The same pattern is replicated in selling products. After all, we buy products from people we know, like, and trust.

When you think about marketing your book, this simple pattern should permeate what you do. Your marketing efforts need to help people first get to know you, then to like you and what you offer, and lastly to trust your message and writing.

Let’s examine each step a little more closely.

Know:

People have to meet you to know you. This meeting does not have to be in the physical world; it can be in the print or digital world. There are many ways for people to meet you. They might read an article you wrote or see one of your social media posts. They might hear you interviewed on a podcast. For people to meet you, you have to show up. The more places you show up at, the more people will get to know you.

Like:

We like people who help us. As an author, you help people by enriching their lives with your useful information, stress-relieving humor, or compelling stories that speak to hearts. We help people by showing up regularly and offering value to their lives. When we help our audience, they like us.

Trust:

Trust builds as like deepens. When we are consistent and people can rely on us, they trust us more. Your message matters. When your message speaks to someone’s heart, they feel that you know them and their struggles, and they begin to trust you.

This pattern is rarely completed in a quick getting. Sometimes the Know + Like + Trust pattern can all happen in a one-time meeting. Usually, it develops over time. Repeated exposure is necessary. Consistency is key.

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Photo courtesy of Myriams-Fotos and geralt.

Persuasion in an Age of Information Overload

We live in an age of information overload. The average person is bombarded with more information than they can retain every day.

Information scientists have found that, in 2011, American’s took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 (think pre- and post-internet). This is equivalent to 174 newspapers. During just leisure time, the average person processes 34 gigabytes or 100,000 words every day.

In order to persuade readers to buy your books, you have to cut through information overload. Getting your book to stand out amidst a sea of competing messages can be daunting. To improve your ability to persuade people to buy your book, focus on these three elements.

1. Message

Your message must stand out and grab attention. For your book, this means the message you are delivering through your book’s title, subtitle, blurbs, and your opening paragraph.

Some studies suggest that about four in every 10 book buyers bought their latest book based on its message. This means that your book’s cover is tremendously important in converting browsers to buyers. It’s not just the design or cover art, its the whole makeup and feel of your cover that is important. It’s the message that your title and cover art combined send.

2. Repetition

Studies show that people need to be exposed to a new product seven to twelve times before they make a purchase decision. The same is true for your book. Repeat exposure is required to convert a browser to a buyer.

Interestingly, the higher the book’s price point, the more exposures are required. Even bargains require repeat exposures. A book priced under $2 through a daily deal discount email campaign needs an average of at least two exposures before a reader will purchase.

With digital marketing, repetition is achievable. Mentions of your book on blogs, social media, and in your email newsletter all help increase your ability to persuade your target audience to buy your book.

3. Availability

In an environment of information overload, we easily forget new information. Research shows that many consumers make near instant purchasing decisions based on their intuition. This means that the reader will attempt to make the purchase as soon as they decide.

If your book is not available where these people shop, they will move on to the next thing. This is why distribution is so important. A book needs to be available in as many outlets and channels as possible (not just on your website and Amazon). Distracted shoppers that cannot get what they want the moment they want it, move on.

The task of being heard amidst the noise of information overload seems daunting. Focus on your message, repetition of your message, and availability. Then watch what God will do.

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