Bible Reading in America

Each year, Barna conducts an annual State of the Bible survey, in partnership with American Bible Society, to examine behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults. The results this year show that, despite shifting cultural trends, Americans still read the Bible.

Among the study’s findings were the following:

1. Half of Americans Are Bible Users

Overall, about half of Americans are “Bible users”—that is, they engage with the Bible on their own by using, listening to, watching, praying or using Bible text or content in any format (not including use at a church service) at least three to four times a year (48%). Bible use has remained relatively consistent since 2011.

2. Bible Use More Likely Among Boomers, City Dwellers and Southerners

City dwellers (53%) and small town or rural (49%) residents report higher use of the Bible than do adults who reside in the suburbs (42%). Above-average use can also be found among residents of the South (55%), particularly compared to the other regions: the Northeast (42%), the West (44%) and the Midwest (49%). Millennials (47%), Gen X (45%) and Elders (48%) are slightly less likely to use the Bible than Boomers (51%).

3. Two-Thirds of Americans Express Bible Curiosity

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) express at least some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says, including one in three (29%) who express a strong desire. A similar number of adults (63%) are interested in knowing more about who Jesus Christ is.

4. Half of Americans Ponder How the Bible Applies to Life

Just over half of adults who used the Bible in the past week (53%) say they give a lot of thought to how it might apply to their lives. Although the number of those who think deeply about scripture in this way is statistically on par with 2017, it has slipped since 2011 (61%). Those with higher levels of Bible engagement are predictably more likely to say they give a lot of thought to the Bible’s application.

I think these findings offer both encouragement and support for small publishers and indie authors. If you are writing and producing Christian books, then, most likely, your books are helping people understand and apply Biblical principles to their lives.

So, be encouraged. Half of all Americans still read the Bible (at least occasionally) and two-thirds are curious about the Bible. Half who read the Bible ponder how the Bible is applicable to their own lives.

What great information to encourage your marketing efforts. You can use this knowledge in your marketing messages to whet people’s appetite for more information. Use phrases in your marketing that raise people’s curiosity in an area where they already want more information. This will hook their attention. A few examples include:

  • Find out how John’s Gospel can change your life.
  • Are you familiar with the eleventh commandment?
  • Discover what Jesus said about pain and suffering.
  • Did you know that the Bible says…

Of course, you will tailor your own phrases to your subject matter.

It is encouraging to know that people in America are still hungry for God’s word and his message. This means that there is still a demand for Christian books that help people learn and grow and get to know God and his Word better.

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Photo courtesy of Ben White.

Do You Need Marketing Confidence?

You have heard the clichés “Dress for success” and “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” While familiar and maybe a little overused, they are still true.

Similar to dressing for success, there are steps that you can take to build your confidence for success in marketing your books. If you find yourself lacking marketing confidence, implement these three suggestions that will boost your confidence the way dressing does.

1. Present a Professional Image.

A professional image is about dressing sharply. As an author, your website, business card, letterhead, email signature, and social networking sites are where your audience receives their first impression of you. Make sure these look sharp and professional. Use a professional author photo. Have consistency across all your platforms in image, color, and theme so that you present a branded image.

Studies show that the clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. In other words, the image you present to the world affects how you think and act. So, present a professional author image and you will gain confidence.

2. Stay in The Know.

Nothing builds confidence like knowledge. The more you know, the more secure you are in stepping into that knowledge. Staying up-to-date on publishing and marketing trends helps you act more confidently. Learn what others are doing successfully and then mimic these tactics with your target audience for successful exposure.

Join writers’ or publishers’ associations to receive cutting-edge information and join with others in group marketing efforts. Network with members of the organization to learn what is working for them and for collaborative opportunities. Right now, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is offering a summer membership special for small publishers and independent authors producing Christian books. For just $120 you can join CSPA through December 2019.

3. Show Your Passion.

As an author, you should be passionate about your book and the message it conveys. A passionate person displays confidence in the subject they are passionate about. Let your passion shine through as you communicate with people. Enthusiasm is catchy. As your fervor for your book shines, others will also catch your excitement and want to know more about your book and how their lives might benefit from your message.

Pursue and respond to opportunities to let your passion shine. Write guest blog posts and articles aimed at your target audience. Look for speaking opportunities to share your message.

Developing a professional, well-dressed image will build your confidence and help establish trust with your readers and other professionals you interact with as you market your books.

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Five Additional Free Tools for Authors

I love free! Free resources are a wonderful gift to any indie author or small publisher on a tight budget.

Here are five free tools that can help you improve your writing and marketing efforts.

1. Improve Your Word Usage.

Words are important, especially for authors. Using the right words and the best words matter. The OneLook Dictionary search aggregates information from more than 1,000 dictionaries. You can use this free tool to search for definitions and phrases, as well as words related to a term or concept and then compare various dictionary definitions.

No author wants to overuse a word, which is why every author needs a thesaurus. There are a number of thesauruses online, but Power Thesaurus because it is a crowdsourced online resource, is very powerful. The tool provides every synonym and antonym under the sun and arranges them all based on how useful other writers have found them.

2. Make Sure Your Writing Is Grammatically Correct.

A study by Boomerang, an email management tool, found that mistake-free email subject lines received a 34% response rate, while those with errors only had a 29% response rate. Grammatical and spelling mistakes reduce the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. You can run your emails and social media posts through a quick edit to make sure your writing is grammatically correct with the free tool at Grammark.

3. Optimize Your Social Media Posts.

Twitter has a 280-character limit for tweets. Just because you are allowed 280 characters does not necessarily mean you want to use that many in your tweets. Studies have found that tweets that get the most attention contain just 100 characters. On Facebook, the ideal length of a post is 40 characters. And the best length of an email subject line is 28-39 characters.

A free online tool, Character Count Online, helps count the length of any piece of text you want. This tool not only counts characters, it also counts words, sentences, and paragraphs. It will also tell you how many times you used each word in a chunk of text. Next time you are creating a social media post or email subject line, use this tool to help you optimize your effort.

4. Find the Best Fonts for Design Projects.

Multiple fonts in a quote graphic, blog design, or other online project increase the visual appeal. Using various fonts can make separate ideas or elements distinct. For instance, in a pull quote, you might use one font for the quote and another for the source.
However, for the fonts to work together well, they must follow core design principles regarding symmetry and contrast. If you’re not a font-pairing expert, Fontjoy can generate font pairings for you.

5. Start Podcasting for Free.

Are you thinking about starting a podcast, but don’t want to invest fees in equipment and storage? You can record, store, and distribute podcasts on the Internet for free with Anchor.

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Photo courtesy of Carolina Bonito.

Are You Using Social Media Correctly?

Contrary to popular belief, social media is not a marketing channel.

You are probably thinking, “What?! I thought social media is how you build an audience for books.”

Exactly! Social media is an audience building tool, not an advertising tool. Unless you are purchasing ads on social media sites or offering your followers an announcement or special on your books, the information you share via social media should not be broadcast marketing messages.

Many authors don’t understand this concept. These authors use social media to shout about their books. Recently, an indie author had the courtesy of asking if she could post about her book on Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) Facebook Page.

This author wrote:

“Good evening! I’d love to post a blurb about a faith-based children’s book that I wrote and published on your Facebook page. Is this something you allow publishers to do?”

I wrote her back and informed her that the purpose of CSPA’s Facebook Page was a place for sharing information and encouragement related to publishing and marketing Christian books, not a place for book promotion. The author then asked:

“Do you happen to know of any Christian associations that do allow promotion for books of faith? I have self-published and am having a hard time getting the word out there.”

This author was not a Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) nor are the Members of CSPA her target audience. She has no relationship with the audience for the CSPA Facebook page and was simply trying to use the Page to advertise her book.

Getting the word out about your book is not an easy task. However, posting information about your book on various social media pages, wall, and feeds is not the answer to this problem.

Social media is not a sales channel. Rather, social media is a marketing support. It is best used as a channel to amplify your message and broaden your visibility and exposure.

It’s like being a speaker at an event. As a speaker, you are there to share information and entertainment with the audience. Yes, you can mention your books, but that is not the focus of your talk. Instead, you are sharing your knowledge and experience with the audience.

Social media is to marketing what the microphone is to your speaking. The microphone allows more people in the audience hear what you have to say. The same is true for social media. It makes what you are already saying louder so more people can hear.
People do discover products on social media and then buy them. In fact, one survey found that 78% of surveyed adults discovered a product on Facebook (compared to 59% on Instagram and Pinterest). Over half of these people ended up buying the product later, but only 11% did so immediately.

As an author, you want to use social media to develop an audience that trusts you and looks to you for answers. These answers come in the form of your books. If you use social media correctly, you will enlarge your audience and expose more people to your books—and some will buy!

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Selling Thousands of Books

I recently read the following statement made by author Tom McAllister:

“I don’t think there is any way to convince all the people in your life to buy your book, let alone care about it half as much as you do. Though their validation feels great, it’s important to remember that it’s also not the point. As a writer, you need to approach every project with the understanding that you’re doing this work for yourself, and everything that happens once it’s in the world is out of your control.”

I think what he says is very true. Most people are not going to care about your book half as much as you do. After all, you birthed your book. Just like you love your children more than your neighbors do, so too, you care far more about your book than anyone else.

However, for Christian authors, I do not fully agree with Tom’s last sentence. As a Christian writer, you should approach every project with the understanding that you are doing this work for God. God has called you to write and so, you are doing everything for the Glory of God. Yes, everything that happens once your book is in the world is out of your control, but it is in God’s control.

Your job is to produce the book and spread the word that it is available for those who need the message. God’s job is to take that message and touch people’s lives with it. Remember, God does not allow His Word to return void. He will accomplish the purpose for which he asked you to write the words.

Sometimes a book has a big purpose to accomplish, sometimes it is a smaller purpose.

A Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently shared with other CSPA Members in CSPA’s monthly newsletter the steps she took to sell thousands of copies of her self-published Bible Study. Karen Finn will tell you that she exerted much effort and time into the planning and preparation for her book, the writing of her book, and the publishing and marketing of her book.

Her efforts, blessed by God, have paid off. She has sold over 7,000 copies of her Is Your Fruit Sweet or Sour?: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Christian Living Bible Study book. In her article, Karen states:

Membership with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) 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.”

Membership in an author or publishing association is an important step to selling thousands of books. Associations provide their members with:

• A level of professionalism
• Cutting-edge information
• Cost-saving benefits

Right now, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is offering our Summer Membership Special! For just $120 indie authors and small publishers can receive membership through December 2019. It’s a great deal. I encourage you to join today if you write and publish Christian books.

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Photo courtesy of paulbence.