Bringing Hope, Healing, and Life

On a recent Sunday, my church hosted an international worker (that’s the new fancy term for missionary) from Kosovo. This missionary talked about how she was developing oral Bible stories as part of her ministry outreach.

Books Bring Hope, Healing & Life

I was struck by her talk of “oral stories” since Kosovo is a literate nation. I asked her about this. Her response was that while the people of Kosovo can read, many don’t take the time to do so and are more willing to engage with an auditory or visual story. Interestingly, half the population of Kosovo is under the age of 29.

This trend away from reading for young people is not just in the United States. It appears to happening in other countries also. It saddens me. I believe that reading has great benefits and that books bring hope, healing, and life to people in a way that movies and audio stories cannot touch.

Wise King Solomon said, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22) King Solomon is referring to written words when he states “Let them not depart from thine eyes.”

A friend of mine enlightened me about a program that the United States government operated for soldiers in World War II. Keeping up morale for American soldiers was a national concern. The Library Section of the U.S. War Department partnered with over 70 book companies to create and print pocket sized paperback books. Over 123 million copies of a total of 1,322 books were printed and distributed to service members for free. These included Westerns, mysteries, comics, humor, biographies, anthologies of poetry, and classic and contemporary fiction.

A Tree Grows in BrooklynOne of the books selected for the program was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Smith received a flood of mail from soldiers telling her how her book had helped them get through the dark days and horrors of war. One GI expressed in his letter to Smith after reading her book, “I can’t explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine. . . . I only know that it happened. A surge of confidence has swept through me and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all.

Let’s now forget that books are powerful. They bring hope, healing, and renewed life to people. As an author, you are ministering to your readers. Don’t get discouraged. Someone today is in need of a touch from your words.

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Photo courtesy of Nacho Juárez.

Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch

Over lunch, my friend related a recent experience she had with a book. This friend told me that she had taken her daughter to a local bookstore to shop for new books to read.

While browsing, she picked up a nonfiction book whose title caught her attention. She read the back cover. Then she turned to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages.

Don't Pull a Bait and Switch

My friend shared that the story at the beginning of the book drew her in and had her intrigued. She was excited to read the rest of the book.

As her daughter continued to browse, my friend carried the book around the store with her. Just before checking out, she thought that maybe she should read something halfway through the book just to make sure she was spending her money wisely.

My friend reported that, to her horror, the rest of the book was not like the opening. The opening had been a lovely story that drew her in. She had thought that the book would contain more stories like this. Instead it turned out to be a long succession of dry writing about the historical event the book covered. Needless to say, my friend put the book back on the shelf.

My friend shared this story because she had been sorely disappointed with her experience. The opening pages of the book promised something that the rest of the book did not deliver. In essence, she experienced a bait and switch.

The first few pages of your book are extremely important. You must draw the reader in right from the start. But, be careful that you don’t create a bait and switch. In other words, your book’s opening needs to be engaging, but it also needs to reflect what can be found in the remainder of the book.

Draw the Reader in

By the way, the process my friend went through in selecting the book she thought she wanted to buy is the same process most people use when looking at books. When choosing a book, studies show that readers consider in order:

  1. The Title
  2. The Cover
  3. The Back Cover
  4. The Table of Contents
  5. The First Few Paragraphs of a Book’s Content
  6. The Price

Each phase of this process either encourages the reader on to the next step and closer to a purchase, or turns them off and sends them on to the next book.

Delivering on your book’s promise is essential. Readers that don’t receive what is promised in a book will not recommend it to their family and friends. Remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is the most powerful driving force in book sales.

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Two Strategies for Creating Effective Marketing Messages

Most authors love words. We love to string words together to make powerful and memorable statements. Words create emotions in people and can move them to action.

Many authors are intimidated by the idea of marketing. Yet, marketing is simply using words to draw people to your books. Good marketing is about finding the right words and phrases to hook people to action—either finding out more or buying the product.

Create Effective Marketing Messages

Words, of course, are not enough. Which words you choose and how you present these words are both important.

1. Choosing Marketing Words

There are many websites that provide marketing phrases that have worked successfully for marketing campaigns. You can use the information gleaned from studies and experts to help you craft marketing messages that draw readers in.

Some of the most effective marketing words and phrases include:

  • Sale
  • Best Seller
  • New
  • Guaranteed
  • Hassle-Free
  • Value
  • Proven
  • Act Now
  • For a Limited Time
  • You Deserve

2. Presentation of Marketing Words

Words are not enough. Your presentation of these words matters when it comes to creating marketing messages. The places you use marketing messages include:

  • Your book’s back cover
  • Your book’s online description
  • Your book’s website
  • Your blog posts
  • Your online and print ads
  • Your other marketing materials
  • Your social media posts

All these messages should contain words that draw potential readers in, but they also need to be easily read and easy to skim. In other words, dense paragraphs and long descriptions are best left for your books.

A study out of San Jose State University found that the new normal in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. The study found that many readers use an F or Z pattern when reading. With these patterns, readers sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text.

Your marketing text must be easy to skim so that skim readers will comprehend what you are saying. When we skim read, we don’t grasp complex issues. Therefore, it is important to keep your marketing messages short and simple. Include headlines and bullet points to allow for easy comprehension for skim readers.

Remember, your marketing messages are supposed to entice people to want to learn more about your book. So, present your marketing words and text layout in a manner that will engage your potential readers.

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Tips for Selling Books from Your Website

Do you sell your books direct from your website? If so, pay attention to these important findings from Cyber Monday shopping.

On-line shopping is growing. One of the fastest growing trends for online shopping is the buy online, pick up in-store movement. Fifty percent more people used this option on Cyber Monday 2018 than in the previous year.

Shopping using smart phones is also growing. According to an online shopping data report by Adobe Analytics, people spent 48% more shopping from their smartphones on Cyber Monday. In fact, purchases made from smart phones on Cyber Monday amounted to $2 billion. This is the most revenue ever to come from smart phones in a single day.

Interestingly, taking a closer look at the data report by Adobe Analytics, the report states:

 “Large retailers ($1 billion or more in annual e-commerce revenue) saw 6 percent higher conversion rates on smartphones. Smaller retailers, offering more specialized products, were better at getting shoppers to close sales via desktops with 7 percent higher conversions.”

Whoa. Stop right there. For a while now, the trend has been mobile. Experts have been telling us that every website needs to be responsive for mobile devices as well as desktop computers. Yet, this research from Cyber Monday shows that smaller retailers—people like you—had a higher percentage of people purchasing from their websites via a desktop computer this past Christmas season.

If you sell books from your website, your main focus should be on keeping shoppers on your site. After all, conversion—converting a visitor to a buyer—is what drives sales.

Here are a few tips to keep shoppers on your website:

1. Have the books you are selling front and central.

Make the products you are selling easy to see and find on your website. Don’t bury them. Include clear descriptions for each book so readers know what the book is about and how it will benefit them.

2. Make the prices clear.

One study by Corra found that 33 percent of shoppers hate when prices aren’t up front. Make sure that the price of your book and the cost for shipping is easy to find and see.

3. Ensure ease of purchase.

Studies show that for every extra click a customer has to make to finish a purchase, a business loses 50% of shoppers. Create a streamlined buying process on your website.

4. Allow customers to contact you.

The same study by Corra found that more than half of all shoppers wanted to have the option to live chat on a website when they ran into a problem shopping. Of course, most small publishers and independent authors don’t have the resources to provide this on their websites. However, you can provide a phone number. This allows customers to feel confident that they can talk to a real person if they run into a problem.

If you sell books from your website, use these four tips to improve your visitors’ shopping experience, and maybe, just maybe, you might sell more books.

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Photo courtesy of Bru-nO.

Are You Using Video?

Some friends of mine own a custom jewelry making business. They have long had a presence on Facebook, but have recently been dabbling with Instagram for more exposure.

They told me that, to their surprise, after posting a video of one of their employees doing a funky dance in their warehouse, they had a spike in sales. One customer even wrote them and told them that she had been following them for a while, but after seeing the video, she had to buy one of their products.

My friends were perplexed. They reported that the video had nothing to do with their jewelry. I commented, that it may not have showcased their jewelry, but it showcased their workplace culture and was authentic.

I then explained that consumers crave authenticity. They want to know who they are doing business with. The video of an employee dancing showed their clientele the human side of their business.

As an author, you can take two lessons from my friend’s experience.

1. Use Video

Video on the internet is extremely popular. Everyone is watching videos. Video on the Internet is extremely popular. Everyone is watching videos. In fact, Cisco predicts that by 2020, 82% of all consumer web traffic will be video.

Video has become an important part of people’s shopping experience. Consider these statistics:

  • Almost 50% of web users look for a video before visiting a store, says Google.
  • Wyzowl says that 79% of consumers prefer watching videoto reading about a product.
  • And Hubspot says that 43% of consumers want to see more video content this year.

If you have not yet jumped into videos, try using some video in your marketing this year. You can post videos on your blog and in your social media posts.

2. Show Your Authentic Self

People want to know you, the author of the book. So, show them your true self in your videos. In other words, make some informal videos that show your personality and likes or dislikes. Tell a story, even one that is not related to your book’s content.

To make your video attractive and draw people to your books, keep these three tips in mind.

  • Grab attention fast. Studies show that the first 8 to 10 seconds of your video determines whether it will be watched to the end.
  • Keep it short. People are busy. Videos that are one to two minutes in length are more likely to be watched all the way through.
  • Include a call to action if you can. You cannot insert a link into a live video, but if you are using a prepared video, include a link to your website at the end.

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Photo Courtesy of Drew Graham.