A Book Review Surprise

Five years! After five years of not requesting a book to review from BookCrash, a BookCrash blogger just requested a book to review. The previous book this blogger reviewed for BookCrash was in 2013.

For five years, this reviewer received a weekly email from BookCrash announcing a new book available for review. For 260 weeks she passed up each opportunity. Then, one book caught her attention, and she requested a review copy.

After five years, most people would assume that this blogger was no longer interested in reviewing books. Yet, this was not the case.

I don’t think I can say it enough. A glut of books is available, while a dearth of readers exists. Let me show you in numbers.

In the past six years, the number of books published independently has grown 218%—that’s more than doubled. Meaning that in 2011, 247,210 books were published and in 2016, 768,935 books were published.

Yet, the number of books that people are reading each year has remained steady since 2012. Pew Research has found that 73% of adult Americans say they have read a book in the past year. On average, Americans read 12 books per year (the typical American reads four books in a year, voracious readers skew the average).

So, since 2013, the number of books that this particular BookCrash reviewer could choose to read and review has doubled. Not only has the number of books available doubled, but now, almost every book published is offered free in exchange for a review. This means that this BookCrash reviewer doesn’t just have the choices available via BookCrash, she can also choose Christian books to review from all the following services (and more):

  • NetGalley
  • Book Review Buzz
  • BookPlex
  • Goodreads
  • BookLook Bloggers
  • Tyndale Blog Review Network
  • Moody Blog Review Network
  • Kregel Blog Review Network
  • Bethany House Blog Review Network
  • Litfuse Publicity Blog Review Network

With all these options, bloggers that review books can be extremely finicky about which books they decide to read. Of course, these reviewers are only going to choose those books that pique their interest the most. Hence, it has been five years since a book made available for review through BookCrash caught this particular blogger’s attention enough to request to read it.

I am not trying to discourage you. Really, I’m not. I just want you to have the knowledge you need to understand that promoting and marketing books is tough. It takes hard work and perseverance. Don’t give up. It can take years for a book to pick up steam and get noticed.

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Are You Going Above and Beyond?

As the designated grocery shopper in my family, I have spent many hours in grocery stores. Over the years, I have discovered that there are two types of grocery store employees.

above-and-beyond

When shopping and I cannot find an item, I ask a store employee for help. I generally get one of two answers:

  1. “If we carry it, it would be on aisle seven.”
  2. “Follow me. I will show you where it is.” Then, the employee helps me locate the item and makes sure that I am satisfied before leaving.

Both employees are helpful. However, I infinitely prefer interacting with the second type of employee. Why? Because this individual gives great service. He or she goes above and beyond.

BookCrash, the books for blogger review program that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) hosts for its members, requires that bloggers who receive a book place a review of that book on their blog and on one retail site. This is a minimum requirement. Most bloggers follow this requirement. However, a few go above and beyond.

The other day, BookCrash received the following message about a review from a blogger:

“I have posted the review for this book on my blog and on:

  • Google+
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble”

This blogger truly went above and beyond. She provided extra service that allowed the book she reviewed to have extra exposure. Since exposure is key in marketing books, this blogger provided a great service to the author of this book.

What about you? Do you go above and beyond with your customer service?

What might going above and beyond look like for you, an author or publisher, promoting Christian books?

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Do You Have a Focus Group?

A recent BookCrash reviewer wrote the following in her review of a children’s book:

The premise of this book is lovely…There are a few things in the book that are a little puzzling, such as sentence structure, and capitalizing the first word of each line… Random words are also capitalized throughout the story for no apparent reason… I also feel flirting, dating, and marriage are too advanced for a children’s book. .. I feel this book is a little complex for a children’s book.

Focus Group

Here is a book that would have benefited from a focus group before moving to production.

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, or idea.

Organizations use focus groups to gather information before launching or revising a product. The purpose of a focus group is to give the business data that helps them enhance, change, or create a product or service targeted at a key consumer group.

Had the author of this book used a focus group, the issues this reviewer raised would already have been addressed by the focus group and corrected by the author.

A critique group can double as a focus group for an author. Critique groups are great for helping authors with weak plots and inconsistencies in the story line. However, by going one step further and asking a few questions of a critique group, authors can gain valuable information on making their book conform to the expectations of their target audience.

Asking pointed questions can ferret out issues around content that is inappropriate or too complex content for a certain age group or audience before the book is published.

I find that too many independently published authors rush their book to publication. They don’t take the time to do many of the steps that traditional publishers do to ensure a book is marketable. One of these steps is having knowledgeable people that can discern whether a book’s content works with various audiences. Having a focus group that provides an honest critique of your book is important.

Don’t rush your next book to production. Take the time to seek out people who will provide you honest and thorough feedback. You want your book to shine, not just be published.

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What Are People Reading?

The days of a man’s word being all you need to cement a deal are no longer—even among those who call themselves Christians. I am sure that you have experienced this.
You offer your book free to readers in exchange for a review. Rarely do all the readers who request the book actually follow through with a review.

Not Read

JellyBooks, a service that provides readers with free digital Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of new books in exchange for a review, report that only 50-55% of their books ever get opened. That means that less than half of the reviewers are actually reading and writing a review of the book.

Fortunately, BookCrash‘s (Christian Small Publishers Association‘s Books for Bloggers Review Program) review rate is higher than that. BookCrash sends mostly print books for review and tracks reviews. The service does not let bloggers request a new book to review until they have reviewed the one they already received.

Interestingly, this phenomena is not solely related to digital review copies. Kobo recently revealed that only 60% of ebooks that are purchased through their service are ever opened. That statistic does not count how many of those books are actually read all the way through. Interestingly, Kobo has also found that the more expensive a book was, the higher the likelihood that the buyer would at least start the book, although, Kobo did not share data on whether the book was more likely to be completed or not.

One of the interesting pieces of data shared by these two companies is that the decline in reader attention starts early, generally within the first 10-40% of the book. In other words, those that abandon a book do so in the first half, not the latter half.

While this data did not measure reading rates for print books, I think that the trend is much the same. How many of you have a book or two or three lying around your house that you purchased and have not yet read? I will wager many of you.

I think that authors can learn a few things from these statistics:

  1. Expect to send out more review copies of your book than you will actually receive reviews for.
  2. Strong beginnings are important in a book. They are especially important in fiction, but nonfiction books need strong beginnings with plenty of meat also.
  3. Just because you price your ebook low and get a number of sales does not mean that your book will actually be read and recommended to others.

What about you? Do you have books either on your e-reader or in your house that you have not yet read? I confess: I do—in both print and digital.

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A Golden Review

Best Book I Ever Read”…

So begins a recent review by a BookCrash book reviewer for The Proof, a book by a Christian Small Publishers Association (CPSA) member publisher. These are words every author and publisher would love to hear about one of their books.

The-Proof

These types of words and glowing reviews are wonderful to receive. Nuggets from such reviews can be used over and over again in marketing materials when promoting a book.

Of course, not all reviews given by BookCrash reviewers are glowing. Sometimes the reviews are negative. Often, when a negative review is given, the author or publisher is not happy. Many feel that a negative review will turn readers off to their book.

However, unless an author is receiving multiple negative reviews—a signal that the book may need more work—negative reviews do not necessarily ruin a book’s marketing campaign. In fact, marketing studies show that when consumers find negative reviews sprinkled among the reviews that are gushing about a product, they’re more confident that the good reviews are trustworthy.

Don’t let a negative review derail your marketing efforts. If the majority of reviews you are receiving for a book are positive, proceed with your book promotion efforts as though the negative review does not exist. After all, you probably don’t like every book you ever read.

This particular BookCrash reviewer went on to state in her review, “Well, let me tell you, don’t underestimate small publishers. This is possibly my favorite book out of all the books that I have ever read.

That line is music to my ears. It is what Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) believes. We exist to share the same message: Don’t underestimate small publishers. Small publishers produce quality books.

BookCrash is a program of CSPA and was created to help spread the word that small publishers and independently published authors books are worth reading.

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