Where Will Christian Books Be Sold?

“Change is the only constant in life.”

This quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus is as true today as when he lived in the sixth century before Christ.

The publishing and book-selling industry is no exception to this rule. Publishing houses come and go. Book distributors open and close their doors. Retail stores move from brick-and-mortar entities to the digital realm.

In an era when Amazon is opening physical stores, chain stores are falling by the wayside. Retailers filed for bankruptcy at record-high rates in 2018. The American trend has gone from small independent stores to large chain stores to digital shopping.

Lifeway Stores to Close

Christian booksellers are part of this shift. Lifeway stores are the latest victim. Last week, Lifeway Christian Resources announced that they will close all 170 of their brick-and-mortar stores this year.

In January, LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. The company had hoped to keep some stores open, but due to market projections, they decided to close all physical stores.

This means that there will now be 170 fewer stores where Christian books will be sold. In 2017 Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of their brick-and-mortar locations. That is a loss of over 410 Christian bookstores stores in three years.

These closures are a loss for the whole Christian book-selling industry. In my book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books, one of the twenty marketing fundamentals I provide states:

The more channels through which consumers can purchase your books, the more books you will sell.

The Christian book-selling industry now has fewer places to sell books. Since Lifeway did not work with many indie authors or small publishers, this most recent loss is not as great for us as it is for the established Christian publishing houses.

Online Commerce Growing

Lifeway reports that over that last decade, they have seen commerce increasingly move online. They are not the only store to fall to e-commerce. In 2012, Cokesbury closed all 47 of its physical bookstores and went to one online-only store. I believe it is only a matter of time before Barnes & Noble follows suit.

Online commerce is growing while physical shopping is declining. For authors and publishers, this means that the main focus of your marketing efforts should not be about getting your books into bookstores. Instead, your focus must be on selling directly to consumers.

Selling directly to consumers means that you must focus your attention on branding and platform building to develop an audience to sell your books to. It’s the new way of selling everything—not just books.

Christian Indie Publishing Association

If you need information and support to help you make the shift in your marketing efforts to developing an audience and selling directly to consumers, Christian Indie Publishing Association can help you.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to provide information and tools for success in publishing and marketing to independent authors and small publishers. The Association has numerous resources available for you to educate yourself on how to develop an audience and sell books directly to readers. These include on-demand seminars, reference guides, checklists, and our monthly newsletter. You can join today for just $90 and have access to all these great resources.

Related Posts:
Five Christian Book Publishing Trends for 2019
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
The Demise of the Christian Bookstore

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Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder.

Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

Amazon is a massive giant and growing. Consider the following facts:

  • Half of all U.S. households are subscribed to Amazon Prime.
  • Half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
  • Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online.
  • Amazon sells more books and toys than any retailer online or off.
  • Amazon sells 67% of all ebooks and 64% of online print book sales.

authors-beware

As an author, you cannot ignore Amazon.

Recently, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) published the results of a study they conducted. The study “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities” provides in-depth details on how Amazon is monopolizing the economy, undermining job growth, and weakening communities. Consider a few more interesting factoids:

  • Amazon increasingly controls the underlying infrastructure of the economy.
  • Amazon’s Marketplace for third-party sellers has become the dominant platform for digital commerce.
  • Amazon’s Web Services division provides the cloud computing backbone for much of the country, powering everyone from Netflix to the CIA.

ILSR warns that Amazon’s power as a gatekeeper in our economy will increasingly have negative consequences. One example ILSR sites is that “Amazon’s power to manipulate what products we encounter is especially concerning in the book industry, where it now commands more than half of sales, and where it can stifle the exchange of ideas simply by removing a book from its search and recommendation algorithms, as it did two years ago, in its dispute with the publisher Hachette.”

Christian authors, do not take this warning lightly. ISLR is on to something very important here. Amazon is not a Christian company, nor are they friendly to Christian books. Yes, Amazon lists almost every book for sale on its website, but that does not mean that the company is sympathetic toward Christian books. In fact, the opposite is true.

A member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently brought this to my attention. This gentleman had published an ebook on prayer via the Kindle Direct Publishing program. He then signed up to use Amazon’s Marketing Services to run an ad campaign on his book. Amazon denied his ad campaign and cited their “Creative Acceptance Policy”.

I urge you to go to Amazon and read this policy. This policy states the following:

  • Unacceptable Books: Books with content that is threatening, abusive, harassing, or that advocates or discriminates against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category.
  • Restricted Ad Content and Books: There are several customer experience sensitive categories that are not appropriate for a general audience. The following categories may be restricted from the homepage and Kindle E-reader placements: Religious or spiritual content.

In addition, the email that Amazon sent this author stated, “we are unable to approve your ad if it contains overtly religious or spiritual ad copy, images, or symbols (for example, the Star of David, a crucifix, the Star and Crescent).”

I believe that moving forward, Amazon will increasingly restrict religious content on their site through the means mentioned above. Personally, I find it sad that the Christian Retail Industry has not done more to embrace small publishers and independent Christian authors. In not doing so, they have partly been responsible for the rise in Amazon’s power, as these publishers and authors were forced to rely on Amazon for book placement and sales.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Still King
Amazon is Not a Distributor
Amazon’s Price Fixing Attempt

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Expectations

Expectations: We all have them. You have them about the books you write, publish, and sell. Most likely you expect your book to be well received by readers, you expect it to touch people’s hearts and lives, you expect it to get good reviews, and you expect your book to sell well.

Often many of our expectations are not met. This can lead to frustration and discouragement. We can even begin to question whether God really called us to write and publish what we thought we were called to do.

Most new products follow a typical curve of expectation, disappointment, and reality. It looks like this:

Expectation curveThis curve is not just true for books. It is true for most new product releases.

Yes, God may well have put the desire in your heart to write and publish. If you are in the trough of disappointment right now with your book, ask yourself: Did your expectations come from God or yourself?

Take heart. Remember that God will accomplish the purpose he ordained for your book. His ways are not our ways. God will establish and bless the work of your hands in His way. This may not always line up with your expectations, but it will accomplish the purpose God has intended for it.

Related Posts:
There is No Magic Pill
Learning From the Numbers

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Important Information for Christian Authors

Do you finish every book you start to read? Many people don’t. I once saw a statistic that said that most people only read about half of a nonfiction book.

Today, many ebook retailers have proprietary software for reading their ebooks. This software allows them to actually track how readers interact with the books they download. One of the pieces of information that can be tracked is whether or not a book is actually read all the way to the end.

Kobo (which delivers digital books to 23 million people in 190 countries and is a competitor to Amazon Kindle) recently released statistics for 2014 that showed how frequently readers finished the ebook titles they bought. Here are the results they released.

Kobo Study

What I found so fascinating in this report is that Religion books were the most abandoned (not read all the way through). In four out of the six countries featured, religion books came in with the lowest percentage for completion. In North America, only a little over one-third of all religion books are read all the way to completion.

Learning that Religion books have the lowest completion rate is discouraging. Now I want to know why? Of course, Kobo can’t track why via its e-reading software. That is data that would need to be collected via surveys.

I have decided to not even speculate on why. There are so many possible reasons.
Instead, let me say a few related words. Sometimes member authors of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) will tell me that they feel that a reviewer did not read their book through to completion. This is generally when they have received a negative review. With this statistic, I don’t find it surprising at all that some reviewers may never finish a book, especially if they don’t like it. After all, only 35% of people in North America who download a Religion title actually read the entire book.

The other thing that strikes me from this study is that, if you are an author of a religious book, you should pack your biggest punch, your most important message, at the beginning of your book. That way, you can be sure that a reader will read your most important message. If you leave it for the latter half of your book, only about 35% of readers will ever see it.

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The Power of Testimonials

In a recent interview, I was asked why people should buy Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

My response to this is, first of all, people should not buy my book unless they are interested in learning about how to promote and market a Christian book. The book is geared for Christian authors and publishers.

Second, if an author or publisher is truly wondering why he or she should purchase the book after hearing about it, then I suggest that person read the testimonials the book has received. The testimonials speak volumes as to why anyone interested in promoting a Christian book should read Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

In other words, don’t take my (the author’s) word for why you should buy and read this book, take the word of the people who have found the book highly valuable to them in their efforts at promoting Christian books.

Watch this video testimonial about how Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace has benefited this author and publisher.

What about you? Are you using the testimonials you have received about your book to convince others that the book is worth their time and money?

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