Effective Marketing to a Declining Reading Populace

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 has not read a book this year.

Most people agree that the trend toward reading less has grown considerably since the advent of the Internet. Today, with streaming services, experts are beginning to believe that many people are replacing their desire for good stories with binge-watching TV shows and movies rather than reading fiction books. After all, studies show that people are spending more and more time engaged with content on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

Interestingly, this trend is not only effecting adults. North Carolina, that state where I reside, spent more than $150 million dollars on a third-grade reading campaign designed to get children to read at grade level. Yet, after five years of administering the program, no improvement was made in the number of children who could read at grade level by the end of third grade.

The lack of engagement with books is a societal issue. I have been dismayed to see not only Christian bookstores fail, but church library associations close their doors over the past few years due to churches no longer hosting lending libraries. Reading is not a priority for our society.

How does an author trying to sell books succeed in this environment?

It’s a good question and a tough question. Many industry experts point to two ways that authors can work to stand out and make a difference with readers.

1. Make It Easier for People to Find Your Book

There are millions of books available for sale. It is easy for any given book to get lost in the mass of books for sale. Two ways that you can ensure your book is easier for people to find is to make sure it is available in multiple venues and it has relevant keywords embedded in the metadata.

If your book is only available for sale on Amazon, you are missing out. Not everyone shops on Amazon. Your book needs to be available in all the online bookstores. Distribution is important. The more places your book is listed for sale, the more likely people are to find it.

Knowing what keywords readers use to find books in your subject area is also important. Making your metadata (book’s description) rich with these keywords helps ensure that readers will be able to find your book.

2. Create Content that People Need

Every book meets a need. What need does your book meet? Why do people need to read your book? Sharing content from your book and ancillary content geared toward helping people solve the problem that your book tackles will help you attract readers. Free content of interest and value is one of the best ways to develop trust with an audience.

Share your free content that meets a need on your blog, in your social media posts, and in your email newsletters. This free content does not have to be written. It can be in podcast or video format. Use whatever format helps you engage your audience. As you develop trust with your audience, they will seek out your book.

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Is Reading In Trouble?
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Interesting Data on Reading

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A Powerful Way to Reach Readers

Have you ever noticed that a target has multiple rings? When playing darts, the thrower receives the most points for hitting the center circle. Each concentric ring from the center outward to the edge of the target awards the dart thrower fewer points.

The goal is to get your dart in the center of the target. Authors should have the same goal when it comes to their target audience. The closer you can get your marketing darts to reach your core audience, the more success you will have with promoting your books.

For example, a national Christian TV show is not going to reach your core audience as strategically as a blog devoted to that audience will.

Let’s say you wrote a book on Christian parenting for single moms. A national radio show on parenting is not going to reach single moms that same way that a blog written by a Christian single mom for other single moms will. The radio show will reach a wide cross section of both fathers and mothers (a circle further out on your target), while a blog written for single moms will attract only your core audience (the center circle on your target).

I believe that blogs (and podcasts) are a great way to reach your core audience and hit the center of your target with your book promotion efforts. In other words, a review of your book or a guest post on a blog or podcast designed for your target audience will reap a better harvest than arrows slung at the outer edges of your target.

Consider these statistics. Only 50% of Christians read Christian books. However, 87% of blog readers are book buyers.

Do you see the logic? With a national television or radio interview, you reach less than 50% of the audience, while exposure on a blog that speaks to your core audience allows you to reach over 80% of the audience.

If you are not reaching out to bloggers to promote your book, I suggest that you add this strategy to your marketing plan. Start by finding bloggers speaking to your core audience (one good directory can be found at Faithful Bloggers). Then offer your book to the blogger in exchange for a review or offer a guest post (if the blog hosts guest posts) providing useful information for the blog’s audience.

With a little research and effort, you can hone your marketing darts to hit the center of your audience target, effectively reach your core audience, and score bigger rewards.

Related Posts:
Get to Know Your Target Audience
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Desire: A Tool for Book Promotion

Desires. We all have them. We may desire to lose weight, exercise more, be better at time management, or read the Bible more.

Interestingly, a recent study by Barna revealed that reading the Bible more is a desire of many Americans. In fact, the study found that about six in 10 American adults (61%) of people surveyed reported that they desire to read the Bible more than they currently do.

bible-reading

As a Christian author producing materials that seek to help people live in closer relationship with God, this study reveals that there is a need for what you offer. Of course, we all know that reading a “Christian” book does not equate with reading the Bible.

However, your Christian book can draw your readers to read the Bible. You can help your readers meet this desire. It’s a win-win situation. You can use readers’ desire to read the Bible more to draw them to your books, and then your books can encourage your readers to read the Bible more.

Marketing is about letting your audience know how you can meet a need in their life. If your audience desires to read the Bible more, let them know that your book contains Biblical truth and encouragement from God’s word. You can do this with marketing messages for your book that include phrases like:

  • Learn what the Bible has to say about…
  • 10 Things the Bible says about…
  • Grow in your faith through applying Biblical truth about…

Your book can then help your readers spend more time in God’s word. You can encourage your readers to do this in your book. Here are four ways:

  1. Incorporate scripture into the passages in your book.
  2. Provide scripture references at the end of your chapters for further reading on the topic you discuss.
  3. Provide an “Additional Reading” section in the back of your book listing Bible passages that relate to what your book discussed.
  4. Encourage your readers to sign up for your email newsletter and, in this resource, provide scripture passages on a regular basis for your fans to read.

Interestingly, the Barna study found that most people attribute their growing use of the Bible to a realization that Scriptures are an important part of their faith journey (67% of study participants). So, this means that anytime your book helps people understand that knowing what the Bible says is important in their faith journey, you are helping your readers to grow and act on their desire to read the Bible more.

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Are You Selling or Connecting?
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Photo courtesy of I’m Priscilla

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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How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore

Hello. I published a series of books through Createspace. I just returned from a Christian retail trade show and discovered that if I want my books in Christian stores, publishing through Createspace is not the way to go. I have your book and I wanted you to know this information. I think you should include it in your next edition.

This message was recently left on my voicemail. The gentleman on the message did not leave a return phone number or an email, so I could not get back in touch with him. So, instead, I will respond to this statement in a blog post and educate everyone.

bookstore-shelf-quote

 

Of course, my immediate reaction to this voicemail message was, “Did you read my book?”

In Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, I devote a whole chapter to “Secure Distribution” where I talk about how Christian bookstores order products from distributors. Rarely do bookstores order books directly from authors or small publishers. In the chapter, I list the distributors from whom Christian bookstores order products.

Maybe, I did not make the message clear enough in the book. So, I will attempt to clarify. Here are three important things to know about getting your books into Christian bookstores.

1. It is extremely difficult to get Christian bookstores to stock titles from independently published authors and small publishers.

Note that I said “extremely difficult”, not “impossible”. In fact, a number of authors and publishers who are members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have had success in getting Christian bookstores to carry their titles, especially independent Christian bookstores.

In fact, in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, in the chapter titled “Reach Christian Retailers” I talk about how difficult it is to get a book in a bookstore. I state, “For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space. In essence, any given book has less than a 1% chance of being placed on a bookstore shelf”.” The competition is stiff.

2. How the book is published is irrelevant; who is listed as the publisher is important.

With limited shelf space, Christian bookstores have to be careful about which books they choose to showcase. First, they must be assured that the book is the right theological bent for their customer base. Second, they must have some confidence that the book will sell.

Christian bookstores by and large purchase books published by the large well-known Christian publishing houses and written by established Christian authors. These are entities that Christian booksellers trust. Most Christian retail stores won’t touch a book that is obviously self-published—in other words, one that lists Createspace as the publisher. Even Barnes and Noble will not stock a book produced by Createspace in their physical bookstores. The company views Amazon as its competitor.

If an independent author is serious about getting his books into Christian bookstores, then, that author should use a business entity (publishing house or ministry) as the publisher name on his books.

You can produce a book through CreateSpace and do this. Instead of having CreateSpace assign an ISBN number to your book, you must purchase your own ISBN number through Bowker. This number is assigned to your business name. When your book is published, it will show up as published by your business name, not Createspace, both on Amazon and in distribution.

3. Having your book in the right distribution channels is required for a Christian bookstore to stock it.

There are always exceptions, but, by-and-large, most Christian bookstores won’t order books directly from an independent publisher or a small publisher. These stores simply don’t want to mess with multiple accounts. Instead, they order in batches from a distributor, making their accounting and return process much easier.

Additionally, Christian bookstores, for the most part, don’t order books from Ingram or Baker & Taylor (and definitely not from Amazon, which is a retailer). These distributors cater to the general market. Instead, Christian bookstores order from Christian distributors of which there are two main ones: Spring Arbor and Anchor Distribution.

Even if your book is selling like hotcakes, Christian bookstores won’t stock it unless they can order it from a Christian distributor. Createspace’s expanded distribution will place your book in Ingram, but not in Spring Arbor (unless you work hard to get them to do so).

I believe the gentleman on my voicemail was a little put out because he had spent a large amount of money to attend the Christian retail show and had little success. This is one reason that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) offers our members trade show representation. Member authors and publishers of CSPA can present books to Christian retailers at a fraction of the cost of hosting their own booth at a show, reducing both costs and risk.

Publishing through Createspace is not the issue. The issue is knowing how to present your book to Christian bookstores so that the bookstores are confident your book is unique, what their consumers want, and will sell. Then, having the book available through Christian distribution will clinch the deal.

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More Than a Shelf
An Industry Shakeup
Staying Relevant

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