My Checklist Fiasco

I recently purchased a used car. The old vehicle my teenagers have been driving is on its last leg, so another one needed to be found.

It has been years since I purchased a vehicle from a private seller rather than a dealership, so I tried to do due diligence to make sure we had all the paperwork required by the state I live in. I looked on the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website and found a list of paperwork needed when purchasing a car from a private seller. I felt prepared. The purchase of the vehicle was painlessly completed including a trip to the bank to have the car title transfer notarized.

My next step, after purchasing the vehicle, was to make a trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles to have the title transferred and to register the vehicle. Just to make sure I had everything I needed for this trip, I checked the DMV website again. This time, I found a list of the paperwork needed to brought to the DMV to transfer the title of the vehicle.

Lo and behold, this list had two forms on it that the first list I used did not. It turns out I needed two more pieces of paper. One needed the signature of the seller, and the other one needed to be notarized. This meant that I had to get back in touch with the seller and make another trip to the bank. The whole process was quite frustrating.

The DMV is not the only place where people run into issues with finding out that they do not have all the information they need upfront. It often happens in the publishing world also.

Vehicle

Last year, I talked with an author who told me that, when he was publishing his book, he had to complete four revisions before the book was right. This was four revisions after he had already uploaded the book to IngramSpark for printing and distribution.

At the time, this gentleman was not a Member of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA), so he did not have the Member benefit of free uploads and revisions with IngramSpark. He ended up paying over twice the amount an annual membership with CIPA costs just to print and distribute his book.

This author reported that he kept finding out about things he had missed putting in his book that are standard for books (as well as some mistakes). While you might be tempted to judge this gentleman for not doing his due diligence prior to uploading his book, I feel sympathy for him.

There are many elements that go into making sure a book is industry-standard. New authors and publishers can easily miss one or more of these elements because finding a complete list in one place is not easy—just like with my DMV experience.

Because we understand the process for new authors and publishers, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) has developed checklists to help. Two checklists the Association offers to ensure you have all the elements you need prior to uploading a book for print and distribution are:Checklist

  • Checklist for Creating a Professional-Looking Book
  • Metadata Checklist

Members of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) can access these checklists as part of their Membership. If you are considering publishing a new book this year, I encourage you to join Christian Indie Publishing Association so you can be better prepared.

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How Responsive Are You?

24 hours. That is the length of a day. It’s also the time-frame in which people expect a response.

How Responsive Are You?

Whether it is:

  • a phone call
  • an email
  • a text
  • a direct message on social media
  • comments on social media

most people expect a response within a day. Slower responses equate with poor customer service in consumers’ minds.

A recent study by Clutch that surveyed U.S. adults found that 83% of the respondents said that if they interact with a brand on social media, they expect a response within a day. Over one-third actually expect a response sooner—38% expect a response within an hour.

Not surprisingly, younger consumers are more likely than older consumers to expect brands to respond quickly. Some 90% of consumers ages 18 to 29 expect brands to respond to their comments on social media within a day or less.

Responsiveness can mean the difference between acquiring and losing a customer.

The phrase “Strike while the iron’s hot” can be applied to inquiries you receive. Whether you are contacted by a potential reader, a journalist, a media host, a reviewer, an influencer, or an event planner, the timeliness of your response will have a direct impact on your sales and exposure.

Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman who produces a magazine for readers that features Christian books. He was looking to open a dialog about how to feature more Indie published books in his magazine.

I sent a timely response. Then I waited. I did not hear back from this gentleman for a couple of weeks. In his follow-up email, he told me that publishing the magazine was his side business, which is why he had not gotten back to me sooner.

I responded to his second email in a timely fashion. That was about a month ago. I still have not heard back from him.

Due to the lengthy time-frame in which this gentleman communicates, I have become reluctant to pursue further discussion with him. His lack of timely response makes me question whether he will follow through on any agreement that we come to. It also makes me question whether he will have success with his venture moving forward.

Writing, publishing, and marketing books is a side-venture or “second” job for most Indie authors. Don’t treat it as such. Give the same timely attention to inquiries as you would if it was your primary job. Otherwise, you will lose out.

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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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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.

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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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Photo courtesy of I’m Priscilla