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.

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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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What’s Holding You Back?

One of the questions I often ask aspiring authors when I speak at writers’ conferences is “What is holding you back from taking the next step?”

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This question is an important question not just for writing, producing, and promoting a book or expanding your publishing business, but for any area of your life. What is holding you back? What is keeping you from taking that next step toward your goal or dream?

Whether it is penning a first book, publishing a first or next book, writing another book, or engaging in marketing and promoting a book, I have found that the answers most aspiring and published authors give fall into one of the following five categories.

1. Fear

Fear is a powerful emotion that can hold you hostage. This can be fear of failure, fear of looking ridiculous, fear of ridicule, or fear of not measuring up. Often aspiring authors feel like there are numerous people more talented than they are or better able to complete the job; so they stay stuck.

Most people don’t feel up to a task that God calls them to do. After all, when God told Moses that he was to go to Egypt and free the Israelites, Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt?” When God insisted he was the man, Moses told God that he could not do the job since he was “slow of speech and tongue.”

God sees the bigger picture. If he has called you to do something, he has already uniquely gifted or prepared you for the task. If God has placed it on your heart to write a book, then you are the person he has chosen for that task. Don’t let fear hold you back from experiencing God’s best.

2. Time

“If only I had more time.” I hear this phrase a lot. I think I even say this more than I should. We all lead busy lives. Many authors and aspiring authors are waiting for things to slow down or for a day in the future when they will have the time to work toward their goal.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but reality is that such a day is not coming. There will always be urgent and pressing matters that need to be taken care of. We are all given the same amount of time to spend. We can’t save time up in a bank to spend on an activity to reach our goal.

Instead, we have to make the next step in our goal or dream a priority. We must schedule time into our day for it. Maybe this means that you get up thirty minutes or an hour earlier each day to spend time writing. Maybe it means you give up watching a TV show a couple times a week to work on promotional activities for your book. Don’t wait to have the time. It won’t happen. You must carve the time out of your existing schedule.

3. Knowledge

Sometimes the lack of knowledge holds us back from obtaining our dream. Fortunately, this is the easiest of all the impediments to overcome. The antidote for lack of knowledge is to educate yourself. There is so much information available to help you become a better writer, to teach you how to publish a book, or to provide you with the steps you need to take to promote and market the book you have published. Don’t let lack of knowledge get in your way. Read a book, become involved in a writers group, attend a conference, watch a webinar, or listen to podcasts. The information you need to grow your knowledge is at your fingertips.

4. Money

Money is another common obstacle people cite for not moving forward to take the next step toward their goal. Money is similar to time. We fritter time away, and we squander our money. If God is calling you to take the next step toward your dream, then pray that he will provide you the finances for it. After all, God is the ultimate owner of the money of this world. Then, think about your spending habits and find ways that you might be able to cut back to begin saving money for your goal.

Sometimes, authors think they need more money to accomplish their dream than is really needed. There are very affordable ways to publish and market books. Again, a little education in this area can save you a lot of money.

5. Vision

A vision is a picture of the end result, or where you want to be. When you lack a clear vision for your dream or goal, you can’t move toward it. If my vision is to be an author, that is not clear. To have a clear vision, I must make a decision about what type of book I want to write. When the vision becomes clear, the steps to reaching your goal also become clear. Without clear steps, you can’t move toward your dream. With clear steps, your actions become congruent with your goal, leading you to attain it.

What’s hold you back? Identify it; and then take action to rectify it. A parked car doesn’t go anywhere. The same is true for inaction. At the heart of all personal or business development strategies is the idea that to realize a goal you have to do something.

Did any of these obstacles ring true for you?

Related Posts:
Follow Your Dream
Indecision: A Success Killer
There is No Magic Pill

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The Most Common Error

However, what bothered me most about this book was the need for some serious editing. I find it quite difficult to take an author seriously who has not checked for spelling, grammar, word usage, and accurate Biblical quotes.

This recent comment from a BookCrash book reviewer is not a comment you should ever see for a book that you publish. There is no need.

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Sadly, while some things this reviewer said about the reviewed book were positive, she only gave the book a one-star review on Amazon due to the need for editing.

Don’t let this happen to you. Get your manuscript edited and proofread by a professional! Nothing kills a book’s sales faster than poor editing and proofreading that leaves grammatical and spelling errors.

One of the most common flaws in self-published books is the presence of typos. Even books published by traditional publishing houses can sometimes contain a typo or two. However, when the number of unintentionally misspelled words becomes noticeable in a book, it distracts the reader and takes away from the book’s message.

To keep typos from preventing an adverse reaction to your book by your readers (and book reviewers), get it proofread. If you truly do not have the funds to hire a professional proofreader, then you need to learn do it yourself with diligence.

Two tips the experts recommend for effective self-checking of a manuscript include:

  1. Read every letter. When we are familiar with what we have written, we have a tendency to read what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. Force yourself to look at every letter.
  2. Read the manuscript backwards. Reading backwards helps you to focus on each word, not on what the content is saying. This perspective helps you catch spelling errors (although it often does not help with typos such as “hut vs hurt” where both are actual words but one may not fit the content).

Too many independently published authors skimp on the important steps of editing and proofing reading their manuscript when publishing a book. Don’t make this mistake. Invest in your book and you will reap the reward in sales.

Related Posts:
How’s Your Grammar?
The Inside Does Matter.

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Distinction

What makes a book stand out from the pack? The answer can be summed up in one word: Distinction.

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Recently, a BookCrash reviewer wrote the following about one of the books she had read:

You can almost always tell which books were published by little publishing companies because they look different. The covers have a different shine about them (and generally there is something vaguely odd about the cover art), the book is sized differently from your average book, the paper is a different color, and the font is always slightly different.

This is not the kind of distinction—being different, odd, or out-of-place—I am referring to.

Standing out from the pack in an odd way that looks out-of-place does not help book sales. Rather, the distinction that drives book sales is that of quality. In other words, a more excellent and grabbing cover design, an exceptionally beautiful interior layout, and, above all, attention-grabbing prose that presents a message in a new light.

Fortunately, the same BookCrash blogger went on to rave about the book she was reviewing:

The Salt Covenants was published by Heritage Books. It was a fantastic discovery. I can totally guarantee the quality of this book. It is AMAZING!

That is the type of distinction required for a book to stand out from the pack—marked superiority. For readers to exclaim “Amazing!” when they have finished the book should be the aim of everyone involved in the publishing process of a book.

Strive for the right type of distinction with your books. Make sure that the outward appearances of your book conform to industry standards, but then amaze your readers with distinction in your message or story.

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Indecision: A Success Killer

You can find articles on mistakes authors and publishers should not make all over the Internet. It seems that almost everyday, I get an email with a link to another article talking about mistakes to not make if you are a publisher or an author.

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I recently read a white paper on “6 Mistakes in Publishing Today.” The paper took a look at the fact that the publishing industry has been turned upside down by new technology and market dynamics and the mistakes many publishers are making in this season of publishing. While this paper was really geared toward larger publishers, one of the mistakes listed stood out to me. I think it is a mistake that many small publishers and independently published authors make.

This mistake is indecisive leadership.

I can hear you saying, “Wait, I am the only employee of my publishing enterprise. I don’t have to worry about leadership.”

You are wrong. If you are the only employee of your publishing endeavor, then you are the leader. It is up to you to have the vision, set the direction, and make the strategic decisions necessary to ensure success of your enterprise.

Two common issues the article included under “indecisive leadership” were:

1. Choosing short term profits over long-term success.

I have seen this many times with small publishers and authors. I have often said that marketing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Those that act like it is a sprint often make decisions that maximize short term returns. Short term profits might feel good, however, focusing on short term goals almost exclusively will not ensure the success of your publishing enterprise over the long haul.

2. More words than actions.

As the saying goes, talk is cheap. It is often easier to make plans than to execute them. If you find yourself thinking more about what you should do to market your books, then actually doing those things, take note. Success follows action. Don’t let fear of failure or indecision about which course of action is the best keep you from executing a plan. Pray over your plan. Then move forward. Trust that God will lead you.

All decision involves risk. In your leadership of yourself and your enterprise, I encourage you to strive to create a clear plan of action and balance short and long term considerations for your publishing endeavor.