Why Reading the Bible Matters

If you are an author or publisher producing Christian books, the Bible is important to you. After all, your books are meant to encourage people on their journey with God, and the ultimate guide for this journey is the Bible.

In fact, no other book has had a greater impact on history than the Bible. No book has sold more copies. The average American household owns four Bibles. However, they usually sit unread on the shelf.

bible-2

 

Studies show that in one generation the number of occasional Bible readers fell by 20 percent—the equivalent of about 700 people per day. In fact, fewer than 20% of Americans read the Bible outside of church. If this trend continues, by 2040 two-thirds of Americans will have no meaningful connection with the Bible.

In an effort to reverse this trend, the Institute for Bible Reading was launched last month on November 15. A team of executives from the Bible publishing industry came together to form the Institute for Bible Reading (IFBR), an organization focused on combating the silent crisis of Bible disengagement. The group is committed to changing the prevailing assumptions and practices around Bible reading, which they claim perpetuate a hyper-individualized and fragmented Bible-reading experience.

IFBR’s mission is to give people tools and frameworks that fundamentally change the way they read the Bible so it can achieve its mission and become the story that defines their lives. The group plans to launch a major campaign to introduce new Bible reading practices for the church soon.

I applaud the efforts of IFBR. The Bible is extremely important book. It is our greatest source of spiritual food. Regular consumption is required to be a healthy growing follower of Christ. As authors and publishers, we need to be regularly feasting on the Word of God in order to be able to feed and provide guidance to others.

If you care about Bible engagement, you should check out the Institute for Bible Reading. It may be a resource that you can offer the people who read your books and are in need of some resources to begin to read and understand God’s Word better.

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Quality Workmanship

The other day I saw an interesting sticker on the back of a construction company vehicle. It read:

quality

We promise quality workmanship
At a profit if we can
At a loss if we must
But always quality workmanship

I was impressed. Here is a company that is demonstrating integrity and promising quality workmanship no matter what.

What about you? Is quality workmanship at the forefront of your priorities?

Whether you write and publish your own books or publish the works of others, is quality one of your top priorities? Or, have you lost sight of quality workmanship in the pursuit of growing your business, growing your readers, or growing your profits?

As children of God, our priority should be in “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Whatever you are doing to write, publish, and promote your books should be done with quality. Remember, what you do is reflecting Jesus to the world. It is so easy to get sidetracked. Take a lesson from this construction company, and make quality your priority, even if it means a financial loss at times.

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A Shakeup in the Christian Book Industry

A shakeup is happening in the Christian book industry. Family Christian stores the largest Christian store chain in the country (counting locations, not necessarily sales revenue) with 266 stores in 36 states has filed bankruptcy.

bankruptcy

Initially, Family Christian filed for a sale of its assets and operations under Section 363 of Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code. This allows the company to reorganize. Family Christian Ministries, which owns the stores, had formed a new subsidiary to buy the stores for $73,773,000 and assume the property leases and other accrued operating liabilities. It was reported that the company expected to continue operations without closing stores or laying off employees.

Then last week, a group of 27 Christian publishers filed a joint lawsuit against Family Christian to keep the retailer from selling their products at a future auction. It appears that Family Christan recently made the decision to sell around $20 million worth of books, music and DVDs at an auction scheduled for later this year. However, the products that Family Christian plans to sell they did not purchase; rather these are consigned products. A few years ago Family Christian stores went to a consignment model to save money. In this model, publishers shipped merchandise to Family Christian and Family Christian did not have to pay the publishers for the merchandise until it sold.

Court documents show that Family Christian owes banks and vendors (publishers) about $97 million, not including the consigned inventory. Publishers are concerned that if Family Christian auctions off the inventory that they have consigned, they will not be able to recoup any money for these products. In the lawsuit, the publishers are demanding that Family Christian either return consigned inventory to each respective publisher or pay the publishers outright for the products.

All this appears to point to the fact that Family Christian is not doing as well as they originally indicated. That, in fact, if they need to auction inventory to raise money, they may have to look at closing stores and laying off employees. The company may not be able to continue “business as usual” even with a reorganization.

If this is true, it bodes ill for the Christian book market. While some reading this blog may say, “Since more books today are purchased online than in physical stores, the impact won’t be much.” I disagree. The more channels through which consumers can purchase books, the more books will sell—and selling books in bookstores actually earns an author more money.

Bookstores are important when it comes to selling books. A recent study showed that while only 54% of traditionally published books actually made it onto bookstore shelves, those that did earned their authors a median of $5,000 to $9,999 across all platforms. Traditionally published books that were not sold in bookstores only made their authors a median of $1 to $499. For self-published books, the study showed that those that were sold in bookstores (only 12%) earned a median of $500 to $999 compared to $1 to $499 for those self-published books that weren’t.

Every time a sales channel is lost, book selling takes a hit. If the largest Christian bookstore chain ends up closing its doors, publishers and authors will need to be creative to adapt and create sales opportunities elsewhere.

Update as of March 20, 2015:
Family Christian has filed a court notice withdrawing its motion of plans for bankruptcy. The company announced its plans this week through an official statement.

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There is No Magic Pill

Surveys show that 80% of people believe they have a book inside of them. With the advent of print-on-demand technology and digital books, more and more aspiring authors are deciding to self-publish the book they want to give birth to.

magic pill

Recognizing an opportunity, a number of businesses have cropped up that are offering to publish these books. However, many of these businesses are preying on the naiveté of those individuals seeking to birth their books. Sensing an opportunity for easy profit, these businesses charge exorbitant fees to help authors publish and market a book.

One author I met at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) complained that the vanity press he used to publish his book charged $1,000 to exhibit the book at the show. Think how many books that author would have to sell to recoup that $1000 fee, let alone the thousands of dollars that he paid to the publishing company to manufacture the book in the first place.

One Christian self-publishing company is charging authors an outrageous price to help them market their books. This company is charging $400 to set up a custom Twitter page and $500 to set up a Facebook author page. Really? Ouch!

Setting up a Twitter or Facebook page isn’t that hard. Getting followers is the hard part. The company isn’t offering to collect the followers, just set up the page. How many books would an author have to sell to recoup the $900 it costs just to set up some social media sites? Plenty, and I can assure you that those sales won’t come from just having a Facebook and Twitter account.

One author I spoke with at the International Christian Retail Show asked me how Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) marketing services differed from all the other people who had approached her about buying their marketing services. Here is what I told her.

  1. CSPA is not a marketing service. It is the most affordable Christian publishing association that exists. CSPA did not start with the idea of making money from providing services to publishers and authors. Rather, CSPA started with a group of three independently published authors who banded together to create a way to market in the Christian marketplace that was affordable for themselves and for others. That vision still guides CSPA today.
  2. CSPA does offer our members affordable cooperative marketing opportunities.
  3. However, CSPA’s main emphasis is on education. CSPA strives to teach our members how to affordably market their books on their own so that they don’t end up spending thousands of dollars on a predatory service provider while selling only a handful of books.
  4. Our ICRS membership special (on our website) is just $115 for membership through December 2015. That is almost 18 months of membership!

However, what continues to amaze me is how many authors just want a magic pill. They just want someone to tell them they can sell their books. The sales pitch is great and so the author buys the costly service, only to be disappointed and burned.

Whether it’s weight loss or book publishing, there is no magic pill. Rarely will an author recoup the high price that most publishing and marketing services charge. Your best bet is to do your homework and learn a few publishing and marketing techniques. Then use the services you buy as an ancillary to your own publishing and marketing efforts, not as a replacement.

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Celebrating 10 Years!

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is now 10 years old!!

CSPA logo for Marketing Plan

Back in January of 2004, three independently published authors, each with a small publishing company, joined together to create Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). The goal of the newly formed organization was to help each other market and promote our books in the Christian marketplace.

How things have changed in the past 10 years! Some of these changes include:

  • In 2004, the majority of books were published by major publishing houses. Today, more books are published by self-published authors than are produced by the major publishing houses.
  • Print-on-demand was just making an entrance into book publishing. Back then the catch-phrase was “desktop publishing.”
  • The vast majority of books were sold in brick-and-mortar stores. Now, almost half of all books are purchased over the Internet.
  • eBooks were almost unheard of in 2004. Now, they capture 30% of all book sales.
  • The sheer number of books published grows each year.
  • CSPA has grown from its original three members to serving over 100 members publishing Christian books.

As the book publishing and marketing industry change, so we at CSPA continue to adapt and change our services to meet changing needs. Some of our newer benefits include:

  • A partnership with DeeperShopping.com to get our members books in front of more customers.
  • eBlasts announcing new titles to book-loving Christians.
  • A Strategic Book Marketing Plan Kit that includes a phone consultation with a book marketing expert.
  • Ongoing cooperative marketing opportunities.
  •  A monthly e-newsletter with fresh content that educates and informs our members of new trends, opportunities, and state-of-the-art publishing principles and techniques.

This year, get some support in publishing and marketing your Christian books. Join Christian Small Publishers Association and make use of the many benefits we offer publishers and independently published authors to help you reach more people with your books. Membership is just $85 for the calendar year. Join today!

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