Are You Too Busy?

Americans are busy. We wear our busyness as a badge of honor. One study found that we Americans associate “busyness” with high social status.

So, busyness looks good. But is busyness really good for us?

I recently took a personal prayer retreat. I had been meaning to do this for over a year, but alas, I was too busy. I finally made it a priority, cleared room in my schedule, and went. I am glad I did. It was refreshing and too awesome to put into words. I definitely communed with God.

At the retreat center, I spoke with the directors. Their desire is for people to come to their center and hear from God. They talked about how many people who came to their retreat reported that they never heard from God. We had a wonderful conversation about how we often don’t hear from God because we simply are too busy.

We don’t make room to allow him to grab our attention and speak to us. Because spending time with God is not our priority, we fumble about our lives without his direction and blessing and wonder why things don’t work out.

Sadly, I have seen a similar busyness trend among members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). I have been told this year by a few members that they are just too busy to read the information that CSPA provides.

The purpose of CSPA’s information is threefold:

  1. To keep our members up-to-date on industry standards.
  2. To provide ideas for marketing Christian books to increase exposure and sales.
  3. To offer services that save our members money.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), we understand that our members are busy. That is one reason for joining the organization. You can trust CSPA to provide you the information you need to stay up-to-date on industry standards. On your own, you would have to spend more time reading numerous industry blogs and journals to stay on top of this ever-changing industry.

If you are too busy to stay up-to-date on industry trends and standards, are you really able to produce the best quality books? Are you able to market them effectively?

If you are producing Christian materials, you want your books to reflect God’s glory.
One way to do this is to not be too busy to receive the information you need to stay relevant to produce quality books. After all, we are to work as though working for the Lord, and God wants your best.

Don’t get so busy that you neglect your soul or your calling.

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What’s Holding You Back?

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Christian Retail is Struggling

This past year has been a tough year for Christian bookstores. Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of its stores earlier this year. Only about 20 of those stores have been purchased by other entities and will continue to operate under new names.

According to CBA’s recent State of the Industry report, 45 independent Christian bookstores closed in 2016, while only 20 new stores opened. This represents a net loss of 25 independent retail stores (not including the 220 store closures from Family Christian Stores). Within the same period, there has been a 6 percent decline in sales of Christian retail, according to the same CBA report.

I have been attending CBA’s International Christian Retail Show now CBA Unite, with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) for the past fourteen years. Each year I have watched the show grow smaller. This year’s show was by far the smallest with the fewest attendees that I have experienced, reflecting the industry’s struggle.

At CBA Unite 2017, I noticed:

  • Fewer vendors
  • Fewer book buying attendees
  • Fewer international attendees
  • Fewer author appearances
  • Fewer exhibitor sponsored evening events (there was one this year)
  • Fewer educational opportunities
  • Only a couple big-name personalities appearances including best-selling authors, music artists, or actors (as compared to multiple in previous years)
  • Lack of a show smart phone app (as offered in previous years)

CBA is not releasing official attendee or exhibitor numbers this year—indicating that the numbers were poor. Publishers Weekly reports that attendance at the CBA Unite show dropped 43 percent from 2014 to 2016, and observations from the floor this year indicate that 2017’s turnout continued to fall. While BookExpo, the industry book trade show for the general market, reported that their trade attendance was significantly up this year from last year’s show in Chicago, that show’s attendance is still significantly down from 20,895 attendees in 2015 to 7,425 in 2017.

Authors attending CBA Unite with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) this year still received exposure for their books. Additionally, most were able to score quite a few media interviews since they were not competing with big name authors for these spots. You can watch the video featuring pictures of CSPA’s booth and author book signings at the show below:

Related Posts:
The Demise of the Christian Bookstore
How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore
ICRS 2016 Recap

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NRB Proclaim 17 Convention Recap

The last week of February, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) took ten of our Member authors to the NRB Proclaim 17 convention.

NRB stands for National Religious Broadcasters. This convention is a large gathering of Christian communicators from around the world. Those attending the show included radio producers, television producers, film producers, bloggers, podcasters, pastors, and parachurch ministries. It was a rich gathering for authors to network with Christian communicators to make connections and spread the word about their books (stay tuned, I will provide testimonials from CSPA Members later this week).

This is the first year that CSPA has showcased our Members at NRB. We are always looking for new ways to help our Members market and promote their books, and NRB proved to be a great venue for doing just that.

One benefit of belonging to an association is the ability to attend conventions and trade shows to showcase your books at a reasonable fee. Membership in Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is affordable at just $90 per calendar year. Join now so you don’t miss out on these types of great opportunities for your books.

Here are some photos of CSPA’s booth and our Member authors showcasing their books at NRB.

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ICRS 2016 Recap
ICRS 2015
The Power of Testimonials

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ICRS 2016 Recap

The president of ABA (American Booksellers Association) recently had this to say about BEA (Book Expo America):

Newly returned from BookExpo America, I was struck by a couple of things: one that was great, one worrying. The first is the growing emphasis on the relationship between independent booksellers and publishers—a terrific thing from our perspective. The second, something that worries me, is that what has always set BEA apart—the books themselves—seems to have a diminishing presence on the trade show floor.

Having just returned from ICRS (International Christian Retail Show), the Christian marketplace equivalent to BEA, I have to say that this shift is being mirrored at ICRS. This year, very few of the major Christian publishing houses sponsored authors book signing and speakers at ICRS. Most of these were done by small presses and self-publishing houses. Few of the larger publishing houses were even giving away books as they have done in the past. As a result, the smaller presses ended up getting more interaction time with retailers at the show. In the past retailers time was often consumed with book signings from authors of major publishing houses.

The reality is that only about 20% of a bookstore’s space is devoted to books. Research shows that 80% of the floor space of most bookstores is now focused on other products. Additionally, only 17% of Christian products are actually sold through brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores.

In essence, as the sales through brick-and-mortar stores shrink, publishers will naturally put less of their marketing dollars into this channel and more into the places where consumers are buying books. This shift is simply reflected at ICRS—the largest gathering of Christian retailers for the Christian market in the United States.

I believe there is still value in attending ICRS. It is a great place to learn, make connections, and network. Many of the authors and publishers attending ICRS with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) report that the money spent to attend the show was well worth their time. The contacts, connections, and opportunities that came their way at the show will broaden their reach and exposure for their books.

CSPA’s booth at the show was busy. Watch the video featuring pictures of our booth and author book signings at the show below:

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ICRS 2015
CSPA at ICRS 2014
Reflections on ICRS 2013

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Let Go and Let God

I answered my phone and listened to my daughter sob. After she calmed down, she told me that she had just fallen down a flight of stairs and thought that her leg might be broken.

The call came just hours before I was to leave for the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) where Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has a booth each year and represents our members’ books and products at this trade show. My teenage daughter was over 250 miles away at a summer college program for rising high school seniors.

letting-go-open-hands

My mother instinct wanted to jump into my car and immediately drive to my daughter’s side. I couldn’t due to my ICRS commitment. All I could do was make sure my daughter was in good hands, and then turn the situation over to God and trust that he would fill in the gaps.

Letting go is hard. I believe the timing of this accident no coincidence. God wanted me to become better at letting go and allowing him to handle that which I am not capable of doing. Yes, my presence would be a comfort to my daughter, but the purpose of the program she is in is to help her be more independent and ready for college. As for the broken leg, there was nothing I could do for that. Such injuries require doctors.

If you are like me, you might also have a hard time letting go. I tend to take matters into my own hands and use my grit to “make things happen”, especially when it comes to promoting and marketing a book. But the truth is there is only so much that I can do in my own strength. The rest is up to God.

I can put the information about my message and my book in front of people. I can’t make them notice this information. I can’t make them pay attention to the information. And, I certainly can’t make them buy my book. I have no control over these things. I must let go and let God.

I recently heard a Christian author say, “God gives you your platform and he can take it away.” That is so true. I have to remind myself that God alone is the one that takes my message and uses it to help others. My job is to simply show up, be present, and give the message God has given me. God must do the rest.

What about you? Are you trying to control too much? Are you anxious and stressed about marketing and selling your books? I encourage you to turn it over to God. He alone “builds the house” (Psalm 127:1). Let go and let God.

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God Is In the Mix
Reaching the Average Christian Reader

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