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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Do You Have the Wrong Expectation?

“If you self-publish, expect to sell less than 100 copies of your book.”

These words were spoken by a Christian author on a marketing panel at the recent CBA Unite International Show. This particular author was both a traditionally-published author and an independently-published author. She had published books using both routes.

The authors on this panel were sharing the lessons they had learned in marketing their books. After making this statement, the author neglected to talk about what authors could do to help ensure that they sold more than 100 copies of an independently-published book.

I am happy to say that I strongly disagree with this author’s statement. I don’t believe that any self-published author needs to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies of a book.

Expect means “to regard as likely to happen.” Truthfully, up to 99% of self-published books do sell less than 100 copies. However, this statistic does not reflect what an author should “expect.”

Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies because the author does not market the book effectively. Too many self-published authors have the idea “if I publish my book, people will buy and read it.” This mindset sets an author up for failure.

With over 1,300 books are published every day in America. The competition for readers’ money and attention is stiff. How many copies you sell of your book is largely dependent on the quality of your book and on your marketing efforts.

Having sold thousands of copies of an independently-published book, I can attest to the fact that you do not need to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies. What you do need is:

  1. A basic understanding of the book publishing and selling industry.
  2. A strong selling point or promise to your reader.
  3. To know and understand how to reach your target audience.
  4. To invest time and money in marketing your book to your target audience.

If you need to gain knowledge and information in any of these four areas, resources exist to help you. Some of these resources include:

Don’t expect failure. Instead, plan and act for success. You can expect to sell more than 100 copies of a self-published book with some knowledge and effort.

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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:

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Are You Outdated?

Have you heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”?

Dressing for the job you want over the one you have is about impression. It is giving the appearance that you are capable of handling that job. Your clothing makes a statement about who you are and where you want to go.

Authors don’t necessarily need to dress for the job they want. Instead, they need to stay up-to-date on industry standards to give the impression that their writing is exemplary. Just as clothes are important in making an impression at a job, conforming to industry standards is necessary for authors’ success.

outdated

Staying up-to-date on industry standards is essential for independently published authors to be successful. For example:

  • If you are an aspiring author and you send a complete manuscript via snail mail to a publishing house that only accepts book proposals and chapter excerpts via email, you will not make a favorable impression with the editors. As a result, you will not secure a publishing contract.
  • If you are a published author and you send a press release that does not conform to industry standards, you will not make a favorable impression with the media. As a result, you will lose out on media coverage.
  • If you are an independently published author and you don’t provide the appropriate metadata for your online book listings, you will not make a favorable impression with readers. As a result, you will lose out on sales.

I am surprised at the number of authors nominating a book for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award who provide a 10-digit ISBN number instead of a 13-digit ISBN number with their nomination. The 13-digit ISBN number has been industry standard since January 1, 2007. All books published on or after January 1, 2007, must carry the 13-digit ISBN number on the book.

Yes, Amazon.com lists both the 10-digit ISBN and the 13-digit ISBN number. Amazon does this because they list books published prior to January 1, 2007, that carry the old 10-digit ISBN number. However, when someone asks for the ISBN number of a book published since January 1, 2007, the author should give the 13-digit ISBN number. This is industry standard.

Staying abreast of industry standards can be time-consuming, especially when an author wants to focus on writing, publishing, and promoting books. The good news is that you don’t have to take on that task alone—this is what author and publisher associations help with.

One of the benefits of belonging to a publishing association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is that the association provides you the information you need to stay abreast of industry standards so that you can be more successful.

If you want help on making sure that you are up-to-date in publishing and marketing your books, you can join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) for the 2017 calendar year today! Simply fill out the application on our website at www.christianpublishers.net.

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Four Truths Every Author Should Know

I often hear authors and aspiring authors say things like:

  • When I finish my book, I will attend a writer’s conference.
  • When my book starts to make some money, I will have money to spend on marketing.
  • When I get some reviews for my book, I will begin promoting it.
  • When my novel garners attention and sales, I will write another one.

Sadly, this is backwards thinking.

false-beliefs

Too many people think “when I arrive” I will take the next step. They have the process reversed. In reality, you must “take the next step” to arrive.

Consider the following truths:

1. Attending a writer’s conference will give you the skills and motivation you need to complete your book.

This summer, I met a woman at a writer’s conference who has slowly been working on a novel. She has many self-doubts. So, each year after the conference, she takes the next step, but then the doubts creep back in. She attends the writer’s conference each year to keep herself motivated and on track. She is now, after three years, in the process of rewriting her novel and plans to have it done in 2017 for publication.

2. Marketing your book is essential to drawing people to purchase your book.

You can’t wait until you make money on your book to start marketing. People can’t purchase a book they don’t know exists. Marketing lets people know your book exists. Funds for marketing should be part of your budget when you decide to publish a book. Don’t neglect this important step.

Sometimes authors and publishers tell me that they will join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) when they start having success with their books. This is the same backwards thinking as marketing your book once it starts to make money. A professional association helps you become more successful by giving you an appearance of professionalism, providing you the information you need to be more successful, and helping you with affordable marketing opportunities.

3. Promotion for your book should start before you produce it.

Don’t wait until you have a book in hand or until you have some reviews to begin to promote your book. You should start promoting your book six months to a year before it goes on sale. Build interest as you are writing the book. Whet people’s appetites with teasers so that they want more and can’t wait to read your book when it is released.

4. Novelists who write multiple books sell better than those who only pen one book.

The statistics show this to be true. People read books by authors they like. So, if you only pen one book, you lose sales. The more books you write the better. With multiple books, a reader reads your book and likes it will purchase and read your other novels as well. One bestselling Christian author told me that every time she releases a new book, the sales for her other books increase.

If you have been operating under a false belief about writing and selling books, I encourage you to embrace the truth.

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