What Do You Do?

I have a book that I want to get published.”

As Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), I hear this statement multiple times each month from potential authors who are looking to get a manuscript published. Since CSPA has the word “publishers” in our name, these authors assume that we are a publishing company.

After I tell these authors that CSPA does not publish books, nor do we assist authors in getting their books published, I direct them to the “Author Seeking Publisher” page of CSPA’s website where CSPA member publishers who are actively seeking manuscripts are listed. Once I have done that, most of these aspiring authors ask:


“If you don’t publish, what is it that you do?”

I answer, “We are an association for publishers.”

“Yes, but what do you actually do?” they ask again.

My reply is generally, “We assist publishers in marketing their books.”

Inevitably the author will then ask, “Can you help me market my book?”

To which I say, “Yes, once you publish the book.”

What I believe these potential authors are really asking is: What exactly does belonging to a publishing association do for publishers? That answer is too long and complicated for a short phone call, so I thought I would answer it here.

1. First and foremost, belonging to a publishing association brings you credibility. It says we are a legitimate publishing house, serious about our business. Associations are known in the book industry, so when different entities within the trade business see that you are a member of an association, they take notice. For example, Midwest Book Review puts requests for book reviews by publishers who belong to an association ahead of those from publishers who do not.

2. Belonging to a publishing association keeps you informed. One of the main responsibilities of an association is to keep their members informed and up-to-date on standards and requirements within the industry. That way, you won’t be using a 10-digit ISBN when a 13-digit ISBN is required.

3. Every association offers their members cost saving benefits. At Christian Small Publishers Association, our focus is helping our member publishers with marketing. Therefore, we offer a number of affordable programs that help publishers get the information about their books out to the Christian marketplace.

4. Being part of an association provides you networking opportunities. Two are better than one and three are even stronger. In other words, finding other people who are doing similar things allows you to make alliances and create greater opportunities for spreading the word about your books. In addition, networking allows you to learn from other publishers who have gone before and can keep you from making costly mistakes.

I always encourage publishes and potential publishers to not limit themselves to help from just one association. Join as many as you find you can benefit from. Each organization specializes in different areas of publishing and marketing. Here is a list of the national publishers associations for small publishers and independently published authors:

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New eBook Award Program

The number of digital books released each year continues to grow exponentially. Along with the release of more books in digital format, the sales of ebooks have also increased—currently representing about 25% of all book sales.

When I revised Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace in 2009, there was only one book award that exclusively served digital books. That award, which is still around, sponsored by the Electronically Published Industry Coalition (EPIC) was simply called EPIC eBook Awards.


Shortly afterwards, a number of awards highlighting digital books began to appear. First, Digital Book World introduced the Publishing Innovation Awards (PIA) to recognize the best in digital publishing. Then, the Jenkins Group (the sponsors of the Independent Publisher Book Awards) launched eLit Awards, which seek to illuminate digital publishing excellence. Next, Dan Poynter launched his Global eBook Awards program designed to give ebooks more publicity.

Now, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has announced the launch of their new Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards for electronic book publishing and excellence in innovation. The Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards (BFDA) will honor achievement in electronic book publishing by individuals and organizations of all sizes, including publishers, developers, designers, manufacturers, institutions, and technology leaders.

The BFDA is a rolling awards program—submissions will be welcomed year round and entries will be judged against a standard of excellence in four categories: eBooks, Enhanced eBooks, Books as Apps and New Technologies.  IBPA will be presenting gold and silver award of excellence honorees with a suite of promotional opportunities, including announcements on IBPA’s website and all social media outlets, in their monthly magazine, The Independent, to all industry publications, and more.

The cost to nominate a title for this award is $75 for an IBPA member and $150 for a non-member. This higher cost to enter if you are not a member of IBPA includes a year membership to the organization—quite a deal since the annual membership fee for IBPA is $129.

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Are You Up-to-Date?

Ten-digit ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) are no longer the book industry standard. The change was made over three years ago.

Actually, the standard changed January 1, 2007 when Bowker, the U.S. ISBN agency, declared that all books published on or after January 1, 2007 must carry a 13-digit ISBN.

Let me be clear. For books to be viable in the marketplace, publishers need to ensure that all books available through book channels published on or after January 1, 2007 carry a 13-digit ISBN with a 13-digit EAN Barcode.

Some of you reading this post are asking yourselves, “Why is Sarah writing about old industry news?’

Believe it or not, CSPA has received book nominations for the Christian Small Publishers Book of the Year Award the past two years for books that carried 10-digit ISBNs. These books were published in 2008 and 2009. These publishers must have been unaware of the industry change.

For each book nominated that was printed with a 10-digit ISBN, I kindly contacted the publisher and let them know the new industry standard. Any publisher with unused10-digit ISBNs from Bowker simply needs to convert those numbers  to 13-digit ISBNs before being placing the ISBN number on any new book they published. Bowker even provides a free online ISBN converter for publishers.

Here is a little piece of advice – If you are going to publish books, know the industry standards.

Most people don’t have much time to research and stay on top of all the changes happening in any given industry. That is why professional associations exist. One of the main jobs of any professional organization is to provide their members with cutting-edge information that affects their members’ business, including changes in industry requirements and standards.

If you publish books, I encourage you to join a publishers association so you don’t end up making a major gaffe on one of your books.

Three great publishers associations for small publishers are:

Join one or more of these great organizations and stay up-to-date on the latest industry standards.

CSPA’s June newsletter features a great article on the new ISTC. It’s not here yet, but it is coming and publishers need to be aware of it.

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