How Not to Sell a Book

Nominations for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards are rolling in. One recent nomination demonstrates how not to sell a book. I thought I would share it with you, so you can know what not to do.

The Christian Indie Awards nomination form requests various information. The form asks the nominating party to list the publisher of the book along with contact information. This contact information is very important, because it is who we contact should the book win an award.

One recent nomination listed CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gave contact information for CreateSpace. Folks, CreateSpace is not a publisher. Yes, you can request that they assign your book an ISBN number and then they list themselves as the publisher of the book on Amazon, but they are not the true publisher of the book.

If you are an independent author, you are the publisher. If you use any print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lightning Source, BookBaby, or LuLu, you are still the publisher. These companies are simply printing platforms that allow you to independently publish your book.

So, this independent author lists CreateSpace as the publisher of the book and gives the contact information for CreateSpace. Now, if this nominated title were to win an award, we would have to send the announcement to CreateSpace. Do you think CreateSpace cares? Do you think they would contact the author and let the author know that he won an award? No, they won’t. CreateSpace is simply a revenue stream for Amazon. The company exists so that Amazon has more books to sell, and thus can make more money.

In an attempt to see if I could scare up other contact information for this author, I Googled the book’s title. To my dismay, the only place this book is listed on the internet is Amazon. The author does not have a website for the book. Neither the author nor the book are listed on Goodreads. There is not even a Facebook page for the book. Nothing.

Next, I strolled on over to Amazon to check the Author Page to see if I could scare up some information on the author. This time, I was not too surprised when I found that this author had not even completed the author profile for his Author Page on Amazon.

The book in question was published in November 2016. That was a year ago. In that time, the author has done almost nothing (from what I can tell) to promote this book. That’s like saying you are a missionary, but all you do is put some tracts in a local café and spend the rest of your time sitting in your house. How will people hear about the Gospel unless you tell them? How will people know about your book unless you tell them?

Having your book for sale only on Amazon with no other online presence will ensure that your book won’t sell. You must tell people about your book for them to know about it. Telling on the internet includes (at a minimum) having a website and a presence on social media.

By the way, nominations for the Christian Indie Awards are open through November 15, 2017. You can nominate your books at www.christianaward.com.

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Oh, The Places Your Book Will Go!
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How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Kawamura.

To Give or Not to Give?

The Internet abounds with advice. Some of it is good and some of it is not.

When it comes to advice for independently published authors, often what you find on the Internet is contradictory. Some authors assert one thing, while others assert the opposite.

One area where advice given for independently published authors on the Internet contradicts itself is in the area of giving books away. Some advice givers say you should, others say you shouldn’t.

Advice is cheap. Anyone can give advice. The advice taker must discern whether or not the person has the knowledge or experience to give good advice.

Whether you, as an independent author, should or shouldn’t give books away for free is not the question to ask. Rather, you should ask: What is the industry standard?

1. Giving books for free in exchange for reviews is standard in the book publishing industry.

Providing a free book in exchange for a review is a publishing industry practice. In fact, it is such an integral part of the book industry, that when Amazon recently stopped allowing the giving of free products in exchange for reviews on their websites, they exempted books from this policy. Amazon even stated in their policy revision, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

2. Giving away books as part of a book promotional campaign is industry standard.

If you have ever attending an industry convention—think BookExpo (BEA) or CBA Unite—then you would be aware that giving away free copies of books to decision-makers (retail buyers and influencers) is standard practice. Most publishers include a certain number of books to be given away for promotional purposes as part of a book’s advertising budget.

At the recent NRB Proclaim 17 convention, one Member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) told me that while he was giving away books for free, he wondered if he was just throwing his books away. I encourage him to consider the investment he was making in giving away free books as part of his advertising campaign. After all, the attendees at NRB are influencers. If they read his book and write a review or recommend the book to someone else, he has not wasted his money.

Henry Ford said, “At least half of my advertising budget works…I just don’t know which half.

The same is true for giving books away as part of your advertising budget. Some of the books you give away will help with your promotional efforts, others won’t.

So, if you need an answer to the question of whether you should give away books or not, the answer is: You should. After all, it is industry standard and as an independently published author, you are now part of the book publishing industry.

Related Posts:
Book Review Scare
Scarcity vs. Abundance
Thoughts on Book Reviews

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Photo courtesy of Dev Benjamin

Independent Bookstore Day

Free Comic Book Day! Record Store Day! The events are used to raise awareness and drive sales for small independent stores. Not to be outdone, independent bookstores have decided to have their own day.

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Independent Bookstore Day will be held May 2, 2015. Last year, the event started as California Bookstore Day and was a success. This year, the event is going national, so that all independent bookstores across the nation can be involved and benefit from the publicity with the goal of increasing sales.

Truth be told, many independent bookstores are struggling. Last month, in the Christian bookstore industry, announcements were made about stores closing.

Tree of Life Christian Outlet announced that it will be closing the doors on all eight of its retail locations effective June 30. Tree of Life cites one main factor in its closing is that the costs of operating the business continue to increase, while sales decrease as competition online gets harder to compete with.

Cedar Springs Christian Stores also announced that it will be closing two of its three stores. At one time, Cedar Springs Christian Store was the largest independent Christian bookstore in the country. Cedar Springs cites that changing habits is a major factor in its decline as more people shop from the Internet.

Independent Bookstore Day is meant to bring attention to booksellers in these changing times. While independent bookstores only account for about 10% of all book sales in the United States, they continue to be an important piece of the bookselling puzzle. Traditionally, small independent bookstores have been instrumental in helping small and local authors gain traction for their books.

Yes times are changing. More books are purchased online then in brick-and-mortar stores. However, books are still purchased in stores. As authors and publishers, supporting local bookstores not only helps the overall book market, it also helps you since you are part of that book market.

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No Longer Marginalized

If you have any remaining doubts, put them to rest. Independent publishing (a.k.a. self-publishing) is now mainstream.

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More than 391,000 books were self-published in the United States in 2012, an increase of 422 percent since 2007. Self-publishing now outstrips the combined titles put out by conventional publishers like Random House and Simon & Schuster, which rose to 301,642 in 2012, up 6.1 percent since 2007.

Realizing this trend, industry giants are doing more to reel in indie dollars.

First, Bowker launched SelfPublishedAuthor, a website for self-published authors. Through this site, Bowker began offering services for self-published authors including ebook conversion services and marketing services.

Four years ago, Publishers Weekly (PW) launched PW Select. This quarterly supplement to the PW monthly journal is dedicated exclusively to self-published titles, including reviews of self-published books.

Now, Publishers Weekly has just launched a new website to help self-published writers. This new website, BookLife, features services to help self-published authors with a book’s creation, publishing, and marketing.

Independent publishing is becoming the norm in book publishing. Authors like it because it often gives them more creative control and potentially higher earnings than publishing with a traditional publisher.

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Independently Published

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the term self-published?

For a number of people, especially those in the publishing industry, the following word comes to mind:

“Substandard”

Personally, I find the term self-published confusing. Does that mean that the author published it through a vanity publishing house such as Xulon, Winepress, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, PublishAmerica, etc.? Does it mean that they published it through Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com and have that company listed as the publisher? Does it mean that the author, herself or himself, is the publisher and listed as such? Or, does it mean that the author published the book through a publishing company or business they own?

While self-published books are gaining ground in the industry, a prejudice against them remains. Many awards, book review publications, and even author and publishing associations do not allow “self-published” books or authors.

If you have self-published a book—by which I mean that you are listed as the publisher or a company you own is listed as the publisher of the book—then I suggest you use the term Independently Published to avoid stigma.

The English language is constantly changing. Words fall in and out of favor as different connotations become associated with them. For instance, “handicapped” used to be acceptable when taking about a disabled person. After a while, the associations with that word became negative, so “disabled” came into vogue.

The same is true for self-published. The term has gathered too much negativity. I suggest we start fresh. Let’s use the term independently published because that does describe what you have done—published your book autonomously.

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