But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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Does Your Book Have a Firm Foundation?

You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. A building requires a firm foundation to withstand nature and hold up under use. A cracked or insufficient foundation results in a structure that is unsuitable for habitation.

Everything we build requires a solid foundation to survive. Books require a firm foundation to stand against the competition. This firm foundation begins with your writing and the promise you make to your readers. It extends to the physical package of your message (layout and design of the book) and includes the price readers pay for the book.

To ensure your book has a solid foundation from which to launch, ask yourself the following six questions.

1. Is my book well-edited and free from grammatical and spelling errors?

A poorly written book or one that contains numerous grammatical and spelling errors will not gain readers’ approval. Books that are not well-edited do not become solid fixtures in the book industry. Instead, they tumble and fall into oblivion.

2. What promise does my book make to readers?

Does your book promise something that readers’ value and need? Do you offer a solid promise for information or entertainment that is not readily accessible elsewhere? Your book’s promise is an important piece of your foundation.

3. Does my book deliver on this promise?

Information or entertainment that fills a need is not enough. Your book has to deliver on its promise. It has to live up to what the reader is expecting.

4. Does my book speak its target audience’s language?

To reach people, we must speak their heart language. This is the language that they hear the best. Your book must use the lingo your target audience knows and share stories or examples that they can relate to.

5. Does my book look professional?

In the book world, books that look vastly different stick out like sore thumbs. Books must conform to basic requirements for them to look professional. If you are unsure what elements a book needs to look professional, I encourage you to learn. Members of Christian Small Publishers Association have access to a “Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book” as well as on-demand seminars that teach them how to produce a book that meets industry standards.

6. Is my book priced competitively?

Pricing is an important part of a book’s foundation. A book that is priced much higher or lower than the competition will not do well. Your book must be priced competitively to stand strong.

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells his audience:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Your book is like a house. It needs a firm foundation to withstand the assaults from the competition and from critics. Is your book’s foundation firm?

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A Little Yeast…

“Please note that if I review this book, I would have to give it a 2 star based on its poor punctuation and grammar. The story is great and wonderful, but the writing is sub-par.”

“For the story content and the impact it had on me, I would definitely award this book 5 stars. But, I could not give it 5. Sadly, the book is riddled with typos, wrong words, formatting mistakes, misspellings, and other editing issues that kept jerking me out of the story and making me wish the publisher had edited it properly.”

I cringe when I read comments like these from book reviewers. Indie publishing has come a long way in shedding the stigma attached to it. This stigma said that self-published books were sub-par. Poor covers, bad editing, and mediocre content is what people expected from these books.

Fortunately, the stigma attached to self-publishing is fading. However, every time a book reviewer writes a statement like the ones above, indie publishing takes a hit.

I often feel like a broken record because I repeat myself so much about this issue. If you choose to publish a book yourself, professional editing, layout, and cover design is a must. If your book is a Christian book, it not only has an impact on God’s reputation, it also has an impact on the reputation of indie published books.

After all, Paul says in I Corinthians 5:6: Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Is your yeast good or bad?

I interact with a lot of indie authors. Many are frustrated because they have trouble selling their books. However, I find that often many of the authors that vent this frustration did not take the care or money to have their books properly edited.

Indie publishing is an incredible gift. We live in a time when almost anyone can afford to publish a book. But, just because you can publish a book doesn’t mean you should. Before you decide to publish, be sure that have done your homework so that you know what an industry-standard book looks like and you know the basics involved in promoting and marketing a book to readers.

Part of the mission of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is to strengthen small publishers and independent authors in the Christian marketplace. One way CSPA does this is by providing tools and information to help you produce quality books.

Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have access to the on-demand seminar “Create a Professional-Looking Book” as well as the “Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book.”

You can join CSPA for just $90 for the 2018 calendar year and have access to this great information and more. Join today at http://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member.

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