Are You Shouldering This Responsibility?

Are you an author or a publisher of books? Ask yourself:
Which do I spend more time doing: reading books or watching videos or TV?

While you might not think this is an important question, it is. Since you are in the business of making books, you should also be involved in the consumption of books.

I am in the process of updating my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. While working on the Fourth Edition, I was surprised to discover that it’s not just bookstores that are on the decline. I already knew that reading rates were holding steady while the number of books published each year grows, but I was saddened by another trend I discovered.

Everyone knows that readers have begun buying more books online than they do in physical stores. As a result, bookstores are declining. After all, the largest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian, shuttered the doors to its 240 stores in February of this year. The fourth largest general market bookstore chain, Book World, which operates 45 stores in the Midwest, will close all their stores in January 2018.

But it’s not just bookstores that are struggling. What surprised me is that church libraries are becoming nonexistent. This year, two of the largest church library associations shuttered their doors. Both associations cite declining membership and lack of interest in church libraries.

My first thought was maybe most churches were simply shuttering their libraries in exchange for church bookstores. However, research shows that this is not the case. While church bookstores thrived in the early part of the century, the number has actually shrunk over the past five years.

Here is the point. If we are publishing books and we want people to read these books, we must also be putting effort into helping people see the benefit of reading and encouraging them to read more.

How do we do this? We start by first modeling—being an example. That means that as an author or publisher you spend time reading books and talking about them with people. Then we move on to encouraging others to read. There are many ways that we can do this. Here are six ideas to get you started:

1. Regularly recommend books to people.
Don’t just recommend the books you write or publish, but talk about any good Christian title that will enrich people’s lives. Give these recommendations in person, on your blog, and on your social media sites.

2. Give books as gifts.
Books have the power to change people’s lives. Give them as gifts to encourage reading.

3. Start a lending library at your church.
If your church does not have a lending library, start one. It does not have to be large, simply a shelf or bookcase will do. Start with your own titles and books by other local Christian authors.

4. Make sure your church’s children’s ministry is stocked with good books.
Check out the children’s ministry rooms in your church. Are they stocked with good Christian books for the kids to engage with? If not, donate some or get others in the church to donate books to the Children’s ministry.

5. Start a book group.
Start a book group in your church or community. Gather interested people to read and discuss a good book once a month.

6. Put up a Little Free Library in your neighborhood.
Little Free Libraries encourage reading. You can find information on how to build or purchase a Little Free Library box on the organization’s website.

I believe that if we write and publish books, we also need to be about the business of promoting reading. Unless we encourage reading on a regular basis, we may wake up one day to find nobody reads books anymore.

Related Posts:
The Demise of the Christian Bookstore
Reading Rates Remain Consistent
Are You Making Use of Fiction Apps?

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Have You Heard of Open eBooks?

Open eBooks, a new literacy program, launched earlier this year. The program is an app that gives in-need youth unlimited free access to thousands of ebooks. While the program is a partnership between Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, and First Book, with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor, it is part of the White House ConnectED Initiative.

open ebooks

The goal of Open eBooks is to encourage a love of reading and serve as a gateway to children reading more often. Books on the Open eBooks app can be read without cost. Open eBook users can borrow up to 10 books at once.

The app gives any educator or administrator at one of the more than 66,000 Title I schools or any of the 194 Defense Department Education Activity schools in the United States access to thousands of free ebooks. Educators, librarians and program leaders working with children and youth from in-need families can sign up through First Book to receive free access to the Open eBooks app. The Open eBooks app will be available exclusively to educators, librarians and program leaders who are signed up with First Book.

The program is not without its critics. One drawback is that only educators, librarians, and other leaders working with youth and families can access the app. That means the children must read the books on school-issued tablets or iPads. Not all schools have these, and many do not allow the children to take these items home, meaning the children can only access and read the books at school. Reading is often given low priority in schools; with teachers giving priority to testing and mechanics. Many believe that the love of reading is best learned in the home.

On the positive side, Open eBooks does provide books to low-income children in schools that often can’t afford to fund a school library. For children in low-income schools that can take their school-issued tablets or iPads home, these children will now have access to books they can read at home if they so choose. Increased reading rates is good for all authors and publishers. The more people read, the more books are in demand.

If you are interested in contributing your ebooks to in-need children through the Open eBooks program, you can learn how on the Open eBooks website. However, I highly doubt the program is open to accepting overtly Christian books for children since it is a program for public schools.

Related Posts:
Create Book Bundles for Gifting
Broaden Your Audience
Children’s Book Week

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Broaden Your Audience

I am always on the lookout for innovative book marketing ideas. Out-of-the-box ideas are generally the most creative and often the most successful.

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Near my house is a second-hand bookstore that my kids love to visit. This bookstore thrives because it doesn’t just sell books. Instead, it has made itself a third-place, a place for the community to gather.

Inside the bookstores is a huge bulletin board where authors and business owners can pin their business cards and flyers. These types of boards fascinate me. I love to stand and look at all the different things pinned up on the board.

The other day, I noticed a half-page flyer on the board. It was titled “Give a Child a Book Campaign.” This caught my attention since I am interested in all things related to books and literacy.

Under the heading of the flyer, the author had written, “Join local author Jean Smith Andrews in promoting literacy. Donate Jean’s books to a child, school, or organization.” The flyer then listed the author’s two children’s books with colorful images of the book covers. It also provided information on where to order the books.

As I read the flyer, I thought, “What an interesting idea.” Encouraging people to buy your children’s book and donate it to a needy child broadens your buying audience. With this type of marketing campaign, your potential audience has been increased to everyone interested in helping kids read more.

If you have produced a children’s book, consider a similar campaign for your book—or use your creative juices and come up with your own campaign that hooks people and broadens your audience.

If you have done a creative campaign for one of your books that helped broaden your audience, I would love to hear about it.

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Children’s Book Week

Literacy is learned. One study shows that two-thirds of people who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

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Children’s Book Week is the nation’s longest-running literacy initiative, now in its 93rd year. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness of the importance of children’s books as they relate to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people. In other words, get children reading by fourth grade and their chances of success in life are higher.

This year, Children’s Book Week is May 13-19. Not only does this week promote reading for children, it also provides authors and publishers of books for children a natural vehicle to promote your children’s books. Here are four ideas on ways to jump on Children’s Book Week to garner some publicity for your books.

  1. Donate copies of your book to a local school for use in classrooms and in the library. Then, send a press release to your local media about your donation, linking it to Children’s Book Week. Be sure to include a photo with the school principle or librarian receiving the books.
  2. Host a story contest for a local elementary school. Provide the teachers with guidelines for the contest and host an author appearance at the close of Children’s Book Week to collect the entries. Be sure to provide prizes for the winners. Again, send a press release to your local media about your contest and another one highlighting the winners.
  3. Host a book giveaway during Children’s Book Week. Encourage people to enter for a chance to win a children’s book on your website or blog. Not only will you gain publicity for your book, you will collect an email from each entrant for your mailing list. You can use these collected emails for future publicity campaigns.
  4. Offer to host a book reading for children at your local public library during Children’s Book Week. Give each child attending a bookmark with a picture of your book on it. Also, ask permission to sell autographed copies of your book after the reading.

National initiatives offer authors and publishers opportunities to highlight and promote your books. Don’t pass up this chance to garner more publicity for your children’s titles.

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World Book Night

If you have not heard of World Book Night, don’t worry. Your head is not in the sand. This year will be the inaugural year for World Book Night in the United States.

World Book Night is a fascinating idea. It is a campaign that hopes to distribute one million free books across America all in one day—April 23, 2012.

You read that right. World Book Night is giving away one million books on April 23, 2012, in an effort to get more people to read.

To accomplish this, the campaign is seeking 50,000 volunteer book lovers to distribute the books on April 23, 2012.

Organizers of the event have said, “We want the book givers to reach out to new or light readers, especially in underserved places like nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and poor neighborhoods, but also in public gathering places like coffee shops and malls. And by offering a range of fiction, nonfiction, and books for teens, we believe we have great books that the givers will be passionate about handing out and that will appeal to a wide audience of potential new readers.”

Volunteers will give away books from 30 titles chosen by a panel of judges. Looking at the list of titles (which you can view here), not one of these books is a Christian book.

I think that World Book Night is a laudable idea. Giving away books to encourage people to read and promote literacy in the United States is wonderful. Here comes my but…

Think how much more powerful an impact World Book Night would have if, instead of just giving away one million free books that encouraged people to read, it gave away books that also had an eternal impact on people.

Maybe someone in the Christian community will start an Eternal World Book Night. Now, that would be awesome.

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