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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Authors Profit From Encouraging Children to Read

Every author and publisher should be concerned about literacy and developing a love of reading in young children.

Whether you write for children or not, encouraging children to read benefits authors writing for any age. After all, children grow up to become adults. Children who love reading grow into adults who enjoy reading for pleasure and personal growth.

Sadly, the number of American children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped almost 10% in the last four years, according to a study of children in the United States by Scholastic. The study found that only 51% of children said they love or like reading books for fun, compared to 58% in 2012, and 60% in 2010.

To help promote literacy and encourage reading, the airline company JetBlue has partnered with Random House Children’s Books to develop a program called Soar with Reading. This program places vending machines that dispense brand-new, free books for kids aged infant to 14 years. Kids are allowed to take as many books as they are interested in from the vending machine with no strings attached.

I think what Soar with Reading is doing is fantastic. I would love to see a Christian organization provide a similar program featuring both wholesome children’s books as well as books that draw children to God. Fortunately, you don’t need to start a program on the scale of Soar with Reading to provide children free books that point to God.

A couple years ago, my community association installed Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. I make sure that these little libraries constantly have a supply of good Christian books. It is one way that I can spread the Good News message and encourage reading.

You, too, can do your small part to promote the love of reading and share the Gospel. If you write and publish children’s books, why not share them with children via Little Free Libraries in your community? You can find a list of these library stands near you on the Little Free Library website. Be aware though that not all little libraries are registered on the site. I know the ones near my house are not.

While placing free Christian books in Little Free Libraries is for the primary purpose of encouraging reading and drawing children to a relationship with God, you can also use this activity for promotion. If you have a large number of Little Free Libraries near where you live, let your local community newspaper know what you are doing. If the newspaper picks up the story, the article will not only bring you publicity, it will also continue to encourage reading, and inform the community about Little Free Libraries.

Related Posts:
Six Benefits of Reading
Five Benefits of Children’s Books
The State of Fiction Reading

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Join the Movement

Good marketing takes stepping outside of the usual and doing something unusual. I recently read an article in my local newspaper about how Little Free Library boxes are becoming quite a trend across the United States. The article got my creative juices flowing and I began to think about how these little boxes can represent a wonderful marketing opportunity for authors.

Little Free Library

The Little Free Library trend started back in 2009 when a former school teacher in Wisconsin built a model of a one room schoolhouse. He filled this model with books, put it on a post in his front yard, and put a sign on it that said free books. His neighbors and friends loved it. He then built several more and gave them away.

The idea was simple. Visitors could take the books placed in the box to read. If they wanted to replenish the supply with their own they could, or they could return the book when they were done reading it if they wanted to. Five years later, there are over 20,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide registered with the Little Free Library group. Some people think this number is a low estimate for Little Libraries because it only represents those officially registered with the Little Free Library network.

Here is how you, an author, can make use of this neat idea to promote your books:

  1. Start a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. You can download free plans to build your own little library or you can order a kit starting at around $200. Once you have built your Little Free Library, you can stock it with books, including your own published books.
  2. Visit local Little Free Libraries in your city and leave a copy or two of your book in each one. You can find a map listing all the registered Little Free Libraries on the network website.

By joining the Little Free Library movement, you will not only be spreading the word about your books, you will also become part of a wonderful tool that shares the love of reading and can also help spread the Gospel.

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