Is Your Text Causing Cognitive Overload?

I have a confession. I know that podcasts are extremely popular. However, I have not been able to bring myself to jump on board.

I rarely listen to podcasts. I am a very busy person (as are many Americans). In my opinion, podcasts just take too long to serve the “meat.”

Is your text causing cognitive overload?

If I want information on a topic, I find reading easier. With reading, I can scan an article or web page and find the important information I am looking for. With a podcast, I am locked in to listening until the meat is finally dished out—which is usually most of the way through the podcast.

I am not alone in scanning or skimming when reading to find information. Research shows that 79% of people scan a web page, while only 16% read word-for-word. Interestingly, another study found that people scan email newsletters similar to web pages.

Too much information results in cognitive overload. Today, we have more information in front of us than ever before in the history of the world. As a result, we can easily become overloaded with information, causing our brain to not work as efficiently.

In an effort to reduce our cognitive load, we scan information. This results in more efficient processing of that information by the brain.

Is your text scannable?

Reading a book is different from reading web copy, marketing copy, or emails. When people choose to read a book, they are making the choice to read word-for-word. When people seek specific information, they scan to find what they are looking for.

To engage more people, it is important that all your marketing material can be scanned easily so that your important points stand out. Marketing material includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Website copy
  • Book descriptions
  • Book back cover copy
  • Author bios
  • Online and print advertisements
  • Author media sheets

Text becomes more scannable when it is broken up. In your marketing text, don’t use big blocks of text like you do in a book. Instead, focus on breaking up the text as follows:

  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Pull out points and make them a bullet list.
  • Keep your paragraphs short.
  • Highlight keywords.
  • Put your most important point first.

A good rule of thumb is that your marketing materials should contain half the word count (or less) then when writing conventionally.

Armed with this information, I suggest that you revisit your marketing material to ensure that it is not causing cognitive overload.

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Photo courtesy of Silviarita and Geralt.

5 Book Publishing Trends You Need to Know for 2020

The year 2020 is now in sight. It’s important to take stock of where you are and where you want to go periodically. A new year provides a great chance to do just that.

The five book publishing trends for 2020 presented here are meant to help you take stock of your publishing and marketing activities so that you can remain viable and effective for another year.

Book Publishing Trends

1.  Self-Publishing Will Continue to Skyrocket

 Self-publishing is showing no signs of slowing down. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of self-published print books increased by over 400,000 each year.  Here is the breakdown:

  • 2016:  657,062
  • 2017:  1,060,821
  • 2018:  1,547,341

The majority of these print books—1,416,384 in 2018—were published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon allows anyone to produce a print or ebook through their service free of charge. This means that anyone who wants to publish a book now can with no entry barrier.

Since 80% of people surveyed feel they have a book inside them, the number of self-published books will continue to skyrocket as more people learn that they can actually publish that book inside of them easily and at no-cost.

Marketing Takeaway:

As the number of books published rises, the number of book choices readers have increases. “Choice overload” is real. In fact, a recent study found that 42% of consumers admitted to abandoning a planned purchase altogether because there were too many choices. Authors who want to sell books will have to convince people to choose their books over all the others available.

2.  Audiobooks Will Continue Their Rise in Popularity

The audiobook format is booming. Over the past few years, the number of audiobooks produced has increased, the revenue from the sales of audiobooks has grown, and more people are listening to audiobooks. This trend shows no sign of slowing down.

According the Audiobook Publishers Association (APA), there has been double digit revenue growth in audiobooks year over year for the past seven years. U.S. audiobook sales in 2018 rose 24.5% from the previous year.

Audiobook Listening on the Rise

Audiobook listening is also on the rise, as supported by data from The Infinite Dial 2019, which shows 50% of Americans age 12 and older have listened to an audiobook (that’s 144 million people). This is the first time that audiobooks’ consumer penetration has reached the 50% mark, up from 44% in 2018.

Marketing Takeaway:

Do you need to get on board with audiobooks? If your books are selling well in print and digital format, making these titles into audiobooks can help you reach a broader audience and bring in more book sales and revenue.

3.  The Competition for Reading Time Will Continue to Be Fierce

Reading faces stiff competition for consumer attention from other entertainment activities. According to The NPD Group, nearly three out of four consumers in the U.S. reported reading a book or listening to an audiobook in the past six months. Even though there is plenty of reading going on, NPD survey respondents reported reading roughly 9 percent less this year than they did last year overall.

This downward trend is not going anywhere but down. With the ease of watching video, many people are turning to this medium for their entertainment. In fact, Cisco predicts that 82% of all consumer web traffic will be video in 2020 and Wyzowl says that 79% of consumers currently prefer watching video to reading about a product.

So, while the number of books self-published has increased exponentially, the amount of time people spend reading is decreasing. This means that finding readers for your books keeps getting more difficult.

Marketing Takeaway:

 Every author should be involved in literacy efforts and promoting reading. You should be recommending books—other than your own—to your audiences as well as reminding your audience of the incredible health benefits of reading.

4.  Discoverability Will Be Increasingly Challenging

Gone are the days when authors easily found readers for their books. The number of books available on any given topic is astounding. The challenge to get a book to rise to someone’s attention in this field of fierce competition has become increasingly challenging.

In addition, the sharp decrease in organic traffic to websites from engine searches is not going to be reversed. Google will continue to capture the majority of their engine searches, keeping people on their own sites. The increase in voice search via smart speakers means that the number of options given for search terms will continue to decline. Comscore research estimates that in 2020, half of all internet searches will be through voice.

Marketing Takeaway:

Successful authors will be those who actively build an audience who trusts them. Building such an audience takes deliberate marketing that includes media exposure through multiple books, social media presence, speaking engagements, articles in print and online publications, and podcast and radio and television interviews.

Save our Planet

5.  Emphasis on Green Initiatives and Sustainability Will Increase

The price of paper has been rising over the past few years. This is because the demand for paper products keeps increasing. e-Commerce has driven the demand for cardboard packaging—a paper product. Increasingly people are becoming concerned about the sustainability of forests due to our paper consumption.

Most American paper products come from Canadian forests. Between 1996 and 2015, more than 28 million acres of these forests were logged, mostly through clear cutting. New trees will take decades to mature. To work toward increasing sustainability for paper, a few companies are beginning to innovate with producing more sustainable paper products and greener packaging.

One company in Australia has developed books made from stone. Karst notebooks are made by mixing ground slate stones with a small quantity of resin (a type of plastic)., These notebook pages feel like paper, but are waterproof and tear-resistant. The books are fully recyclable, biodegradable, and carbon neutral.

 Marketing Takeaway:

Many consumers, especially Millennials, want to know that businesses they frequent are socially and environmentally conscience. These consumers prefer to purchase from companies that are using some of their profits to help make the world a better place. As an author, you can address this concern with your readers by choosing to give a portion of the proceeds of your book to a good cause.

I encourage you to make one of your New Year’s resolutions to never stop learning, but to continue to grow in knowledge and tools to be effective in your publishing and marketing efforts. As one step to keeping that resolution, I invite you to join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

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Author: Are You Doing These Marketing Activities?

I sometimes run into aspiring authors who tell me that they will only consider a traditional book contract for their manuscript. I have no problem with this mindset. I understand that desire to have a book accepted after being vetted by an editor.

Are you doing these marketing activities?

However, some of these authors are holding onto the ideal of a traditional book contract because they believe that the publisher will market the book for them. They like the idea of just writing.

The truth is that authors—whether traditionally published or indie published—are largely responsible for the marketing of their books. In fact, one royalty-paying, Christian publisher states right on their website their expectations of authors. Here is what this publisher says:

Author must:

  • Have created a fully developed marketing plan.
  • Keep a web presence.
  • Be technology savvy.
  • Know how to copy and paste URLs.
  • Can search the web for answers and solutions.
  • Check email daily.
  • Participate in book promotions.
  • Reach out to fan base.
  • Never, ever give up the book!

These expectations are not unreasonable. If you are an indie published author, at the least, you should already be doing these things for your book—especially the last one.

Sadly, I often see indie published authors give up on their books too soon. Book marketing is long-haul trucking. You have to be in it for the long haul to see success.

In addition to the author expectations, this traditional, royalty-paying publisher listed what they would do to market each author’s book. Here is what this publisher says they will do:

Publisher will:

  • Advertise the book with Amazon ads and Goodreads ads.
  • Provide digital Advance Review Copies through BookFunnel.
  • Offer Rafflecopter giveaways of print and digital copies.
  • Submit your book for review to Publishers Weekly.
  • Offer the Kindle version of the book for FREE or 99 cents with Kindle Select promotions.

Trade Show Floor

To be honest, I don’t think this is much marketing support. I don’t see anything about providing the following marketing activities:

  • Press Release
  • Author Media Kit
  • List of Radio and Podcast Show Interviewing Authors
  • Trade Show Representation
  • Foreign Rights Representation

If you are a self-published author, then you wear both the author and the publisher hat. This means that these additional publisher duties for marketing fall under your jurisdiction. Ask yourself: Am I doing all these marketing activities for my book?

If you are an Indie author and you need support in marketing your book, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) is here to help you. We provide support and information for marketing your book including reference guides for creating press releases and media kits, a list of radio and podcast shows that interview authors, and numerous cooperative marketing opportunities. Join today at www.christianpublishers.net.

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Photo courtesy of Kaboompics.com.

How to Get People to Read Your Emails

The world is now mobile. Studies show that 67% of email is opened on a mobile device.

This means that if you have an email newsletter that you send to subscribers—and every author should be using this marketing technique—your email needs to be mobile friendly. Email subject lines and the first few lines of text render differently on mobile devices than they do on computers. Adjusting your emails to accommodate these differences can encourage more of your email recipients to read your emails.

Remember, just because someone has subscribed to your email list does not guarantee that they will read your emails. I encourage you to follow these 8 Tips for Making Email Campaigns Mobile Friendly to increase the open and read rates for the emails that you send.

Tips for mobile-friendly email campaigns

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Is Your Book Impacting Lives?

The sounds of an old hymn resonated in my ears. Standing behind me in line for dinner at a writer’s conference I recently presented at, a gentleman was singing a lovely hymn.

Do you want your book to impact people?

When he finished singing, this man told me that he had been listening to a CD he had recently purchased that featured hymns. He went on to tell me that the same musician who had produced the CD has also recently written a devotional book using the old well-known hymns.

When I inquired after the book, he told me the title and the author. This brought a smile to my face. The very book he was talking about was published by a member of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

I love to hear people mention books that are published by Members of the Association. It reminds me that the books produced by small publishers and independent authors are truly making an impact for Christ.

Sometimes I am amazed at how broad and far the reach is for these books. I shouldn’t be because I believe that producing a quality book and then marketing it is the key to successfully reaching an audience with your message. Yet, it still amazes and thrills me when I hear people mention books that were published by ordinary people striving to do what God has called them to do.

Is this the desire of your heart? Do you want your book to impact people?

If your answer is yes, then know that it takes more than just writing and publishing a book. If you want your book to have an impact, then it must also meet the following five criterion.

  1. Be well-written and professionally edited so that it is free of grammatical errors.
  2. Have a strong, clear title.
  3. Sport a professional cover design that fits the genre of your book.
  4. Carry a clear description that answers that “WIIFM” question.
  5. Execution of a robust marketing plan.

Over a million self-published books are published annually. Some studies suggest that less than ten percent of those books sell enough copies to be considered profitable. Your book is competing with millions of other books.

If you want your book to stand out and make an impact on people, then first and foremost, your book must be professionally packaged (well-written and designed). After that, you must engage in marketing your book so that your target audience knows that it exists and provides them with something they need or are seeking.

If you are unsure how to go about creating a robust marketing plan, I encourage you to either read my book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books, or to join Christian Indie Publishing Association and download our “Book Launch Marketing Checklist” that walks you through book marketing activities to engage in starting before your book is published and continuing after your book is in print.

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Photo courtesy of Zach Smith.