You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for”—so the saying goes.

While there are a few exceptions, this statement is generally true, especially for what you get for free.

What is offered for free is never top-of-the-line. Free products are usually samples. They are a taste of what the full model offers. When a full model product is offered for free, it is usually an older model—the one that has already been replaced by a newer, better version.

The same principle holds true for free information. Free information posted on the Internet is not the premium stuff. Don’t get me wrong, this free information can be useful, but the providers usually save the best information for their books or services.

I provide a lot of free information on this blog. It is good valuable information, if a little basic, but it’s only a drop in the bucket. I provide the most valuable information in my book (Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace), my on-demand webinars (MCB University), CSPA’s monthly newsletter (the CSPA Circular) for Members of the organization, and my workshops at writers’ conferences (see the upcoming seminars at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference).

Independent authors who think that everything they need to be successful is available online are operating under a false assumption. Free will only take you so far. The truth is that with online research:

  1. You won’t find all the valuable information in any reference or resource book on publishing or marketing.
  2. You won’t find the information all in one place. You will have to spend a lot of time researching.
  3. Some of the advice on the internet is bad advice. Listening to bad advice can cost you money.

Spending some money to purchase a book, membership, or conference attendance where you will hear from experts will save you time and money in the long run. Additionally, you can be confident that the information comes from reputable experts.

I run into a lot of newly published independent authors who are operating under many false assumptions and information, which causes them to flounder. Take the time to find and purchase the valuable information you need. It’s worth the investment.

If you are planning on publishing a book or have already published a book and need information on how the Christian marketplace works and how to effectively promote your book, I suggest you invest in one or more of the resources listed in this post.

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Photo courtesy of Timothy Muza

Is Your Message Distilled?

To distill means to condense or refine.

Distilled water is water that has had most of its impurities removed through the process of distillation. Distillation involves boiling the water and then collecting and condensing the steam into a clean container. The result is water that is pure.

Is your message distilled? Have you condensed and refined your message so that it is pure and clean—free from distractions and extraneous information?

I get to hear a lot of elevator pitches from authors. Sadly, many of these authors have not taken the time to distill their message. A good elevator pitch about your book should be both condensed and refined so that you can give a clear message in three sentences or less.

Your elevator pitch should answer these three questions:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What is their need?
  3. How does your book meet that need?

Answering these three questions in developing a distilled message is a great place to start. First answer these questions and then determine whether you will phrase your elevator message as a problem/solution or as a benefit.

Here is an example of a distilled problem/solution message based on my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace:

“Over 1,200 books are published every day in America. Most new authors are at a loss as to how to make their books stand out from the crowd and get noticed. My award-winning book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, gives Christian authors the information and resources they need to effectively promote their books.”

Here is an example of a distilled benefit message based on what Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) does:

“Christian Small Publishers Association provides small publishers and independent authors information and access to affordable marketing venues so that they can be successful in promoting and selling their Christian books.”

I encourage you to take some time and distill your message about your book. That way, when people ask you about your book, you are ready with a quick answer that grabs their attention and immediately lets them know what problem your book solves or what benefit your book provides.

Remember, you want to keep your message to three sentences or less. Your message should be no longer than 30 seconds, but keeping it shorter, more like 20 seconds or less, may be more effective with most people’s short attention spans.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden

Nudging: An Effective Marketing Technique

Researchers have found that people don’t make big changes easily. Small, incremental changes are easier to make then big changes.

For example, electrical companies that want people to reduce their electrical consumption focus on having people upgrade the insulation in their house or purchase energy efficient appliances. These are big changes. They cost money and take more action than a small change. When researchers encouraged people to turn down their thermostat just one or two degrees in winter, many people complied and electrical consumption decreased. After all, making a small change is easier than making a large change.

nudging

In the book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein postulated that instead of banning junk food in school cafeterias and suffering the natural backlash of children finding that food elsewhere to consume, that schools should simply reduce the serving size of each piece of junk food. The children would not notice the difference, and their lives would get a little healthier.

The idea in Nudge is that instead of expecting people to make big changes, encourage small changes to move people toward the desired behavior. In one study, behavioral researchers added a red potato chip every 10 chips in a pack of stacked potato chips. The purpose of adding the red potato chip was to signal to the eater that they have completed a serving. The result was that this little alert actually cut down on the number of potato chips participants ate.

As an author, you can use the nudge technique with your audience. Don’t expect people to run out and purchase your book as soon as they hear about it. Instead, understand that your audience will need a series of nudges to push them in the direction of eventually making a purchase.

You can nudge your target audience by getting them to take little steps to becoming more engaged with you and your book. Nudges include:

  1. Asking your target audience to follow you on social media.
  2. Encouraging them to sign up for your email newsletter.
  3. Interesting your audience in becoming regular readers of your blog.
  4. Inspiring them to share your message with others through your helpful, engaging information.
  5. Drawing your target audience to take an additional step by providing them a free portion of your book to read, whetting their appetite for more.

Changing our behavior, deciding to do something new, does not happen overnight. That is why researchers find that people have to be exposed to a new product seven to twelve times before they act and purchase the product. Approach your book promotion activities with a nudge mentality, and you will encounter greater success in the long run.

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Branding: It’s More Important Than You Think

My daughter is a senior in high school. This means that we are in the process of visiting colleges and taking tours in an effort to find a good school match. Recently, at one college we were touring, we sat in a seminar conducted by the university’s Career Center.

As I listened to the Director of the Career Center talk to prospective students, I heard phrases like:

  • “Brand yourself”
  • “Branded candidate”

These statements caught my attention. Branding is no longer just a term that is applied to companies and products. It is now a term that is also used for anyone seeking to secure a position, whether that be in the job world, being admitted to a university, in politics, or on social media.

branding

The Director of the Career Center went on to talk about how employers are not necessarily concerned about a student’s major; they are more concerned about motivated candidates. He stated that motivated candidates give prospective employers and graduate schools the following two messages:

  1. This is who I am.
  2. This is what I can do for you.

Sound familiar? It should. This is the same message that you, an author, should be sending.

Just like college graduates, authors must also brand themselves. You must tell your prospective readers:

  1. This is who I am.
  2. This is what my book can do for you.

Just as employers want to know what they will get from a college graduate if they hire him or her, readers want to know what they will get from you, the author, in your book if they purchase and read it.

The Director of this university’s Career Center went on to talk about how a student’s brand is the image they present to prospective employers and schools. If they want to be seen as a serious student, then their social media posts should not show them partying and skipping classes.

The same is true for authors. Your brand or image needs to be consistent. For example, if you have written a book on prayer, then the image you present on social media to the public and your potential readers should be one of someone who believes in and is involved in prayer on a regular basis. If you were to begin talking about “luck” or “fate” in your social media posts, you would not be representing your brand—instead you would be confusing people.

When releasing a new book, be sure that you have branded your book and answered the two questions above. If you want to learn more about Branding a Book, check out my on-demand seminar on “Branding Your Book.”

This and my other on-demand seminars are free for Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), but I have also made them available for a reasonable fee for everyone to view.

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Book Review Scare

Reviews drive sales of books. According to one analysis of online recommendation systems: “Review systems have casual and positive effects on sales; to nobody’s surprise, books with more and better reviews are shown to sell better.”

Readers do look for reviews written by other reader to help determine whether a book is worth buying. Therefore, good reviews drive more book sales.

book-review-thumbnail

Recently, Amazon put out an update on Customers Reviews on their website. In the update, Amazon stated, “Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.”

Incentivized reviews refer to products given for free in exchange for a review.

Of course, this update scared a number of authors. Does this mean that authors can no longer give out free books in exchange for a review on Amazon?

Fortunately, at the end of their announcement, Amazon wrote, “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.”

So, take a deep breath. Book reviews resulting from a complimentary copy of your book on Amazon are still safe.

As an author, you need multiple reviews to drive book sales. The more reviews your book has on Amazon, the bigger and better it looks to consumers. If you are struggling to secure reviews for your book or just want to learn some tips for getting more reviews, check out my new on-demand seminar Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews.

This one hour on-demand seminar covers the importance of book reviews, how to ask readers for reviews, how to find bloggers to review your books, how to secure more online book reviews, and how to respond to reviews. You can view this on-demand seminar for just $25 at http://www.marketingchristianbooksinc.com/university.

As always, members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have free access to this on-demand seminar on CSPA’s website at http://www.christianpublishers.net/mcbuniversity.

Learn how to get more reviews for your books. More reviews can help you sell more books.

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