You Have to Spend Money to…

Sometimes, you have to spend money to save money. It seems counter intuitive, but it is true.

Take membership warehouse clubs— think Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s. Each of these clubs charges members an annual membership fee to shop in their warehouses. A whole host of cost-saving benefits come with a club membership, helping members save money on needed everyday items and services. The overall benefit is a win for members, as savings add up to more than what members pay for an annual membership.

Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) operates under the same premise. The association offers independent authors and small publishers a host of cost-saving benefits. The savings provided members of the association adds up to more than the cost of an annual membership. Some of these cost-saving benefits include:

  1. Free title setup and revisions with IngramSpark (a minimum $45 savings).
  2. Free title setup and first year market access fee waived with Lightning Source (a minimum $50 savings).
  3. A 15% discount on Bowker’s products including ISBNs and barcodes at myidentifiers.com (a minimum $18 savings on one ISBN).
  4. A $25 credit when accessing Reedsy’s services which include editing and cover design.
  5. A 10% discount when ordering book templates and cover designs from Book Design Templates (a $5 minimum savings).
  6. A summer publicity special from a publicist for CIPA Members saving them hundreds of dollars in publicity service fees.

These are just a few of the ways Christian Indie Publishing Association saves our members money. In addition, the association offers members free downloads on a number of checklists and reference guides that usually cost money to obtain. These include:

  • A list of over 70 radio and podcast outlets interviewing authors with contact information.
  • A Checklist for Creating a Professional-Looking Book.
  • A Book Launch Marketing Checklist.
  • A Metadata Checklist.

Christian Indie Publishing Association

Joining a publishing association can save you money in the long run. Don’t just take my word for it. Members of Christian Indie Publishing Association agree. They say:

The benefits I have already reaped from membership in CIPA have far surpassed the membership fee. CIPA has far exceeded my expectations in terms of the outstanding resources you provide for authors.”

You can read more testimonials at https://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/testimonials.

Christian Indie Publishing Association is running a summer special on Membership with the organization. For just $120 you can join now and receive membership through December 2020. That’s 18-months of membership and a savings of $60 for you!

Don’t miss out on your chance to save money. If you are not a member, you can join today at: https://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member.

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Photo courtesy of Maitree Rimthong.

Don’t Just Be Anyone

The growth of independent publishing is truly astounding. Consider these figures from Bowker (the ISBN provider):

  • The number of print books independently published grew from 235,639 titles in 2012 to 879,587 in 2017. That is 273% growth in six years.
  • In 2017, 85% of all independently published print books were published through Amazon (CreateSpace) for a total of 751,924 titles.

Amazon has leveled the playing field for publishing a book. Almost anyone can publish a book through Amazon (using Kindle Direct Publishing—previously through CreateSpace). Of course, the ability for anyone to publish a book has both positive and negative consequences.

Positive Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone means anyone. Amazon does not discriminate with respect to whom they allow to upload a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
No subject is taboo. No one has to approve of the content, style, or quality of the writing.

3. It’s free.
Yes, absolutely free to upload a book to Amazon. It does not cost a cent. All it requires is Internet access.

Negative Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone can be an author whether or not they take the time to hone the craft of writing, understand proper book design, or learn anything about marketing a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
Anything goes. This means that there is no check on quality. There are no guarantees for buyers.

3. It’s free.
The easier and cheaper it is to publish a book, the more people will publish books. The more books published, the more competition all books have for readers’ eyes.

Here’s the deal: Don’t just be anyone.

In other words, be an informed author. If you are thinking about publishing a book, don’t do it just because you can. Take the time to hone your writing, learn about proper book design and layout, and understand what you need to do to market your book. Both you and your book will be better for it.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

I am thankful that it is both easy to independently publish a book and it is easy to learn what you need to know to do this. Many sources exist to help independent authors who want to learn.

You have the opportunity to learn directly from me at the upcoming Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park May 15-18, 2019. I will be teaching a Continuing session on “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book.” This session will teach you what you need to know to publish an industry standard book and to begin the process of promoting your book.

If you can attend this conference, I encourage you to do so. You will learn valuable information, not just from me, but from the other presenters as well. Don’t take my word for it; here is what a couple people said about my “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book” sessions on Facebook:

Don’t just be anyone. Learn what you need to know and be an author that people want to read and share with others.

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Photo courtesy of NeONBRAND.

Don’t Get Taken by a Salesman

“You’re a good salesman, if you make people buy product they don’t need.” —Toba Beta

I am not a sales person. I know how to market, but hand-selling through persuasion is not my strong point. A good salesperson knows how to play on your FOMO (fear of missing out). He or she will convince you that if you don’t buy what they are selling that you will miss out.

An independent author of a specialty book recently asked me for recommendations of who he should talk to in the publishing industry for furthering his distribution and sales. I gave him a list of a few companies and he set off to a trade show.

After the trade show, this author called and told me that the companies I told him to meet with did not impress him much. He then relayed that he had met a gentleman who had a publishing house that really impressed him. He stated that the man was interested in publishing his book and wondered if he should take him up on his offer.

With a little more questioning, I discovered that the “impressive” gentleman was the owner of a subsidy (sometimes called vanity or custom) publishing house. This gentleman was willing to take the author’s money to republish his book and place it into distribution.

I explained this to the author and told him that this publishing house would redesign and republish his book and place it in distribution, but they would not “sell” his book for him. This would still be his job.

It appears this author had been taken in by a salesman. The subsidy publisher knew his stuff and was able to “sell” his business well. The other companies I had suggested the author meet with were not about “sales”.  These companies don’t take money upfront like a vanity press. Rather, they make money on how they perform (when they actually move product).

The companies that make money on their performance don’t need to sell anything. Instead, they want to make sure you, the author or publisher, has a product they think they can sell and sell well. They were not “selling” anything to this author, so they had no need to be impressive.

Later in our conversation, the independent author reported that the salesman who he had been so impressed with had admitted that the best way to make money on selling books is for authors to sell them direct to consumers.

Bingo! Mixed into his great sales pitch was the hard truth.

Few publishers—whether traditional or vanity—have a robust program to sell books directly to consumers. Selling directly to consumers is usually left to the author.

I explained to this author that the best marketing plan is a well-rounded plan that includes a variety of sales channels including:

  1. Distribution for bookstore and library sales.
  2. Marketing to bookstores and libraries.
  3. Direct to consumer marketing through a website, blog, social media, email marketing, and print media, as well as speaking engagements.
  4. Pursuing bulk sales via catalogs and organizations.

Don’t be taken by a smooth-talking salesman. Selling books is hard work. Anyone who tells you that they will take a large chunk of your money to sell your books will do just that—take your money. Remember, the vast majority of authors and many publishers struggle to sell enough books to make a profit.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to educate small publishers and independent authors on cost-effective ways to market books. All our marketing programs are cooperative and low-cost because we understand that return on investment when promoting books is slow and difficult. If you are looking for information and resources to help you develop a robust marketing plan, join the association today!

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Photos courtesy of Mohamed Hassan.

Social Proof Can Help You Sell More Books

Smart authors know that social proof is an important marketing tactic that eases the minds of worried customers.

Social proof is defined as the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us (either in real life or online) have on our own behavior.

There are basically five types of social proof:

  1. Expert: When an industry expert or well-known personality recommends your product or services.
  2. Celebrity: When a celebrity people like endorses a product or service.
  3. User: When current users of the product or service praise it.
  4. Crowd: When a large crowd of people are using a product or service as shown through social media or events.
  5. Certification: When a person or product is given a stamp of approval by an authority in the industry, such as winning a book award or obtaining a seal of approval.

Social proof is extremely important when selling books. As humans, we want to know that what we are getting ourselves into will be worthwhile—especially when it comes to buying a product or a service. Buyers want to know what others are saying about the product or service.

Even wise King Solomon understood this concept when he wrote “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2)

The two easiest types of social proof for authors to secure are expert and user. You gain expert social proof by obtaining endorsements. You gain user social proof through reader reviews.

Sadly, few independent authors take the time to secure expert social proof (endorsements). A recent quick survey of books submitted for the Christian Indie Awards showed that only about one-third (one out of every three books submitted) featured any type of endorsement or review on the book’s cover (front or back) or in the front pages of the book.

If you are not securing endorsements, you are losing out on a very important social proof that will help you sell your book.

It’s never too late to secure endorsements. With today’s print-on-demand technology, you can still get endorsements after you have published your book and then adjust your book cover to feature these endorsements.

If you are unsure about how to go about securing endorsements, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) provides our Members help. Members can watch the on-demand seminar Endorsements Help You Sell More Books to learn how to obtain endorsements. The webinar includes a sample template letter to use when requesting an endorsement.

The on-demand seminar is also available to authors who are not Members of CSPA. You can pay a fee to watch it at https://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

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Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.