Are You Playing by the Rules?

“If you are going to play the game, you have to play by the rules.”

This statement is not just true of games. You have to play by the rules to drive a car, to pass a class, to acquire and keep a job, and to purchase a house. The same is true for publishing a book. You need to play by the rules.

In publishing, the rules are referred to as industry standards. There are some basic industry standards that all major publishers follow. These standards allow for an ease of flow for books through the purchasing chain (think distribution, retailers, librarians, and consumers).

Sure, anyone can publish a book and sell it from their own website whether the book conforms to industry standards or not. But, if you are serious about publishing a professional looking book that consumers will purchase and read, that reviewers will review, and that retailers and libraries will stock, your book must play by the rules.
A number of independently published authors are so eager to get their book into print that they don’t take the time to learn to play by the rules. As a result, their books don’t conform to industry standards.

I meet authors who want to acquire media interviews, sell their books to retailers and showcase them at tradeshows, but their books lack ISBN numbers, EAN barcodes, BISAC codes, retail price, etc. One doesn’t go to a wedding dressed in a swimsuit, nor should your book enter the industry in pajamas.

In today’s information age, the information you need to play by the rules in publishing a book is available. One great resource for authors and publishers is publishing associations. Such associations help their members stay up-to-date with industry standards in both publishing and marketing books.

Through providing information and tools such as newsletters, webinars, and other avenues, a publishing association can help you get the resources you need to publish professionally. In addition to information, publishing associations also offer discounts on various products and services that authors and publishers use in producing books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is specifically geared toward providing information and cost-saving benefits to those authors and publishers who produce Christian materials. One great benefit of being a member of CSPA is free title uploads to IngramSpark and Lightning Source—a great cost saving benefit.

If you are producing Christian materials and want to play by the rules and publish professionally, I encourage you to join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). The association is currently offering a fantastic summer special. Just $120 will pay your membership through December 2018. That is 18-months of membership at less than $7 per month. You can join today at http://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member/.

Playing by the rules will get you farther then making up your own rules. Conform to industry standards and your book will see greater success.

Related Posts:
You Get What You Pay For
Is Your Message Distilled?
Are You Willing to Commit?

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske.

Why Would Someone Buy Your Book?

The number one reason people buy a book is because they have a connection to the author. This connection can come in a variety of forms:

  • They personally know the author.
  • They have heard the author speak.
  • They have read other books by the author.
  • The author is an influencer they listen to, watch, or follow.
  • They have a friend or family member who has recommended the author or book.
  • A publication or organization they trust recommends the book.

Sometimes people buy books they discover in a bookstore or online because they are looking for a good read or a book on a particular subject to help them with a problem they have. However, the majority of the time, people purchase a book because they have some type of connection to the author.

Are you making connections with readers?

I recently heard a speaker say that there are four reasons people will do business with you. These four reasons are:

  1. They like you.
  2. They trust you.
  3. They find you competent.
  4. They believe you have integrity.

How are you doing on these measures as an author? Are you likable? Are you providing potential readers with competent, trustworthy information that can improve or enrich their lives in some way? Are you a person of integrity?

According to Dictionary.com, one definition of connect is to associate mentally or emotionally. Do you want to make a connection with readers so that they buy your books? Then associate mentally and emotionally with them.

An easy place to start connecting mentally and emotionally with potential readers is through social media. Join the conversation. Spend more time responding to others and being empathetic to their needs. Develop a connection before you bring their attention to your book and what it can do for them.

Remember, Jesus often asked people “What do you want?” when they came to him. He did not assume that he knew their need. He asked them to tell him. Once they told him, he provided. Follow his example.

Related Posts:
Are You Selling or Connecting?
The Key to Selling Books
Are You Making This Connection?

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A Powerful Way to Reach Readers

Have you ever noticed that a target has multiple rings? When playing darts, the thrower receives the most points for hitting the center circle. Each concentric ring from the center outward to the edge of the target awards the dart thrower fewer points.

The goal is to get your dart in the center of the target. Authors should have the same goal when it comes to their target audience. The closer you can get your marketing darts to reach your core audience, the more success you will have with promoting your books.

For example, a national Christian TV show is not going to reach your core audience as strategically as a blog devoted to that audience will.

Let’s say you wrote a book on Christian parenting for single moms. A national radio show on parenting is not going to reach single moms that same way that a blog written by a Christian single mom for other single moms will. The radio show will reach a wide cross section of both fathers and mothers (a circle further out on your target), while a blog written for single moms will attract only your core audience (the center circle on your target).

I believe that blogs (and podcasts) are a great way to reach your core audience and hit the center of your target with your book promotion efforts. In other words, a review of your book or a guest post on a blog or podcast designed for your target audience will reap a better harvest than arrows slung at the outer edges of your target.

Consider these statistics. Only 50% of Christians read Christian books. However, 87% of blog readers are book buyers.

Do you see the logic? With a national television or radio interview, you reach less than 50% of the audience, while exposure on a blog that speaks to your core audience allows you to reach over 80% of the audience.

If you are not reaching out to bloggers to promote your book, I suggest that you add this strategy to your marketing plan. Start by finding bloggers speaking to your core audience (one good directory can be found at Faithful Bloggers). Then offer your book to the blogger in exchange for a review or offer a guest post (if the blog hosts guest posts) providing useful information for the blog’s audience.

With a little research and effort, you can hone your marketing darts to hit the center of your audience target, effectively reach your core audience, and score bigger rewards.

Related Posts:
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Micro-Target to Get Results
Are You Hitting the Target?

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Are You Willing to Commit?

Ask yourself the following question:

What am I willing to commit in time and energy each day or week to keep my book alive?

It’s a great question. Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru, said, “Books don’t sell themselves; people sell books.

How much time and energy are you putting into promoting your book each day or week? Are you putting in as much commitment in time and energy every day or week to promote your book as you did to write your book?

Marketing a book takes time and energy. So many authors give a great effort to promoting when they first publish their book, but then slowly their efforts dwindle to nothing. At that point, they cease selling books.

Do you want to keep your book alive? Then you must commit to doing marketing activities daily or weekly. Not sure what to do? Here are ten ideas:

  1. Publish a new blog post or podcast at least once a week.
  2. Share your blog post on Reddit or StumbleUpon.
  3. Send a newsletter to your email list sharing your new blog post or podcast and reminding them of your book.
  4. Comment at least once a day on your social media accounts.
  5. Send a request to a book reviewer or blogger asking them to review your book.
  6. Join the discussion on online groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads) that speak to your target audience or topic. Respond to a thread or start a new thread regularly.
  7. Write insightful comments on a blog that targets your audience or speak on your topic a couple times each week.
  8. Write articles and guest blog posts.
  9. Send a request to be a guest on a podcast that speaks to your topic or audience.
  10. Send thank you notes to people who share your social media posts, give you a shout out, air your blog post, interview you, or review your books.

Need more ideas? You can find plenty more in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace and in Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) monthly newsletter for our member publishers and authors. In fact, one member recently wrote, “This latest newsletter is the best marketing newsletter I have ever read. You provided so many ideas, topics, tips, etc, that it’ll take me two weeks to put all of them into practice.—Michael

How much time and energy are you willing to commit to keep your book alive? Decide. Then, start doing promotion activities. Remember, any activity that draws people’s attention to your book is marketing.

Related Posts:
Are You Lacking Motivation?
Which Role Are You Neglecting?
Let Go and Let God

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Photo courtesy of Carl Cerstrand

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.

Related Posts:
Getting What You Paid For?
Are You Asking?
Pay with a Tweet

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Photo courtesy of Timothy Muza