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 When a full model product is offered for free, it is usually an older model—the one that has already been replaced by a newer, better version.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

Desire: A Tool for Book Promotion

Desires. We all have them. We may desire to lose weight, exercise more, be better at time management, or read the Bible more.

Interestingly, a recent study by Barna revealed that reading the Bible more is a desire of many Americans. In fact, the study found that about six in 10 American adults (61%) of people surveyed reported that they desire to read the Bible more than they currently do.

bible-reading

As a Christian author producing materials that seek to help people live in closer relationship with God, this study reveals that there is a need for what you offer. Of course, we all know that reading a “Christian” book does not equate with reading the Bible.

However, your Christian book can draw your readers to read the Bible. You can help your readers meet this desire. It’s a win-win situation. You can use readers’ desire to read the Bible more to draw them to your books, and then your books can encourage your readers to read the Bible more.

Marketing is about letting your audience know how you can meet a need in their life. If your audience desires to read the Bible more, let them know that your book contains Biblical truth and encouragement from God’s word. You can do this with marketing messages for your book that include phrases like:

  • Learn what the Bible has to say about…
  • 10 Things the Bible says about…
  • Grow in your faith through applying Biblical truth about…

Your book can then help your readers spend more time in God’s word. You can encourage your readers to do this in your book. Here are four ways:

  1. Incorporate scripture into the passages in your book.
  2. Provide scripture references at the end of your chapters for further reading on the topic you discuss.
  3. Provide an “Additional Reading” section in the back of your book listing Bible passages that relate to what your book discussed.
  4. Encourage your readers to sign up for your email newsletter and, in this resource, provide scripture passages on a regular basis for your fans to read.

Interestingly, the Barna study found that most people attribute their growing use of the Bible to a realization that Scriptures are an important part of their faith journey (67% of study participants). So, this means that anytime your book helps people understand that knowing what the Bible says is important in their faith journey, you are helping your readers to grow and act on their desire to read the Bible more.

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Does Your Book Stand Out?

As an author or small publisher, you think you want your book to stand out. You believe that a book that stands out from the crowd will catch people’s attention. Maybe, maybe not.

While a book that stands out from the crowd does catch people’s attention. The question you should ask yourself is: What type of attention are you catching?

stand-out

Does your book make people say, “That looks intriguing!” or “That looks odd or out of place!”?

While you want your book to stand out, if you have independently published, it is more important that your book looks like everyone else’s book. In other words, you want your book to look professional and conform to the expectations readers have for the genre you are writing in.

For example, if you write romance novels, using photographs of real people or places in your book’s cover design will make you look like the other books in your genre. If, instead, you use a pencil and ink drawing on your book’s cover, your book will stand out, but it may send a bewildering message to regular romance readers. These readers will wonder if your book is really a romance novel.

Valerie Andrews, a book award judge, says, “The design sets that tone for the book and either calls out to the reader or sends the reader on to the next book.”

The KISS principle (Keep it Simple Sweetheart) is important in book design. It is better to err on the side of having your book design be too simple than too complicated and cluttered.

All the elements of a book’s design—cover design, interior layout, fonts, trim size, binding, and even paper stock—should conform to industry standards. Remember that keeping your book design (both cover and interior) simple will be more effective in grabbing readers’ attention.

Instead of focusing on a cover design to make your book stand out, focus on a title that grabs attention and sales text that draws a reader in. Obtaining strategic endorsements can also help your book stand out. Strive for your book to stand out with superior writing and compelling story.

If you are a new or unestablished author, it is more important that your book looks and feels like other professionally published books than that it stands out from the crowd. Strive to distinguish yourself through your words and message, not the design of your book.

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Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zhenina

Are You Lacking Motivation?

Maybe you know that you should get started on or finish your next book, but haven’t found the drive. Maybe you know you need to do more book promotion, but can’t find the urge.

Sometimes discouragement is the cause of the lack of motivation. What you expected didn’t happen. What you hoped for did not come true. Your book has not sold as many copies as you thought it would.

motivation

Sometimes lack of inspiration is the culprit. You don’t feel sparked with a story or topic. You don’t feel emboldened with ideas to add value to people’s life through content marketing.

When you find yourself lacking the desire or impetus to move ahead on your book or marketing project, try these four ideas to arouse your motivation.

1. Find Your Mantra.

A mantra is a saying that you repeat to yourself to remind yourself of a truth. Your mantra does not need to be long, it can be short. It just needs to be meaningful. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing for creating a mantra that helps you stay motivated when your momentum flags.

  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.
  • Excellence does not require perfection.
  • God holds my hand and says do not fear, I will help you.
  • I can and I will.
  • God has called me to do this thing.
  • Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

2. Set Daily Goals.

Create a daily goal for yourself that is achievable. Your goal may be to spend an hour everyday working on your manuscript. It might be to engage in three book promotion activities every day. Make your goal specific and achievable.

3. Establish a Routine.

Once you have set your daily goals, establish a daily routine that includes time to perform the task of your goal. You might decide to go to bed an hour earlier every night so you can get up an hour earlier to write. You might choose to engage in your marketing activities right after lunch each day so that you don’t get to the end of the day and say, “I didn’t have time.” It’s all about making time in your day for the activities that are important.

4. Reward Yourself.

When you have accomplished your goal, give yourself a reward. If your long-term goal is to finish your book, then rewarding yourself when you complete the book is great. However, you can also give yourself intermediate rewards for just writing every day during the week. At the end of the week, give yourself a reward.

I encourage you to remember that God is your strength. Any task that he has called you to, he will help you accomplish. Simply start. Implement these four ideas and keep moving forward!

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Photo courtesy of David Mao.