What Do Books and Music Have in Common?

When was the last time you purchased a music CD in a physical store?

Over the past decade, the music industry has undergone a huge shift. Consider the following:

  • Sales of CDs have declined while sales of MP3 music downloads purchased via the Internet have increased. Digital music sales overtook physical format sales in 2015.
  • Music streaming has become big business. Music subscription services allowing individuals to listen to their choice of music for a low monthly fee saw a 60 percent growth in 2017.
  • Indie music talent is growing. Artists are ditching the big label name records and attempting to break through to fame via streaming platforms.

When was the last time you purchased a print book in a brick-and-mortar store?

The book publishing industry is following the same movement as the music industry. Think about these trends:

  • Sales of print books in physical bookstores has greatly declined. The vast majority of books are now purchased on the Internet.
  • Sales of ebooks have stalled out to around 25 percent of book purchases, yet book subscription services continue to thrive—think Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Bookmate.
  • Indie authors are growing. Many authors are ditching the big publishing companies and publishing their works independently, taking them directly to consumers.

The big announcement in the news that recently caught my attention was:

With the popularity of digital music surging, Best Buy is officially pulling the plug on music CDs, and another retail giant (Target) may soon join them. Although CDs remain a relatively popular format worldwide, sales in the U.S. dropped more than 18% last year, prompting Best Buy to drop the format entirely. The retailer will stop selling CDs and pull them from shelves on July 1. Although Best Buy used to be the top music seller in the U.S., nowadays its CD sales generate a relatively low $40 million per year.

Most mass merchandise stores have already shrunk their book and music sections. Now some big box stores are dropping their CD sales. Since book industry trends appear to be following music industry trends, how long until these stores also drop their book sales?

Yes, print book sales are still strong, but don’t let that fool you. We are now in a digital era. Moving forward, the trend for the book industry is that a higher percentage of revenue from books will come via audiobooks, ebooks and subscription services.

Subscription services are on the rise. Audiobook streaming services are beginning to pop up—think Audible and StoryTel. Serialized books via apps will also grow—think Radish and Tapas. As publishers and authors, embracing digital in the coming years will be required to stay relevant.

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Five Trends Authors Should Know for 2018

A new year is right around the corner. We live in an age of unprecedented technological advances. Yet, as authors and publishers, we are still people of the printed word.

Each year, it gets harder to attract attention for any given book. The number of books produced each year is growing faster than the population rate is growing—while the average time spent reading daily is decreasing.

Marketing is essential to engage readers’ attention for your books. To keep your book marketing activities effective and relevant, you should be aware of these five important trends as we move into 2018.

1. Independent publishing will continue to grow.

According to Bowker, the agency that assigns ISBN numbers, self-publishing has grown tremendously over the past seven years. While the growth has recently slowed, the numbers of books published each year by independent authors will continue to grow.

According to Bowker, the number of books that were self-published (including small presses publishing fewer than 10 titles per year) grew 30 percent between 2013 and 2014. From 2014 to 2015, the number grew again by 21 percent, and then from 2015 to 2016, the growth of self-published titles grew by 8 percent.

While the number of titles published each year continues to grow, the reading rate in America has held steady since 2012. This means that the competition for readers’ attention, time, and money gets fiercer each year.

2. Amazon will continue to streamline operations for book publishing.

Amazon owns CreateSpace, the number one self-publishing platform on the Internet. Authors publishing on CreateSpace automatically have their books placed for sale in Amazon and in the CreateSpace store. However, in October of this year, Amazon shut down the CreateSpace store and the company is now directing all sales of CreateSpace books through Amazon directly.

Earlier this year, Amazon began rolling out KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) print option. Now anyone publishing an ebook via KDP can also request the book be made available in print format through Amazon without having to use CreateSpace. I believe that Amazon will continue to streamline operations for book publishing and that eventually all self-publishing for Amazon will go directly through KDP.

3. Online purchasing will outstrip brick-and-mortar purchasing.

An October survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation found that nearly 59 percent of 7,350 consumers surveyed said they plan to do their holiday shopping online this year, up from 56.5 percent last year. This makes the first time in the survey’s history that online shopping topped brick-and-mortar as the preferred holiday shopping destination.

Online sales for books have exceeded brick-and-mortar stores for a number of years (since about 2012 after Borders closed). The majority of books are already purchased via the Internet. As the number of books purchased online has steadily risen, so the number of brick-and-mortar bookstores has steadily declined in the United States. Book sales tracking companies report that 70% of all book sales are now online (including print, ebook, and audiobook).

Your books should be available in multiple online outlets. While Amazon captures about 42% of all print book sales, books are still being purchased at other online bookstores. To capture the most sales, your books must be available in multiple outlets.

4. Mobile Internet access will continue to increase.

Two-thirds of the world’s population is connected to the Internet through mobile devices. People now spend more time browsing the web on mobile devices than on desktop computers. In fact, 63 percent of searches on Google this year were from a mobile device. The number of searches from mobile devices is expected to continue to grow, even surpassing the 70 percent mark in 2018.

To stay relevant, your website must be mobile optimized. If it is not, you will be left behind. Google gives preference to mobile-optimized websites for mobile searches. If your website is not mobile optimized, you could be missing out on almost two-thirds of the searches looking for your type of book.

5. Video will continue to dominate engagement on the web.

People watch a lot of videos online. Digital Information World reports that 55 percent of people watch videos online every day. Here are a few more statistics on video usage on the Internet:

  • Experts estimate that by 2019, video watching will account for 80 percent of Internet traffic.
  • After watching a video, 64 percent of users are more likely to buy a product online.
  • Recent data from Facebook shows that people are 10 times more likely to comment on a Facebook Live video than other posts.

You can use video to promote your books. Create book trailers, informational videos, and use live stream videos like Facebook Live to share with and connect with potential readers.

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Four Publishing Trends for 2017

As the end of 2016 draws near many are glad that the election is over and political news has returned to a manageable level. Yet, we wonder what challenges lay ahead in the coming year.


For authors and publishers, I believe that the publishing landscape will continue to develop in the direction it has been growing over the past decade. Here are four publishing trends I see for 2017.

1. Self-publishing will continue to grow.

For the past decade, self-publishing has experienced tremendous growth. The number of self-published books will continue to grow in 2017 as more services arise to guide authors to publish their own books. Services that now offer free book layout software and cover designs (think Reedsy and Createspace) have made the playing field easily accessible for anyone desiring to publish a book. After all, surveys show that 80% of Americans feel they have a book inside them.

2. The number of books published will continue to exponentially outpace the growth rate of reading.

The reading rate in America has remained steady since 2012 (with a slight decrease from 2011 reading rates). Pew Research Center reports that about 73% of Americans read a book each year. However, the number of books published in the United States has grown exponentially since 2010. The number of self-published titles has grown from 133,036 published in 2010 to 727,125 published in 2015. That is a 446.5% increase in the number of self-published titles in five years.

3. With more books than readers, finding readers for your books will become increasingly more difficult.

Discoverability has been a buzz word in 2016. That’s because with the increase in books published, it is harder for any one book to get discovered by a reader. Enter a search in Amazon.com for “prayer” and you will receive 133,759 book results. That is a lot of books on prayer to choose from. Readers are inundated with books. Authors will be increasingly taxed to provide convincing evidence to readers that their book is worthy of a reader’s attention.

4. Audience development will be crucial for an author’s success.

No longer can authors count on readers discovering their book. Instead, authors will need to work on developing an audience for their books. Developing an audience is about gaining people’s trust. It’s about sharing your message with them in bite-size pieces in a way that enriches their lives so that they want to hear or read more of what you have to say.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), we believe that audience development will be crucial for success in publishing in the coming years. To help our members become more skilled at developing an audience, CSPA will release an on-demand seminar on Audience Development at the start of 2017.

As you make your plans and set your goals for 2017, don’t let this news discourage you. If God is calling you to write and publish, then he has readers who need to hear your message. Your part is to be faithful to your calling, not just to write and publish, but to also let people know that your book exists so they can read it.

Related Posts:
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Staying Relevant

Everything flows; nothing remains. All is flux, nothing is stationery. All is flux, nothing stays still. All flows, nothing stays. Nothing endures but change.” ~Heraclitus of Ephesus

Change is the one constant in our lives. Nothing stays the same. Publishers and authors who do not keep up with changes effecting publishing and promoting books get left behind and are less successful in the long run. Over time, technology, services, and trends all change, effecting how books are published and marketed.


1. Changes in Technology

Technology keeps changing. As technology shifts, so does the way books are published, marketed, and sold. As an authors or publisher you need to keep up-to-date on the changing technology so that you can effectively communicate with your audience.

For example, while press releases are still a useful piece of a book promotion campaign, technology has changed the way journalists acquire and receive information. No longer can an author or publisher simply send out a release announcing a new book. New books are no longer news. With thousands of books published every day, a new book being published is not news. To catch a journalist’s eye, your press release must tie your book into a current trend or breaking news story that journalists are already tuned into. Yet, I still see press releases from authors and small publishers simply announcing a book.

2. Changes in Services

New services for publishing, promoting, and selling books are constantly cropping up, while others are shutting down. Every day, I hear of new, innovative services for publishing and selling books and ebooks. More and more companies are offering services to independent authors. Some services close their doors while others open. Knowing where you can go to get the services you need to be effective is important.

A few years ago, IngramSpark opened its doors. IngramSpark is a POD and ebook distributor geared toward independent authors and small publishers. Ingram opened the service as a counterpoint to Lightning Source and as a more user-friendly place for the growing population of independently published authors. Yet, I still run into small publishers who have been in the business for years who are not familiar with IngramSpark or don’t really understand what they do.

3. Changes in Trends

Trends in how people find out about books and where they purchase books change over time. Staying on top of these changing trends is essential for success in selling your books.

About eight years ago, when the trend was swinging away from buying books in brick-and-mortar stores to purchasing books online, a member publisher of CSPA was able to get their author on a major talk show. The publisher was extremely excited as they told me about the event that had occurred that morning. As we talked, I used my computer to check the book’s ranking on Amazon since the coverage had been nationwide. I was dismayed to see that the book was not for sale on Amazon—it was listed, but Amazon was not actively selling it. I immediately informed the publisher that this would hurt sales, to which the publisher responded, “But the book is available in the Christian bookstores as well as Borders and Barnes & Noble.” Not staying on top of changing trends had cost this publisher sales.

Fortunately, there are many ways for you to stay on top of changes that affect your publishing journey. Reading blogs, books, industry journals, and belonging to industry associations are all great ways to keep learning.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) part of our mission is to strengthen independently published authors and small publishers producing materials for the Christian marketplace. One of the ways we do that is by providing our members cutting-edge information that keeps them informed of trends and changes that affect their ability to remain viable and successful.

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Publishing Industry Trends for 2016

At the beginning of January, I blogged about some marketing and publishing predictions for 2016 that I thought you should be aware of. These were great predictions, but not all were directly related to publishing and promoting a book. Today, I am going to talk about some tactics book publishers plan to engage in this year.


Book Business, a magazine for book production and manufacturing, recently conducted its annual Trendspotting Survey that asks leaders in the book industry to share what technology they plan to invest in and which products and platforms they anticipate will drive revenue growth for their publishing organizations for the coming year. A few of the insights Book Business gleaned from this year’s survey include:

1. Digital printing will grow in 2016.
More publishers indicated that they plan to spend dollars on print-on-demand for this year than previously. Since many answering this survey were larger publishers, this means that these publishers are transitioning more from traditional printing to print-on-demand.

2. Interest in email marketing is growing.
Last year email marketing was near the bottom of publisher’s technology priorities. This year over one-fourth of publishers reported that they plan to invest in email marketing.

3. eBooks and print books are expected to drive the most revenue growth in 2016.
Even though audiobooks make up one of the fastest growing segments of the book industry, most publishers believe ebooks and print books will lead revenue growth this year.

4. Social media will play a significant role in book marketing in 2016.
Book Business asked survey respondents what marketing platforms they think offer the greatest opportunity to grow profits. Two-thirds of respondents reported that social media offered the most opportunity for the coming year.

What do these trends mean for you, the small publisher or independently published author? I think there are two important things to note from these trends.

First, publishers are planning to invest more in email marketing this coming year. While social media is growing as a way to connect with consumers, email still remains one of the strongest marketing tools. Expert marketers consistently rank email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention with customers. Some statistics say that the average return is $44.25 for every $1 spent on email marketing. If you are not using email as part of your book promotion strategy, I encourage you to begin to do so this year.

Second, social media is here to stay. It is growing in as a tool for people to not only stay connected with others, but also as a news source. Studies show that 72% of all Internet users are now active on social media. Taking your message to where your audience hangs out is an important strategy in promoting a book. As such, social media is increasingly becoming an integral part of marketing campaigns as more people are hanging out on that medium.

So, as you plan your book promotion strategies moving forward, I encourage you to invest in both email marketing as well as social media to get the word out about your book.

Related Posts:
Predictions for 2016 That You Should Know
How to Effectively Use Social Media for Your Book
Email Marketing is Still Important

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