You Are More Than an Author

I know a pastor who puts three titles on his email signature. He doesn’t just list “Pastor”, he lists:

Visioneer   *   Guide   *   Pastor

Just as this pastor believes that he is more than a pastor, you, too, are more than an author.

With close to two million books published every year in the world, you have to be more than an author to sell your books. You must add a couple more roles. To sell books, you should also be a marketer and a thought leader.

I know that sounds overwhelming. You’re probably thinking, “You have got to be kidding. Now, in addition to writing compelling prose, I have to also become a marketing ninja and a persuasion guru.

It’s not as complicated as that, but yes, you do need to be more than an author. To put it more simply, you also have to be able to convince people to buy your book and have your ideas taken seriously.

Let’s take a closer look at these two additional roles of marketer and thought leader.

Marketer

A marketer is simply someone that promotes or sells a product or service. In your case, you are promoting your book. You do this anytime you draw readers’ attention to your book. Whether this is through social media, speaking engagements, paid advertisements, book signings, or other marketing avenues, when you participate in activities that draw people’s attention to your book, you are fulfilling this role.

Most authors understand that they must sometimes put on the marketer hat to sell books. Many authors don’t like this role. They prefer to just write. Sadly, writing alone no longer sells books. The competition is too fierce.

Thought Leader

A thought leader is someone who has authoritative or influential views on a subject. All nonfiction authors should consider themselves a thought leader. After all, you wrote the book on the subject. This means you are an expert and have an influential view of the subject matter. Fiction authors are thought leaders in the genre they write in.

Thought leaders spread their influence through blogs, articles, books, and speaking engagements. Your readers view you, the author, as a thought leader and look to you for advice and guidance.

As an author, you are also a thought leader for good books. The interest in books is still high for those who like to read. Your followers and fans are hungry for good book recommendations. As a thought leader and author, you should be recommending books to your audience.

Many authors are reluctant to recommend books to their audience because they feel that they are pointing these people away from their books to someone else’s book. This simply is not true.

Fans of an author really love it when the author introduces them to good books by other authors in the same genre. Doing this keeps your name in front of these readers and helps their trust in you grow.

No longer think of yourself as just an author. Remember, if you are selling your books, you are more than an author, you are also a marketer and a thought leader. Now you have three titles you can add to your signature.

P.S. If you need more marketing ideas, you can preorder the Fourth Edition of my book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books!

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Photo courtesy of geralt.

Are You Using Publishing Industry Standards?

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” ~Stephen Hawking

Standards. Every industry is governed by standards. These are a set of criteria within an industry that defines the standard functioning and carrying out of operations.

The publishing industry has standards. Anyone involved in publishing and selling books should be aware of these standards.

Sadly, many independent authors don’t take the time to educate themselves on publishing industry standards. This lack of knowledge often becomes apparent when these authors interact with others in the industry. Then, these authors’ ignorance reflects poorly on themselves and their books.

One place where I frequently see a lack of knowledge on industry standards with independently published authors is the ISBN. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This is a unique number assigned to a book that identifies the book within the industry. All industry players use the ISBN number to identify a book, much like the government uses a social security number to identify an individual.

The ISBN is a 13-digit number, not a 10-digit number. Yes, Amazon lists both a 10-digit ISBN and a 13-digit ISBN. Yes, Amazon lists the 10-digit ISBN first. This does not mean that it is the industry standard. The industry standard is a 13-digit ISBN.

Go to a bookstore. Pick up any book in that bookstore and look at the barcode on the back. You will see a 13-digit ISBN, not a 10-digit ISBN.

The publishing industry switched from 10-digit ISBNs to 13-digit ISBNs back in January 2007. That almost 12 years ago folks. The only reason that Amazon provides both the 10-digit and 13-digit ISBNs is because they want to be repository for every book published. As a result, they house many books that were published prior to the change to the 13-digit ISBN. Therefore, these books host a 10-digit ISBN. So, Amazon provides both so that any book can be located in their system.

I am surprised by how many independent authors list the 10-digit ISBN when nominating their book for the Christian Indie Awards. The awards do not specify whether to give the 10-digit or the 13-digit number because the 13-digit is industry standard. Since only authors and publishers are allowed to nominate titles, every person nominating a book should know that the 13-digit ISBN is industry standard. Yet, they don’t.

If you are going to publish and market a book, do yourself a favor and take the time to become familiar with industry standards. Read some books or join a publishing association like Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA). Don’t let your lack of knowledge become a stumbling block that hinders your ability to secure publicity in any form.

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Your Second Most Important Marketing Tool

“Wow. That book has 280 reviews with an average of 4.8 stars! Definitely a book to put on our list.”

I am part of a book group. We are a club of ladies that meets weekly. We read and discuss Christian nonfiction books that we, as a group, select. The above comment was in response to a book suggestion. The individual uttering this statement had just checked the book on Amazon on her phone.

Book Reviews

This behavior is typical. One research firm (Thornley Fallis) found that 81% of people perform a search online before buying a product. This is exactly what my book group members were doing. They were searching online to find out more about the book that was suggested.

Searching online is not the only typical behavior. Reviews influence our purchase decisions. In fact, research shows:

  • 97% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase decision (Conductor).
  • 88% of shoppers say they believe reviews as much as personal recommendation from a friend (Search Engine Land).
  • 67% of consumers admit that reviews influence their decision to leave or buy a product (Moz.com).

So, the path my book group followed to determine whether we wanted to read a suggested book was typical.

As an author or publisher, this is important information. Don’t underestimate the power of book reviews. If you want to sell books, you need reviews.

I believe that book reviews are your second most important marketing tool (your book’s cover is your number one marketing tool).

If you are struggling to get more reviews for your book, try these two suggestions.

1. Ask, Ask, Ask

I am sure you have heard the phrase, “You have not because you ask not.” It’s true. James says “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). First, ask God for his guidance and help. Then, ask people to review your book. Ask in your author  or writers’ groups. Ask on your social media sites. Ask when readers contact you. Asking them says that you value their opinion.

2. Host a Giveaway

You can host a book giveaway on one of the online communities for book lovers—Goodreads, LibraryThing, or BookLikes. Interested readers on these sites can enter to win a copy of your book. While these readers are not required to review your book, some will, increasing the number of reviews your book receives.

These two suggestions are just a few of the suggestions for acquiring more book reviews that I present in my seminar “Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews”. This seminar is free to Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). Join CSPA now for just $90 for the 2019 calendar year and have free access to this and other great resources.

If you are not a Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), you can watch this on-demand seminar for a fee 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.

Don’t Hobble Your Marketing Efforts

From time to time, I review books that are related to publishing or marketing of books. Sometimes an author requests that I review their book. Other times, I see a book that might benefit Indie authors or small publishers and ask for a review copy.

Every once in a while, I receive book that has been marked “Review Copy: Not for Sale”. I seriously dislike it when I receive a marred book. A book that is stained in such a manner stops with me. When a book is spoiled, I am not able to pass it along to someone else that could be blessed by it.

book marketing efforts

I believe that authors who mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” hobble their own marketing efforts.

1. A book is a form of compensation for the reviewer’s time.

When you ask for people to review your book (e.g., beta readers, launch teams, influencers, and bloggers) and these people agree to do so, they are doing you a favor. Providing these individuals with a clean, unmarred copy of your book is a form of compensation for these reviewers’ time.

This is not a new idea. Way back in 1916, Publishers Weekly published an article titled “Review Copies and the Trade”. The article stated:

“In other words, the reviewer has a definite and valued place in the selling of books…. The reviewing periodicals are seldom financially able to pay the best reviewers what they are really worth; and by long custom of the craft, the latter have taken partial recompense in the review copies of the books being reviewed…. To see that the reviewer has for his own purposes the copy of the book reviewed seems to him no more than natural justice; and whether the reviewer chooses to keep the book himself or to sell it for what he can get for it seems to him his own affair.”

2. Every book sent out into the world is a marketing tool, not wasted money.

Many Indie authors mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” because they don’t want others to profit off their books. In other words, these authors are afraid that their book will end up being sold as a used or new book by the review individual, cutting the author out of a profit. However, this is twisted thinking.

Whether a reviewer keeps the book, gifts the book to someone, or sells the book, the impact for the author is usually positive. Every book that goes out into the world is a marketing tool. Everyone who sees the book, buys the book, or reads the book has the potential to become a spokesperson for that book. If the reader loves the book, she tells her friends and family, leading to more sales.

Seeding the world with a few books to begin the word of mouth process should be part of every author’s marketing budget. This includes review copies given to readers.

3. Christian authors can operate on Kingdom economic principles.

As Christians, we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Yet, so often we forget this and act just like the world. When it comes to your books, remember Kingdom principles. Luke 6:38 records Jesus as saying:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ten, fifty, or a couple hundred books, however many you decide to give out, whether for a review, for marketing to bring awareness to your book, or just to bless someone, remember Kingdom truths. Your free book copies are not wasted in God’s Kingdom economics. It is God who directs the paths and sales of your books. Trust Him.

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Photo courtesy of Manuel Sardo.