You Must Sow to Reap

One day the phone rang. I picked it up and Ross Perot was on the line. He said, ‘I love your book.‘”

I was talking with a writer who was telling me about a book she published in the 1990s. It was a politically conservative title. She wanted to get the word out about her book, so she mailed copies to a large number of conservative politicians including Ross Perot.

Ross Perot paid attention to this unsolicited book that he received. He read it, liked it, and contacted the author. He then helped this author get additional media coverage for her message.

This author talked about the new book she was hoping to get published and then commented, “Now you have to do your marketing online.

I quickly laid that myth to rest. While there is much talk about author platforms and using social media to promote books, the Internet is not the only marketing strategy an author has at her fingertips.

Much like cold calling, cold mailing is an acceptable marketing practice. Mailing copies of your books to appropriate influencers can pay off.

When my anger management book for teenagers was published, I mailed copies of the book to middle school and junior high school counselors to help spur sales. I also sent copies to counseling center directors. These influencers all worked with the target audience for my book.

I looked at mailing these copies of my books as sowing seeds. The goal was to raise awareness for my book. Farmers know that without sowing seeds, there is no harvest. Seeds grow into plants, and plants produce fruit.

2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of righteousness.” I figured that my job was to sow the seeds, and God’s job was to make those seeds grow.

I believe that when we publish books that bring Glory to God, that He does cause the seeds we sow to grow into a harvest. Sow seeds with your books. Mail copies to influencers and reviewers who can help spread the word about your book.

The Biblical principle that “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6) applies to all areas of life. So, sow your marketing seeds generously.

To seed your marketing efforts, I encourage you to make a list of influencers in your target audience you can give copies of your book to. Then mail some books and trust God to bring a harvest.

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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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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.