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.

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Photo courtesy of Carl Cerstrand

What Authors Can Learn from Shopping Behaviors

I love to shop. For the most part, I prefer shopping in physical stores where I can not only see what I am purchasing, but I can touch and feel it also. I know many people prefer to shop online. While not everyone shops the same way, there are a few similarities overall among people’s shopping preferences.

A new study by Catalyst, a marketing agency specializing in retail, explored consumer-shopping behaviors across multiple channels. Their research found that most customers prefer convenience over other factors when shopping. Here are a few of the findings from Catalyst’s study:

  • Convenience Is Paramount
    Amazon wins when it comes to convenience. Most customers prefer researching and buying products online.
  • Efficiency Matters
    Customers look for what saves them time. If it is not readily available to order or purchase, or if shipping is not fast, customers will walk away from a purchase.
  • Price Matters—but Quality Matters More
    Customers want the best quality for the lowest price. They are willing to pay more for a product when convenience and customer service are perceived to be superior.

There are a few nuggets of wisdom for authors in this study and its findings. Here are two lessons from this study that can help you sell more books.

1. Your books must be available in multiple channels for buyers to purchase.

Believe it or not, not everyone shops on Amazon. Your book needs to be available for purchase (and quick delivery) at the places where your readers shop. Having your book available for purchase on Amazon and your website is not enough. Make sure your books are in wider distribution so that they are conveniently available to more people.

2. Your book’s price affects sales.

One of the best rules to follow when independently publishing a book is simply this: Follow the industry standard. When pricing your book, this means that your book is priced in the same range as other books in its genre that are published by the large industry publishing houses.

Since print-on-demand is more expensive per book than offset printing (printing large numbers of books at once of 1,000 or more copies), independently published authors often price their books higher than industry standard. Pricing high allows the author to make a decent return on each book sold. However, pricing your book higher than other books in your genre can result in a loss of sales. Remember, people are looking for the best quality at the lowest price. If a reader is considering purchasing your book or another book on the same topic, if the books appear equal in quality, the reader will opt for the lower-priced book.

Book buyers are shoppers and they, like most consumers, prefer convenience, efficiency, and good deals.

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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

To Give or Not to Give?

The Internet abounds with advice. Some of it is good and some of it is not.

When it comes to advice for independently published authors, often what you find on the Internet is contradictory. Some authors assert one thing, while others assert the opposite.

One area where advice given for independently published authors on the Internet contradicts itself is in the area of giving books away. Some advice givers say you should, others say you shouldn’t.

Advice is cheap. Anyone can give advice. The advice taker must discern whether or not the person has the knowledge or experience to give good advice.

Whether you, as an independent author, should or shouldn’t give books away for free is not the question to ask. Rather, you should ask: What is the industry standard?

1. Giving books for free in exchange for reviews is standard in the book publishing industry.

Providing a free book in exchange for a review is a publishing industry practice. In fact, it is such an integral part of the book industry, that when Amazon recently stopped allowing the giving of free products in exchange for reviews on their websites, they exempted books from this policy. Amazon even stated in their policy revision, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

2. Giving away books as part of a book promotional campaign is industry standard.

If you have ever attending an industry convention—think BookExpo (BEA) or CBA Unite—then you would be aware that giving away free copies of books to decision-makers (retail buyers and influencers) is standard practice. Most publishers include a certain number of books to be given away for promotional purposes as part of a book’s advertising budget.

At the recent NRB Proclaim 17 convention, one Member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) told me that while he was giving away books for free, he wondered if he was just throwing his books away. I encourage him to consider the investment he was making in giving away free books as part of his advertising campaign. After all, the attendees at NRB are influencers. If they read his book and write a review or recommend the book to someone else, he has not wasted his money.

Henry Ford said, “At least half of my advertising budget works…I just don’t know which half.

The same is true for giving books away as part of your advertising budget. Some of the books you give away will help with your promotional efforts, others won’t.

So, if you need an answer to the question of whether you should give away books or not, the answer is: You should. After all, it is industry standard and as an independently published author, you are now part of the book publishing industry.

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Photo courtesy of Dev Benjamin

Sales of Indie Books Continue to Grow

Independent publishing (aka self-publishing) is here to stay. The number of books produced and sold by independent authors continues to grow. I think this is great news!

good-news

Data Guy over at Author Earnings shared some great new book sales statistics at the recent Digital Book World 2017. Here are a few of the interesting findings he shared in regards to independently published book sales for 2016 in the United States:

  • The total number of books units sold (both traditional and nontraditional in print, ebook, and audiobook formats) was 1,337,138,000.
  • The total number of independently published book units sold was 229,000,000 (counting ebook, audiobook, and print book sales).
  • Self-published titles accounted for 17% of total book sales.
    • About 30% of adult fiction and 10% of adult nonfiction book sales were independently published books.
  • Readers are buying books online: 69% of all book sales were made online.
    • About 72% of adult nonfiction books and 77% of adult fiction books were purchased online.

Independent publishing has truly come of age. I think that the industry overall is finally getting on board with accepting self-published titles.

books-sold

For years, most Christian writers’ conferences have been geared toward helping authors obtain traditional publishing contracts. This too is changing. Now some conferences are teaching attendees how to independently publish their books.

The Colorado Christian Writers Conference is offering this to their attendees. I will be teaching an intensive continuing education seminar at this conference in May on “You Can Indie Publish and Market Your Book”. This five-session seminar will cover the following topics:

  1. Three Things to Do Before You Publish Your Book
  2. Preparing Your Manuscript for Publishing
  3. DIY: Publish Your Book
  4. Obtaining Book Reviews
  5. Marketing: The Essential Ingredient

If you are thinking about independently publishing or know someone who is, sign up to attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and join me for this intensive training.

If you want to attend, but can’t make this conference, I will be teaching this seminar again at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference this summer in July.

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Photo courtesy of Hope House Press