Are You Making It Hard?

Recently, I went to Best Buy to help my teenage son buy a computer. He had worked hard and saved his money to buy a special gaming computer (he is a typical teen). We chose Best Buy because they had a sale on the computer and also offered a student discount. We went to our local Best Buy because I believe in supporting retail stores and because my son wanted his computer sooner rather than later.

As we were at the register ringing up the purchase, I inquired about the student discount. The sales clerk told me that I had to apply for the discount on their website. I asked him if we could do it in the store. He told me that I could use my cell phone to make a Best Buy account and apply for the student discount.

I asked the sales clerk what the point of coming into the store was if I had to “apply online” for this discount and the store did not offer a way for me to do this in-store (i.e. a kiosk with a computer for such purposes—or a store clerk willing to assist me in doing this). I pointed out that Best Buy was making it hard for me to make an in-store purchase, ensuring that I would, instead, make my next purchase online.

Retail stores in America are struggling. They are struggling because people are buying more online. But, they are also struggling because they are not providing good customer service. The Editor of Christian Retailing recently wrote that she stopped at a chain Christian bookstore to make a purchase. She asked the sales clerk where the biographies were located and was told “in the back of the store”. She contrasted this experience with shopping at Publix grocery store where the sales clerk will walk you to a specific aisle when asked about a product and point it out.

This whole experience made me think about building a platform and selling books. What are independent authors doing that might be “making it hard” for potential customers to give their email or buy a book? Here is my conclusion.

1. Buying Books

We make it hard for readers to buy our books when our books are only offered for sale in a few select places. Not everyone shops on Amazon. Some people actively avoid Amazon because of its practices. Others want to support Christians, and so prefer to buy books at Christian outlets. Still others want to support authors, thus preferring to purchase books directly from an author or publisher.

Are you books for sale in multiple channels? Can a reader easily find your book in his or her preferred shopping venue? If not, you are making it hard for people to buy your book.

2. Collecting Personal Data

Most authors are working on building a platform. This means that you are trying to collect email addresses so that you can communicate directly with readers and potential readers on a regular basis to build trust and increase loyalty. Collecting email addresses is great, but if you are asking too much information, you are making it hard and losing out.

Studies show that the more information you ask of people in exchange for a freebie, the greater the drop out rate. When building your email list, all you really need is a first name and an email. Don’t ask for more. Make it easy, not hard and you will grow your email list faster.

Are you making it hard? I hope not. Ease and convenience drive more sales.

Related Posts:
Don’t Make It Hard
Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market
How to Become a Best-Selling Author

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Photo courtesy of Vera Arsic.

Are You Ready to Give Up?

Sometimes I feel like quitting. I know I am not alone. We all have those days.

We all have days where we feel that what we have to say does not matter. Days where we are discouraged and wonder if our message is making any difference in the world. We all struggle at times feeling like all our hard work is for naught.

When this happens, I remind myself that God has called me to this task and I must continue until He tells me to stop. I remind myself that I that I will overcome and that better is coming as Revelation 3 says:

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

So often, we don’t see the results of our hard labor. Yet you never know, tomorrow might just be the day that everything comes together or you hear from a reader just how important your message was in her life.

If you are having one of those days where you feel like quitting, then read this poem is for you.

Don’t Quit
By John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns.

And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Related Posts:
Are You Expecting Fast Results?
Are You Afraid of Failure?
Are You Running with This?

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5 Common Indie Publishing Errors

Indie publishing is growing. Indie published titles now account for about 17% of all books sold. This is great news. Sadly, many indie authors don’t take the time to fully educate themselves on important aspects of publishing a book. Then these authors wonder why people don’t stand up and take notice of their books.

Following are five common errors that indie published authors make. I encourage you to read this list and educate yourself. Don’t make these mistakes.

1. Thinking that being self-published is a badge of honor.

Congratulations. You have self-published. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took time and dedication. However, being self-published is not a badge of honor. For years, self-published books were highly stigmatized. Most people viewed them as subpar. While self-published books have lost much of their stigma, it has not fully gone away.

If you are only marketing your book to readers, then loudly asserting that your book is self-published may not be that detrimental to your marketing efforts. But, if you are trying to obtain media coverage or reviews for your book in trade publications, then announcing that your book is self-published will ensure you do not receive coverage. Your press release or book will be thrown away. Most industry professionals still view self-published books as second-tier books. In other words, don’t announce in your press releases that your book is self-published.

2. Not purchasing your own ISBN.

Many indie authors are so happy to get their book published, that they accept the free ISBN from the publishing service they are using. This is another way to signal to the industry that you are self-published. ISBN stands for Industry Standard Book Number. Every book published receives an ISBN. This number is linked to the “publisher” of the book. If you purchase or use an ISBN from a service provider like CreateSpace, then your book is forever linked to that service.

Look professional. Get your own ISBN for your books. ISBN numbers are affordable. They can be purchased through Bowker.

Once you have an ISBN number, be sure to give the 13-digit number, not the 10-digit number when asked for your book’s ISBN number. The 13-digit is the industry standard.

3. Listing the publisher of your book as CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing.

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. Let me state that again in case you missed it. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. They are publishing services that allow you to take a book and get it listed in Amazon’s online bookstore. Both services also allow you to purchase print copies of your book.

These services are not publishers because they do not do the tasks publishers do of editing, proofing, layout and design, and marketing. They simply allow you to sell books that you have uploaded to their service.

Books that have CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing listed as the publisher on Amazon shout self-published. As I stated earlier, while much of the stigma over self-publishing has gone away, it has not been erased. You will have greater success hooking more readers if you look traditionally published.

If you did use a CreateSpace ISBN, at least pay the small $10 fee that CreateSpace charges to list yourself or your company or ministry as the publisher on your Amazon listing and in expanded distribution.

4. Thinking that bookstores order books from Amazon.

I previously wrote a blog post on “Amazon is Not a Distributor.” I will reiterate that here. Amazon is a bookstore. Bookstores do not order books from other bookstores. Bookstores order books from distributors at a minimum of a 40 percent discount from retail price so that they can earn money off the sale of the book. If Amazon is the only place your book is for sale, bookstores will not order your book.

5. Listing the book cover designer as the illustrator.

An illustrator is someone who has provided illustrations for the interior of a book. Most adult fiction and nonfiction books do not have illustrators, while most children’s books do. However, it is standard to have an illustrator field for metadata because those books that do have illustrators need them listed. It is okay to leave this field blank if your book does not have an illustrator. Don’t list the book cover designer. I am amazed at how many authors who nominate books for the Christian Indie Awards list their cover designer as the illustrator.

I know there are more than five common mistakes that indie authors make. I have just chosen these five to list. If you have a mistake that you have seen indie authors make and want to share it, please do in the comments section.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Not a Distributor
I Don’t Know Anything About Publishing
How to Become an Indie Author

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Overcoming Roadblocks to Marketing

The numbers vary, but they are usually small. The average nonfiction book sells around 250 copies per year and around 2,000 copies over its lifetime. The vast majority of indie published books sell far fewer than 200 copies over their lifetime with one large self-publishing house sales averaging 41 copies per title published.

Why the poor sales? I believe there are three main reasons:

1. A glut of books.
No other industry introduces as many new products every year as the book industry. Each year in the United States alone over 750,000 new titles are introduced.

2. Poor quality.
Sadly, many indie published books are inferior in quality—either in writing or design. This hurts sales.

3. Lack of marketing.
Many indie and self-published authors are focused on getting their book to print. Marketing is an afterthought and an activity that many authors despise and don’t understand.

For those indie authors serious about marketing, a number of roadblocks make success difficult. Following are the two biggest obstacles that indie authors face in marketing a book.

1. Scarcity of funds.

Few indie authors have deep pockets. Many sink most of their available money into creating their book through paying for editing and cover design. Few funds then remain to put into marketing.

Enter creative marketing. It is possible to substitute time for dollars in creating a good marketing campaign. There are many no- to low-cost strategies for marketing a book. I outline many in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Following are two strategies to get you started:

  • Get influencers to talk about your book. Find bloggers to review your book, interview you or host a guest post by you. Seek out interview opportunities on podcasts and internet radio shows that speak to your target audience.
  • Build an email list by offering quality material in exchange for people’s email addresses. An email list is a great marketing tool. It offers a great way to garner sales by offering coupons, discounts, and specials to your subscribers.

2. Stretched too thin.

While you can substitute time for money in creating an effective marketing plan, most indie and self-published authors simply don’t have much time because they are already stretched too thin. Most already have full-time jobs and families, not to mention church responsibilities. In addition, as an indie author, all the tasks involved in bringing a book to production and marketing fall on you. Most authors simply don’t have much time to invest in marketing.

Enter time management. Just as you must decide to dedicate time to writing to be able to actually pen a book, you must also dedicate time to marketing to effectively promote your book. Either set aside a specified amount of time each day that you are going to dedicate to marketing tasks or determine to do a certain number of marketing tasks each day. Unless you make it a priority, it won’t happen.

Every author faces roadblocks. Your challenge is not to let these obstacles detour you, but to rise above and persevere. Then you will continually move toward your goal of selling your books.

Related Posts:
Are You Thinking Like an Entrepreneur?
Are You Running with This?
Five Tips for Staying Focused

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Are You In a Rush?

I remember being 37 weeks pregnant and eager to give birth. Tired and big as a whale, I just wanted the baby out of my body. Yet, my baby just refused to be rushed.

One of the fun things I do at writers conferences is provide consultations to attendees. At a recent conference, I was consulting with a pair of authors who were bent on having their indie published book available for sale within four short weeks.

The pair had just finished a final run-through of the manuscript. The interior of the book was not yet laid out, nor did they have a final cover copy.

“What’s the rush?” I asked them. The response was that they had already sent out press releases announcing that the book would be coming out.

 

I then asked the authors if they had had any responses from their press release. The response was “No.”

I told them that if they did not have any responses from the press release, they could just move forward as if they had never sent it out. This way, they could have more time to make sure their manuscript and cover were in top shape, and they could develop a book launch plan—which they had not yet done (other than send out press releases).

One of the authors remained adamant. “We can’t change the on-sale date (also known as the book release date), the press releases have gone out.”

I tried to gently explain to this author that if they had received no response from their initial press release blast, that it was highly unlikely that anyone would notice that they changed their on-sale date. I educated these authors that, due to the number of press releases that media personnel are inundated with, it often takes more than one contact for them to notice a press release. I attempted to educate the pair on the Rule of Seven (which I have previously written about on this blog).

Rarely is there a reason to “rush” a book to press. Take your time. The following elements should be firmly in place before you choose the date your book will release.

  • Your manuscript has been edited, proofread, and professionally laid out.
  • A beautiful cover design has been selected.
  • Beta readers have reviewed the book.
  • You have a website and a social media presence for the author/book.
  • Endorsements for the book have been secured.
  • You have a comprehensive marketing plan in place.
  • You have built and are continuing to build anticipation for the release of the book.

I know that your book is your baby. As you near the end, your desire to have the finished product increases. However, just like a baby in the womb, your book needs to complete its gestation period so that the final product is ready to thrive outside the incubation vessel.

Don’t let your eagerness to see your book in print or your excitement about your book’s impending publication run ahead of your preparedness.

Remember: “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Don’t rush, take your time. Your book will be better for it.

Related Posts:
Does Your Book Stand Out?
Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?
How Effective Are Your Press Releases?

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Photo courtesy of Jean Wimmerlin.