Are You Too Busy?

Americans are busy. We wear our busyness as a badge of honor. One study found that we Americans associate “busyness” with high social status.

So, busyness looks good. But is busyness really good for us?

I recently took a personal prayer retreat. I had been meaning to do this for over a year, but alas, I was too busy. I finally made it a priority, cleared room in my schedule, and went. I am glad I did. It was refreshing and too awesome to put into words. I definitely communed with God.

At the retreat center, I spoke with the directors. Their desire is for people to come to their center and hear from God. They talked about how many people who came to their retreat reported that they never heard from God. We had a wonderful conversation about how we often don’t hear from God because we simply are too busy.

We don’t make room to allow him to grab our attention and speak to us. Because spending time with God is not our priority, we fumble about our lives without his direction and blessing and wonder why things don’t work out.

Sadly, I have seen a similar busyness trend among members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). I have been told this year by a few members that they are just too busy to read the information that CSPA provides.

The purpose of CSPA’s information is threefold:

  1. To keep our members up-to-date on industry standards.
  2. To provide ideas for marketing Christian books to increase exposure and sales.
  3. To offer services that save our members money.

At Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), we understand that our members are busy. That is one reason for joining the organization. You can trust CSPA to provide you the information you need to stay up-to-date on industry standards. On your own, you would have to spend more time reading numerous industry blogs and journals to stay on top of this ever-changing industry.

If you are too busy to stay up-to-date on industry trends and standards, are you really able to produce the best quality books? Are you able to market them effectively?

If you are producing Christian materials, you want your books to reflect God’s glory.
One way to do this is to not be too busy to receive the information you need to stay relevant to produce quality books. After all, we are to work as though working for the Lord, and God wants your best.

Don’t get so busy that you neglect your soul or your calling.

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First Impressions Matter

The door opens and out walk two men. One is wearing a disheveled t-shirt, jeans, and well-worn sneakers. The other is dressed in nice slacks, a dress shirt, and loafers. Both are lawyers. Which one would you choose to represent you?

Most of us would pick the attorney with the professional appearance. Because, regardless of how much people like to say the opposite, appearance is important. Appearance signals care and attention, which sends the message to our brain that the person is competent.

Don’t underestimate a first impression. According to a 2011 study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, people assess a person’s competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds) based solely on how the person looks.

The same is true for your book. People judge your book based on its appearance. Often, they will decide, on appearance alone, whether your book is trustworthy and worth their time and money.

I recently received a handful of books from a well-known Christian vanity press (which shall remain unnamed). I was shocked to see that the books varied in quality and appearance with some having a distinctly unprofessional look based on industry standards. None of the books sported a back cover that met industry standards. These books did not carry a printed retail price or a BISAC code. The interior of one of the books looked like it was designed in the 1970s. Another’s interior sported poor margins with words running into the gutter.

I was saddened to see that a supposedly Christian self-publishing house was charging authors good money for books that were sub par in terms of meeting industry standards for interior layout and cover design. Producing shoddy books in the name of Christ sheds a poor light on Christianity.

Your book’s appearance is your foremost marketing tool. People who read books know what a book is supposed to look like based on all the industry-standard books they have consumed. If your book does not fit this standard, it will be judged and found lacking. In addition, as a Christian book, you want your book to reflect the glory of God. Having a professional-quality design is important in this pursuit.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) feels that this issue is so important that we have developed an on-demand seminar, How to Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book to help our members publish books that meet industry standards and create a good first impression. With CSPA’s summer membership special of $120 for membership through December 2018, you can join now and get access to this great information to help you make sure your books send the message that they are competent and trustworthy.

People will make a quick judgment about your book based on its appearance. Make sure that your book’s appearance reflects favorably on its content. If you want to sell more books, readers must view your book as competent and trustworthy.

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Photo courtesy of Alice Achterhof

How to Bring Attention to Your Book

Every author wants to bring attention to their book. Finding a way for your book to stand out from the crowd in an eye-catching way is good for publicity. What’s the best way to do this without standing out in an “odd” way?

Give your book some BLING.

Bling can be seen everywhere. It is simply ornamented accessories that are worn or carried. Your book can wear bling by sporting a sticker.

Stickers bring attention to a book. Stickers are great for helping a book stand out from the crowd, especially when an author is doing a physical book event such as a book signing, a trade show, a book festival, or anytime an author is showcasing his or her book in person.

There are all kinds of stickers that bring attention to your book. I recently saw a book sporting a sticker that proclaimed it was a “Five-Star Amazon Book”. The sticker caught my attention. I wondered whether the book really had all five-star reviews on Amazon, or just some. So, I looked it up. Sure enough, the book had three five-star reviews. That’s all the reviews it had on Amazon, just three, but all three were five-star.

You, too, can use stickers to bring attention to your book. Here are some ideas from stickers I have seen on books over the years:

  • Book Award stickers
  • Local Author stickers
  • Autographed Copy stickers
  • Five-Star Review stickers (from various review sources including Amazon and Readers Favorites)
  • Award Winning Author stickers (can be used on a book that has not won an award if the author has won an award on another title).

Where can you obtain these stickers? You have a few options.

  1. Book award stickers are purchased from a book award where your book is declared a winner.
  2. Some review services (like Readers Favorites) also allow authors to purchase stickers or a seal to use to make stickers for their books.
  3. There are a few services that sell local author, autographed by, and award-winning author stickers. One of these is http://autographedbytheauthor.com.
  4. Be creative, create your own. Create your own Amazon Five-Star Review sticker or other sticker that will draw attention to your book. A number of printing services offer printing of stickers at a reasonable cost. These include Vistaprint and PrintRunner.

Bling in the form of stickers is an affordable, easy way to make your book eye-catching. If you are doing in-person events with your books, stickers will draw people’s attention to your book.

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It’s All About Hope

I recently had a conversation with a lady who suffers from a mental illness that is mostly stabilized with medication. This woman also struggles from a chronic illness (she is facing possible dialysis) and is in a difficult marriage. She shared with me that someone in her church recently gave her a book of prayers.

This lady started to read some of these prayers at night and they are helping her. I asked her how they were helping. She replied, “By giving me hope. I often feel hopeless at night and reading a couple of the prayers brings me hope.”

This is why we write and publish Christian material—to bring people hope. Hope:

  • For God’s healing.
  • For God’s provision.
  • For God’s comfort and peace.
  • That life is not in vain.
  • For a purpose to keep living.
  • That life can get better.
  • That God will work all things together for good.
  • For eternal life in heaven where there will be no effects of sin, thus no pain or sadness.

I believe hope is needed more than ever today. Over the past three decades, Americans’ view of the Bible as the literal word of God has been declining, while their view that the Bible is a collection of fables, myths and history recorded by man has been increasing. A recent Gallup poll shows that fewer than one in four Americans (24%) now believe the Bible is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word.” This is the first time in Gallup’s four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism.

But what about you, author, have you lost your hope? Are you discouraged, wondering if your writing is making a difference in anyone’s life?

Ask yourself: Is it worth it for one? If only one person were encouraged and found hope in your book(s), would your effort be worth it?

This is a tough question. If you can’t answer this question in the affirmative, I would suggest that you check your motives. Are you writing for God—or for human glory? Hebrews exhorts us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” James tells us that “whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

One is enough.

To bring hope is a noble calling. Your book might mean the difference for someone between a hopeless existence and a hopeful life. Keep writing and publishing for God’s glory.

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Photo courtesy of Blake Richard Verdoom

Are You Playing by the Rules?

“If you are going to play the game, you have to play by the rules.”

This statement is not just true of games. You have to play by the rules to drive a car, to pass a class, to acquire and keep a job, and to purchase a house. The same is true for publishing a book. You need to play by the rules.

In publishing, the rules are referred to as industry standards. There are some basic industry standards that all major publishers follow. These standards allow for an ease of flow for books through the purchasing chain (think distribution, retailers, librarians, and consumers).

Sure, anyone can publish a book and sell it from their own website whether the book conforms to industry standards or not. But, if you are serious about publishing a professional looking book that consumers will purchase and read, that reviewers will review, and that retailers and libraries will stock, your book must play by the rules.
A number of independently published authors are so eager to get their book into print that they don’t take the time to learn to play by the rules. As a result, their books don’t conform to industry standards.

I meet authors who want to acquire media interviews, sell their books to retailers and showcase them at tradeshows, but their books lack ISBN numbers, EAN barcodes, BISAC codes, retail price, etc. One doesn’t go to a wedding dressed in a swimsuit, nor should your book enter the industry in pajamas.

In today’s information age, the information you need to play by the rules in publishing a book is available. One great resource for authors and publishers is publishing associations. Such associations help their members stay up-to-date with industry standards in both publishing and marketing books.

Through providing information and tools such as newsletters, webinars, and other avenues, a publishing association can help you get the resources you need to publish professionally. In addition to information, publishing associations also offer discounts on various products and services that authors and publishers use in producing books.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is specifically geared toward providing information and cost-saving benefits to those authors and publishers who produce Christian materials. One great benefit of being a member of CSPA is free title uploads to IngramSpark and Lightning Source—a great cost saving benefit.

If you are producing Christian materials and want to play by the rules and publish professionally, I encourage you to join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). The association is currently offering a fantastic summer special. Just $120 will pay your membership through December 2018. That is 18-months of membership at less than $7 per month. You can join today at http://www.christianpublishers.net/membership/become-a-member/.

Playing by the rules will get you farther then making up your own rules. Conform to industry standards and your book will see greater success.

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske.