Are You Staying True to Your Calling?

I have often heard it said that the church is one of the most segregated institutions in the United States. I sometimes wonder if the Christian publishing industry is helping or hurting this issue.

I recently met an author who wrote a Christian novel set in Africa. When she tried to pitch the idea to editors and literary agents for a traditional Christian publishing contract, they told her they did not think they could sell a novel set in Africa—that setting was not a popular read.

So, feeling called of God to produce the novel, the author independently published her story. Her cover art contained a picture of an African-American man and woman. This author then began showing the published book to other Christian publishing industry experts to talk about marketing the book. She got the same message from almost every expert.

She was told to not expect to sell many copies of her book due to the cover art including African-American people. The experts advised that she take off the images of the people on the cover to help the book sell better.

As this author relayed this story to me, it made me think that, for the most part, the traditional Christian publishing industry is not concerned about racial integration in the body of Christ. Rather, publishing houses are a business. As a business, their top priority is profit. The one question they ask when considering a book is, “How many copies can we sell?” If they don’t think it will sell enough copies to meet their financial requirements, they pass it up.

Traditional publishing’s mission is not about challenging the status quo and daring people to confront difficult issues within the body of Christ. After all, some of the largest Christian publishing houses are now owned by secular publishing conglomerates. Rather, traditional publishing houses are businesses. As such, they focus on the bottom line.

I am thankful for Indie publishing. While indie authors and publishers need to be wise in their publishing and marketing efforts, how many copies a book will sell does not need to be the foremost priority. Rather, indie authors and publishers can be led by their mission and what God is calling them to do.

Interestingly, a new study by the American Bible Society showed that African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group. Among this racial group, 71 percent are friendly toward or engaged with the Bible compared to just 58 percent of all Americans. If Christians of non-African heritage will be turned away by this author’s book’s cover, she may still have a vibrant audience in among African-American Christians.

What about you. Have you gotten off track? Has your attitude become one that mainly focuses on the number of books you can sell rather than on staying true to your mission and the calling that God has placed in your heart?

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Photo courtesy of John-Mark Smith.

Are You Convincing Enough People?

As an author, your most important online presence is your website. Yes, your website—not social media, not Amazon, not Goodreads.

In fact, the purpose of social media is to get people to your website. The purpose of your website is to turn visitors into customers (people who buy your books).

According to research, 48% of people who enter a physical store buy something. However, on average, only 2 to 3 percent of people who visit a website purchase something. In fact, 96% of people who visit your website are not ready to buy. You have to convince them to purchase your books.

This is the purpose of your author website—to convince people to buy your books.

Experts report that when a visitor comes to your website, you have, on average, less than one minute to convince them to stay on your website. The longer visitors stay on your website, the greater chance you have of convincing them to either buy your book or sign up to receive your emails so you can continue to work on convincing them to buy your book.

The best way to keep people on your website is:

1.  Make sure your website loads quickly.
For every second delay in loading, you lose 7% of your potential visitors. Google analytics allows you to view your site load speed time.

2.  Have a compelling headline.
Your headline needs to be clear and draw your audience in.

3.  Give your visitors something to do.
Tell them what you want them to do. Make it clear. Large buttons that state things like:

  • Buy the Book
  • Download 10 Tips for…
  • Read the First Chapter

4.  Include a video.
Research shows that websites with a video of the product they are selling can increase their purchase rate by 144%. If you need an easy free video for your website, check out Bitable or Powtoon for creating a short video about your book.

Your website is your strongest tool for convincing readers to buy your book. Don’t overlook this important marketing mechanism. Use it wisely to convince your visitors that your book is worth their time and money!

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Photo courtesy of Vitaly

Fresh Insight into Book Buying Behavior

I have a confession to make. I have never purchased an ebook. I read ebooks on a Kindle app, but every ebook on my Kindle app I acquired for free. I do buy books. However, if I am going to spend money on a book, I buy a print book.

My behavior is not outside the bounds of normalcy for book buying. The Codex-Group, which conducts book audience strategy research, has found that most book buyers read far more books each month than they buy. According to the research that Codex shared at Digital Book World 2017, most book buyers only purchase one out of every four books they read.

book-buying

This means that three out of every four books book buyers read the reader obtains for free. Where do readers get these books? Most people receive free books from four main sources:

  • Borrow from a library
  • On loan from a friend
  • Free download offer
  • Book received as a gift

Additional data from Codex’s research shows consumer’s favorite ways to get books:

  • 18% prefer to read for free
  • 25% claim they never pay full price—buy used or join a subscription service
  • 16% prefer to purchase ebooks only
  • 22% state they are impulse buyers—purchasing a book as soon as they see it

While at first glance this data may seem discouraging, I believe it contains some valuable nuggets for publishers:

1. Not every reader who reads your book will have paid for your book.

This is okay. Expect to give some books away for free; it helps with publicity. Readers who read your book for free can help you secure more sales. If these readers like your book and recommend it to others, you have scored a win.

2. Focus on the impulse buyers.

Codex’s data shows that 22% of book buyers are impulse buyers. In addition, Codex reports that these impulse buyers are more likely to purchase nonfiction titles than other genres. If you are a nonfiction author, these impulse buyers can boost your sales.

The truth is that selling books is hard work. The number of people reading books is holding steady while the number of books published is increasing exponentially. There is a glut of free books available online.

If God has called you to write and publish a book, his plan is for your book to impact lives for his Kingdom. Keep in mind that impacting lives provides an eternal payoff that is greater than the money you make selling your books.

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Photo courtesy of Tamarcus Brown

How to Make Your Social Media Interactions More Fruitful

My favorite soda is Dr. Pepper. Joining the almost 16,000,000 other Dr. Pepper fans on Facebook allows me to express my likes on social media and support something I derive pleasure from.

Most people follow businesses and brands on social media because doing so allows them to express what they like as well as stay in touch with the producers of the things they engage with on a regular basis. But, fans want more.

social-media-fruitfulStudies show that individuals who decide to follow businesses on social media do so for three main reasons.

  1. To find out more about the products or services these entities provide.
  2. To receive exclusive offers and coupons for these products and services.
  3. To give feedback through rating or reviewing the products and services they receive.

Readers follow authors on social media for similar reasons. Fans want ongoing information that enriches their lives. They want to know when you are releasing new books. They want exclusive offers for discounts on your books, and they want to give feedback on your books.

If you want your social media efforts to produce more results, keep these three reasons in mind when posting material on your social media accounts. Give your readers:

  1. Sneak peaks into upcoming projects.
  2. Additional information on your book’s topics to enrich your readers’ lives.
  3. Special offers—discounts on current books and on new releases.
  4. The chance to interact with you by answering questions or giving feedback on ideas.

Social media is a place for people to stay on top of news and express their opinions. Give your fans what they are looking for and they will remain loyal and recommend you to others as well.

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Photo courtesy of Gilles Lambert

Connecting with Readers

Every author wants to make a difference. You want your book to encourage, inspire, or delight your readers.

The only way to know if your book is making the difference you want is to actually hear from your readers.

I love hearing from readers how my books have made a difference in their lives. Recently, a parent sent my husband and I a picture of their child reading one of our books. It is clear in the photo that the little girl is enjoying the book.

bbbb-child-3My husband and I produced Baby Bible Board Books with the hope that they would do the following:

  1. Be just the right size for little hands to hold by themselves to inspire a love for books and reading.
  2. Introduce little ones to Jesus and help them develop a connection with him.

When we receive feedback from readers—like this photo—we know that all the effort, time, and money we poured into the project was worth it.

Are you hearing from your readers? I certainly hope so. If not, consider the following ideas to help your readers connect with you:

1. Ask your readers to contact you in your book.
You can put an invitation in your author bio for readers to connect with you and let you know their thoughts about your book.

2. Invite your readers to connect with you on your website.
Include an appeal to your readers right on your website encouraging them to let you know how they liked or benefited from your book.

3. Include a call to action for readers to give you feedback in your emails and social media posts.
If you are active on social media, or if you use a regular email newsletter to connect with your audience, use some of this space to invite your readers to connect with you on a personal level.

Reviews are great and help you sell books. Sometimes just hearing personally from readers about how your book touched them or changed their lives is just the motivation you need to continue your call to write and produce books for the Glory of God.

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