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.

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Conferences Are Worth It!

Why invest time and money to attend a writers conference when you can just watch a webinar online? After all, many online webinars are free, or at least cheaper than the cost to attend a conference.

I believe that there is great value in attending live events. Here are three reasons why attending a writers conferences provides greater benefit than reading a book, watching a webinar, or engaging on a forum.

1. The Live Experience

There’s nothing like being in the same room with other authors. Being with others of the same ilk in a room learning together heightens your senses. Learning in a live setting with others deepens the experience and makes it more meaningful.

2. Interaction with Experts

Writers conferences give you a great chance to not only learn from experts, but to interact with them one-on-one. Many conferences allow attendees to sign up for one-on-one consultations with the instructors so that you can glean from their expertise in the area that you need the most direction. Writers conferences truly give you the best return on your dollar in terms of training and consultation from experts. In addition, the passion and energy conference presenters exhibit are catching.

3. Networking

Due to the nature of writing, being an author can be isolating. Writers conferences are a great place to meet other authors. The networking opportunities are limitless. You can find others writing in the same genre who will be willing to support you, write you an endorsement or a review, or collaborate with you on a joint marketing venture. In addition, you will be amazed at what you learn just from talking with other authors.

In a nutshell, writers conferences offer you information, encouragement and support for your journey. I guarantee that if you attend a writers conference you will come away with a renewed vision and passion for your work—like this Christian writers conference attendee:

“I want to begin by thanking you for teaching such a wonderful and enlightening class at the Christian Writer’s Conference. I was blessed immensely with all that you shared, and it was an answer to prayer. I had intended to attend another continuing session when the Lord prompted me to attend yours instead. I’m so glad He did! It was precisely what I was praying for and needing. I can honestly say that because of your class, I was able to return home with everything I had wished to glean.” ~Erin

Writers conferences are not just for aspiring authors. Many Christian writers conferences often have more attendees that are already published authors than those who are not. After all, you can always learn new skills and strategies to improve your craft.

If you live in or near the Carolinas, I invite you to join me at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on March 9th and 10th. I will be teaching two workshops. You can learn more about the conference at https://www.fbs.org/christian-writers-conference-2018.

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Do You Believe in Your Book?

I recently heard about a woman who loves to write. People who read her manuscript tell her that her book would sell. The writing is phenomenal.

Because this woman does not have a platform and would be a first-time author, others encouraged her to indie publish her book. One indie publisher actually offered to publish it for her.

However, the woman declined. She did not like the idea of having to promote and market her book. She did not want to do all those activities. Instead, she wanted someone to do those for her.

She found a company that told her they would publish and market her book for $10,000. They showed her how to start a Go Fund Me account to have people give her the $10,000.

Here is the irony. It takes promotion and marketing to get people to fund a crowdfunding project. So, whether this woman wanted to admit it or not, she had already begun to promote and market her book—the very thing she was opposed to doing.

If you are like this woman and don’t like the idea of promoting or marketing your book, consider this question:

Do I believe that my book has the power to help someone change their life for eternity?

Marketing a Christian book is a lot like sharing the Gospel. How will people hear and believe unless you tell them?

It’s not “send someone else” but “Here I am, send me.”

You won’t spread the Gospel if you don’t believe it is true and has the power to change people’s lives. The same is true for your book. You have to believe in your book, that it has information that people need to improve their lives to be able to promote it.

Here is another way to look at it:

  • Would you send ten emails to turn a person away from bitterness to forgiveness?
  • Could you push yourself to do a radio interview if you knew someone listening would seek treatment for their addiction and be restored to God?
  • How many restored marriages is a book signing worth?

Here’s the deal. When God is in an activity with you, it’s not your power, your strength, your genius that is driving the results. It’s God.

Marketing your Christian book is not about promoting yourself. It’s about promoting a message that the God of the Universe entrusted you to write down and share. It’s about spreading the Gospel and bringing light to a dark world.

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Photo courtesy of Ben White.

Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?

Writers love words. They often try to convey as much information as possible in words. This is great for a story or book, but not for marketing material.

Marketing material is all about catching someone’s attention. Good marketing or advertising copy draws the viewer in creating interest and intrigue so that the viewer wants to learn more. It doesn’t answer all the questions. It simply whets the appetite.

A book cover is marketing material. Like all advertising or marketing copy, its purpose is to draw a reader in.

One BookCrash reviewer recently said the following about a book she reviewed:

“The cover is attractive as well and I’m one of those who pays attention to such things. This one is nice and clean; not all cluttered up.”

The most attractive designs whether architectural or graphic are generally uncomplicated and streamlined. Your book cover should also be clean and uncluttered.

Take a look at the following two book covers. Which one does your eye gravitate to?

Notice whether it is the simpler or the more complex design. Is it the one with more white space?

The best way to ensure that your book cover is uncluttered is to limit the amount of words you put on the cover and make ample use of white space. White space simply refers to areas of a design that are not filled in with text, images or embellishments.

Proper use of white space focuses the viewer’s eye to the key elements of your design.
Think “less is more” when designing or choosing a design for your next book cover.

Leave empty spaces and ensure that your book’s cover does not look cluttered. Uncluttered book covers are more appealing.

Consider the following four design elements to help keep your book’s cover uncluttered and engaging:

  1. Use white space to create focus.
  2. Use spacing between letters in the title.
  3. Make one aspect of your design prominent so the eye knows where to focus.
  4. The title and picture should be easily seen from a few feet away and in a thumbnail sketch.

Your book’s cover is your book’s number one marketing tool. Cleverly designed and uncomplicated book covers grab readers’ attention.

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Three Tips for Selling Books to Millennials

Maybe you are wondering “Why so much emphasis on Millennials?”

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, form the biggest generation in U.S. history, even larger than the Baby Boomer generation. Millennials are moving into their prime spending years, and, as such, command a good percentage of purchases, including book purchases. Therefore, it is important to understand what drives this generation and how to best reach them with your marketing message.

Do you want to sell your books to Millennials? Then consider these three characteristics of this generation and adjust your marketing accordingly.

1. Millennials are readers.

Reports from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and Pew Research reveal that individuals aged 18 to 35 outmatch other age groups in the number of books purchased and read each year. Millennials are also more likely to visit a library than other generations. A study by Pew Research found that 53% of Millennials used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months.

This is good news for authors. However, just because Millennials read does not mean that they will read your book. Keep in mind that Millennials are also socially conscious. They aren’t so much concerned about the product, they want to know the back story. When marketing to Millennials share with them the back story to your book. Hook them with the uniqueness of your book and its message and how it relates to the things they are most concerned about.

2. Millennials are social.

This generation is connected via social networking sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. This is their primary means of communication. This generation knows what their peers are reading and purchasing. Social influence is a big factor in what Millennials choose to purchase.

However, Millennials are not fans. They want to be active participants. They want to be part of the conversation and have influence. To reach this group, you need to show up where they hang out on social media. Join the conversation and invite them to interact with you. Respect their intelligence and ask for their input.

3. Millennials are bargain shoppers.

Millennials get marketing. They grew up with it. They are smart and don’t fall for the usually marketing tricks. Millennials want bargains. Over half (57%) compare prices while shopping. This generation wants maximum convenience at the lowest cost. After all, they have huge student loan debt.

When selling your books to Millennials, offer them a bargain. Give them a coupon or discount that they can make use of.

Have you had success in reaching Millennials? If so, I would love to hear what has worked for you.

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Photo courtesy of Zachary Nelson.