Do You Have the Wrong Expectation?

“If you self-publish, expect to sell less than 100 copies of your book.”

These words were spoken by a Christian author on a marketing panel at the recent CBA Unite International Show. This particular author was both a traditionally-published author and an independently-published author. She had published books using both routes.

The authors on this panel were sharing the lessons they had learned in marketing their books. After making this statement, the author neglected to talk about what authors could do to help ensure that they sold more than 100 copies of an independently-published book.

I am happy to say that I strongly disagree with this author’s statement. I don’t believe that any self-published author needs to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies of a book.

Expect means “to regard as likely to happen.” Truthfully, up to 99% of self-published books do sell less than 100 copies. However, this statistic does not reflect what an author should “expect.”

Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies because the author does not market the book effectively. Too many self-published authors have the idea “if I publish my book, people will buy and read it.” This mindset sets an author up for failure.

With over 1,300 books are published every day in America. The competition for readers’ money and attention is stiff. How many copies you sell of your book is largely dependent on the quality of your book and on your marketing efforts.

Having sold thousands of copies of an independently-published book, I can attest to the fact that you do not need to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies. What you do need is:

  1. A basic understanding of the book publishing and selling industry.
  2. A strong selling point or promise to your reader.
  3. To know and understand how to reach your target audience.
  4. To invest time and money in marketing your book to your target audience.

If you need to gain knowledge and information in any of these four areas, resources exist to help you. Some of these resources include:

Don’t expect failure. Instead, plan and act for success. You can expect to sell more than 100 copies of a self-published book with some knowledge and effort.

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Photo courtesy of Vincent van Zalinge

Amazon: Christian Authors Beware

Amazon is a massive giant and growing. Consider the following facts:

  • Half of all U.S. households are subscribed to Amazon Prime.
  • Half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
  • Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online.
  • Amazon sells more books and toys than any retailer online or off.
  • Amazon sells 67% of all ebooks and 64% of online print book sales.

authors-beware

As an author, you cannot ignore Amazon.

Recently, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) published the results of a study they conducted. The study “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities” provides in-depth details on how Amazon is monopolizing the economy, undermining job growth, and weakening communities. Consider a few more interesting factoids:

  • Amazon increasingly controls the underlying infrastructure of the economy.
  • Amazon’s Marketplace for third-party sellers has become the dominant platform for digital commerce.
  • Amazon’s Web Services division provides the cloud computing backbone for much of the country, powering everyone from Netflix to the CIA.

ILSR warns that Amazon’s power as a gatekeeper in our economy will increasingly have negative consequences. One example ILSR sites is that “Amazon’s power to manipulate what products we encounter is especially concerning in the book industry, where it now commands more than half of sales, and where it can stifle the exchange of ideas simply by removing a book from its search and recommendation algorithms, as it did two years ago, in its dispute with the publisher Hachette.”

Christian authors, do not take this warning lightly. ISLR is on to something very important here. Amazon is not a Christian company, nor are they friendly to Christian books. Yes, Amazon lists almost every book for sale on its website, but that does not mean that the company is sympathetic toward Christian books. In fact, the opposite is true.

A member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) recently brought this to my attention. This gentleman had published an ebook on prayer via the Kindle Direct Publishing program. He then signed up to use Amazon’s Marketing Services to run an ad campaign on his book. Amazon denied his ad campaign and cited their “Creative Acceptance Policy”.

I urge you to go to Amazon and read this policy. This policy states the following:

  • Unacceptable Books: Books with content that is threatening, abusive, harassing, or that advocates or discriminates against a protected group, whether based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other category.
  • Restricted Ad Content and Books: There are several customer experience sensitive categories that are not appropriate for a general audience. The following categories may be restricted from the homepage and Kindle E-reader placements: Religious or spiritual content.

In addition, the email that Amazon sent this author stated, “we are unable to approve your ad if it contains overtly religious or spiritual ad copy, images, or symbols (for example, the Star of David, a crucifix, the Star and Crescent).”

I believe that moving forward, Amazon will increasingly restrict religious content on their site through the means mentioned above. Personally, I find it sad that the Christian Retail Industry has not done more to embrace small publishers and independent Christian authors. In not doing so, they have partly been responsible for the rise in Amazon’s power, as these publishers and authors were forced to rely on Amazon for book placement and sales.

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Does Your Book Have an Expiration Date?

Every few weeks, I thoroughly clean out my refrigerator. I pull out everything that is in the fridge, wipe down all the surfaces, and throw out any food that has expired.

Mission Possible

Fortunately, unlike the food in my refrigerator, most books on my bookshelf don’t have an expiration date. Therefore, I don’t need to throw them out after a few years. I can continue enjoying them for years.

The same is true for the books that you have written and published. Unless you have written a reference or resource book with material that goes out of date, you can continue to promote and sell your book for years.

Too many independently published authors only actively market a book for a year or two. Then, they stop. These authors miss out on the opportunity to continually bless people with their message.

Deborah McCarragher, a member of Christian Small Publishers Association, is a great example of an author who perennially markets her book. Deborah first published her book Mission Possible in 2007. The purpose of Mission Possible is to bring hope and encouragement to anyone in a spiritually mismatched marriage—a subject without an expiration date.

Deborah has tirelessly promoted her book for the past eight years. She produced a second expanded edition in 2011, and just recently, she updated the book again with a new cover.

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Books have the potential to keep selling for years. All they require is ongoing marketing—getting the word out to your target audience about what problem your book addresses. Just like Deborah, you can keep selling your books for years to come.

If you have a book that you have ceased marketing but still have the desire to sell, or maybe you just need a shot of encouragement to keep on moving forward with promoting a book that is a few years old, take heart. With a little effort, you can revive sales for your book.

Maybe all you need to do is simply get back to actively spreading the word about your book. But, if your book is an older book that is no longer selling, I encourage you to take the route that Deborah took. Refresh your book. Release an “updated” version of your book with a new cover and some added material (even a new introduction or epilogue is added material). Then plan a re-release of your book and actively promote the “updated” version.

Remember, most books don’t have an expiration date. As long as you are willing to put time and energy into marketing your book, it can sell for years to come.

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Impacting Lives

Why do you write and publish? Most authors write and publish to impact people’s lives. If you write nonfiction, you want to help improve an area of someone’s life. If you write fiction, you probably don’t want to just entertain, but also inspire people to live better lives. For Christians, our writing is also aimed at bringing people into a closer relationship or understanding of God.

As an author, I want to impact people’s lives. My book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is a handbook that is designed to help Christian authors and publishers effectively promote their books to reach people. I love to hear feedback from my readers—especially feedback that tells me that my book has made a difference to them in their book marketing journey.

Here is a video testimony from one of the readers of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. I recently met Lee Ann Mancini, the author and publisher of the Adventures of the Sea Kids series, at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). After she told me how much my book had helped her in her journey, I asked her to share it with others. Here is what Lee Ann had to say about Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

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