How Many Christian Bookstores Remain?

The number of Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores has shrunk rapidly over the past few years. In 2017, Family Christian, the largest Christian bookstore chain, declared bankruptcy and closed the doors to its 240 stores.  Earlier this year, Lifeway announced that they would close all 170 of their stores by year end. The company is moving to an online only presence for selling books. A number of independent Christian bookstores have also shuttered.

How many remain?

All told, the Christian book selling industry has lost well over 400 Christian bookstores in the last four years. This raises the question:

Are Christian bookstores a dying breed?

The 2019 Walker Sand’s annual Future of Retail report looks at shopping behavior. This year’s report reveals:

1. Consumers are buying less

Two-thirds of respondents of all ages, and 72% of those age 18-35, say they are buying fewer things because they have become more conscious of keeping a clean, organized lifestyle.

2. In-store is still in demand

Brick-and-mortar remains popular with consumers for buying things like food and other daily necessities: Some 83% of respondents say they purchased groceries in-store in the past year, and 76% say they purchased consumer packaged goods.

One exception to in-store shopping is purchasing books. Books are the only type of product that consumers shopped for more on third-party online marketplaces like Amazon than in-store.

Shopping Behavior

Number of Christian Bookstores

The increase of online book buying raises the question:

Just how many Christian bookstores remain?

This is an important question for publishers and authors. While both the size and scope of bookstores focused on selling Christian products have diminished over the past decade, physical book browsing is still one way a number of Christians discover new books.

In 2018, CBA launched the Get It Local Today program. The program was designed to help drive traffic to brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. The program recently reported that their database—the largest online directory of verified independent Christian retailers—features more than 1,800 stores.

Each of these stores is part of the Get It Local Today program and are featured on a new interactive map on the program’s website.

Get It Local Today Bookstore Map

I encourage you to check out the map and find how many Christian bookstores are near you. Then, make an effort to support these stores.

I find the news of 1,800+ Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores heartening. How about you?

Related Posts:
Where Will Christian Books Be Sold?
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
What Authors Can Learn From Shopping Behaviors

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13 Pricing Hacks to Increase Sales

For independent authors and small publishers selling books, there is a lot to learn—especially if you do not have a business or marketing background. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available for those who want to learn.

Smart retailers use pricing tricks, based on brain science, to appeal to shopper’s perception of quality, value, and cost to drive sales. You can employ one or two of the techniques that smart retailers use to improve your book sales. Check out these 13 psychological pricing strategies compiled by Wikibuy.

Related Posts:
What Authors Can Learn From Shopping Behaviors
What You Need to Know About Selling eBooks
Does Your Book Have a Firm Foundation?

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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.

Related Posts:
Expectations
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Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market

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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.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Still King
Amazon is Not a Distributor
Amazon’s Price Fixing Attempt

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