Marketing your books can be scary, and difficult, for writers – perhaps especially Christian ones. Well, Sarah Bolme knows all about it. In fact, she wrote an award-winning book on the subject – a book that she is offering to FaithWriters’ members for a discount (click here for details).
Read on to learn about Sarah’s journey, her award-winning Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace (with a foreward by Sally Stuart), and marketing tips you can use now!
JOANNE SHER: Hi Sarah, and thanks for talking with us. Tell me about your experience with publishing and marketing Christian books.
SARAH BOLME: I remember from the time I was in high school, that one of the goals for my life was to be a published author. I’m not sure why I had that goal, since I never really was into writing—but very into reading. I had my first article published in a professional journal after college. Later, I had some colleagues encourage me to get a curriculum I had developed on anger management published.
Thus, I began the process of attempting to get a book published. Not knowing much about what I was doing, I mailed my manuscript to numerous publishers, received many rejection letters, and one acceptance letter. One acceptance letter is all it takes. My first two books were published by a traditional publishing house that paid royalties.
After my first child was born, I was frustrated because I could not find board books for babies that talked about Jesus. Most were on Old Testament stories. My husband and I came up with a set of four board books on Jesus for infants and toddlers and attempted to find a publisher. When we were unable to secure a publishing contract, my husband suggested that we self-publish the books. From there, CREST Publications was born, and Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus was published in 2003.
JOANNE: What motivated you to write Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace? What is new in the third edition?
SARAH: When my husband and I decided to publish Baby Bible Board Books, I read all the material available on publishing and marketing a book. While there were plenty of books on marketing a book, there were no books that specifically spoke of marketing in the Christian market. As we began to market these board books, my husband and I discovered that the Christian market is unique.
The Christian book buying market—from the retail end—has its own set of review journals, trade shows, and distributors. Our experience in marketing Baby Bible Board Books led us to start Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) in 2004, an organization dedicated to helping promote and market small publishers and self-publishers in the Christian marketplace. Remember, back in 2004, self-publishing was just beginning to take off.
After I had led CSPA for a couple years, my husband suggested that I write a guide book outlining everything I had learned about the Christian marketplace to help others. So, I wrote the book I wish I had been able to read when we first published Baby Bible Board Books. In 2006, the first edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace was published. The book won two awards.
Since the book publishing and selling environment is in constant flux, and since Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is a reference guide with hundreds of resources, the book periodically needs to be updated to stay relevant. I published the Second Edition in 2009, and the Third Edition just came out this year in 2014. The Third Edition was just granted a Finalist award by the International Book Awards. Each edition has not only been updated, but also expanded to include more information.
JOANNE: What are some of the unique challenges to marketing in the Christian marketplace?
SARAH: There are a few unique challenges in marketing a book in the Christian marketplace, but I think the most important one is that Christians need to know that a book that is offered to them as “Christian” or “wholesome” truly meets this definition. In other words, they want to know that your book is not a wolf dressed in up sheep’s clothing. Christian readers want to know that you are offering them something that fits with their generally accepted religious beliefs.
Self-published authors who are not known Christian personalities must overcome this challenge to assure their potential readers that what they are offering is truly a “Christian” book that will fit with the readers’ deeply-held religious convictions.
SARAH: Most independently published authors don’t think about marketing their book until they have the completed book in their hands. The most successful marketing starts before the book is published. This includes obtaining endorsements, building an audience (sometimes called a platform) for the book, creating anticipation, and orchestrating a successful book launch. By the time the book is released, authors who have not started marketing have lost some valuable opportunities to build sales.
Why should people buy your book (Beside the FaithWriters discount, of course!)?
I will let the testimonials of readers of the book speak for themselves. Here are a few:
“I’m a new author and I recently found your book on marketing. What a lifesaver it has been. You gave me so many ideas and resources that I had never even imagined before. I can’t thank you enough for such a great resource!” —Leslie Nelson
“Regardless if you are a recently published author, soon-to-be, or well-established, this book will save you invaluable time and effort, so please don’t pass it up! The listing of names, email addresses, and/or websites for specific groups, associations, and organizations is well worth its weight in gold.” —Dr. Jaketha Farmer
“YES! Finally someone wrote a book to answer my questions!” —Kim Martinez
“It was one of the most informative books I have ever read on marketing.” —Mel Cohen
JOANNE: Give us a tidbit from the book, if you would. What one piece of advice, or passage, from the book can our writers apply right now to their marketing efforts?
SARAH: Distribution is extremely important in selling books. Even with an ambitious marketing campaign, without adequate distribution a book will remain sitting in the POD database or in boxes in your house. Many self-published authors think that having their book for sale with Amazon is sufficient to sell it—not so.
Not everyone orders from Amazon.com. Some people prefer Barnes & Noble. Others prefer to order from their local Christian bookstore. Having a book only available through two or three websites is not sufficient to garner the most sales.
“Strike while the iron is hot” applies to book sales. When someone hears about your book and decides to purchase it, if they can’t find it in their usual shopping places, they will be distracted and buy something else. Having your book available through a Christian distributor (Spring Arbor, Anchor Distributors, Send the Light, or AtlasBooks) ensures that online Christian bookstores will list your book for sale and that any reader across American can walk into their local Christian bookstore and order it.
JOANNE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SARAH: In addition to being the author of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, and the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (www.christianpublishers.net), I have a blog on marketing books in the Christian marketplace where authors can read more about marketing books on a regular basis. My blog is at http://marketingchristianbooks.wordpress.com.
JOANNE: Looks like you’ve got some great resources for folks. Thanks again for the interview – and for making your guide available to FaithWriters members at a discount!
Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is regularly priced at $25.99 for the print book, and $20.99 for the ebook. Sarah is offering a special discount to FaithWriters members – only $20.99 for the print book, and $17.99 for the ebook. Click on this link and follow the instructions!