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Chris Brown

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  1. I self-published my first book through Christian Faith Publishing; it's a Christian memoir and it's available in paperback and several eBook formats. CFP actually sets the price, and I am selling them, but I've given away quite a number as well. I then published a little companion book through KDP, available in paperback and Kindle for a very low price - But I eventually made that a free PDF download from my website. I'm about to publish my second full book on Ingram Spark. It is a collection of testimonies with some study information attached to each one.
  2. Do it! But first, spend the time and money to get it professionally edited. And, with print-on-demand through a place like Ingram Spark or KDP, there's no reason to limit it to eBook only. You can easily get paperbacks. And finally, while you are awaiting editing, take the time to do a simple marketing plan, and think about trying to snag an endorsement or two you can include on the cover and at launch.
  3. Hi Jim, Alley has an ongoing series of threads on this forum called "Author Platform Discussion" that may or may not be some of us complaining about our promotion efforts, but would also effectively give you a good list of things the rest of us have been doing to advertise and promote. I also wrote a somewhat lengthy treatise on getting in to bookstores some weeks ago, so if you click through to my profile you should be able to find it.
  4. If some of them (Amazon, Facebook) gave you some idea of how their algorithms work that would probably help all of us. As it is there is a lot of guesswork and trial and error (mostly error it would seem). Setting up a promotion is simple enough on most platforms, but getting real traction with it can be a mystery.
  5. I have a website that is decent enough, but no great way to drive people to it. In a different era and a different business I had success with Google Ads, but when I went back to try it again for this last year I decided they had completely broken that system. I still tried an ad and it was useless. There is a lot I love about Facebook, but as mentioned you now have to pay to boost a post otherwise you get just a handful of reactions from the people who already have your book. I certainly understand having to pay to attract new people; having to pay to make content visible to people who already actively liked your page is garbage. And in my experience, I never generate enough sales from an FB ad to actually break even on the cost of the ad. I just did a boosted post about my last award that got over 300 engagements, over 20 new page likes, and apparently 0 sales. LinkedIn is totally useless for this. I'm actually not sure what LinkedIn is useful for anymore. I'm only still using it due to momentum. IG is owned by Facebook so I'm not sure what extra benefit I would get, and I just don't have that many images to share. Likewise for YouTube, there is no way I'm going to produce videos on a regular basis. I enjoy GoodReads personally but I haven't gotten anything out of it for this. When I've looked at their promotions I haven't been able to see how I would ever get the value out of them. I have been reviewed by a couple of minor Christian book blogs, which as far as I could tell netted me zero sales. (I contacted about 40, but most of the Christian book blogs only review Amish romance fiction. Seriously) I've gotten a couple of awards, which cost me money to enter and as far as I can tell have gotten me zero sales. Some awards are outright scams, but even the ones that aren't mostly exist because they want to sell you other services after you win or place. Some I'm pretty sure are their way of vetting who they want to pursue as clients. I've published a couple of articles on Red Letter Christians, which I believe got me 2 Kindle sales. I have an acquaintance who is a professional PR person and she is constantly talking about how she can make all sorts of amazing things happen... right after she talks about how people have to be willing to pay for quality PR. I'm blessed that I can sink some money into this effort without sweating it, but I can't pour thousands of dollars into a professional PR outfit with no guarantee of return. I haven't read parts 4 and 5 of this thread series, so I'm hoping that's the part where you all share the secret sauce of getting noticed in the crowded market without having to mortgage the house. 🙂
  6. That's funny, I was just looking at an Amazon campaign, but I stopped myself and backed away slowly... 😅 I haven't tried a Kobo promotion before. I may look into that next week.
  7. I feel your pain. I have a small Facebook promo ending today. 300 engagements and... zero sales (that I know of). I have a banner ad going up at TGC today, so we'll see if that gets me anywhere. I tried Beacon Ads once before with no effect, and hadn't planned to do it again, but in these special times I decided to give it a whirl. I had just about sworn off Facebook too, but here I am again.
  8. Hey guys, looks like I'm a little late to this thread, but I was having the same thoughts. Over the weekend I decided to do a small Facebook promotion and a banner ad on TGC through Beacon Ads focused on the ebook version. I've done similar ads in the past and they never quite paid off, but I figure people are sitting home wanting new things to read so maybe it will fill a need. I've got a new book with some beta readers right now. I wish I could speed up release on that, but I don't want to sacrifice quality for speed just to get it out now. Hopefully people will still want new book while they're going to the beach or whatever this summer. I don't think there is anything distasteful about promoting our books right now,
  9. Is anyone else coming to the Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association summit in Chicago in May?
  10. My book, Child of Grace: A Death Row Story, won the Gold for the Illumination Book Awards Memoir/Inspirational category. 🙂 http://www.illuminationawards.com/15/2020-medalists (scroll down to 12b)
  11. That's a good point. One thing I had on my sell sheet is some positive results from some awards competitions. The awards circuit is a bit of a racket and not everyone will want to spend money on it, but I did and I ended up with a couple of finalist and honorable mention plugs with good reviews (I can talk about awards separately). I also got a couple of good reviews from Christian book bloggers, which helped. I probably contacted 30 blogs and only got 2 to review it, but I think there was some value in those reviews. Additionally one of my local bookstore owners also does reviews for a regional magazine, and she reviewed my book there (and included it in her year-end favorites). One thing I had meant to emphasize more in the long post above is that the real key is for them to be interested in your story. I had a store in Kansas sell six copies the first day they had it because the owner was really touched by my story and sold it to her regulars. If you can get them interested and invested, they'll not only carry it but really try to sell it for you. Also, if you go to the bookstores page on my website you can see the list of bookstores who are actually stocking my book (at least the ones I know about, anyway).
  12. All right, buckle up, this will probably be a little long. 🙂 First, there are some basics you need to have in general. A quality book goes without saying, but it will need to be in one of the major wholesale networks and will need to be returnable (one exception on returnable that I'll get to later). You need to have a good "sell sheet" ready to go, and I recommend having a media kit on your website. Those two things you want to have whether you're reaching out to bookstores or not. I don't consider myself a pro on that, but you can go to my website and click media kit and see what I did (the media kit includes a copy of the sell sheet). Google it and you'll see roughly a million different views on the media kit, so just do what works for you. So, on to bookstores. Step one is just getting together a list of bookstores in the first place. I started in my state, then expanded to the rest of my region, then ultimately to the whole U.S. Unless your name is Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer you can forget the big chains - we're looking for independent stores. There are a few lists out there, like the Logos-affiliated stores, but I didn't get very far with those lists (with the exception that I'm in the Logos store in Nashville). What I did, which was very time consuming, was do a google maps search for "Christian Bookstores in <state>" and just go through the list. Some you can skip right away, like the big chains. There are also a bunch associated with christianbook.com that you can skip. Catholic stores almost always exclusively do Catholic books, which there's nothing wrong with, but if you don't have a Catholic book you can skip them. Stores that end with ABC are Adventist Book Centers, which are fine, but like most Catholic stores they only do Adventist materials. Same with Christian Science reading rooms. And finally church bookstores tend to sell only denominational materials or if it's a megachurch only books from their staff, so I pretty much skipped all the church bookstores. I'm telling you all these to skip so you can save a lot of time up front and have a more manageable list. All right, I told you to search for bookstores, and you may well have a better way to do it than I did, but what information do you actually want? What you ultimately want is the name and email address of the book buyer, i.e. the person who decides what to stock. With most independent stores that is just the owner, but the bigger ones have another staff member to do it. With some you get lucky and that information is on their website or Facebook page. For the best results as far as getting the right person, you call the store during business hours and ask whoever answers the phones. About half the time, with small stores, the person who answers the phone is the book buyer and you can actually break the ice on the phone. Sometimes it's the opposite and the person on the phone is clueless and you spend time explaining what you mean by book buyer and eventually they give you an email address. Making the phones calls is also time consuming, and for those of us with day jobs kind of tough because the bookstore hours are often the same as your work hours. Now you've got a list of bookstores and the names and email addresses of the person who makes stocking decisions for them. This is when you need the sell sheet. You send an email to the book buyer (and if you spoke with them on the phone make a reference to that), you say you have a book you would like for them to consider stocking at their bookstore, give the two-sentence version of your elevator pitch, make sure they know it is available and returnable through a wholesaler, and attach the sell sheet. Marketing types recommend you also include some incentive for them, like including them in an upcoming ad campaign. I did this (the ad just being a boosted post on Facebook, which is cheap), and while some of them expressed appreciation after they saw me give their store a plug, I'm not convinced it made the difference in anyone giving me a chance. A book and pitch they are interested in is worth far more. The other thing you do in the email is offer to send them a PDF copy or paperback to review - after all you're really just asking them to review it for consideration at this point. If you don't want to spend a few dollars on mailing a paperback, just offer the PDF, but I had quite a few who wanted a paperback only (it lets them check the quality of the book). I'd say 80% of the stores will never respond to you. After your first emails go out, wait two weeks and send a follow-up to the ones you haven't heard from. The ones that want a review copy obviously send one as quickly as possibly. After you send it, give them a few weeks and check back to see if they have had a chance to review it yet. Don't pester them but check back at appropriate intervals until you're sure you aren't getting anywhere. I mentioned one exception to returnable, and that is that a few stores want to do consignment. I have three stores doing consignment basis, which basically means it's your money sitting on the shelf in the form of inventory instead of theirs (for some small stores they can't afford much inventory). It's up to you whether you want the hassle and expense of doing any on consignment, but I decided it was worth it. I also have one store that just purchases straight from me at a steep discount. One other thing that is worth mentioning is that there are plenty of general market bookstores that happen to be owned by Christians. So I'm in a couple of those. I didn't spend a lot of time on general bookstores, I just reached out to a few in my general area that have "local author" sections. I've done some book signings at those as well. Bonus points: I donated two books to my local library system. The library people will tell you it actually helps sales, but I think that is more true if you have multiple books or if you have a series and just donate the first one or two. Mine finally made it into the system about three months ago and the copies I donated have been checked out pretty much non-stop. Double-bonus: My friend wrote a book (Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown, for the horse racing fans), and was shocked to discover it on the shelf at our local Barnes&Noble. She honestly didn't know how it happened, until she found out her friend went to the store to order a copy. I haven't tried this with my book yet, but the theory is that if someone orders it at the store it signals demand and they'll stock it at that store. Feel free to try that and let me know if it works. Whew, I think that covered it, but please let me know if you have questions or if some part of that didn't make sense to you.
  13. Thanks for the responses. I mainly wanted to make sure nobody had any dire warnings against them before I use them. 🙂
  14. I just noticed the first Amazon rating without a review on my book a couple of weeks ago. I'm not worried about it. At this point I'd be happy to have more reviews/ratings. 🙂
  15. My wife reads all of my stuff first too, but it's mostly in the interest of keeping me out of trouble. 🙂
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