Friday, January 30, 2009

Christian Book Expo: Fact or Fiction for Authors

By now, you've probably heard about the upcoming Christian Book Expo in Dallas, TX on March 20 – 22nd. This event is being billed by some as the “world’s largest Christian conference,” because it is expected to attract around 200 Christian authors and 20,000 attendees.

Lately, I’ve received a lot of questions from authors who are confused about this event and how to prepare for it. So, I’ve put together a short fact-or-fiction section below to help provide answers. If you have other questions, you’re welcome to contact me at:

CBE is just another version of the ICRS annual trade show.
Fiction: CBE is a completely different animal from ICRS. It’s the first show geared strictly to connect Christian book readers with their favorite authors. In contrast, ICRS is a show that connects retail bookstores with publishers. CBE represents a great opportunity for Christian authors to build new relationships with readers from the Dallas / Fort Worth area, which some call the buckle of the Bible-belt.

My publisher will give away my books for free like they do at ICRS.
Fiction: Publishers will NOT be giving away free books. All books must be purchased by an attendee before the author signs them. In addition, there is a daily entrance fee of around $19 for each attendee. So, people must pay just to show up and buy your book. With our tough economy, consumers will be fairly discriminating about how many books they choose to buy.

I have to be invited to participate as an author at CBE.
Fact: The only authors allowed to participate at CBE must be selected by their participating publisher or writer's organization, such as ACFW, etc. Random authors are not allowed to show up and schedule a book-signing. If you have not been invited, ask your publisher if there is still space available in their booth. You will need to be prepared to cover all expenses on your own.

The big-name authors will get most of the attention at CBE.
Fact: Just like most consumer-based shows, the big names will draw the largest crowds at CBE. There will be evening worship events and panelist discussions with famous authors that will attract thousands of attendees. Don’t get jealous, though. Big-time authors serve the purpose of making sure the overall attendance is large enough to sustain the event. Smaller authors benefit from the bigger numbers attracted by the A-level names.

If you’re an unknown author, your key to success must be using creative ways to draw attendees to your book-signings or workshop sessions. For example, you can give away free items, such as quizzes, articles, resource guides, or takeaway objects that connect to the message of your book. These tools help keep your book in an attendee’s mind even if they don’t buy during the Expo.

In addition, you could create a contest with an attractive prize that relates to your book. Use the prize to get people to register for your monthly newsletter. Acquiring 100 – 500 new subscribers to your newsletter may be more profitable in the long run than selling books during the show. The benefit is that you create a larger group of fans who can help spread word-of-mouth and buy more books in the future.

Each author must handle the details of their book-signing or speaking event.
Fact: The publisher is just bringing their book inventory and reserving booth space for authors to sign books or give a speech. However, it is the author’s responsibility to draw attendees to their signing, give a compelling message, offer immediate value that impresses readers, and gather contact information for a newsletter. The author must be prepared to handle all of these functions on their own.

Make the Most of Your CBE Author Event: If you’re an author who is participating at CBE, WildFire Marketing is offering custom, one-on-one, brainstorming sessions. We've helped numerous authors get incredible results at conferences and major events.

Just ask our client, Kathi Lipp, who recently attracted over 650 leaders to her booth at the International MOPS Convention. Her efforts generated many new speaking engagements and kick-started sales of her new book, The Husband Project.

Likewise, we can help you plan an effective strategy to draw attendees to your booth. Plus, we’ll help you develop creative ideas to spread word-of-mouth and capture more contact information to help grow your author platform. To get started, call 1-800-267-2045 or email:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Your Marketing Motive?

Take a moment to ponder this question: "What motivates you to write a book or give a speech?" Do you feel compelled to tell people something that will help them? And, do you find yourself driven to share your message with someone and see positive results?

We live in an era of unprecented technology where anyone and everyone can have a voice. New tools, such as blogs, self-publishing, YouTube, and podcasts make preaching and teaching easier than ever. In fact, last year over 400,000 new books were published. But, I'm not convinced this is a good thing. And, at the risk of offending someone, I've got something important to say:

God does NOT call Christians to be authors
(or speakers).

Instead, God calls Christians to write or speak about a specific message that will improve other people's lives. So, if God hasn't given you a distinct message yet, then He hasn't called you to write.

I've met too many Christians who say, "God called me to write a book." Others desperately dream of becoming a "retreat speaker" or keynoter for arena events. Yet, when I ask, "What is your core message that you feel burdened to tell others?" or "Why is your message so important?"...they can't answer the question.

Here's the problem: without a real message, you can't be a good writer or speaker. Sure, you can be an entertainer, but the American Church already has enough of those folks (they're called musicians and comedians). So, if you think God called you to be a professional communicator, but you don't have a deep message to share yet, then keep waiting on God - or question if He actually called you.

In his wonderful book, "Communicating for a Change," Pastor Andy Stanley referred to advice he received from his father, Dr. Charles Stanley, who said, "You've got to have a burden. That's the thing most preachers are missing. A burden. If they don't have a burden, it's just a bunch of fluff...It is a burden that weighs so heavily on the heart of the communicator that he or she must deliver it." So, if you want to be an author or speaker, then I ask you...what's your burden?

Many people think God called them to speak, but it's really just a personal desire for the limelight. Or, they're trying to satisfy what someone else told them to do. However, the Church doesn't need any more "authors" or "speakers." People are thirsting for proven, biblically-based, life-changing messages that will answer the tough challenges they face.

Here's my point: If you just want to be a Christian author, that's like saying you just want to get married - for marriage's sake. It's a selfish motive, because it's not about whether you want to sacrificially love a specific person. You just want to be married, and it doesn't matter to whom.

Likewise, people who just want to be speakers or writers are too focused on what it will do for them (their ego, their bank account, etc.) Instead, good communicators are more concerned about the needs of their audience.

To truly be a "Christian" speaker, make sure you've clearly defined a God-given burden. Know your value, and the results you can produce. Without that element, you're just another voice lost in the cacophony.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are You Wasting Money on Book Trailers?

Pop Quiz: What smells like cheese, has the power to put thousands of people to sleep, and sucks an authors money faster than a vacuum cleaner? Answer: Book video trailers.

For those of you who have worked with me, you know that my primary concern is an author's well-being. Well, lately I've watched a lot of authors pay hard-earned money to buy a video ad for their book thinking that it will ignite sales. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Here's why...

We live in a video-oriented society, and videos can be powerful marketing tools. But, I've watched over 100 book trailers so far, and over 95% were really awful! Too many authors are getting videos made by amateurs who lack credentials and a professional background. Worse, there's no creativity, art, and excitement put into the video for the viewer to enjoy.

Instead, the average trailer consists of a camera panning across a bunch of boring still-shots, usually the book's cover. Meanwhile, sappy music plays in the background, and a lame narrator gives a boring description of the book. Other bad book trailers include lifeless interviews with authors droning about their reasons for writing.

How are these videos supposed to motivate me to buy a book? How did these authors think this was a good idea? There's no value in the video for the reader. It's just a boring commercial that makes me feel embarrassed for the author.

The reason why everyone's talking about book trailers is simply because it's the new fad. Authors compare themselves to others and think they're cool if they have a video. Likewise, many authors would rather spend their money making cheesy videos, instead of getting out and interacting with their audience to actually sell some books.

Here's the reality about book trailers:

1. There is no conclusive evidence that shows video trailers motivate people to buy books. The video production companies will claim that they're revolutionizing the world. But, they're mostly just churning out useless eye-candy that doesn't deliver.

2. A book video is supposed to act like a TV commercial that builds hype for a movie. So, ask yourself this: When does a lame movie commercial on TV ever motivate me to go to the theater? Never. Likewise, a bad video trailer isn't going to motivate anyone to buy your book.

If you want to see examples of really good book trailers, check these out:

Click here for a top-notch non-fiction book trailer.

Click here for a top-notch fiction book trailer.

Let me be clear: There's nothing wrong with book trailers if they're done right. But, the lesson to authors is that if you can't afford to do it right, then don't do it at all. Otherwise, spend your money in wiser ways.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Amazon Launches Author Store

Here's some interesting news announced recently at PublishersWeekly:

Amazon has added a new way of finding books to its site, which the company is calling Author Stores, single pages that feature all books from a particular author, plus, in many cases, an author photo and some related content, such as a biography, message board and streaming video.

When the feature launched on December 29, Amazon went live with 2,500 Author Stores featuring many popular authors, such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. Customers access the stores through the normal search box—when a shopper searches for an author who has a store, a link appears at the top of the search results next to Amazon’s Author Store logo.

According to Amazon publicity manager Andrew Herdener, Author Stores represent “ somewhat of a watershed moment for our store in that, up until this point, it's always been organized around individual items. Author Stores adds a whole new dimension to the way the store is organized (around authors) and one that is both good for customers and for authors.” Herdener added that it is clear from the way customers shop on Amazon--using search terms--that the new Authors Stores will be something shoppers will like. Apple uses a similar feature in its iTunes store for popular artists.

Herdener also said that it’s Amazon’s long-term goal to eventually have an Author Store for every author whose books are available through Amazon.


I think this is a useful tool for any author to explore. Visit Amazon or talk with your publisher about how to get your own Author Store created.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dr. Matthew Elliott receives endorsement from Rick Warren

We're happy to announce that Dr. Matthew Elliott received a surprise endorsement for his new book, Feel, (Tyndale, 2008) from Rick Warren, author of the mega-bestselling book, The Purpose-Drive Life.

Pastor Warren calls Feel, "a great addition to the library of any pastor interested in helping his flock grow spiritually." We're glad to see Dr. Elliott receive such a powerful testimonial for his ground-breaking work. If you know someone who struggles with emotional repression or emotional confusion, Feel is a must-read.

Monday, January 5, 2009

January Amazon Comparison of CBA Publishers

The January Amazon rankings for the Top 15 CBA Publishers is now available. This research lets you see both the overall CBA industry rankings, plus each publisher's individual top 20 bestselling book list.

Why is this information helpful to you? This is one of the few ways that authors, agents, and publishers can simultaneously see how a publisher's best books stack up against their peers. For example, Neilsen BookScan doesn't let other publishers see the competition's sales numbers (only bestseller lists). But, WildFire's free research gives publishers a way to see which titles are selling well on Amazon at 14 other houses. This data is also helpful to see which authors, topics, and genres are dominating Amazon sales trends. For instance, this month's rankings included more titles that focused on themes, such as managing finances, job-searching, and overcoming fear.

Items of Interest this Month:
1. Top-Selling Overall CBA Title:
"The Love Dare" from B&H Publishing based on the popular movie made the top spot with an Amazon ranking of #56.

2. Biggest Publisher Moves:

Intervarsity Press jumps from #15 last month to #6 this month.
B&H Publishing jumps from #13 last month to #7 this month.
Howard drops off the list this month from #11 last month.

3. Zondervan e-Books Continue Strong Sales:
Their e-book version of the NIV Bible captured the #278 ranking in Amazon's Kindle store.

Also, "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" by Rob Bell continues a high sales trend in Amazon's Kindle store with a ranking of #420. This ranking rivals sales of the book's print version.

Note: Amazon rankings do not reflect accurate sales figures and only account for a small percentage of a book's total sales. However, they can help determine how specific publishers or book titles perform over time versue their peers.

Click here for an Excel spreadsheet of the December 3, 2008 rankings.

If you missed the November 2nd rankings, click here.