I work with a ministry that self-publishes its own books. These are posted on our website, displayed at ministry-related conferences, and mentioned to donors via print and email. How can we expand our market?
It depends. (For those of you following this blog regularly, I hope that made you smile.)
It depends on a number of factors. In this case the question is more specific to non-fiction authors, thus my answer will focus on that genre.
The key to any market reach in today’s world is platform. That can be defined as the size of the audience who are interested in your material.
In this case the person who asked did not say if the books were from the head of the ministry or if the books were by various people within the organization. It makes a difference. A visible “spokesperson” can set the level of opportunity.
Ministries are often headed by someone who either founded it or has been named the chosen successor. Campus Crusade (now called CRU) was founded by Bill Bright. Over the years the ministry grew into an international one. For years, any new book by Bill Bright got a lot of attention in the marketplace because he was so well known and admired.
Before Dr. Bright passed away the organization wisely set up a succession plan so that the ministry continues to thrive today. The difference is that if you are not part of CRU I doubt you could name the head of the organization. Thus the “platform” of a personality that can reach beyond the ministry via the publishing of books is not as much of a factor.
If a ministry plans to use their publications as a strategy platform (visibility) is a key.
What you are writing about must also resonate. If the ministry is very specific in focus and quite small, like a ministry to men who like to watch Equestrian competitions, then the books will have a limited market no matter what you do. (I’m being silly, of course, to make the point.)
Take a look at the books you are writing. Do they have a wide reach? And if so, what makes them unique? If it is yet another book on evangelism, or doctrine, or prayer, or marriage, you will naturally be wrestling for attention against a bunch of similar books.
Consider creating some free content. Something that is well crafted, attractively produced, and yet something that delivers well. Something that the reader is happy they provided their email for in exchange for the free book.
We have attempted to do this with the Christian Writers Institute by offering a free PDF booklet on book proposal preparation (see the sign up page on the web site).
One writer who has continually been successful with his content is Jeff Goins. Visit his site and listen to his advice.
Once you have the attention of a new reader be consistent with the content you provide.
You don’t have to blog every day like we do (but we have four writers to draw from), but putting something out regularly is a way to build new readership over time when your words are shared with others.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve visited a potential author’s web site and found an abandoned blog. The last post is over a year old. That suggested this author is no longer engaged with their reader. If you’ve done this either 1) remove the date from your blog posts 2) remove the blog from your web site. Some authors switch to Facebook for their reader engagement, which is fine, but don’t forget about you own web site.
Much depends on the nature of your ministry as to what should go out on a regular basis. While you may think “We’ve already written about this topic” realize that today is a different audience than the ones who saw that post three years ago. Maybe it’s time to refresh that previous post and bring it back to the top.
Build That Mailing List
Today’s question mentioned a donor list which is a great start. And may be all you really need. But if you want to reach new readers there needs to be additional efforts to find new readers who want your content. Buying Facebook ads or Google ads is only one strategy (albeit a bit of a shot in the dark).
When I bought Marcher Lord Press in late 2014 they had developed a healthy email list that was of high quality and very responsive. After rebranding the company as Enclave Publishing our focus was to try to build the list. We redsigned the web site from the ground up and then used a number of online campaigns like an online sweepstakes and other content giveaways. In 18 months we quadrupled the list. The best part is that the “open rate” percentage of the list remained the same. In other words those who signed up wanted to hear from us.
Tom Morkes has an excellent article I recommend that all authors read regarding the building of their email list: (The Author Email List)
Kimberley Grabas also has a good article to review: (A Writers Guide to an Email List)
Author Media has great tips on what to put in the newsletter you send to that list (8 Elements of an Effective Newsletter)
What tips can you provide to the readers of this blog?
What resources can you tell us about that help people develop or grow an existing platform?