Over 6 years ago I stumbled into what has become a full-time joy and career: writing and publishing. I haven’t really talked about this interest of mine, but today I am because of an exciting experience I had recently!
I independently published that first book, the (un)offensive gospel of Jesus (which you can get for free for joining my list!) before all the cool kids were self-publishing. Since then I’ve gone on to indie pub nine more books, some of which have experienced best-seller status on Amazon.com.
But it was 2 years ago when my career really took off—at least from a mere hobby to something I took more seriously as a business and entrepreneurial adventure. That shift happened when I stumbled across Joanna Penn and her mega-helpful site, TheCreativePenn.com.
Joanna is one of those rare gems who is both super knowledgeable and overly generous with what she knows. If you are a self-published writer you probably have heard about her, maybe even read some of her books or been to her site. If not…YOU NEED TO! She is one of the most knowledgable über indy gurus on everything writing, publishing, and marketing for people who take independently publishing seriously.
I have bought several of her courses, religiously listen to her podcast, and have read all of her books—both fiction but especially non-fiction. How to Market a Book and Business for Authors are must reads for any author seeking to navigate the changing landscape of publishing. She is one of my virtual mentors, someone who I’ve interacted with a bit online through Twitter and email, but never in person—until the interview above!
A few weeks ago she interviewed me for her podcast to talk about self-publishing and marketing for the Christian market. While everything she writes can certainly be imported and utilized for writing, publishing, and marketing for the Christian space, in the video above I share some specific things to keep in mind:
- When speaking about the Christian market it’s important to keep in mind it’s a mostly evangelical one—they have the major publishers and major retail chains and major personalities—which drives the religious book market. The Evangelical Industrial Complex as some of us call it!
- It is a tough market to crack. Evangelical readers prefer to shop in specialized Evangelical stores where books are certified as spiritually correct, and those store owners prefer to buy from publishers who are also like-minded believers—which can make self-publishing difficult because you’re not a known entity.
- Because of this it’s important to understand the evangelical culture. One thing to keep in mind are the theological convictions, including the doctrines of Revelation, Inspiration, and Inerrancy. These can impact how the market tolerates truth, especially if you touch on Christian or religious subjects.
- Another thing I didn’t get to talk about, but something to keep in mind, is there’s a bit of a tribal mentality with evangelical Christians—and I AM an evangelical, so I can say this 🙂 The idea is are you writing as an insider or an outsider? And do you have the right to write about our stuff and our issues and our convictions.
- I talked a bit about genres: Christian Fiction is a genre of general fiction—but then it breaks out in sub-genres that mirror general genre fiction: So you’ve got Christian romance, Christian suspense and thrillers, Christian Science fiction and Fantasy, Christian apocalyptic, Christian detective/legal thrillers. Mostly the major genres Christianized—although Joanna points out there’s such a thing as Amish erotica, which was a new one for me!
- And then I shared some tips for marketing, including: 1) Probably the number one thing is having a known Christian personality endorse your book; 2) Reaching influencers will reach the people they influence; 3) Author bio will be important—including things like denominational affiliation or if you are a pastor or have volunteered in ministry will signal that you’re legit.
- This gets to the issue of branding…which I was super uncomfortable with at the beginning. I share how I think for Christians this is a hurdle to get over—because we have it drilled into use that it’s not about us, its about Christ and HIS story, not us and OUR story. But I’ve learned that we can—and SHOULD—leverage our experiences and credentials and story, NOT for me and building my own brand, but for the sake of Christ and His story.
Watch the full video above, read the full run-down of the session or listen to the audio on Joanna’s site, and just head over there anyway and take a look around. And please do yourself a favor if you’re a writer, independent or otherwise: buy, read, and study How to Market a Book and Business for Authors, and keep up with her site.
You will be better for it, and so will your readers!
BTW—I mention at the end that I’ve moved into fiction writing! During NaNoWriMo I’m finishing up a manuscript I started this July—which is the prequel to my first new novel and series launching end of January 2015 and is now in pre-order status on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo. It’s a spiritual coming-of-age story I hope will help a new generation in their spiritual journey and quest to connect their faith to their modern world. You can check it out here!