How do I get my Christian Book listed on CBD (Christian Book Distributors)?

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If you don’t know about CBD.com, it’s basically the Amazon.com specific to explicitly Christian entertainment media and gifts—kinda like the biggest Christian bookstore you’ve ever been to but in an online and catalogue format. If you’re an indie or self-published author of ECPA or CBA style titles you would certainly want to be available through those markets, right? So how do you get into their catalogue?

I contacted them. Got very little. Contacted again with much more specific questions—got very little data, and then tracked down some info, called them and got to the bottom of it because their site had some misinformation (or at least some very misleading/poorly written info)—that’s some real hard-hitting investigative journalism there. (pats self on back).

While there is a statement on the CBD site which seems to say that you can get carried by their distribution system if you are self-published, their online FAQ states: “Unfortunately, we are not able to accept unsolicited product queries, proposals, or manuscripts. We simply cannot accommodate the numerous requests we receive and we do not review any materials sent to us; but we’d be happy to suggest other resources for assistance.” (I do believe that it was my multiple communications that made them put this statement up as it was added after all of my questions).

Here’s what I found: it’s not impossible to get in to the CBD catalogue, but it’s not easy, either. They are very reluctant to give any info on how you can get in. Under a page they promote about “self-publishing” and “want to see your book on CBD?” you get redirected to a pay-for manuscript hosting service. It seemed like a back door into their catalogue, since I couldn’t find any info on how to get in outside being published by a big CBA traditional house. It was a dead end, though. The link focuses on getting a publishing contract through one of the big traditional houses.

In trying to discern if it was even possible to get in as an indie I remembered that I had purchased an indie book via CBD several years ago—that indie house had offered me a contract (but is also a bit of an author-mill: they focused on making money from author services, not on the publisher’s cut of the book sales) and I wanted a sense of their quality. Armed with that knowledge I’d asked CBD for a list of publishers they purchase from… and they refused to give that saying the list was too big (I can understand that… there may also be some confidentiality concerns on their part, though it’s not like I’m I’m wikileaks of anything.

I scoured the internet and did find one publisher who mentioned that they could get authors in to the CBD catalogue: Bookbaby. (I’m familiar as my old rockband used their music service arm to produce our cds). Bookbaby did speculate during our phone call that the reason they handle a large volume of Christian indie authors is that they market their ability to harness the power of christianbook.com (CBD’s site).

Since they wouldn’t give me a list from their purchasing department at CBD, I manually searched for book publishers in their system. I looked for titles by Bookbaby, Tate, Xulon, Westbow (part of Harper Collins), Xlibris, Creation House, Crossbooks (part of B&H), Outskirts Press, Castle Gate Press, and even Createspace. I found a very limited number of titles from each of the above.

Something they told me at Bookbaby (the polite customer service rep on the phone went to his supervisor to get me some info) is that the exact nature of their relationship with CBD is confidential and as such he can’t divulge certain things. I was interested in specifically what the parameters for title selection might be, but that was something that they simply could not share with me. They also couldn’t speak to their procedures regarding authors (I wanted to know if they would automatically pitch a new Christian title to CBD or if the author had to specifically request as much.)

I contacted Createspace in order to see if there was some special process to get a book in. Createspace had no info for me and so I suspect there is another avenue (some inside relationship those authors had with someone in CBD’s Buying Dept.) I contacted some of the authors directly who are listed in the CBD catalogue and received no answer. As I looked more and more into it, I also began to wonder if there might be something else that factors into it such as book producer (perhaps those Createspace writers also opted into using Ingramspark for expanded distribution—but more on that in future blogs). After a few weeks of emails, phone calls, and research I’ve come to all dead ends.

To answer my title question (How do I get in CBD as an Indie) the answer really is, “You can’t.” The bottom line is that indies must be published by a company that has a relationship with CBD’s buyers—and you must specifically ask them to make a pitch to CBD, and their buying parameters are written on the backside of the Krusty Krab’s Krabby Patty Secret Formula, so we may never know. If you want to be carried in CBD you must specifically ask your indie publishers to pursue that as a distribution avenue. It sounds like the path is narrow and the parameters are murky, but at least we know that it is an option.

State of Writing

I’m keeping on track… wrote some devo pieces (and recorded some for radio broadcast, locally). I’ll finish that entire book over this next weekend in all likelihood. I also sold almost ten books at a small, local craft festival. I’d never actually heard someone say “I prefer mysteries” until Saturday; maybe I need to get out more, but almost everybody I talked to about genres were mystery/crime readers (so I steered them to Piano of the Damned, which would be up their alley.) I did work to refine my pitch/proposal for John in the John. I plan to start talking to agents soon.

Netgalley for peanuts?

I came across a little blog post today which derailed my typical posting schedule because it was important to the pocketbooks of Indie writers. I’ve heard good things about Netgalley’s author promo services helping boost a book’s number of reviews. My publisher for one of my titles had been offering a reduced price for a netgalley promo since they get a bulk rate as a publisher.

It didn’t take much poking around to locate something called a Netgalley Co-op Service. They act as a publisher, get a discounted rate, and can set up a bare-bones kind of package for you to get your title on Netgalley for somewhere in the neighborhood of $50. If you’re considering stepping up your pay-to-play advertisements you should read this blogpost:

https://anaspoke.com/2016/09/22/my-experience-with-a-netgalley-co-op-by-patchwork-press/

Free Fiction Tuesday! #wott

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Dekker’s Dozen: The Last Watchmen
I wanted to give you all a final chance to pick up my sci-fi for free today on Kindle. If you liked Firefly, you should check out Dekker’s Dozen: The Last Watchmen. It’s normally five bucks on Kindle. Today is the last day it’s free (just checkout normally–the price is set to $0.00). https://www.amazon.com/Dekkers-Dozen-Watchmen-Christopher-Schmitz-ebook/dp/B01FWERIGW

Wolf of the Tesseract
WotT has just dropped on Audible/ACX and I have 2 free downloads up for grabs. They will be randomly selected followers who share this post by the weekend! You can check it out and listen to a sample on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-of-the-Tesseract/dp/B01LZ3YM9B

The Kakos Realm: Grinden Proselyte
TKR Book 1 is currently a giveaway at Goodreads. Just click Enter Giveaway to potentially win a paperback copy! This 1st in an epic Christian Fantasy series is what you might expect if Frank Perretti wrote a Game of Thrones novel. https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/202920-the-kakos-realm

share it an hashtag it peeps!

State of Writing

SO last week I powered through like 3 chapters… I basically did that again–I got a little fixated, like a dog on a bone, and couldn’t relent. I finished the rough draft for Fear in a Land Without Shadows on Saturday. That’s good because I also jotted a rough outline of a 5 book arc for a new YA series The Hidden Rings of Myrddin the Cambion (which is about 3 years away from ever putting pen to paper… I’ve got at least 3 other books to write before I begin that series).

Here’s a little teaser for Fear, though:
Following the nearly completed apocalypse of E-day, an infertile obstetrician, a man with Down’s syndrome, and an injured preacher must join forces with an atheist to turn back the second demonic apocalypse. The creatures can only move in the dark, but deep inside humanity’s last underground bunker, the lights have begun to go out.

(Now I just need to finish John in the John over the next two weeks and I’ll be sitting pretty good. I forsee that coming together well–and then I can begin a final draft on The Kakos Realm: Rise of the Dragon Impervious!)

FREE GIVEAWAY WEEKEND! #wott

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I’m doing a huge promo blitz this weekend so that people will have enough time to read read and leave reviews before I present at the Twin Cities Book Fair by the middle of next month.

Kindle Giveaway – Dekker’s Dozen: The Last Watchmen (just checkout normally–the price is $0.00).
https://www.amazon.com/Dekkers-Dozen-Watchmen-Christopher-Schmitz-ebook/dp/B01FWERIGW

Paperback Giveaway – The Kakos Realm: Grinden Proselyte giveaway is at Goodreads. Just click to enter. They pick winners and tell me who to mail copies to.
https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/202920-the-kakos-realm

Audiobook Giveaway – Wolf of the Tesseract was just released via Audible/ACX and I have 2 free downloads up for grabs. They will be randomly selected followers who share this post! You can check it out and listen to a sample on Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-of-the-Tesseract/dp/B01LZ3YM9B

As Always, check out my author pages
http://www.authorchristopherdschmitz.com
https://www.facebook.com/authorchristopherdschmitz
and Join my mailing list!
http://eepurl.com/b6phYn

10 Important Things When Pitching Books at Conventions, Festivals, Trade Shows, etc.

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I have some experience in sales and did a lot of pitch-work for a company and ran a company’s booth at all of our conventions back when I used to work in real estate. I thought I’d share some things I’ve gleaned over time that I feel help me sell books at these kinds of things.

Walking around, I saw a number of other authors at a recent event–I always try to network when possible. One was pretty busy doing his setup and so didn’t have much to say (plus it was early and the coffee hadn’t kicked in, I assume.) Another mentioned that “it hasn’t been a very good weekend for him.” I interpreted that as book sales and personal contacts based on the languishing number of names on his mailing list signup sheet (my second page had half filled up by that day) –I can’t think of a good reason to spend your day at a vendor booth unless you want to sell as many books as possible or do some solid networking.

I realized that not everyone has much experience as a vendor and so I thought I would try to give some basic advice. Bear in mind, then, that I do make assumptions. Regardless, here are my tips to running an author’s booth at events.

  1. Recognize that people didn’t come to buy your book. You will have to sell them on it. Have ready a three sentence elevator pitch, a longer version for those you’ve hooked, and a positive comparison to a well-known best seller, but with a twist. “My book is similar to Harry Potter, except that the main character is a girl with a speech impediment so she has trouble casting spells.” (yes I just made that up–yes I just might write that story).
  2. Do not sit down. This is basic sales 101. Nobody buys something from someone in a chair. There’s a lot of psychology behind this. Feel free to disagree with me and sell fewer books, but if I’m talking to you at a convention about your book and you’re so unenthusiastic about it that you can’t stand (disabilities are an exception) then there’s less than a 1% chance I’m going to take it home with me. Along with this, put the book in their hand so they can feel a sense of ownership and possession on your book or item (it means they have to intentionally give it back and “say no” to buying it)–that’s harder to do from a seated position.
  3. Greet people and look them in the eye. Often this means people stop and accidentally get sucked into a conversation you can and should steer towards your book (look for openings to shift the conversation). It’s fine if they walk away–often just drawing a crowd attracts other more likely buyers. They see 1 or 2 others at your table and say “what’s this interesting thing? I think I’ll take a peek.” Feel free to jump to the person with genuine interest and/or steer the conversation to include them in the sales pitch while the original party walked away. You can’t sell to everyone, so try to determine which person is more likely to buy: it’s usually person #2 in my experience.
  4. Have a way to engage with people who walk away. A lot of people don’t buy anything until they’ve seen it all and many might become interested but still have no intention of buying. Even if you know this, those people can still have some value: try to get them interested in joining a mailing list–I often run a giveaway; each person who enters must give you enough info that you can add them to your mailing list after the event.
  5. Make sure your family and friends understand that if they drop in on you at your table and an interested person comes to the table you’re going to drop them like a hot brick. You are there for a purpose. It’s like having a job: no personal phone calls when you’re on the clock. Yes, you’re the boss, but small talk with family and friends are not the chief priorities when customers come. they won’t wait for you, make sure your friends and family know that… they’ve got to know they should take a step back but return to the conversation later.
  6. Network with others. Arrive early and budget a little time to meet your neighbors and other similar artists and authors also working the same event. They may or may not buy from you but that’s not the goal. Networking is immensely valuable. You might have to opportunity to guest-blog, trade reviews, or work on other projects in the future that blow open huge holes of opportunity in the future. Don’t pass up that chance.
  7. Don’t leave! It should go without saying, but the less you are your table, the more likely you are to sell. Over a recent weekend I finally took a five minute break to hit the restroom when someone I’d connected with the day previous came looking for me (luckily, I’d gotten her onto my mailing list so I connected after the event). Try to time your restroom trips and snack runs accordingly. If you can get something delivered or come prepared so you don’t have to leave then all the better.
  8. People don’t ever come back! except when they do… but it’s better to cut a deal and sell them something now than wait around expecting they will return and buy. From my sales training days in pitch-work I’d been told that something like 4% or less of those promising to return and buy a product actually do. Bird in the hand and all that… don’t hold your breath on people coming back. Before they ever leave, ask them to put their info on your mailing list.
  9. Market yourself: make sure you have an appealing setup. Money spent on professional banners, postcards, and marketing materials that will catch the eye are worth it. Nobody will buy from you if they never see you. You’re an introvert and don’t want to engage people? Tough, role-play as an extrovert. Either fake it or hire someone to do it for you. You’ve got to grab attention in the three second window you’ve been given. At the last con I attended my booth-mate had his amazon sales page up so he could show interested people his reviews. That worked for him. There is no sure-fire set of materials to have, so find what works–the only wrong choice is to forego them entirely.
  10. Connect with readers. Ask everyone to leave a review in the usual places (Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc.) Spend extra time with those you are sure will read and review and seem to really be engaging with you. Remember that those readers you connect with are more likely to read through your entire back-list, buy your new titles, and recommend you to friends. Readers are awesome. Readers for life are better!

Do you have a book and have found something that works for you at festivals and conventions? Comment with more advice! Like this list? Share it with your friends!

Christopher D Schmitz is an author of sci-fi, fantasy, horror (SF/F/H), nonfiction, and just about any other genre in between. In addition to his blog you can find his stories and novels at http://www.authorchristopherdschmitz.com.

Free Fiction Tuesday: The Kakos Realm

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Here’s a link to a free paperback giveaway I’m currently running on Goodreads! That’s right. FREE. It will cost you nothing to enter and potentially win a free copy of The Kakos Realm: Grinden Proselyte. Click this link for the giveaway!

“This 1st in an epic Christian Fantasy series is what you would expect if Frank Perretti wrote a Game of Thrones novel.”

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State of Writing

 

Yeeeeaaahhh. So when I said I’d write 2x devos last monday because I’d missed the previous week? I actually wrote 5. Getting a little excited as I work on my new devo book. My count is up to 52 devotional pieces drawn exclusively from John’s Gospel… I’m kind of torn between doing 52 or 60 pieces (either a 2 month daily devo book or a year-long weekly one). If I go with the former, I’m done… but I’ll probably do the latter cuz I’m an overachiever.

Speaking of overachieving… I actually wrote two chapters in Fear in a Land Without Shadows, too. Last week was good. I’m shooting for just one of each, this week. Don’t want to set the bar too high.

Followup on Reviews: Places to Find Reviewers

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So I decided to take my own advice on how to communicate with and seek out reviewers. It wouldn’t be out of the question to shoot off an email that takes 10-15 minutes to write (so personal, not a form one) after checking out a review website–it might be wise to schedule this into one’s early morning routine…perhaps as the coffee is brewing.

Of course, this begs the question, “Where do i find reviewers?” That might be the hardest part, methinks. But then I went looking through the saved folder of useful links that I’ve got stashed about great resources I really ought to blog about and find a gem: a database of database of reviewers with links to their sites and the genres that they actively review… it’s been around since 2010 and has 381 reviewers listed.

This website belongs in your bookmarks tab:
http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/