Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Christian literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I wish you could know Jennifer Abel, says Carolyn Ferrante at newbornbooks.  At first introduction you would see a quiet, unassuming woman. Soon, you would be charmed by her lush English accent and soft-spoken way.   

Well I did know Jennifer Abel, or Jenny Short, as she was then. We were students at Chester College about… well, some years ago now. I tracked Jenny down recently and found that she looks no different and, it would seem, is as engaging as ever. Jenny is also a self-published author, and has agreed to share some of her marketing experience…


 Jennifer Abel


Successful marketing originates the moment an author is inspired to create, carrying his work almost involuntarily over myriad struggles to become an expression in words or images. It is a beautiful gift, this compulsive desire to produce, knowing that our message is somehow mandatory – that the world needs our perspective or story! And it is this audacious passion that will birth resolve in us to pursue what might become thankless years of marketing. Yes, for there is, realistically, no easy way through marketing for most of us! Besides enthralled commitment to our task, any marketing strategy must equally be based on our confidence that we have guarded the integrity of the published word through precise editing, arriving at a polished end product. Our work has to be the best it can be if we are to be authentic and maintain self-directed momentum for the process. If we have the fervor of these convictions, we may launch a disciplined business plan and push through our writing adventure, embracing the rewards and challenges, step by intentional step.


Thankfully, we live at a pivotal point in the publishing industry. The marketplace is more accessible than ever before, through necessity. Thousands of people are writing books today and the bottleneck of previous years in traditional publishing houses has caused the entrepreneur spirit to rise up and challenge! I steered through mazes of agents receiving nods of approval but not able to hit the all-important and very narrow niche that would grab a manuscript sale. So, with writer’s compulsion and in order not to waste years, I opened my own publishing house by buying a small number of ISBNs. For independent spirits or control freaks, this is our wonderful modern alternative! But with this move, I also consciously entered a lower key realm of marketing. Therefore, I am sharing a smaller scale approach here. Of course, it can be challenging for artists, who may not be predominantly business minded, to run their whole show, but unless one has floating cash readily available, there’s no real need to pay expensive consulting fees. There is a wealth of free information online and in libraries as we search for it. We need to escape the idea that if we don’t make a big splash with our work within the first two months, we have not or cannot succeed. There is not the same huge rush for independent authors to make a mark as for big-time marketing firms with narrow deadlines and limited shelf space – we have time on our side as the smaller people, we have the personal touch, and our walk is only limited by the degree of our resourcefulness over years. Yes, we want to take every opportunity, and success is measured in quantity and publicity, but the quality impact and effect of a work on each life is perhaps more important in the long run.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



Here are several practical steps I took to gain exposure for my books. After buying my ISBN’s, I applied to become a business and purchased a domain name and website ( There is credibility in a professional look and the Internet is also our lead into global networking. Furthermore, anything sold automatically needs to be reported for sales and tax. But a business doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – if a private site is not an affordable option and if side advertising isn’t too much of an issue, there are free pages available for the starting up phase. Leave your URL everywhere, on emails and on networking sites, anywhere that isn’t spamming! Print business cards through one of the online outlets. In the States, Vista Print has good prices and great sales. Create an image or idea on your site to wrap around your books to enhance their reach, thus creating your niche or identity. For example, I interview inspiring people, and post international ministry profiles on my website whose work I actively support. Those who interview also help to spread the word to their colleagues and that engenders further interest. Usually, these people will put an image of your work on their own site – this is meaningful collaboration. Likewise, writing articles for other websites is another way for exposure. Keep your tone honest and accurate – there’s nothing worse than a shallow sales pitch. Appreciate each opportunity and learn from it. Other ideas on my site include running a small poll, keeping content and gadgets interesting, and I have sent out monthly and annual newsletters to buyers and friends. I have also linked a blog to my site, have a guest book for feedback, and I have excerpts of my books available – and lots of photos: People love images! Continuously gage what is working for you and what can be dropped. Either sell your book from your website through a portal like Paypal, or link into It is nice having the shipping and handling taken care of by another company. In the past year, Amazon has opened a brilliant sister-site called Create Space ( expressly for independent authors. For free, authors may upload their polished .PDF and cover, and Amazon will advertise a listing with print-on-demand available through their normal site, putting each book on a level with any other book on the market. It is not the most lucrative sales point but the potential exposure is valuable.


By far the most effective ways to sales and profit for me have been through an established community of support and through speaking engagements. I spoke very briefly at my church to people who had known I was writing, and who had been waiting for publication day with me. Friends were delighted that I autographed their copies, and I had no overhead fees there. Depending on the size of congregation, this can make an excellent foundation. This model can be transferred to any venue where you relate with a group. Print up as many books as needed to obtain the best bulk price, but without going overboard. You don’t want 2000 books in your basement for years, but you will need copies on hand for each opportunity. I spoke at another meeting completely unrelated to my book but it validated me as someone to be listened to in that circle, the effect of which cannot be underestimated. Every time there is a function, I have books available, every time I interact with people, they ask what I write – it’s a lifestyle. I carry those business cards and books in my car, and I give discounts generously to friends. I give a gift copy to any speaker that talks near my topic or who has influence in any greater sphere. I want to bless with my work and I also want to spread the word freely in appropriate directions. Each book is a potential seed.51izrzzxa8l__ss500_


It’s also good to know that trying out ideas and making mistakes or losing a few books to error, just goes with the territory. For example, I took a few books to a local bookstore but found that the stocking charge was 25%, which, after my printing charges, really made little sense considering the effort involved – this was a low-traffic store. One also has little control where a book is placed for visibility within stores, whether Barnes and Noble or a small outlet. I returned weeks later to one store to find my volumes lying on a shelf where few would happen to look! I also phoned a local radio show, which is a great idea, and I met with enthusiasm, but the same week the show stopped interviewing authors! Chalk up such events to experience and move on with a smile. Some people will love our work quickly, others will be apathetic, and it may have nothing to do with how good or bad our product is! Enthusiastic, energetic friends are a huge help, though. Not only do they give vital encouragement, but a couple such friends have been champions of sales for me, too, even refusing a commission. I was able to bag-mail a crate of books to a significant contact in the UK, where they are now advertised on a respected website, and also to send books to Australia for my highly sociable friend to eagerly distribute for me! It’s not a matter of forcing attention everywhere but of following to the max any honest interest that comes. I calculate that I have fifty more years to talk on my subject, and I have books to back me up! It is very easy these days to update content via .PDF, too. My next project will be to write a study guide and hold a local book study group, and perhaps to present on the wildly popular YouTube to see where that may lead. The ideas need never stop!


In the end, we must simply keep going and marvel at the path. Ultimately, we pursue this passion for the love of the work, not for the notoriety we must derive from it. Let’s continue till that famous day when others may catch the strain crying out from our pages and our readership may indeed break through to the thousands upon enthralled thousands! Until then, I feel successful every time readers spontaneously approach me and, sometimes with tears in their eyes, tell me from their deepest parts how much my books have meant to them. If the work says yes, the process says yes, and so we must write our passion, push on, and we will never be defeated!


To learn more about Jen and her work go to





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