In a world where more books get published every year and it has never been easier to get a book in print (via print on demand) or published electronically, there is now more need for better book curation than ever. This explosive growth in book production has made the need for wisdom in book selection a growth industry for bloggers. Cutting through the clutter and getting a good book recommendation is now a vital part of the book purchasing choice process for most avid readers. While there are some great book review blogs on line, there is still nothing that will replace the word of mouth recommendation of a trusted friend. Some of the best independent Christian book retailers I know have made this a primary part of their business model and are committed to staffing their stores with book lovers and people who can make excellent book reading suggestions. Not doing so is a sure path to decline and even extinction in the increasingly digital book selling environment we all live in.
So how do we get the word out? How do we create a buzz for the best Christian books that are published each year? First, we have to commit to doing some research ourselves and spend a lot of time doing the homework that is required to finding the best books. Scouring blogs ourselves, reading many book reviews from trusted sources (not just the ones on Amazon or provided by the publishers) and ultimately reading these books from cover to cover is essential. How do we expect to influence others to make wise book reading choices if we had not done so ourselves?
Secondly, we have to commit to taking the books to the people. We cannot be satisfied to simply keep these great books in stock and hope that people will walk through our doors so that we can talk to them on our turf. In many cases it will mean setting up book tables and taking books to events outside the four walls of the store. It certainly will mean developing a robust social media community around our stores where people will be interacting with us so they can discuss why we love the books that you are recommending. Sponsoring book reading clubs in local churches where they are looking for monthly recommendations is a great way to get the word out and to get feedback on our suggestions. Nothing creates more buzz for a Christian book than the local church community getting excited about it and talking about it.
Finally, we have to get to know the book recommendation influencers in our community. Lots of people like to read books, but not everyone is willing to talk about it. Some people, however, are a never ending source of wisdom and great book reading ideas. We must identify these folks amongst our friends and acquaintances and get to know them better. Once we have identified a core group of people that we trust and who are influencers, we must find ways to get them the content that they need. Making sure they get a free copy of the key books we hope to promote could be the single most important marketing and advertising choice we make in a given year. Our publishing partners are more willing than ever to get us these free books if we are willing to get them in the right hands.
As I was thinking about this subject this week, I was struck by the reality that Christian retailers have an enormous responsibility to make great books available to the public. In CLC, this is an even bigger issue as we work to provide books to people all over the world. In some countries we are providing the only Christian books they will ever have access to. What a great privilege and what a huge responsibility. Our team in Colombia is taking this very seriously and recently purchased and outfitted a new bookmobile so they can take books to the remotest parts of their country. What a joy to know that these books will have been hand selected by people that care deeply about the power of the gospel to transform lives through the printed page. There will certainly be people in heaven one day as a direct result of the book selection choices we have made. Oh what a day that will be.