The Ten Commandments of What Makes a Good (or Bad) Website

This article was adapted from MAI’s recent webinar, “Build a Better Publishing House Website,” with Sam Richardson, CEO of SPCK Sam Richardson 2Publishers.

A good publisher website is one that meets the needs of different users. But a great publisher website increases the reach of the publisher beyond these audiences. To go from good to great, you first need to do the basics right in order to attract consumers and stop annoying them.

1. Your website must come up when you search for your company name on Google. This is easier if you have a unique name. If you have a common name like “Bible publisher” it will be hard for people to find you. If you have a common name with a lot of competition, consider paying for Google key words to ensure people can find you on Google.

2. Your website must not automatically play sound and video. It can be very embarrassing if you’re sitting in the middle of an office. It’s considered outdated.

3. Your website must be responsive (compatible with multiple devices—like tablets, smartphones, etc.). Google relegates websites lower in searches if they aren’t responsive, so it’s increasingly important to be compatible.

4. You must not have an ugly homepage. The  homepage (landing page) of your website is the first thing that people see about you. It’s a great chance to show people your beautiful ads and book covers, as well as your great words. Make the most of your assets.

5. You must not have an unclear menu structure. Whether your menu is down the left side or along the top, which is more popular now, it’s really important people can find your contact information, your store (shop), etc.

6. You must update your homepage regularly. Your super fans, those you really want to connect with, may visit your website every week. If you show them updated contact, it will encourage them to come back. Rotate your titles on the front page, show your social media links, post news items. There are many things you can do without much work.

7. You must not have broken links. If you can get rid of them on your website, this will improve your search engine ranking on Google and Yahoo a lot.

8. You must not hide your contact details. Customers often go to your website because they’re looking for your contact information. It’s tempting to try and hide them, but that will frustrate people. Consider setting up an email address just for website inquiries. People are happier sending an email than filling in a web form.

9. You shall have one website only. We used to have one web site for SPCK as a mission agency and one for our publishing. It confused Google, Yahoo, our customers and retailers. Have only one website if at all possible.

10. The user must be able to find what she wants. Different users have different needs.

Watch the full video of “Build a Better Publishing House Website.”

Check out our upcoming free webinars on publishing-related topics and videos of recent webinars.

Can authors and publishers market books together effectively?

portraits of Dan Balow taken April 9, 2010By Dan Balow

Everyone knows that more can be accomplished when people work together. Whether it is a family or a community, church, ministry, business or country, the principles of cooperation and collaboration are always key to solving problems or accomplishing great things that benefit everyone.

Keys to collaboration are mutual benefit and humility. In fact, it has been said that there is no limit to what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.

Does this apply to publishing? Of course.

Effective marketing of books requires that both authors and publishers cooperate in everything. But this is often the weakest link in the publishing “chain.”

The process of marketing and promoting a book begins well before the book actually is published. The digital world of social media and online selling has made cooperation even more important. Starting a conversation after the book is printed will not work well.

Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria breaks down the process into three parts, his “Triple P Pusonnam YiriConcept:”


From here we can create an effective list of actions that will sell more books. In each phase, authors and publishers have tasks to accomplish that eventually lead to effective cooperative marketing. If they are not working together, Pusonnam compares them to a mismatched relationship: “When a fish marries a bird, where will they live after the wedding?”

The most important first step to effective marketing of a book is for the author and publisher to meet together and discuss specifics how to work collaborate. While this seems obvious, most publisher/author problems relate to a lack of communication. Each side assumed the other would take care of marketing.

Step #1 – Meet early in the process (Pre-Production Phase) to specifically discuss marketing collaboration.

Step #2 – Develop a specific plan of action with dates to accomplish and assignments for specific people.

Step #3 – Make ongoing communication (Production Phase) a priority. Schedule regular times to communicate (in-person, phone or email).

Step #4 – Decide to enjoy the process of collaboration and leave the results to God. (Post-production Phase) Disagreements will happen, but when each side views everything as a journey rather than needing to win or lose, good things happen.

Marketing plans are not chiseled on stone tablets like Moses on Mount Sinai! They are written on paper for good reason and can be changed when needed. If something is not working, change it and move on. Often problems occur between authors and publishers when one or both refuse to admit something isn’t working well.

Finally, we all know that when we serve each other and work together to accomplish something, God is honored and others are blessed by the humble testimony.

When publishers pray for their authors and authors pray for publishers, the barriers between them are broken down and great things can be accomplished.

When that happens, everyone wins.

This article is based on a webinar that Dan Balow and Pusonnam Yiri led for MAI in August. Watch the webinar video archive. Dan and Pusonnam will also be leading a workshop on this topic at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore.

Dan is director of publishing development and a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency in the US. He began in Christian publishing in 1983, and over the last 30 years he has been involved in the business side of the industry in marketing, sales, rights management, foreign sales, audio books, digital publishing, web management and acquisitions.

Romania: Crowds Savor Coffee and Books

Customers sip java, chat with friends and browse bookshelves at Koffer, a koffer-barista-with-a-ba-in-theologycharming new coffee and bookshop in downtown Cluj, Romania. Sandor, a barista with a theology degree, brews gourmet coffee drinks and chats about the Christian books. How’s that for serving up creativity to reach new readers?

When Koffer opened its doors last November, a dream came true for publisher Balázs Zágoni of Koinoinia Books—an MAI-Europe Trustee—and his barista friend, Sandor (pictured above). They had witnessed many bookstores go bankrupt, and the high rent downtown was prohibitive. But when Balázs’ friend offered Koinonia the storefront for half the normal rent, it became a possibility.

koffer-children-area A refrigerator and furniture were donated. Sandor’s wife Krisztina offered her interior design skills gratis. Volunteers painted walls cheerful colors and patterns, and created original children’s artwork.

Sandor, a youth pastor, had also dreamed of a cozy place to reach people and enjoy one-on-one discussions about life and faith. For years he’d run a mobile coffeeshop at Christian camps and conferences, and had even been trained in barista ministry.

The opening was rescheduled four times due to a delay on official licenses, but prayer paved the way. “If I were to summarize in two words, it would be: ‘God provides,’” Balázs says.

Crowds filled Koffer, which means “suitcase” in some European languages, during opening week—the five tables and one children’s table always full. The cash register hummed with booksales for Christmas. Today seats are still scarce during busy hours. Balázs and Sandor hope the shop’s multi-faceted allure will make it sustainable long term.

Since its opening, customers have flocked here for two book launches. Balázs koffer-piano-in-the-suitcaseenvisions many more outreach events, including roundtables with authors, and promoting MAI and homegrown Christian literature.
“It is such a good feeling to see non-Christians searching through the shelves of Christian books, picking them up and reading the jackets,” he says.

Read our interview with
Balázs about writing his first sci-fi novel

Photos by Bea Angyalosi

Avoid dead books; clear out your cemetery

By Ramon Rocha

cemetery image

This visual had the most impact on Christian publishers and booksellers at the Cote d’Ivoire workshop where I spoke recently. I gleaned the idea from Edward England’s book, “An Unfading Vision”.

Dead books are dead missionaries not able to come out to spread the good news. In several countries where I have led training, dead inventory is a major problem. Somewhere, somehow, sometime in the past, wrong decisions lead to an accumulation of slow moving titles over the years. You may have overestimated the demand? You were too excited?

Publishing can be profitable but the risks are high. You want to have the right titles at the right quantities at the right time at the right places. Inventory management may reflect how well or poorly a publishing house is run. Learn to move that “dead” inventory in your warehouse and avoid the problem in the first place.

Move your dead inventory
1. Date your inventory
. Aside from aging your inventory in your management reports, color-code the sagging pallets or the dust-covered cartons of books in your warehouse. For example, put a red card on each carton that arrived in your warehouse 10+ years ago, orange for 9 years, yellow for 8 and so on. When you do your MBWA (management by walking around) at least once a week, you will be reminded of how long you’ve been storing dead books.

2. Prepare a marketing plan for each title in your cemetery. The objective is to resurrect and release them to accomplish what they were supposed to do.

3. Slash the price substantially, even below cost. Try “bundling” with other books. If you still can’t sell them, donate them (assuming they do not contain heretical teachings).

Avoid the cemetery
1. Analyze and think through all the titles in your publishing list with your team.
Ensure good, justifiable reasons exist for why you will invest time and money on each new and backlist title you will sell.

2. Publish within your means. Do your revenue and expense budgets far before the start of the fiscal year. Determine with your finance manager how much money you can set aside for new titles and reprints for the coming year using your projected monthly cash flow. Measure actuals versus projections and adjust accordingly.

3. Print only what you can sell in six months to one year. If that’s 500 copies, then so be it, even if the unit cost is higher. It is always better to reprint later than to be stuck with dead inventory. There is always a temptation to print a lot more to get a lower printing quote.

4. Get as many advance orders as possible. This will ensure specific quantities earmarked for certain customers. This is part of the marketing plan you have supposedly drawn up especially for each new “flagship” title.

5. Use print-on-demand (POD). Books printed using POD with offset quality still cost a lot. But prices are expected to decline in the coming years. Research availability in your area.

6. Publish ebooks. Start with your current bestsellers. You will not only save trees but gear up for the wave of the future and will be able to distribute globally.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Pray hard, work hard and avoid a cemetery of dead inventory.

What other ways you found effective in moving dead books and avoiding slow turnover? Leave us a comment here.

Following Up (part 4 in bookselling success for publishers)

By Tony Wales

This is the final article in a four-part series to help publishers succeed in selling their books.

In my first three articles, we have looked at 1) Preparation, 2) Presentation and 3) Getting the Order. Without another part of the sales process, we may lose all the ground we have made thus far. Following Up is vital if we are to build on all the work we have done. Here are some key disciplines all sales people need to have.

1. Perhaps the most important single tool that every sales person can and should develop is THE CUSTOMER SALES REPORT.

This is a written record of the sales calls you make. It can be developed as an electronic file or spreadsheet. Or it can be a paper version. Whichever way you choose, it will record the details of each customer with:

– Their full contact details (not forgetting mailing address, delivery address if ID-10054844different) and all the phone and e-mail addresses).

– Who their main contact and/or decision maker is.

– Their credit limit (how much you can allow them to order) and credit terms (the discount and payment terms).

All these will be at the head of the page below which will be a record of the following:

– Date, place of meeting and who was there.

– What was ordered (record as much detail as possible, including any comments on why they may or may not have bought certain titles.) This will be vital information for all future contacts with this customer.

– You may pick up general information in the meeting such as comments about the market, the parent organization of the publisher, or particular personal information such as someone’s illness, or the fact that they are getting married (will that affect who you see next time?) and so on.

– Keep your ears open for any clues as to how the customer is doing. Prepare some sensitive questions such as ‘Is the business doing better this year?’ This may affect the relationship you are trying to build with them.

Whatever you learn during the visit, make sure to record on your CUSTOMER SALES REPORT. You may not be the next person from your organization to meet them. If so, your record will be vital. And, as you build up this record, it will be critical not only to you but to anyone else from your organization who deals with this customer in the future.

Every publisher can and should develop and constantly maintain a set of customer records. They need to be kept in a place which others in your organization can also refer to though you, as the sales person have the responsibility to keep it up to date.

2. Don’t forget to record the latest contact details of your customer while you are still with them. There’s no time like the present. Find time as soon as possible after your meeting to add any further details to your CUSTOMER SALES REPORT. Build time into that day, or at latest the following day, while your memory is still fresh.

3. Following up also means that after meeting your customer, put a date in your own diary, planner or calendar to call them or send an e-mail. At the very least, this will simply thank them for the meeting and assure them that the order they placed is now being processed. You can also take the opportunity to confirm any details—such as the delivery date or publication dates they may have asked for.

4. Sometimes you mID-10066407ay have to follow up with further material such as samples of the books you were unable to show them at the meeting. Or send advance material such as information sheets or covers of new unpublished titles, and so prepare the way for future business. In any case, send your new catalog or other advance information when it is available. Make sure you add them to your regular mailing list.

5. Have a regular review of this particular customer. I used to have a pending system consisting of a folder for every day of the month. I would then put a reminder (perhaps with a copy of the customer’s order or other reminders of my visit – often with a scribbled note of any necessary detail) and select a date the following month to refresh my mind of what needs to be done next. I found this invaluable not only to prompt me to act but also to renew my memory. This became more important with every additional customer. I would daily review what I had previously put in the file for that day of the month and take any action required.

The key with all this is to take all possible steps to stay in touch with your customers. FOLLOWING UP will repay your efforts many times over and, even if it takes time and many follow-up calls, e-mails or other mailings, it will lead to increasing sales. It will also lead to  better understanding of your market. Additionally, your publishing will benefit as you understand your customers better. Thus, FOLLOWING UP is vital not only for increased sales, but for the effectiveness of your whole publishing program.

May God bless you as you apply these proven principles.

If you have questions or contributions arising from these blogs, I would love to hear from you. Email [email protected]

Photos above courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos