Interview with CrossBooks Author Ben Stroup: How He Sold 6,000 Copies In Six Months
Ben Stroup is the author of Church Giving Matters: More Money Really Does Mean More Ministry published by CrossBooks in May 2009. Recently, Stroup was kind enough to share his story with CrossBooks in an interview about the success of his book and his marketing strategy.
CrossBooks: You've experienced a lot of success in publishing. How many books have you sold to date?
Ben Stroup: I’m not sure of the exact amount, but I know that it’s more than 6,000.
CB: Can you tell us briefly what your book is about? How did you pitch your book, or in other words, what's your "elevator speech"?
BS: My book equips pastors and church leaders to manage the tension between vision and the resources needed to accomplish that vision within the context of local church ministry. The Church can’t fail. There is no Plan B. Those of us who have been called to lead the Church are also responsible and will be held accountable to how well we cultivated the time, talent, and treasure God provided for us through the people engaged with our communities of faith. Therefore, we must ensure our churches are able to fully fund a sustainable ministry so that it can facilitate spiritual transformation of individuals and communities.
CB: Did you set a sales goal for your book before you started out? If yes, what was it, and if no, why not?
BS: I wanted to sell enough to substantiate the need that I had already recognized as a gap in church leadership material. How do we translate non-profit development strategies and tactics into the language and practice of the church? I was told along the way that no one will be interested in reading a book like this, but I knew this was a conversation that needed to be fostered among those who had been given the task of funding ministry budgets. Judging by the almost immediate response from the church leaders, I think the need was even greater than I had first thought.
CB: What kinds of advantages did CrossBooks provide to help you reach your goals?
BS: CrossBooks meant that I didn’t need “permission” to write the book. I had access to all the things I needed that would be available to any author who published through a more traditional route, only I had complete control during the process. I was presented with good advice throughout the process. Sometimes I agreed. Other times I choose not to take the recommendations from CrossBooks staff. The book I ended up with was MY book, not SOMEONE ELSE’S idea of my book.
CB: When it comes to marketing your book how did you create your marketing strategy?
BS: I was already working in the area of helping churches fund their budgets and manage the tension of ministry and money. I had been blogging on the subject for two years and was already speaking at various gatherings of pastors. The book became another medium through which to capture the conversations I was having with church leaders across the country and the observations I was making in the process.
Bottom line, I knew my audience, I knew the subject matter, and the timing was absolutely perfect given the economy. It was the perfect storm.
CB: Did your marketing plan change throughout the process? If so, how?
BS: My marketing has always been to ensure I kept a close connection with the pastor and church leader. If I stop asking the same questions they are asking, then I become instantly irrelevant. My platform has expanded as more people have read the book. Both feed each other as they evolve together.
CB: Do you use any kind of social media to promote your book? (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, a blog, etc.)
BS: I am heavily invested in social media. I use Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, SlideShare, Blog, YouTube Channel, etc. You can find a collection of my online presence at www.benstroup.com.
CB: How did you sell 6,000 books in five months? What did you do right? What could you have done better?
BS: Again, I knew my audience, had a platform, and had refined the material. That along with the state of the economy provided the perfect storm of interest. The bulk of the books were purchased and distributed through state and national denominational entities. The only part that was missing was a traditional marketing push to couple with my social media and networking efforts.
CB: What have you found to be the most effective method in boosting book sales?
BS: Know your audience. Know your material. Writing a book is not a clinical experience, at least it wasn’t for me. It was a response to a swelling of ideas that needed an outlet that was easily transferable. A book just made sense for me.
CB: Any advice for first-time authors setting up their marketing strategies?
BS: Write the book. That’s the hardest part. Second, submerge yourself in your audience. Find places where you can speak, contribute editorial, etc. Writing the book is just the beginning. People are quick to forget. You have to find a way to stay in front of them consistently. Finally, be unmatched in passion about your subject. People will recognize it and be drawn to it.
(Interview Published Jan. 19, 2010)
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