10.1 Why it’s critical for you to actively promote and market
Shopping online is a very different experience to shopping in bricks and mortar stores, partly because the internet is a different browsing environment to a bricks and mortar bookstore. By and large, people come across your eBook in the following ways:
- They already know about your book and do a search online;
- Somebody ‘shares’ a URL that leads you to the book (by Facebook, email, Twitter, etc);
- A shopping environment such as Amazon leads you to books it thinks you like based on algorithms;
- A subject you are researching online leads you to that book inadvertently;
- You simply ‘stumbled’ upon the book.
Publishers in the digital environment need to employ daily strategies for maximising selling opportunities.
10.2 Developing your own online community and using social media
Much is said about social media, and many use it both very well and fairly ineffectually. There is a general rule that the tone you take with your ‘followers’ should be one third personal and two thirds professional. And the best way to start – if you haven’t already – is to look up some of your favourite companies, suppliers, writers, media commentators, etc, and have a look at what they do. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Vimeo or YouTube can all be excellent tools in telling audiences about your book, but it’s no good simply spruiking your wares all the time. Create discussions around your books by linking to other sites, products and news items. Build up an identity around your imprint by sharing content. This way, when you have a book to talk about, it will not be received as a piece of marketing alone. You have built up a dialogue with your ‘followers’, and this is why it is referred to as a community.
10.3 Getting feature space with eBook vendors
Almost all eBook retailers are eager to work with publishers to promote and feature books. Google in Australia employs a curator specifically charged with this task and if you’re using an aggregator, you should be in conversation with them about what sorts of opportunities there are. If your book has recently been shortlisted for an award, or mentioned in a news item, you can alert the eBook vendors and discuss options for showcasing the book for a period. Many eBook vendors also have ‘cheap reads’ categories, and they’re eager to give books a go in this area, by bringing the price down temporarily to under $5 for example.
10.4 Invite bloggers to do a review
There are many bloggers who review books and interview authors, and a simple online invitation via your Twitter or Facebook account to receive a free copy and write a review can be very beneficial. You should become familiar with who the reviewers and bloggers are to make sure you’re targeting the best ones for your books.
10.5 Working with booksellers
In Australia, independent bricks and mortar bookstores are relatively healthy, especially since the demise of the RedGroup in early 2011, which removed a fair chunk of the local competition. To combat the effects of market volatility and growing online book buying from websites such as the Book Depository and Amazon, independent bookstores in Australia are working together to showcase the sector to readers, running national campaigns and being present in the ongoing discussion. There are multiple opportunities, as a publisher, to get involved in these discussions and ensure that you and your books are included. Many of these bookstores are, or will be, including eBook selling facilities in their websites – and they’re all keen to experiment with promotions and partnerships. Now is an excellent time for you to be in direct conversation with them about some ideas around this.
Likewise, when it comes to the large eBook vendors, such as Google and Kobo. These companies are set up in such a way so that publishers, whether large or small, can be actively involved in the promotion of a book, at no cost. In many cases there is a ‘curator’ employed to make sure they are showcasing the latest award shortlist or winning author, or featuring books pertinent to a particular issue of the day. In the case of Australian eBookstores that are powered by Google, such as Booktopia or Dymocks, you can also contact the relevant people here directly. They are currently engaged in just as much market uncertainty as publishers are, and as such, are keen to explore different ways of doing things, and different collaborations. Furthermore, as they don’t have to actually handle any ‘stock’ the barriers to these bookstores making spontaneous promotional decisions have greatly diminished.
10.6 Previews and sample content
When you upload an EPUB file to an eBook vendor, the metadata you’ve provided will allow that vendor to display a certain amount of that book free of charge to interested readers. Booki.sh and Google (and there will be others) have a facility whereby you can embed that free sample wherever you like, whether it be your website, your Facebook page, a blog or wherever. Booki.sh also allows you to invite individuals to download a complete free copy of your book for promotional and review purposes, a handy function in the lead up to your release date. Larger publishers are also using a facility called NetGalley (http://www.netgalley.com/) in a similar way, but this is a service that you have to pay for.
10.7 Working the metadata
Because of the way in which we are now all accustomed to searching for things online, in many respects an eBook is only as good as its metadata. Consumers use the web to browse, not only for the books they want, but for everything. And, especially since the advent of Google Books, it is becoming more and more common for a print book or eBook to be one of the search results that comes up when the user didn’t realise they were even looking for a book. As explained earlier in the guide, it is imperative that your book contains the best and most accurate metadata it possibly can. This is now akin to judging a book by its cover (or its back cover blurb), which can no longer be relied on to catch the attention of a browsing reader.
“The publisher (and retailer) with the best, most complete metadata offers the greatest chance for consumers to buy books. The publisher with poor metadata risks poor sales – because no one can find their books.”
(Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto)
10.8 Designate the role
And finally, consider appointing someone to specifically cover all of these tasks. Do not underestimate the time required to manage all of these things, or the value in having them managed well.