We had a great segment about formatting, distributing, marketing and selling eBooks – and we’ll continue the discussion with our guest Amy Collins on the Sept. 4 Publishing Insiders show.
About our guest: Amy Collins is the owner of The Cadence Group, a sales and marketing service provider for the publishing industry. In 2008, The Cadence Group launched New Shelves Distribution, a full-scale book warehousing, sales and fulfillment company selling publisher’s books directly to the national chains and independent bookstores in North America. You may reach Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.thecadencegrp.com/.
Authors must market their eBooks
Authors seem to think eBooks market themselves once they are available online, because they’re electronic and therefore everybody will see it, unlike books which sit on a bookstore shelf and are limited. It’s true there are no limits on where an eBook can go, but it takes work to get into the consciousness of people. You don’t immediately end up on Huffington Post. Successful eBook authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke did a lot of marketing to get where they are today – Amanda went from self-publishing her own eBooks to a three-book deal with a traditional publisher and John has sold millions of his eBooks.
What is eBook distribution and why do authors need it?
There are four main sites where people buy their eBooks, says Amy:
- Kindle – via Amazon
- Nook – via Barnes & Noble
- Kobo – sells as much as Barnes & Noble
- Apple – iPad and iBook
We haven’t had a good system for accurately tracking eBook downloads; it’s thought about 80% are Kindle downloads, followed by Nook and Kobo. Apple is the smallest because Apple users tend to use their Kindle or Nook apps on their Apple device.
Apple has the most complicated upload; their system requires you to go through an approval process to sell an eBook. And you have to upload your eBook through a Mac, not a PC. Kindle, Nook and Kobo accounts are easy to set up. You can upload your eBook for these companies from your own computer. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3, says Amy.
You don’t need an eBook distributor
Many authors want to go through an eBook distributor although Amy says you do not need a distributor for 90% of eBooks. What authors should pay for is to have someone professionally format their eBook. It’s really vital to have a well formatted eBook.
Although there are a lot of eBooks uploaded and available online, there is an issue with quality – many are poorly formatted, have badly designed covers and aren’t professionally edited.
Biggest eBook mistakes
It’s all about formatting. Authors can upload a Word document these days and sell it as an electronic book. However, the book should be professionally formatted. There are more and more savvy eBook consumers, and the fastest way to get them to return your book is to skimp on formatting. Find a programmer and do it right.
What is Smashwords?
Smashwords is a combination of do-it-yourself publishing and services authors can pick and choose. Once your eBook is uploaded Smashwords will distribute it to a variety of eBook stores including Diesel, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.
To some people it’s one-stop shopping and they like that.
Kindle Direct Publishing vs. KDP Select
Kindle Direct Publishing is the eBook division of Amazon.
KDP Select is an option Amazon offers. If you make your eBook exclusive to them for 90 days Amazon will provide marketing help. With KDP Select your book goes much higher on the searchability functions on Amazon. KDP Select also offers your eBook for free for five days and it gives you a lot more lift in the rankings and searchability. Amazon also gives their Select authors a cut from a quarterly pool for every paid download as well as from downloads through the lending library.
There is a drawback to KDP Select: If you have a paper book and want to get into Barnes & Noble, they will check to see if you have a Nook version. If you don’t you will have trouble getting your print book into their stores.
You can work around this by uploading your book to Nook, Kobo, etc. and pricing it at $0. If you do this and do some marketing to spread the word about your eBook during this discount phase you could get the kind of downloads (30,000 to 40,000) that will give you sales momentum for when your book price goes up.
Fiction vs. nonfiction eBook sales
It’s much more difficult to get reviews for nonfiction eBooks. Among her clients Amy found fiction outselling nonfiction 10 to 1 in eBooks (it used to be a 30 to 1 ratio for fiction to nonfiction sales). As more people have bought eBook readers it’s becoming more prevalent so there are more eBook buyers for both fiction and nonfiction.
To promote their books and get reviews authors should start with fan groups for eBook readers – there are a lot of groups for Nook and Kindle lovers whose members are always on the lookout for new books, and these groups allow authors to promote their books (each spells out the rules for author promotion). Many of these groups also offer special promotional deals for eBook authors that can be a great boost for a book. Also, Library Thing, a popular site for book lovers, does eBook giveaways and the site allows authors to request reviews as part of the giveaway.
How should you price eBooks?
The eBook market is still fluctuating, price-wise. If you’ve written a $12.95 book for business managers with a strong, unique hook your eBook can be $9.99; for fiction, Amy recommends no more than $5.99 (preferably $3.99).
Publishers aren’t experimenting a great deal, they are still pushing for $12 to $15 eBook prices. The Big Six publishers tend to price eBooks in that range, although the eBook price tends to drop once the paperback comes out.
Consumers have been fighting back with one-star reviews for what they feel are overpriced eBooks. Indie authors have been great at experimenting with pricing, often offering their first eBook at $2.99 or lower, and once they have readers hooked and have built a following, they price subsequent books a little higher.
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We’ll be back Sept. 4, at 4 p.m. Pacific, with special guest Amy Collins, who will return for The Secrets of eBook Promotion and Sales, Part 2: