In our series highlighting 12 effective strategies to score holiday book sales, steps 4-6 include getting your book distributed and driving sales.
The holidays are here, and it’s time to get serious about selling your books. Last week we launched this 12-step series with ideas about timelines, budgets, and getting out in the community. Now let’s focus on where and how your potential readers can find and buy your books.
#4: Be conspicuous
On the fourth day of holiday selling, authors simply need to be found. What does that mean? Authors need to maximize the chance that readers can discover their books. That extends to the type of products your offer and your distribution plan.
I’ve been involved with marketing different kinds of products for years before helping launch BookBaby. We marketers have a favorite saying: Make it easy for customers to buy. For authors, that includes the formats of your books. It’s vitally important that you offer both eBooks and printed books.
With the invention of the Kindle, iPad, and eBooks, readers suddenly had a new way to consume books. Our fascination with new and trendy electronics caused some so-called experts to make wild predictions. Their early claims that print was dead were vastly overstated. As digital books have been adapted around the globe, reading preferences have now been established, and we have a clearer view of the new publishing landscape.
- Approximately 25% of readers ONLY read eBooks. That figure is probably lower in the US but much higher in emerging economies that rely heavily on smart phones as the dominant tech.
- About 40% of readers ONLY read printed books. Give them the tactile feel of ink and paper!
- That leaves 35% of the reading public who toggle between both formats, depending on price and availability.
If your book is only in one format now, it might be too late for this holiday season. But this advice works for sales during every season of the year. Authors – especially those who are new and relatively unknown – cannot afford to limit their potential audience.
The bottom line:
- If you only have eBooks – make print
- If you only have print – make an eBook
The other half of being found is about your book distribution plan. A few months back I wrote a post for this blog that described a potentially costly mistake many self-published authors make: They ONLY sell books through Amazon. To mix our holiday metaphors, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Mind you, Amazon is a very BIG basket. It’s the biggest and most important online bookstore in the industry, with approximately 67% of the eBook and printed book market share in the United States. It’s a given that you must have your eBook and printed books in all the Amazon stores around the world.
But there are many other baskets – stores where millions of eBooks and printed books are sold in the US each year, including iBooks, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, and dozens more.
Here’s where your eBooks should be sold
- iBooks. Apple’s iBooks is the premier eBook destination for iPad and iPhone owners in over 50 countries around the globe.
- Barnes & Noble. Your eBook can be easily purchased by millions of NOOK owners around the world.
- Google Play. Google is the rising star in eBook sales.
- Hoopla. This new digital on-demand service that makes your eBook accessible to North American public libraries.
- Kobo. Kobo owns about 20% of the worldwide eBook market and is the leading eBook retailer in many countries, including Canada and Japan.
Here’s where your Print On Demand books should be sold
- Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble is the largest retail bookseller in the United States, with over 650 bookstores throughout the country, plus 700 college bookstores.
- Books A Million. Books-A-Million is the second largest book retailer in the nation with over 250 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
- Ingram. As the world’s largest distributor of books, Ingram can get your book into practically any store, making your book available for sale in over 39,000 online retailers.
- Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes books to more than 36,000 libraries, institutions, and retailers in more than 120 countries.
To reach every single potential reader, go beyond the Amazon jungle and put your book in dozens of stores.
#5: Attract attention
Now that your eBooks and Printed books are available in stores around the globe, self-published authors must work hard to attract the attention of would-be readers. You can do this in two ways:
1. Consider your cover. A great book or eBook cover design is one of your best sales tools, instantly conveying the key thoughts, messages, and images that sum up your book. On those crowded online retail sites, it’s essential for you to stand out from everyone else. An eBook or printed book cover created by a dedicated book designer will ensure you make a professional impression.
How do you know if you need a new cover? Start out by answering these questions:
- Does the cover include trends and tropes that perform well in your genre?
- Is the typeface professional? Are the fonts current and appropriate to your genre?
- Is the title visible and legible when viewing a thumbnail of the cover?
Of course, a self-analysis can only get you so far. You could ask some of your family, friends, and beta readers for some objective opinions using these questions:
- Based on the cover, what do you think this book is about?
- What is the genre of this book?
- Is the text on this cover easy to read?
We’ve heard dozens of success stories from authors who made the critical decision to replace their original covers, and sales soared. Maybe your book can experience the same success.
2. Metadata. The other way readers can discover your book is anything but visual. It’s called metadata. Simply put, metadata is a term that describes data about data, and it’s crucial for your book’s discoverability.
Metadata is one of the least understood components when publishing an eBook, but it’s critical to your marketing and sales efforts. Metadata is all the information related to a specific book, including:
- Author biography
- The genre and subgenre of your book
- Short and long book descriptions
- Keywords that will aid readers searching for your book on Amazon
Think of it this way: Browsing through online bookshelves usually begins with a search. If your metadata does not reflect what someone is searching for, no one will ever find your book.
Here are a couple of things you can do to make sure your metadata is up to the task of showcasing your book:
- Research retailers. Go to Amazon.com, Apple’s iBookstore, or BN.com and look up books like yours. What categories are they in? Study the book descriptions. See what words they’ve used to describe their books, then search for books using the keywords you found using the keyword tool.
- Be consistent. Don’t put one book description on Amazon and change it around for B&N. Use similar wording for the boilerplate on your press release, book flyer, etc.
#6: Entitle yourself
On the 6th day of selling, I suggest you add one more title to your growing resume: writer, author, self-publisher, and now… book seller. Tell your readers to buy eBooks and print on demand books directly from you and not from Amazon, B&N, and all the others. If you have your own e-commerce website or web page, or have a free page from BookBaby called BookShop, you can make a lot more money by selling direct.
How do you get readers to buy your books through BookShop instead of, say, Amazon? As I mentioned, it’s important to have printed books available on Amazon, iBooks, GooglePlay, etc., but the reality is it’s unlikely readers will discover self-published authors on large retail sites – especially during the holiday season. The Amazon algorithms don’t favor indie authors. Plus, you need to consider the holiday fatigue factor. Searching for different kinds of books takes time and effort. It’s awfully easy for readers to take the easy way out and order a best-seller.
So how do you take control? In talking with dozens of BookBaby authors and by monitoring sales results, we estimate that 90% of eBook and POD sales are a result of actively driving interested readers directly to a designated retail website. What this means is that authors already control where their books are sold by sending links through emails, texts, tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, and promotions featured on author blogs and websites. Their faithful readers follow their instructions as to where to buy.
Selling direct to readers can have a big financial effect on your royalties. On many direct-to-reader sites, authors can see increases in both eBook and POD royalties. BookBaby has spent a lot of time and effort to build up its own BookShop program for its authors. Here’s how BookBaby authors benefit.
- BookShop pays authors more. We pay 85% of the selling price on eBooks and a huge 50% royalty on Print On Demand books.
- BookBaby pays authors fast. Your sales are recorded and put into your account within a week. Compare that timeline with Amazon (100+ days), iBooks (120 days), and even Smashwords (up to 180 days).
- BookBaby promises your POD title always has “in-stock” status. During the busy holiday season, Amazon often has to list POD titles as “out of stock” as its warehouses are swamped with deliveries. That’s never a problem with BookBaby: we print the book and ship it out directly to the reader. No time-consuming warehouse issues!
We’ve added a lot of features to our BookShop pages, including:
- Banner Creation. Create a banner link to promote your BookShop page on your personal website.
- See Inside. Give readers a taste of your book with our “See Inside” feature.
- Overview. A brief description of two to five lines – just enough to whet a potential reader’s appetite.
- Description. This section expands on the overview, adding more detail about why the reader will love the book.
- Bio. Who are you? Why are you the best candidate to write this particular story? Are your education, lifestyle, and job relevant to your book? It all goes here.
- Other Titles. Showcase your other book titles.
- Book Reviews. Add credibility with author-approved book reviews.
- Coupons. Use coupons and discounts to bolster your book promotion.
Read Part 1: How to Get Holiday Book Sales: Steps 1-3
How to Get Holiday Book Sales: Steps 1-3
The #1 mistake of self-published authors for worldwide book sales
Sell them with your cover design
Tell your book’s story with metadata
Product, Payment, and Profits… BookShop and Your Print On Demand Success