Digital dynamite

"Digital dynamite" Continued...

Issue: "Terrific and timely," June 29, 2013

The relative ease and convenience of self-publishing with low start-up costs has flooded the market with e-books, including many low-quality works. The number of e-books sold per month jumped from 3.9 million in January 2011 to 22.6 million one year later, according to the Association of American Publishers. The competition makes marketing e-books all the more important—and most authors have to do it themselves.

That is where Baney said she was able to get ahead. With her business background, she was able to pin down her target audience and pricing strategy before even writing a word of her book. She researched the best self-publishing platforms and marketing tactics. Then she published on several platforms: Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life, and Smashwords. 

Once the book was live, she advertised on Twitter and Facebook, paid for advertisements on e-book discovery sites such as Digital Books Today and World Literary Cafe, and offered free copies of the book for bloggers or readers to review. Baney found the most important marketing tool was word of mouth through her writer’s network and new readers. She made sure each of her books included links to the rest of the series. 

Both Baney and Godawa used Amazon’s KDP select program, where the authors agree to release their e-books exclusively to Amazon for 90 days. In exchange, Amazon places their book on Kindle’s Lending Library and allows authors to give away their book for free for up to five days. Free promotions garner larger readership—Smashwords has found that free e-books get about 100 times as many downloads as priced e-books—and the book’s ranking gets a boost, allowing for greater visibility. 

Then the authors try to keep up the momentum for their books through ads or guest posts on blogs as the e-book returns to the regular price. Godawa mentioned that after giving his book away for free for two days, he increased his sales by 200 percent for six to eight months afterward. Recently Amazon changed its algorithm so free e-book sales only count as 1/100 of a normal book, and high rankings are more difficult to come by.

Godawa says another helpful feature on Amazon is the “Customers who bought this item also bought” section on each book’s page. He realized that his niche religious fiction would show up on the pages of other similar books, and that also helped him sell more books. Godawa views Amazon as a one-stop shop, as it lets him create an audiobook of his series and print copies of the book through CreateSpace.

It’s not just writers benefitting from self-published e-books, but readers are also more eager to buy them. The biggest advantage is the lower prices. Traditionally published e-books cost around $9.99 while self-published are usually priced around $2.99. Authors know low prices attract readership, but on Amazon, if e-books are priced lower than $2.99, their 70 percent royalty drops down to 35 percent. 

The downside for readers is searching through the hundreds of poorly written e-books to find the gems. Baney tries to help readers find new writers through her website Christian eBooks Today, which runs lists of free e-books, allows writers to guest blog about their upcoming book, and gives readers a chance to recommend their favorite e-books to each other. But some things never change: As Godawa says, what “sells the most is good storytelling.”

Angela Lu
Angela Lu

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.


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