Increasing Your Ebook Sales Through Different Marketing Techniques

This post was originally written by Cindy Floren on March 20, 2012 and reblogged from the ecommerce blog.

When it comes to effectively marketing an e-book (or physical book), many authors assume a “if you build it, they will come” mentality. However, generating consumer interest in an e-book is difficult, especially when the e-book is being presented to an unprepared market. First-time authors, or authors trying to establish themselves as experts in an unfamiliar topic, are even more likely to experience low page views and sales on their e-book sales landing page.
Creating demand by creating an audience

Creating an audience is critical to successful e-book marketing for reasons beyond the monetary. First of all, your audience can provide valuable critique and insight about your subject matter, the topics presented, and even your writing style. Having such “editors” on hand means that major errors can be corrected prior to e-book release. Likewise, if you survey your audience members, you can find out what they hope to gain from your e-book and what they want the e-book to discuss in its virtual pages. Having a ready audience, especially prior to publication, also means that you have potential buyers looking over your final draft and suggesting changes and/or corrections to it. E-book publishing becomes more of a team rather than lone effort.

While having an audience both before and after your e-book release is invaluable, creating such an audience takes time and effort. Setting up a blog, initiating an e-mail marketing campaign, posting guest blog posts, and gaining followers and friends via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are all great methods for ensuring a loyal (and profitable) fan base for your e-book; however, these methods cannot be implemented overnight. Unfortunately, when e-book authors do not utilize any of the following marketing techniques (either before or after e-book launch), they end up spending more money later on for PPC and PPA ads and other marketing strategies. This is because they are offering their product to a “cold” audience that has probably never before heard of the authors’ names or affiliations. Likewise, because online search engines cannot find results on the authors’ names or subject matters, (organic) search engine traffic to the e-book sales landing page is minimal.

Instead of assuming that people will just love your e-book the minute it’s published, consider implementing the marketing techniques listed below to create an audience that is anticipating your book and on which you can count on for preliminary sales. Some of these techniques, such as starting a blog, can be implemented months, if not years, in advance of your e-book release to help build your audience. Other techniques, such as guest blog posting, will help establish your subject matter credibility and improve name recognition among the audiences of other blogs. Through e-mail marketing, you can alert your fans of your e-book’s upcoming release, offer sample chapters, and even provide a product discount.

Once your e-book is released, continued marketing via the techniques discussed below will help ensure that the demand for your work does not wane; in fact, maintaining demand can be useful for when you decide to follow up your e-book with backend products such as tutorials, lessons, software, or even a second e-book. Your audience can even be utilized as an impromptu affiliate sales force to further promote and sell your e-book. In essence, there is no limit to the benefits you can reap from having an audience prior to and after the publication of your e-book.

Your blog as a marketing tool

A blog is an excellent way to generate e-book publicity via unique SEO content that places your site at the top of the SERP’s. Book sections can be offered as “teasers” that initiate discussions and debates, all the while giving you valuable feedback. These teasers can eventually lead your visitors to a sales landing page. Your blog can even provide special incentives for visitors who purchase your e-book; for example, Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, provides book buyers with a unique code for a hidden forum located on his blog by the same name. Other incentives might include an additional unpublished chapter, access to software, or a free e-course. Last but not least, a blog allows you to capture visitor e-mail addresses, which in turn allow you to initiate an e-mail marketing campaign for your e-book. Most site visitors will not purchase your e-book outright and will typically want to get to know you via continued blog posts. E-mail marketing allows you to send your latest blog posts, or any other material you deem appropriate, to your subscribers. This helps establish visitor trust as well as a growing interest in what you have to offer in your e-book. Eventually, you can start including a link to your sales landing page in your e-mails. The end result is higher e-book sales.

Expanding your reach with articles

Article marketing is another method by which you can garner interest in your e-book. Articles that are submitted to directories such as Ezinearticles, Knol and SubmitYourArticle provide valuable information about and exposure to your e-book. While the articles themselves must be objective and not contain any sales references, there is one area where you are allowed to market yourself: the resource box. In the resource box, you can include pertinent information about yourself and the product that you are trying to sell, include your website or sales landing page URL and your author bio. Be sure to state that your posted article content was excerpted from your e-book. To provide exposure for your other posted articles, you may wish to forego linking back to your sales landing page in favor of those other articles instead.
On a related note, you may also consider posting regular online content to writing community sites such as Yahoo!’s Associated Content, HubPages, Examiner and Squidoo. The main advantage of these community sites is that, as their name indicates, they are supported by an actual community of writers and/or subscribers. If your articles are well-written and focused on a subject matter that is popular with a given community, traffic to and sales on your e-book’s landing page can increase exponentially. Furthermore, affiliate websites/blogs in your niche could contact you about additional writing opportunities, which of course would translate to more exposure for your e-book.

Guest posts: gaining the interest of other subscriber groups

Writing content for another site is a great way to find new readers and increase traffic to your own blog. Ideally, you should write guest posts for larger and higher PR blogs. Start by contacting some of the smaller to midsized blogs first, though, and gain some experience at pitching at least three article ideas. Include an outline or bulleted list of the key points you wish to make. Doing so will increase your chances of landing a link on these sites. Additionally, most webmasters e-mail new blog posts to their subscribers; having your post e-mailed to a completely new subscriber group can help you acquire some of those subscribers for your own site.

Once you have written several blog posts for the smaller blogs, start pitching your writing ideas to the biggest sites in your particular niche. Reference the articles that you have posted to the smaller blogs as a kind of blogging resume. While it may seem intimidating to contact blog sites that receive 300,000 or more page views per month, consider what that kind of traffic would mean for your own website/blog and your resulting e-book sales. In order to increase awareness and sales of your own e-book, you must be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and take a few risks.

E-book social media marketing

Using social media as a marketing tool has become almost a necessity for many individuals and businesses in order to gain traffic, generate product awareness, and collect user feedback. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have unquestionably changed the way that information is disseminated online, with one of the key changes being that posted content can go viral. In other words, any social media user has now become a potential broadcaster. As a result, even if a marketing message is sent to only a small number of subscribers, it can quickly reach a large general audience. Another way in which social media has changed the dissemination of online information is by making every user a potential publisher. Thus, marketing messages that used to be posted as monologues have become dialogues between marketers and subscribers, with the general audience fully capable of also jumping in on the action and posting comments or questions.

You can use social media to your advantage when marketing your e-book by posting informational content about your subject matter. Outright sales marketing is a no-no in the social media landscape; however, giving away helpful advice, freebies, third-party resource information, etc., helps build a community of followers around your profile. This community can help make your content go viral and provide you with valuable feedback. In due time, it can also start clicking on your e-book sales landing page and generating income.

Leveraging your e-book sales through affiliate marketing

You need not be alone in your e-book marketing efforts; there are plenty of affiliate marketers who would be more than happy to help market and sell your e-book for a small profit (i.e., commission). Many of these affiliate marketers have high PR websites/blogs that generate tremendous traffic, and more than a few are also trying to sell their own e-books. Many of these affiliates could even be composed of your current audience or customers who have purchased your e-book. Through ad networks like AdSense, Kontera, Clickbank and Chitika, you can have other website owners and bloggers display your e-book ad (and its associated sales landing page) to their subscribers and random visitors, increasing your potential sales.

If you would prefer to target successful websites and blogs individually, that can also be arranged through one-on-one correspondences. While more time-consuming, such an approach has the advantage of you knowing exactly which affiliates are advertising your e-book and what their sales pitches consist of. This helps control for unintentional branding of your e-book (e.g., having your e-book on paying off a mortgage early be solicited on a website advertising reverse mortgages). If you target only high PR websites and blogs, such an approach may also help raise your own website’s/blog’s PR through the valuable backlinks that these sites give you.

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Why is the Department of Justice Concerned about the Pricing of Ebooks?

The Department of Justice is considering a lawsuit against Apple and 5 other large publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of Ebooks. The issue is whether or not pricing of Ebooks should be set using an agency model or a wholesale model. In the agency model the author sets the price of their books and in the wholesale model retailers set the price of books. Which of these two models are used is very important to the growing number of indie authors as royalties that are paid are substantially different. Although book prices are usually lower using the agency model, royalties paid to the author are much higher than under the wholesale model.

At this time most retailers use the agency model for Ebooks written by indie authors. Large publishers that convert best selling paperback books, by well known authors, to Ebooks use the wholesale model for pricing. Herein lies the problem with possible collusion about keeping book prices high. A lawsuit with an outcome requiring all ebooks to follow the wholesale model could undesirably impact royalties paid to indie authors. Mark Corker of Smashwords recently called the DOJ and talked to them about this situation. Read about it here.nt

Visa Denies PayPal Claims

Visa replied to a letter sent by Ms. Madeleine Morris (BannedWriters.com) denying that they were pressuring PayPal to limit the sale of certain erotica content. Read their response and comments here.

To be fair PayPal never mentioned credit card companies or banks by name. I believe they said that their “financial partners” were requiring them to limit sales. The other credit card companies have not responded yet.

This kind of blows my theory out of the water, but I still wonder what was really behind PayPal’s decision. Ebay, who owns PayPal, offers thousands of items of “objectionable” material. A study of the Ebay site can be found here. All this must be catching up to PayPal because they will soon announce revised content policies that I expect will please the indie publishing community.

When a Good Golf Swing Goes Bad

When it comes to golf there are advantages and disadvantages to living in Michigan. Michigan has some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. On the other hand, the golf season realistically runs for about seven months. If you don’t practice over the winter, it usually takes a few weeks to get back into form after the season starts. Over the winter of 2009-2010 I decided to put considerable time into practicing so that I would be ready by spring. Although I thought I was ready, when spring arrived I soon discovered that my game was not showing much improvement. I did a lot of work on my swing over that winter, but at the same time I neglected just about all aspects of my short game. So, this winter I made a commitment to work harder and to make sure that I did not leave anything out. My goal was to develop good habits from the pre-shot routine all the way through to the finish of my swing.

I started with the grip and setup, then the takeaway and worked on making a good transition at the top of my swing. I worked on hand position, developing good lag, impact and making sure that I turned all the way through to the end of my swing. I devised a set of drills that allowed me to start with the shorter chip shots and to work up through pitch shots, half-swings, three-quarter swings and full swings. I spent a considerable time on timing, tempo and rhythm. I bought a new putter and practiced with it everyday. I did all this while incorporating an acceptable pre-shot routine. Almost all of my practice took place in the makeshift range in my basement using practice balls. Although, I did get to the indoor ranges a few times and was happy with what I was seeing. By the end of February most of the aforementioned had become habit. Then something happened.

One day while practicing I hit a few errant shots. I did not think much about them because most of my hits were solid. The next day I hit a few more. I got a little concerned, but still did not give it much thought. After four days went by, I was having trouble getting my club on the ball and I did not have a clue as to what was wrong. My habitual swing was preventing me from finding a solution to my dilemma. I cut practice short that day and started determining in my mind as to what was causing the problem. This should not have been a big deal. After all I have written two golf books, but I ended up thinking that I was going to have to start from the beginning and check all aspects of my swing. It must have been weighing heavily on my mind because I woke up in the middle of that night and it came to me as to what was wrong. The next day I checked out my theory and it was correct. I was straightening out my left leg just before impact which resulted in hitting shots thin and some times to the right. I fixed the problem and it has been fine ever since.

So, what can be learned from this. I would guess that every golfer wants to “groove” a good swing so that they can concentrate on their game and not have to think about swing fundamentals when playing. The problem is that habits can get out of sorts over time. As golfers we are always changing something, even if it is minor, to get more out of the ball. Sometimes when we do, it throws something else off without us knowing it. The solution is to know your swing tendencies and to learn the causes of errant shots. You might be able to fix things on the course when it is a minor problem, but it would be best to take some time on the practice range to work things out. If your swing fundamental are basically sound and you know the causes of bad shots, then it won’t take much time to get your swing back in the groove.

An Email to Smashwords Members

The following is an email that Mark Corker sent out to all Smashwords members today. In it is Smashwords view on censoring Ebooks. Also going on is the read an Ebook Week sale where thousands of books are discounted through March 10, 2012. For all you golfers out there my book “Triangulate Your Golf Swing” is available until then for 1/2 off. Here is the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/119059

Inside:

1. Read an Ebook Week sale on now at http://www.smashwords.com !
2. Censoring ebooks – The Smashwords/PayPal conundrum
3. Helpful links
4. Account access info, opting out (at bottom of email)

1. SMASHWORDS READ AN EBOOK WEEK SALE!
Our annual Read an Ebook Week sale is now underway. The sale ends Saturday.

Access over 20,000 free and deep-discounted ebooks.

Simply click to http://www.smashwords.com then click to the Read an Ebook promotion catalog.

Here’s the direct link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

There are four coupon codes you can use for participating books:

25% off: REW25 – 2,300+ ebooks
50% off: REW50 – 5,700+ ebooks
75% off: REW75 – 900+ ebooks
100% off: RE100 – 2,800+ ebooks

In addition to the limited-time deals above, Smashwords offers over 100,000 original ebooks at everyday low prices. Over 13,000 Smashwords ebooks are regularly priced at FREE. The average price of a Smashwords ebook is under $5.00.

Why are our prices so low? It’s because you’re purchasing direct from the author. When you purchase a Smashwords book, the author earns 85% of the net proceeds from the sale. Thank you for supporting our authors!

Smashwords ebooks are multi-format and DRM-free, so you can read them on virtually an e-reading device, including the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iPad/iPhone/Touch, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, personal computers and most smart phones and tablets.

You can also purchase most Smashwords ebooks at your favorite ebook retailers, including the Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. The codes above are only available for books purchased at the Smashwords store. In the future, we’d like to expand this annual promotion to our retail partners.

2. PayPal Censorship
PayPal, the online payment service we use to process credit card payments, has asked Smashwords to remove fiction that contains themes of bestiality, rape and incest. They tell us they are compelled to do this to remain compliant with the rules of the banks and credit card associations. Regardless on one’s opinions about these objectionable topics, we view this attempted censorship as a bad precedent. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real.

PayPal’s request has caused a firestorm of debate on the Internet about censorship, and what this means for the future of ebook publishing. Most people are horrified at the thought of any censorship, while others believe such content should be restricted. It’s a contentious debate.

This story, out today by TechDirt, does a good job of summarizing the timeline of events and the issues involved: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120301/17363217939/paypal-pressured-to-play-morality-cop-forces-smashwords-to-censor-authors.shtml

The case has even spawned a hilarious $.99 parody ebook titled, TWO PEOPLE HAVING SEX https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/139100

There’s a petition at Change.org if you wish to sign it: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-censorship-2

A few independent privacy-rights and anti-censorship organizations have stepped in to challenge PayPal on their policies, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). More are likely to sign on. Here are some quick links:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read

ABFFE/NCAC: http://www.ncac.org/NCAC-ABFFE-Send-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay

Our view at Smashwords: We believe it’s wrong for credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions to censor legal fiction. We believe this censorship is targeting a small subset of erotica fiction. The same censored themes are prevalent in much mainstream fiction. We believe it would be unfair to authors and readers alike for any organization to censor what writers are allowed to imagine and what readers are allowed to read. If the PayPal restrictions were broadly implemented, many mainstream classics including Nabokov’s Lolita or Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind could technically be banned. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with its depiction of rape could be banned. Even the Bible could fall under the net since it contains scenes of rape and incest. We doubt a ban would be taken to such extremes, but therein lies the danger of censorship. Where does it stop, and where do we draw the line? It’s difficult for Smashwords or any other retailer, distributor or publisher to assume the role of moral arbiter when there’s so much grey area. We’re engaged in ongoing discussions with our counterparts at PayPal to reach an equitable solution.

If you’re interested to learn more, or learn what you can do to help fight censorship, you can read my most recent email to Smashwords authors on this topic here: https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/30

3. QUICK LINKS TO SMASHWORDS RESOURCES

How to read Smashwords ebooks: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Reading

Frequently asked questions: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq

How to publish and distribute ebooks with Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords

Smashwords blog: http://blog.smashwords.com

Connect with fellow Smashwords readers and authors at Facebook: http://facebook.com/Smashwords

Enjoy Read an Ebook Week! If your favorite author isn’t yet at Smashwords, please ask them to publish with us.

Best wishes,

Mark

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords
http://www.smashwords.com
twitter: http://twitter.com/markcoker