Saturday, May 15, 2010

"The Final Page" Tip of the Week: E-books as a promo tool

"The Final Page" column provides a weekly tip for avoiding common self-publishing mistakes. A professional final product makes the difference between being reviewed on The New Podler, or being one of the millions of books that sink through Amazon's sales rankings to languish below the 4-million mark.

Books That Sell Themselves
You've cut open your first shipment of books, handled the top copy reverently, and fulfilled pre-orders from family and friends. You still have 30 copies in the box. You give copies to the local library, and send more out for reviews. That leaves 20. Your Amazon sales rank looks a bit dismal, and now it's been a month and orders have tricked to zip. You leave a few more copies on the tables of local coffee shops. You're learning that books don't sell themselves.

But in a way, they can. Digital Book World's blog recently posted a study of what happens to paper book sales when the e-book is given away for free. Slight evidence suggests that giving away the e-book version impels more readers to buy the paper version. The study is imperfect in that it compares apples to oranges--the books it compares are of different genres and released by publishers of different sizes. Yet a correlation existed between free e-books and paper book sales.

As a promotional tool, e-books give you little to lose. By generating the multi-format book on Smashwords, readers can download the file to their computer as a PDF or read it on iPad, Nook, or Kindle. The process is relatively easy if you follow Smashwords's style guide, and free. Your book will then be available on the Smashwords site, as well as Amazon, B&N, and Apple's bookstore.

If giving your book away feels uncomfortable, you can always set a price for it now and generate a free coupon code for it later. Then, by sharing the coupon code promo through your social network online (you do have one, don't you?), you've allowed readers anywhere to perceive value in your offer and share it with others.

While no method guarantees success, who would you rather advertise to? Your family and local coffee shop patrons, or everyone with Internet access? Good luck!

Sarah Cypher is the author of "The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists" (Glyd-Evans Press, 2010) and runs a two-woman editing and book design shop, The Threepenny Editor.

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