Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Marketing Ebooks

By Lazette Gifford

2002, Lazette Gifford


Advances and other financial backing aside, authors who have been published by the well-known print houses have one big advantage over ebook published authors: bookstores.   People gather in bookstores, look at books, and buy them. Without a central "store" for electronic published works, they buying process becomes the equivalent of sending readers wandering from publisher to publisher and buying directly from the factory.  Nevertheless, in one respect ebooks do have an advantage:  they don't have the "two-week window" in which to make or break the writer.  Ebooks have an indefinite shelf life and time to draw readers.

Still, drawing readers can be a major problem, no matter how much time you have to do it. The Internet has no easy path for the perfect reader to find your book.  Fictionwise has overcome some of this by becoming something of a storefront, but they do not carry all the independent ebook publishers, much less the ezines. AuthorsDen is another good site, with a large gathering -- but it's not as well known as Fictionwise, and works in a different way. 

However, despite these and other such sites, authors and publishers of ebooks are still faced with the task of drawing people to their sites and getting them interested in the material offered there.

Over the next few months, with at least four ebooks on the "stands," I'm going to try several different approaches to marketing.  Most of these methods can work equally well for both electronic and print publications since the author is reaching for the same market -- the readers of whatever genre she happens to write. 

Unfortunately, the ebook-published author doesn't have the large advance, which is money that could be used for marketing.  We usually have to be more circumspect in what we try.  The most important point in all of this is that you will be the one behind marketing your novel.  Below is a short  list of things that you might try. 

  1. Advertisements in print magazines

These can market the specific type of reader that you are looking for, but they can also be very expensive.  Look at magazines that offer the type of material you write and find out the ad sale price.  If you can afford it, this is likely to reach the largest section of readers -- but there are no guarantees.  A badly done layout can kill any chance of drawing the readers you would like.  Be careful with this one.

  1. Banners on sites

Many web sites offer either banners (often revolving with others) or ad space on their pages. This can work for both print and ebook published authors, though the latter will likely do better here, depending on the site.

The advantage for ebook authors is that the reader is already on the computer, looking at a site that offers the same sort of material as the book written.  In other words, check the sites out and find places where your genre would fit well.  Also look into the site's hit count -- even though this isn't always a true indication of how busy the site is, it can still help you decide if you want to put your money into the site.

  1. Fliers in stores

The only problem with putting fliers in stores is that the people go there to buy books. They want them now.  A well written, attractive flyer might draw their attention.  Keeping it until they get back home to their computer is another matter.

  1. Fliers at conventions

People pick up things off the freebie tables at conventions.  Fliers, brochures, and even bookmarks (as silly as that sounds for ebooks), all get grabbed.  Many of them likely even make it home.

The trick here is to look interesting enough to stand out from all those other freebies, both on the table and in the pile at home.  Since many of the giveaways are just black text on paper, two things can help.  The first is good artwork.  The second is color.  Color paper will help, but color artwork is best.  Here is a link to several brochures that I've put together for my own work.  Be aware that they look better in real life because I've made the graphics so that they'll load faster: http://www.lazette.net/PR/brochures.htm

Some conventions will accept material of this type through the mail and put them out for you.  Or friends, heading for conventions, might be willing to drop off a few fliers.  Check with web sites to find out how to handle this.

  1. Tables at conventions and other gatherings

If you are published in a small press, POD, or electronic format (one that offers disks),  a small table at a reasonably-sized convention might draw some readers.  Expect, however, to be overlooked by the majority of people.  It might help to have the work of several authors available, as well as give-away chapters.  Have a clearly indicated way that people can buy the material when they get home, even if they don't pick it up at the convention. There are books everywhere at conventions, and most people have limited funds.  But a couple weeks after getting home they'll be looking for something more to read.  A nice talk with an epublished writer might just lead them in that direction.

Always remember that you are representing not only your book, but epublishing as well.  Some people will be uninterested, rude, or snide.  It doesn't matter.  As long as you believe in your work, you can stand up with all the politeness in the world and shrug them off.  They aren't your market.  Don't waste time there.

However, if you happen to get on a panel on epublishing at a convention, feel free to debate all you like. That's what some of those panels are about, after all. And this is your chance to give free rein to why you like epublications.  Just remember that you are trying to gain those readers out there, the ones who are currently reading print books.  Telling them that everything in print is old-fashioned, outmoded, and stupid is not going to win them over.  They have favorite authors, after all.

If you do craft shows and the like, consider setting up a small area for your books as well, even if they are not craft-related. This has the advantage that there are not thousands of other books competing for the reader's attention.

  1. Readings

If your library, bookstores, or local conventions are open to readings, give it a try.  The problem with this one is that you will need to convince the people -- especially in libraries and bookstores -- that you are offering them something in return for their time and space.  Ebooks don't often fill that demand.  POD might have a better chance in these circumstances.

  1. Newspapers

Local interest can vary widely for epublished authors.  The smaller the local population, the more likely it is that newspapers, local magazines, and even television stations are going to be interested in your work.

If you live in a large area, look for neighborhood publications -- local shoppers and things like that.  You may be able to at least buy space in one of those for an ad, if nothing else.

If you live in a large town, but were born or raised somewhere else, try getting the smaller area interested -- especially if your work is based on this smaller area, although that may not be wise if it's not a "nice" story.

  1. On-line Newsletters, contests, and other draws

Regular events, held at your website, can draw people back to check out what's going on.  If the events are interesting and fun, friends will tell others and direct more people to your site.

Such activities can include things like a regularly updated newsletter (something I am woefully bad at), contests to give away free books, and even on-line stories with regular additions.  In other words, make a presence on the web, not just a site. Find ways to interact with people who stop by. 

 

Some of the suggestions on this list take cash, some of them just your time and presence.  Keep one important point in mind at all times, though -- you are representing your work, even to those who react negatively to electronic publications. 

The world of publishing is changing, as well as that of print.  But in the end, we are still discussing novels, readers, and how to get the two of them together.  This is far from a comprehensive list, but it might help give you a few ideas.