Chapter 5: Marketing Your Book
How can people buy your book if they don't know it exists? That's the first question to ask yourself when you publish your e-book. And the answer is that it's up to you to inform them. You might never have had to write and distribute a press release before, but don't worry about that; after all, you wrote a book, didn't you?
Money Back Guarantee?As you've researched e-books available for sale, you'll have come across some offering a money-back guarantee. Generally, these will be for books offering specific things - stop smoking, or something similar. It's something you can do when selling independently, although if you're going through Amazon, of course it's not possible.
Should you offer your own money-back guarantee? Essentially, it's a matter of choice. But as a rule of thumb, if your book has a low price - say under £5 - then it's probably not necessary. If the price is higher, consider offering a "commitment," under which, if someone isn't happy they can e-mail the book back to you, and you'll refund your money. If you get into really high prices, above £20, then a money-back guarantee is a very good idea. Why? In a bookshop, a customer can look through a book before buying. When they're purchasing from your site, they don't have that option. So offering a money-back guarantee becomes fair business. The chances of people taking you up on it are fairly small, anyway.
PricingOne of the most important questions you'll have to ask yourself is how much to charge for your book. It's not always easy to come up with the perfect answer. Your only costs are setting up your e-book, if you're selling from your own site. So you could charge a small amount, which is likely to mean a greater sales volume.
At the same time, if you charge a very low amount, will people take your book seriously? You need to find a happy medium. But there are still other factors to take into account. You need to be priced below bookshops (which you can do, because you don't have the overheads of retailers or publishers) to grab interest.
Selling by yourself, you have the luxury of being able to experiment, raising or lowering the price. However, when you go through a distributor, you need to set the price beforehand. A little higher than you sell it for on your site is a good idea. You'll be making less per copy (distributors take their cut), so a slightly higher price makes up for that and offers an incentive for people to buy directly from you.
Make a PlanInitially, the best thing to do is to devise a plan to market your book. Think outside the box, and use a strategy that takes in several levels, and uses all the tools already at your disposal. How? There are several tools at your disposal:
- Press Release.
- Write and publish articles in your field.
- Become a blogger and publish regularly.
- Use E-Mail newsletters.
- Set up a web site to sell your book.
Yes that takes work, ongoing, regular work, but it's all part of the business. Big publishers can hire publicists to do a lot of this, but that's beyond your budget. So, to become successful, you have to be your own publicity machine, and throw yourself into it wholeheartedly. Don't be afraid of it. You'll make mistakes (everyone does), but that's how you learn. The bottom line is that, by doing it, you'll sell a lot more books which translates into a lot more money.
Press ReleaseIt's not that difficult to write a press release. You might not realise it, but you've probably seen hundreds in your life. Local papers tend to reproduce them almost verbatim as some news items, and even the nationals and wire services use them extensively for some articles.
The three important points are that it should:
- Read smoothly
- Give all the necessary information
- Make people want to read your book.
In the first paragraph, include all the important information - who, what, when, where, why. Tell people about the book, the author, where the book's available and when it will be for sale, and, very briefly, why you wrote it. Keep your sentences concise. As an example:
On January 1, John Smith is set to publish How to Say It Right, a new book on grammar. Smith, an English teacher, has had great success teaching his pupils to use grammar properly, gaining great praise from parents, staff and education authorities. Now he's put his principles into How to Say It Right so everyone can benefit from all he's learnt over the years. Taking advantage of the exciting e-book form of publishing, How to Say It Right is available from Amazon.com, Lulu.com and from Smith's own site, www.johnsmith.co.uk.
That's the kind of opening you want. It draws people in, lets them know exactly what you're doing, and gives some background on your reason for writing the book. Also, it's brief.
In your second paragraph, tell a little more about the book, what it achieves, and how it manages that. What do people gain from reading it, what can it do for them? Your third paragraph should say a bit more about you and your experiences. What makes you qualified to write this book? Finish by reiterating the books title and where it's available, as well as giving your contact information (phone number and e-mail).
Your press release shouldn't be more than a single page (if it goes beyond that, the chances of it being read become much less). When you're satisfied with it, think about who you'll send it to. You should have contacts in the field you're writing about, so they should all receive a copy, as should any organisations involved in the field, along with professional bodies. Then there's the media. That means local and national newspapers, radio and television stations, as well as any magazines that cover your topic. Send via e-mail - the easiest and cheapest way to distribute.
Realistically, you shouldn't expect much of a response, certainly not from the media. But look at it this way - if you didn't tell them about the book, they wouldn't know at all. You can also follow up in a few months with another press release, talking about how successful the book has been, and including reaction from some who've bought and read it. That might generate some media interest, which can translate to greater sales.
Don't ignore the press release. It's your herald to the world that your book is out, or ready to appear. But it's only the first weapon in your arsenal.
Web SiteYour web site for the book is possibly the most important tool you have. It's not only a place to sell your book, but also the best advertising for it that you can have. It's a centre, a hub for everything, and can help you create and build a network of people interested in your ideas.
Building Your SiteYou can build a site for yourself as an author, or one specifically for your book. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For a first book you might be better served by making a site for the book itself, with a page about you as the author.
Even if you've never built a web site before, it's not that difficult with all the software and tools available these days. But don't blunder in blindly. First, think about what you want on your site, Plan out each page. Before you do anything, take a look around the Web and see how other sites are laid out, especially those dedicated to selling single books. Make notes, be critical, and get ideas. That might seem a lot of work, but a little time spent planning beforehand can save you an awful lot of re-working later.
The most important is your home, or index, page. That's what people see first when they come to your site. It needs to be eye-catching, to make people want to stay and read more, rather than surf on. But it also needs to be informative, to let people know exactly what they're seeing. Use your book cover as an image, with a little text about the book. Everything should fit on the screen, rather than going "below the fold," where a reader has to scroll down. There's a simple reason for this - most people won't scroll down.
Have links to purchase your book on every page, which maximises the opportunity to make sales, as well as a page dedicated to buying the book.
What else do you need on your site? It doesn't need to be elaborate, but some things are vital. You must have a page describing your book, another with an extract from it, and one about you. Additionally, and importantly, the site should contain a page of links to other sites on topics covered by your book, including organisations, as well as to Amazon, if they're selling your book.
Although they're available, avoid tools such as Flash for your site. You don't need them, and they make everything slow to load. The idea is to make everything as easy for the reader as possible.
Of course, you can pay someone to design your site (after proper consultation, of course), but that's simply an extra expense for you. Nor do you need to be able to code. Even if you don't know HTML (HyperText Markup Language) you can make a site. With all the software available, you can build a very professional site with a little time and effort. Something like Dreamweaver is a tool often used by professionals, but one you can master after a learning curve. It's perfectly possible to find free tools for site building, but sometimes the results can be quite amateurish. It's worth some expense and time to make something professional, so people will take you seriously - these days, few people will pay attention to, let alone buy from, a site that's obviously home made.
What to Include
- If you're selling your book with Paypal, remind people that it's free for them to sign up and include a link enabling them to do that. If you're using a checkout service, be sure to tell people that it's encrypted and secure, if it is (if not, you need a better service).
- One tool that can be very useful is a newsletter, so give people the opportunity to sign up for it - all they'll need to do is enter their e-mail address. This involves using a CGI script, but it's very easy to do. You'll need your manual (if you're using well-known software to create your site, there might be a For Dummies book about it, and you'll find them very useful for novices), and follow the instructions (when you're looking for a web host for your site, be sure they support CGI scripts, since some don't).
- The main thing to remember is KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Always make it easy for the reader to do something. The easier it is, the more likely they are to do it. Don't be too wordy on any page; between 500-800 words is ample; if you want more, link to a next page.
Domain NameBut even before you begin to design your site, there's something vital you have to do, and that's get a domain name. The ideal one is the title of your book, of course. To find out if it's available, simply visit any domain registration site. You can register a site as .com or .co.uk, which are the standards for commercial sites (avoid .biz or .tv). Look around until you find a good deal on registration - there are plenty around these days. Don't be afraid to register for several years, which will lower the price further; after all, it's not as if your e-book will go out of print (unlike a regular book). Once you have you domain name, you're ready to proceed.
The next step is inserting metadata and a meta description for the site (you'll also need them for each page). The description should be short, around 25 words is fine, a very short synopsis of your book. When your site is "spidered" by a search engine, this is the description that will appear. The metadata you insert will help your search engine ranking, which can be very important. So you need to be very complete with your keywords. Put in the title, your name, the ISBN, all the concepts in the book, even chapter titles, everything that relates to your book and will help it get recognised.
Web HostTo get your site into cyberspace, you're going to need a web host. This is the service that will keep your site online, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. There are many choices here, from free to pay, but you need one that's reliable - having your site unavailable half the time does you absolutely no good at all. Before you sign with any web host, check their up time very carefully. Check, too, that they can handle CGI scripts, if you're using one on your site. All hosts should offer you several addresses at your domain, so make sure your contact details are prominently displayed in several places on your site.
You want a host with 24/7 tech support, in case there's a problem, and an easy FTP upload of your site. There should also be adequate bandwidth for your site; generally, that won't be a problem, unless you begin loading your site with downloadable features.
The old saying tells us that you get what you pay for, and with hosts, that's often true. Free saves you money, but it limits you - there's only so much they can do. It's generally worth spending a little money (hosting isn't expensive) for a much better service.
You might never have considered it, but the statistics of who visits your site can prove quite important. Good web stats (as they're known) will let you know where the visitors are from, what pages they saw, how long they stayed. You need these, as they can help you fine tune your site and make it more appealing. So be sure your host can provide them.
Having made your decision, do one final check of your site before you upload. Check the pages for spelling and design, and be certain to check all the links to make sure they work; it's very embarrassing to receive an e-mail saying the links don't work!
Finally, when your site is live, go and check everything again. If there are problems, make the adjustments and resend it.
Search EnginesGetting your site up and running is fine, a good start, but people still have to find it. That's where the search engines are important. The programmes they use to find and search sites, called spiders, will add your site to the database. So, if someone types in a keyword that you have, your site will pop up in their search, with the order depending on relevance.
Obviously, you want your site to be near the top, which will increase traffic to your site and sales. But how do you make that happen? You have a few different options.
Things have changed a great deal in the last ten years. At one time you had to jump through hoops to submit your site to search engines. It's easier these days. Although the number of search engines has multiplied beyond all proportion, there are only a few you really need to bother about (Google, MSN Live Search and Yahoo remain the big players). However, before you submit your site, there are things you can do to improving your page ranking, as it's known.