A Guide to Ebook Merchandising Promotions
One of the most useful forms of ebook publicity revolves around reaching reviewers and gaining new readers – but how can indie authors go about persuading retailers to push their titles as well, in effect reaching a whole new audience of potential customers? In many ways, this is a tougher task than approaching readers directly, and it’s just as important. Research has shown that consumers pick their next read through a combination of recommendations from friends, social media posts and retailer suggestions. It makes sense; the more prominent an ebook is on a website, the more likely a customer is to buy it.
Hybrid publishing companies continue to forge a reputation in the industry and trade publishers use self-publishing as a trusted slush pile; retailer perceptions about indie authors are changing. Frustratingly though, some retailers are still a step behind readers, who don’t tend to be as strongly influenced by the publisher name on a book or ebook. There are ways to combat this remaining hesitancy. As ever, if you produce a professional quality product and promote it in the right way, you stand a chance of being featured. One other way of increasing your eligibility for features is to publish through a self-publishing services provider that may well have forged relationships with merchandising teams. Rather than expecting retailers to take a risk on an unknown indie author, you would then be supported by the association of a familiar company. NB: Some retailers, such as Google Play, won’t consider featuring you unless you publish through a company, but that’s not the case with all suppliers.
Types of Promotions
Topical: Retailers run promotions to coincide with holidays and events, eg. Christmas or the summer break. The benefits of these features are twofold: firstly, readers have your titles marketed to them, often at somewhat reduced prices, in an email list that goes out to a lot of people, meaning that retailers are doing the hard work for you. Secondly, the promotions are often devised to fall at times when ebook sales tend to be higher anyway, over public holidays or at other peak sales times eg. January (‘Back to Work sale’/’New Year, new you’). This means that you’ll see increased momentum at a time when you’d probably have seen a bit of a sales spike anyway.
Regular Features: Some retailers run ongoing features that you might be eligible for. A classic example is Kobo’s ‘Daily Deal’, which sees a title placed in a prominent position on the homepage so that it enjoys maximum exposure. Another great example is Hive.co.uk’s ‘Rising Writers’. They list biographies of selected authors alongside a ‘buy’ button for their ebook. This type of feature tends to book up well in advance but can be worth taking a punt on, for obvious reasons.
One way of increasing your eligibility for features is to publish through a self-publishing services provider that may well have forged relationships with merchandising teams.
Multi buy: It can be in a retailer’s favour to bunch titles together and split the cost to the reader (and therefore individual authors’ resulting royalties). While at face value this could be seen to devalue your work, it can actually serve as a way of spreading the word about your ebook, particularly if you’ve written a trilogy or have a back catalogue that can be bundled. If you are grouped with other titles by other authors, it can lead to you being noticed by fans of your genre who might not have heard of you. The way that you are recompensed is generally fairer than you’d expect, too. In 2015, Kobo reported 600% sales increases, on average, of titles that were put into multibuy deals with them. Often, this promotion leads to an author making a sale rather than no sale at all – generally, it’s not a case of making less then you would otherwise have made.
Libraries: The way that libraries source content is different from standard retailers; an acquisitions librarian selects content from an aggregator. The best way of promoting content to libraries is by targeting the suppliers, who act as sales reps for any content that they choose to push.
As a result of press coverage: If something newsworthy and relevant to your ebook occurs, it can be worth contacting merchandisers to see whether they’d be interested in running a feature and tying it in with your work. Remember, it’s not just an ebook that sells copies – author brand is crucial. If you’ve done something interesting or have something relevant to say, pitch it to retailers and see what they think. Similarly, if your marketing is fruitful and you are featured in a major publication or on television, contact merchandising teams and let them know. Apple in particular is unlikely to feature an ebook unless it’s received this kind of big media coverage, and Google Play runs a regular feature called ‘Everybody’s Talking About’, which showcases ebooks that have enjoyed coverage or won awards.
The reason that retailer promotions have become so important for ebooks is because it’s the way that consumers have come to expect to buy their content, and to have it displayed. Due to content saturation issues, readers want retailers to have curated the content by the time it hits their site. That’s not to say that customers don’t browse sometimes, but the way that they purchase ebooks is changing. Your best chance of making sales comes from self-promotion but also getting on board with retailers and seeing if they have any promotions that will help you to be seen.