Writers, Readers, Publishers: Present Tense, Future Bold

Tonight I went to a talk about ebook marketing. I’m part of a group, called Writers, Readers, Publishers: Present Tense, Future Bold that meets once a month to hear guest speakers talk about the state of the publishing industry.

The first meeting was a talk with Robert Gleason, Executive Editor at Tor Books, a division of the Macmillan publishing group.  Mr. Gleason acquires books and is a successful author of apocalyptic fiction.  He talked about acquisitions and the impact on traditional publishing of developments in the e-book market.

“We’re in an anti-intellectual culture,” he said. “The U.S. as a democratic culture is at stake […] We’re not a book-loving culture […] To lose the book industry would be a national catastrophe”

This might sound like a grim view of culture and publishing, but I’m sure many traditional, print publishers feel this way.

Some stats:

  • Since 2008, paperback sales have gone down 30%
  • 60% of book purchases are impulse buys, according to Nielson/Gallup
  • 16 years ago there were almost 200 paperback wholesalers. Now there are 2, and they are hemorrhaging money

Plus, Borders went bankrupt last year, and some publishers believe that if Barnes & Noble goes under, the book industry might go down the drain (although my personal feeling is that indie stores are really stepping up so that won’t be the case).

On the bright side, content is still queen. Plus, there are a few cool things marketers can do digitally that they couldn’t before.

According to Robert, in electronic marketing, the value is the content and early access to it. Although it is still effective to book authors on TV and radio shows, as long as they are good speakers and sellers, Twitter and Facebook have made it possible to build new communities and sell books to them. Facebook especially is good for blurbs, events, and exposure, and with enough fans, you can shamelessly plug and link to your sale page. Even radio shows are easier to book. You can use email to contact someone, but you should still close the deal over the phone.

Amazon, of course, is the biggest ebook seller. So it’s important to market well on Amazon. One thing to remember is that Amazon cares about the velocity of sale, according to Robert. If Amazon sees potential, they will blast your book in their newsletter to 500,000+ subscribers. One way to do this is to get 50 5-star reviews from friends when your book is first released. (NOTE* You want genuine reviews, so ask them to only give 5-stars if they really feel that way. Otherwise you’re “gaming the system” and could potentially get kicked off Amazon, not to mention potentially have book buyers, disappointed due to inflated ratings, give you low reviews and question your integrity.)

Carolyn McCray also emphasizes that on her post on Digital Book World. She says 10 is good, but you also need to make sure you have a great cover, an enticing book description in the product description section, and you should categorize your book in less competitive sections, so that you can make it to the top 100 books and sell more that way. For more tips, read her article, Maximizing Digital Book Sales.

Lastly, Robert touched upon some publishers concern about the durability of ebooks. How  long will they last? Will they break down? While there are some legitimate concerns about whether or not devices will always be able to read current ebooks (especially since there are so many devices with their own proprietary formats that may one day be outdated), there are fallbacks and workarounds (at least for now). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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