DBW12 – eBooks for Everyone Else

The second day of DBW12 had a few interesting on-going series. The one I chose to listen to was eBooks for Everyone Else, which had panels for design, marketing, and distribution.

eBook Production & Design

This panel consisted of Joshua Tallent, of eBook Architects and Ron Martinez, founder of Aerbook.

A lot of what they said was common sense. For example, automation of ebook production doesn’t always work, since there are so many platforms with so many different quirks. It also cannot always handle complex content, such as interactive, foreign language, tables, curved text with read aloud functionality, and fixed layout.

Aerbook publishes tablet ebooks, and they use HTML5 as a base to convert to EPUB and native apps. Ron Martinez said that new platforms temporarily level the playing fields in tablet publishing. He also thinks that enhanced ebooks are dead and tablet books make meaningful use of technology and content. Apps have a social connectivity that helps with discoverability, and a virality, or reason for people to connect.

But the thing to remember most about tablet publishing is the law of surprise and demand. One example is Siri, which sold many iphones because it was a meaningful, useful novelty.

Digital Marketing

Discoverability is a big issue in publishing. Two panelists, Iris Blasi of Hilsinger Mendelson East and Lori Culwell of Get Creative Inc. discussed strategies and techniques.

According to Lori Culwell, the author website is the epicenter. The best domain name is firstnamelastname.com, and all social media accounts should link back to the website. Elements that should be on the author’s website:

  • Name in the header
  • Blog with RSS feed
  • Email capture (Mailchimp, Aweber, etc.)
  • Contact information (social media and email)
  • Media or press coverage of the author or book
  • Clear, clickable thumbnail of the author or book

Google is also key. The more you update your website, the more likely you are to land on the front page of a search.

The author’s name should also be on the publisher’s website. Publisher’s sites should have:

  • a page for each author (this has a higher page rank than the author site)
  • email capture/link to the author’s site (you can market to them via email)
  • link back to page (new book, etc.) in all editions

Publishers should also hold a book until they have a decent website. Discoverability makes it easier to sell an ebook to a developed subscriber base. Use as many distribution channels as possible, including the author’s subscriber base/mailing list, social media followers/fans, publisher’s mailing list, advertising/SEO (on Internet marketing channels, such as Facebook ads that link to clickable page to buy the book, or likes on a page), book bloggers, and Google searches.

Sometimes digital books are not enough for reviewers. Some reviewers and fans want a print edition. Some radio producers want print copies, as well as other members of the press because they cannot accept a digital transfer of a book. In these cases, use print-on-demand.

Optimize SEO and discoverability for an author name, book title, relevant related searches in a title tage, meta descriptions, and in-anchor text. SEO counts for 22% of Google’s algorithm. Also create backlinks from blogs, other sites, and web 2.0 sites like Squidoo.  Wrap-syndicate RSS feeds from the author’s site and publisher’s site to create in-anchor, text-based backlinks. Authors should also have a regular blogging schedule, since Google ranks are based on freshness. Blogs should have search terms in the title, and use Google’s keyword suggestions. You can get ideas from an Adwords account. You can also use the free version of Market Samurai, for a more advanced competition search.

Reputation management is also key. If you Google an author’s name, what do you see? Obviously you want their website to be number 1 on the search. Help this by maintaining a regular social media presence. This helps insure a steady stream of digital book sales, since online searches often result in sales of books for ereaders.

Iris Blasi shared some interesting facts about social media:

  • Facebook has 800 million+ users and 1.6 billion search queries per day
  • Pinterest is growing at the same rate as Facebook 5 years ago
  • 60 hours of YouTube video is added every 5 minutes
  • Tumblr has 15 billion page views every month

Social media is about learning as much as it is about selling. There’s a difference between social media marketing and social networking. Professional social media = passion + purpose.

You want to grow your brand, not just reply to people. It’s best to pick one or two social media platforms and do it well, and then add more over time.

Rules of social media marketing (which have many exceptions)

  • First be interested, then be interesting
  • Be real/authentic (don’t just autopost or schedule posts; ask about things you don’t know). But don’t be too real (don’t get too personal).
  • Have a social media strategy. Track, regularly revise, see what works, and pay attention when people show up, so you can sometimes time accordingly. But, don’t always be strategic (sometimes spontaneity is good).
  • Don’t be on social media unless you want to be social. But don’t just be social either.
  • Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience. But don’t overestimate either (use clear, concise grammar).
  • Compel, don’t tell. Share information people want to pass along, ask for what you need from influencers. Trends are about the spike, not overall traffic.
  • Show up and be engaged
  • Track. You can’t grow what you can’t see
  • Experiment
  • Search. People misspell, and people don’t know you’re there.
  • Validate (with the like button on Facebook, for example)
  • It’s social media, not social ME-dia. Use quotes from material, images from books. Surprise and delight. What makes people go, “hmmm”?

Digital Distribution

Michael Cader of Publisher’s Lunch gave an overview of all the digital distribution channels for ebooks.

There are six categories of digital distribution, according to Michael Cader.

  • Complete Digital Distributors (complete services, including conversion)
  • Distribution Services (BookBaby, Book Country)
  • Direct eBookstore Programs (Amazon KDP, B&N PubIt, etc.)
  • Digital Imprints (New ventures for new works, such as digital firsts and out-of-print books)
  • Digital Imprints: Traditional (part of larger publisher)
  • Digital Asset Distributors (CodeMantra, LibreDigital, etc.)

Selling ebooks direct is the best way, if possible. If you sell ebooks for $2.99-9.99 you receive between 65-75% of revenue from platforms such as Amazon. Selling wholesale gives you a gross sale of 50% list price, then deduct 25% commission, which yields 37.5%. If you sell through imprint partners at wholesale, you get 50% of 50%, which yields 25%.

Basically, you want the broadest range possible to maximize sales, which includes niche/special markets. This includes independent booksellers, academic markets, corporate markets, special markets such as romance and other genre fiction, and global markets. Global markets are especially important. For example, 50% of Disney app sales are outside of the U.S.



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