Marketing books on the internet is both an art and a science.
Historians will look back and see the birth of the internet as one of the most important events in the 20th century. It's a technology still in its infancy but already it has revolutionised communication (when was the last time you sent a letter to someone?), made telecommunication cheap or even free (no more long distance phone bills with Skype) and now it's turned the world of media distribution on its head, as the crashing profits of the music companies can testify.
Marketing Books - Self-Published Authors Need to Learn to Do This
Well, it's about digital content. In the past a book was simply a product to be manufactured, distributed and sold through retail outlets in the same way as a bar of soap. There was a certain cost of printing up the book, middle men took their cut and the price on the cover had to reflect all of that.
The advent of ebooks and sophisticated readers like Amazon's kindle and other e-ink devices mean that the old economics no longer define the rules of the game. You can now duplicate your original copy (a Word file) at no cost, distribute it at no cost (downloads) and there need be no price on the cover at all.
Whereas ebooks are being sold and there exist any number of sites to market them, most people have missed the point of the new technology. As any self-published author knows, the greatest challenge is not in writing, proofing or designing the book, it's in getting marketing books. And convincing potential readers to take the plunge and buy the thing.
And this is why to promote your book you need to give it away.
Making the digital version of your book available for free turns what was an obstacle into an opportunity. Whereas most publishers are still worrying about how to stave off piracy, by allowing people to copy and distribute your book you've turned the product into the promotion. This is a smart way to market books.
Instead of paying for PR experts to push your new release, you allow readers to spread the word by themselves. If they enjoy reading the book they'll share it and you'll get the crowd-sourced word of mouth that money just can't buy.
Promote Your Book Question: But if readers can get hold of your book for free, how do you make any money?
Books aren't going to go out of fashion any time soon. As Chris Anderson, editor of Wired.com remarked: 'they have a great user interface and fantastic battery life'. People will still want to own the hard copy and buy books as gifts for friends (there's just no romance in transferring a file as a birthday gift). And even if only 10% of the 100,000 people who download your book actually order a copy through Amazon, that's 10,000 sales you didn't have before.
Or as Cory Doctorow, editor of Boingboing.net put it when asked why he allowed his book to be downloaded for free:“Most people who download the book don't end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience.”
Another interesting example was the TV series, Battle Star Galactica. Premiered in Australia and simultaneously on digital television, it was pirated and watched by tens of thousands of sci-fi fans in the US months before it was due to air. Conventional wisdom would have said that the show was bound to flop as the target audience had already seen the entire series. But all those fans had shared it with their friends and built up a hype that means that Battle Star Galactica hit record ratings from episode one.
Marketing Books: The Future of Books
It may be that a few years from now with eye-friendly e-ink screens, people will do most of their reading on hand-held devices. They'll share their libraries with a single click to friends and families and bookstores will be the equivalent of antique shops. But even if that does happen there will always be a demand for good writing. And a new economic model will evolve. Suppose you have a million readers – if they keep coming back to your website to read your blog and short stories, you have traffic and hence revenue from ads.
Allowing free downloads of your e-book for free may seem unintuitive at first but it will soon become the norm. It allows people who don't have the disposable income to read the book and spread the word, it gives others the chance to have a good browse before they buy.
And in the end, marketing books this way will make you a lot more money.
Tom Glaister is the author of Bozo and the Storyteller www.bozoandthestoryteller.com and his novel can naturally be downloaded for free.
More book promotion ideas.
References for Marketing Books: