I received an email this morning from a dejected eBookIt.com customer whose book we completed and submitted to retailers a little over 60 days ago. Here's an excerpt from the customer's message:
"I was in shock not to see one single book sold. I realize that millions of books are on the Internet, but there are millions of people out there."
Although Bo wrote a previous post about how books don't sell themselves,I thought I would share my response to this customer, as I'm sure there are others who will benefit from this information and encouragement. Enjoy!
Promotion of your book is essential in order to drive sales. Please don't count on eBookIt.com to do it (though we do offer a couple of optional / paid PR services), as that's beyond the scope of our basic service, and beyond what we can reasonably do for $149. And certainly don't count on the retailers/ to do it-- they are going to promote books that are already proven winners, by authors who have a solid track record of sales or name recognition, etc.
To put it in perspective, think of the largest bookstore in your area-- perhaps it's a Barnes & Noble...if it's in the city, perhaps it even stretches to more than one floor. Now imagine your book, in a paperback format for this example, sitting somewhere on the shelf. Think of the hundreds of customers streaming in and out of the store in day, week, month. Without any promotion of your book, by the store--or by you--the chances of someone coming across your book on the shelf and purchasing it (considering the thousands of other titles on the shelves of the store) are unfortunately not very strong. Most shoppers come in to the store knowing what they are looking for, or otherwise, they may casually browse until something catches their interest enough to buy. Many customers come in and browse, and leave without making a purchase.
Now consider that your ebook, at a site like Amazon.com, is one of millions of books available. The chances of your book being found by a casual browser, given that Amazon sells practically every children's book in print, are even less. That is not to say it is impossible to sell your ebook. Not even close. We pay thousands of dollars in royalties to "unknown" authors for whom we have produced ebooks. The beauty is that, if someone knows about your book, and and wants to buy it, it is so easy for them to do so with Amazon and the other retailers. If they type in your author name, chances are, your book will come right up. (Compare that to hunting around the aisles and shelves of a brick and mortar bookstore).
As another analogy...imagine someone deciding to open a dog grooming business [ed. note: customer's book is related to animals]. They put an addition on their home, register their business with their town, order a business phone number, set-up a business bank account, maybe put up a website, perhaps even put a sign in front of their house. And then they wait for customers to call or stop by.
Tick-tock, tick-tock....they wait.
How much faster would the business take off if they passed out flyers to passersby downtown, sent out a mailing to local residents, put an ad in the newspaper, sent a press release to local media, asked local businesses to allow the display a business card or other advertisement in their store?
It is really not very different with your book. Unless you are already a bestselling author, you simply must promote your book if you want book sales.
Here are just a few ideas to get the wheels turning and help you get started:
1) Offer friends and family a free 'review copy' of your ebook, in exchange for them agreeing that if they like it, they'll write a review for you at Amazon [you may choose to ask them to disclose in their review that they received a free review copy]. That way, you'll at least have some hopefully positive ratings, so that people who hear about your book and check it out on Amazon will get some positive feedback.
2) Go to your local Barnes & Noble and other local bookstores and inquire about doing a book reading / signing. A story hour at a local libraries might also work well, if it's a children's book.
3) Contact local media outlets (local newspapers, magazines, tv, radio); send them a review copy of your book. Pitch to them the value you could bring to their audience in an interview. You can provide a "press kit" to give them info on you, your book, and sample questions they may wish to ask, along with your brief responses. (You can find more on press kits by googling it).
4) Utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to let people know about your book.
5) Buy or get from the library a copy of Jay Conrad Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing for no/low cost ideas on marketing and promotion.
6) Consider eBookIt.com's International Book Promotion Service...or do your own press release. (Be sure to read our FAQs on our book promotion service...)
7) Contact local civic organizations / clubs, like the Lion's Club, or Rotary Club, and offer to come and speak to the group about self-publishing an ebook, or some other field related to your book, of which you are knowledgable etc.
8) Create an Author Page through Amazon, and post content.
9) Create an email signature on your personal email account showing "Author of...", with a link to your book for sale on your eBookIt.com sales page (that's the most profitable link).
These are just ideas to get you started. If you really want your book sales to take off, add your own ideas to the list, then look it over, and try to think about what would give you the "biggest bang for your buck", and start there. Don't settle for trying only one or two things...it can take consistent effort over a period of time, and experimentation with different strategies, to really drive book sales. And of course, it goes without saying that whether it's a product, a service, or an ebook...whatever you are promoting has to have more or least equal value to the amount being asked for it (to at least to some of the population) in order for people to be willing to part with their hard earned cash.
I hope this helps. Don't give up hope. I don't know how much effort you've given to promoting your book so far, but there's always more you can do, and results don't usually come overnight. A lot of PR, marketing and advertising is a long-term strategy.
All the best...
Ryan Levesque, President
By the way, if you've found a certain strategy to be particularly effective in promoting your book-- or if you can contribute a promotion suggestion to the list-- please let us know by commenting on this post.
**Two Updates added on 8/7/11**
Update #1: An eBookIt.com author shared with me this article on "How not to get left on the shelf", providing additional thoughts on the importance of promotion. (Thanks for the tip, Harry!)
Update #2: I was recently introduced to Shelf Unbound, an e-magazine that features "the best of small press, university press, and self-published books". The publisher welcomes inquiries from eBookIt.com authors who wish to have their titles considered for coverage in the magazine. Email: margaret at shelfmediagroup dot com