Print or eBook: Which Is Right for You?

ebooksI spent much of this morning reading about trends in the sales of print vs. digital books. So what did I learn?

Well, the good news is that the traditional book definitely isn’t dead. Indie booksellers and traditionalist rejoice!

But here’s another thing that’s important to know: whether your book will sell well in print or ebook form may very well depend on your genre. Consider this…

  1.  Your nonfiction book will sell better in print. I would philosophize that this is because nonfiction books — self-help books, cookbooks, etc…. — are ones that people want to keep on their bookshelves with pride, and refer back to years later. You just can’t do that with an ebook.
  2. If your book is Sci-fi, paranormal romance, or Christian fiction, it’s likely to sell much better in electronic format. Statistics show that these are the three genres in which ebooks are far outpacing print.
  3. If you’re writing a children’s bookgo with both! Many people love the digital versions of children’s books and all its interactivity. Other people think of it as more “screen time” for kids and less “true reading.” As one person recently said in a letter to the editor printed in the NY Times, “If the tablet has Clifford the dog barking, then your child doesn’t have to imagine the sound of Clifford the dog barking. Electronic devices obviate the need for children to use their imagination because it does it for them.”
  4. Your erotica book is best suited for digital. Think about it. In an airport, on a beach or in any other public place … people can read erotica in ebook format without anyone having any idea what they’re reading. Holding a physical book? Not so much.
  5. Similarly, literary works do best in print … in which nosy people can actually see the covers. As an article in Britain’s The Guardian points out: “There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. Reading has always been a competitive sport. Why else would anyone have read Ulysses?”

And finally, here’s a stat to really throw you for a loop. A recent study found that today’s electronic generation — kids between the ages of 16 and 24 — actually prefer print books to ebooks.

The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the product” (51%), “I am not restricted to a particular device” (20%), “I can easily share it” (10%), “I like the packaging” (9%), and “I can sell it when used” (6%).

So, if in doubt, do both. But if you have to choose, use these interesting stats above to determine which route is the right one for you to take. Happy Publishing!

5 Things Authors Need to Know About Amazon Kindle Scout

kindlescoutHave you heard about Amazon’s new crowdsourcing publishing program? It’s called Amazon Kindle Scout, and it’s basically American Idol meets book publishing. Here are five things you need to know about this program that might just turn the publishing world upside down.

1. Almost anyone can post their manuscript to Amazon Kindle Scout. It’s kind of like an open audition. If you have written a book in English and want to get it published, you can post it through Amazon Kindle Scout and let the voters decide. The first genres open for submission are Romance, Mystery & Thriller and Science Fiction & Fantasy, but that is expected to expand going forward. Any adult with a valid U.S. bank account and a U.S. social security number or tax identification number is eligible.

2. There is no due date. Authors can post books at any time thoughout the year. Thirty days after a book is posted, the Kindle Scout team will review reader votes to determine whether the book will be published by Kindle Press. An author will be notified within 45 days of submission whether or not their book was selected. There will be a lot of voting going on during those 30 days, so it’s in your best interest to make sure your friends, family and colleagues are aware of the timeframe during which they can show their support for your book.

3. You can check out other entries before submitting your own. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you take a look at what other authors have done (book descriptions, thank-you notes, etc…) through Amazon Kindle Scout before submitting your own materials. See what’s working and what’s not, and learn from it!

4. This is in no way self-publishing. According to Publishers Weekly, selected authors will receive a $1,500 advance, a five-year renewable publishing contract and a 50% e-book royalty rate upon selection. In other words, if your book gets chosen for publication, you don’t pay a penny to get your book published. That’s every author’s dream right about now.

5. You must agree to the Kindle Press Submission & Publishing Agreement to participate. Under the agreement, you grant Amazon a 45-day exclusivity period to consider your work for publication. If they select your book, Amazon then has the exclusive, worldwide rights to publish your book in digital and audio formats in all languages for a 5-year renewable term. If they don’t select your book, you get all your rights back after 45 days.

Learn more about Amazon Kindle Scout and whether or not it’s the right option for you.

5 Ways to Sell Books From Your Author Website

ecommerceI often have authors ask me this question: “Can I sell books through my author website?” The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, there are a multitude of ways to do it. Here are your options.

1. Sell the book yourself through an online shopping cart. An online shopping cart allows you to sell your book (and possibly other products) right there on your own website. You collect payment, process the order and basically handle everything yourself. The biggest benefit of such a system is the fact that you get to control the price — and profit. It’s also a good experience for visitors, since they never have to leave your site to complete their purchase. But there is a downside: setting up a system like this takes a fair amount of time and effort. There’s also a cost involved — both a set-up cost and a monthly cost — so there’s always the potential of such a venture not being profitable.

2. Sell the book yourself via PayPal. If you’re not ready to go all-in and set up an integrated shopping cart, a PayPal cart is the next best thing. For no set-up cost, you can create a PayPal account, sync it up with your bank account, and create a product page for your book. You can set the price, a tax percentage and shipping costs. PayPal will then give you a simple widget of embed code. Simply paste it on your site and when someone clicks that “buy” link, they will get taken to your product page on PayPal. In addition, PayPal only collects a small amount of the total. So what’s the drawback? Well, this option takes people off your site to make a payment, which can be jarring for a visitor. In addition, this option only works if you’re prepared to do the processing and shipping of books yourself.

3. Link to Amazon and/or B&N. This is the most common method that most of our author clients use to sell books. It’s pretty darn simple: create a “Buy the Book” area and include links to both Amazon and B&N. Unless you self-published with CreateSpace — a division of Amazon — I highly recommend including links to both (or else you risk being blackballed by one or the other). It’s easy peasy.

4. Link to your publisher site (if you have a publisher). If you were published through any of the major publishing houses, your book is likely for sale through their website. It’s quite easy to add a “Buy the Book” link on your site and simply link there for people to make the purchase in one click. Much like linking to Amazon or B&N, there’s little to no work involved in the process.

5. Let your publisher sell through your website. If you’re lucky enough to be published through Harper Collins, you’ll want to know that they recently made the selling process even easier, offering a new e-commerce platform that allows authors to easily integrate the HarperCollins shopping cart directly into their website. In other words, they’ll do all the work, and you can collect a 35% net royalty on e-books sold through the HarperCollins platform on your site. Now that’s a good deal.

See what I mean? Allowing people to buy the book through your website is easy. The hard part is figuring out which of the options above works best for you.

What Is Your Goal for Your Author Website (and Your Writing Career in General?)

It’s probably the most important question I ask authors before putting together a proposal for them: What are your goals for your author website?

Generally, there are three overarching goals that an author may or may not have for the site. Many authors are interested in more than one. They include:

  1. Self promotion
    For some authors, the most important thing is getting his or her name out there to build a fanbase, get speaking engagements, and pre-sell future books before they come out.
  2. Selling books
    Other authors want to put more focus on the books themselves and keep his/her profile in the backburner. For these authors, the books speak for themselves. I’ve had many authors who fit in this category tell me, “I’m just not that interesting.”
  3. Spreading the word
    For some non-fiction authors, the most important thing about publishing the books and building the website is to get the message out there. Maybe the books are about mental health. Or animal rights. Or something political. Regardless, this type of author website focuses on using the web to further enhance the messages of the books.

Clearly, each one of these three types of websites would be different. For example, an author-focused site should would have a large photo of the author in a prominent spot in the design, while a site that’s more focused on spreading the word would have other images and graphics that represent the message of the books. In addition, a site that’s focused on selling the book would have a larger “Buy the Book” button, while a site for an author who is trying to build a following would be encouraging people to enter their email address and join the mailing list.

These are just a few examples of the ways that an author with different website goals might be vastly different in design, layout, action items, etc…

Now, I’ve always been focused on an author’s goals for his or her website. But what about an author’s goals for his or her career? That’s what I stumbled across on a conversation on in a LinkedIn group.

The question posed was as follows: How do you define success as an author?

And, of course, the responses varied greatly. Here are a few of the more interesting ones…

Success as an author (for example, with regard to a book) entails several components:
–Making a contribution in terms of the “message”–whatever it might be. . .leading to
–Enhancing one’s reputation. . .
–Furthering one’s career and,
–Generating meaningful royalties:or other remuneration.
George Gold

The short answer for my definition of success as an author is to reach a readership significant enough to sustain my writing as a full time vocation.
Sam Edge

Money! Unless you write as a hobby.
Kim Hillman

I know no author in the field of gardening writing that makes a living only off of royalties from a publisher. And I know some VERY famous garden book writers. The money comes from consulting, design work, lectures, workshops and other media events. (I do all of these in order to keep on writing.) Books are a good springboard to new professions. At least in my “field”. (My web site generates only about 10% of my income.)
Robert Kourik

For me, success as a writer is much, much more about the satisfaction of seeing my words in print, and envisioning some young reader discovering one of my books and becoming inspired by something inside.
Andrew A. Kling

Books sales are great, don’t get me wrong, but to me, it’s the human connection that’s priceless 🙂
Bonnie Groessl

How do you define success as an author? What are your goals? Share them with us!

New Author Marketing Tools from Amazon!

amazonLook out! Amazon continues to innovate …. and (hopefully) authors can benefit from these latest new offerings.

Case #1: Kindle Countdown Deals

Here’s how Amazon describes it:

Kindle Countdown Deals is a new KDP Select benefit that allows authors to run limited-time discount promotions on their books, which can help earn more royalties and reach more readers. Customers can see the regular price and the promotional price on the book’s detail page, as well as a countdown clock telling them how much time is left at the promotional price. You’ll also continue to earn your selected royalty rate on each sale during the promotion.

Here are some of the benefits of Kindle Countdown Deals:

1) They’re time-based: Not only does this give you more control to decide how long the book is discounted, but the time remaining for the promotion is visible to customers to increase excitement for the price discount.
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99.
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can easily browse active; Kindle Countdown Deals at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals, providing yet another way for books to be discovered.
5) You can monitor performance in real-time: A new KDP report displays sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance, so it’s easy to compare.

Say for example your book has a list price of $4.99, and you start a promotion on Monday at 8 A.M. your time, with a starting price of $1.99. You set three price increments to run 24 hours each.

During each promotional day, your book’s detail page will display a counter announcing the promotion, the current price, the time remaining until the price changes, and the next price.

Case #2: Kindle First

As Amazon describes this new program:

Amazon Publishing editors select four new books each month.

Readers can buy one featured book for $1.99 every month.

These books are available in advance of their official release date.
Of course, this only helps you as an author if your book is selected as one of the works to be featured by Kindle First. But if it is? Boy, are you in for skyrocketing numbers in readership.
There’s no word yet on how the editors are going to choose the featured books, and whether they’re going to be titles from publishing companies or those published through Amazon’s own CreateSpace, but stay tuned ….
For more on these two new features from Amazon (and how they may impact authors like you), read the latest analysis from PC Mag, GeekWire, and Liliputing.com.
And if you’ve had any experience with either of these two new features, share your experience with us!

Breaking News: A New (and Better) E-Book Store?

LibiroI build websites for authors all the time. Most authors don’t want to sell their books themselves, so we end up setting up links to Amazon and B&N. But we all know that authors only collect a very small percentage of the profits on these books. And a small percentage of a 99 cent e-book … well, it barely buys you a tic tac.

Enter Libiro.com. There was an article published today on Forbes.com about this new e-book store.

The Good
Here are some of the quotes in the article from co-founder (and self published author) Ben Galle about the new venture:

“Libiro devotes its shelf-space entirely to self-published and small press titles. … To authors, we’re a marketplace for their books and a platform that can help them make waves. And to readers, we’re an exciting place to shop, providing the latest indie talent and exhibiting what indie authors are capable of.”

“The opinion is that these books are all of terrible quality, simply because they haven’t seen the inside of a big publishing house. I’ve always been on a mission to quash this stigma, because it simply isn’t true. Libiro, being a purely indie store, can showcase the indie market, offering readers an opportunity to see what we’re really made of!”

“At stores like Amazon, quality indie authors can often struggle to get noticed amongst the crowd, especially when they don’t have the marketing budgets of the big publishing houses. The point is that indie literature is exciting — it can be raw, it can be fresh, and it can be just as good as traditional literature. We want Libiro to be the go-to place for readers wondering what indie authors are all about. We want to create our own bestsellers.”

And that’s not all. The biggest benefit to authors, according to Galle, is the royalties. A far cry from other e-book stores, Libiro offers a whopping 80 percent royalty as standard, regardless of book length or price.

The Bad
But, of course,nothing is perfect. As a new venture, Libiro doesn’t quite have the following yet of a big e-book store. In addition, their technology is still sorely lacking. According to the Forbes article, “They don’t yet have an author dashboard, for example. Instead there is a simple book upload form on the site, and if authors want to request changes, they have to do that via email. And Galley is still figuring out how to give authors access to the website analytics and mailing list integration that comes baked in to the backend of a BigCommerce site.”

Galle claims that the site is currently working on building these services and should have them available in the next few months.

So Who’s on Libiro?
Not too many people … yet.  The site currently lists 70 books from 30 authors. But it appears that the site is continuing to grow its portfolio.

In the Forbes interview, Galley says: “The priority for us at the moment is to build up a big catalogue so the reader has more choice and access to an entire spectrum of indie books. We’re reaching readers at the grass roots level, building relationships on social media and via word-of-mouth. What’s good for our readers is that authors can sell their books in any and all formats – PDF, ePub, and Mobi – meaning we can cater for any reader and any device.”

There’s no way to predict what the future holds, but my bet is that this site will continue to grow. After all, an author being able to take hope 80% is nothing to sneeze at!

9 Creative Ways for Authors to Help One Another

handshakeThere are thousands — if not millions — of authors out there trying to make a name for themselves. Most of them have very little in terms of publicity agents, marketing experience, etc… So they’re basically fighting an uphill battle.

That’s why so many authors are looking for ways to connect with other authors, and potentially help one another. With that in mind, here are nine creative ways that authors can team up to help promote one another’s books, author websites, etc…

1. Share, share, share. Are other authors posting blog entries? Tweeting? Pass on what you’re reading of theirs to your friends, readers, etc… If they do the same for you, you can increase your reach exponentially.

2. Like one another. Clicking on a Facebook “Like” button is so simple. And yet, doing so really does help to spread the word. So swap “like”s. What’s there to lose?

3. Guest blog post for one another. Do you have a blog? Does your friend, an author, have a blog? Why not write a guest post for his or her site, and vice versa. Not only will this breathe some fresh life into your own blog, but it will get your writing out to a new group of readers.

4. Review one another’s books. Post a review/recommendation of another author’s book on your site. Have him or her do the same for you. If you speak to a similar audience, you’re exposing a whole new crop of readers to a book they may not have heard of otherwise.

5. Interview one another. Use one of your blog posts to interview your author friend about his her book, writing habits, publishing lessons learned, marketing techniques used, etc… Again, it’s a great way to get new faces in front of an existing readership.

6. Offer special deals/giveaways. Why not consider providing a special deal or giveaway to people who came to your site through your friend’s author site or social media page? Any incentive that will get people to buy your book or give you their email address is a good thing.

7. Consider doing group tours. Not actual tours, of course: virtual tours. But by teaming up, you can offer book clubs, libraries, schools, etc… the opportunity to double the attendance by featuring two authors (and triple, if three of you get together).

8. Promote each other through other forms of social media. Do you have a GoodReads account? Make sure to cross-promote there as well. Ditto if you follow people on Twitter, highlight book covers on Pinterest, etc…

9. Create a group blog. This is a little harder to do, but it’s not unheard of. Get a group of authors together and create an author blog site. Agree to each post, say, once a week. The more posts you have, the more you will become a can’t miss destination for other authors. Then, make sure each of your books/websites get fair promotion.

One last caveat … as much as your friend may be your friend, make sure that you’re not wasting your time cross promoting with him or her. In other words, if you have 100,000 followers on your blog and your friend has 5,000, it may not be worth your time for you to “help” one another. Always ask potential authors for information on their following before deciding whether it makes sense to proceed. If the two of you are in the same ballpark, then it’s probably a good arrangement.

Looking for additional advice on selling or marketing your book? Contact us today at Smart Author Sites for a free consultation!

5 Signs of Short-Term Thinking on Author Websites

Image courtesy of OpenSourceWay/Flickr

Image courtesy of OpenSourceWay/Flickr

Every author who contacts me does so because he/she knows it’s time to build a website. But what these authors often don’t understand is just how important it is to have a long-term vision when building a site. Think too short term and you might make mistakes that are hard to rectify down the line.

Here are five examples of how short-term thinking can damage an author’s web presence.

1. Naming the site after a book. There are certainly instances in which a website should be named after a book — not the author. But unless an author is absolutely, positively sure that he or she won’t be writing any other books in a similar genre, it’s a good bet to go with the author’s name as the website name. Otherwise, what is he or she to do when the next book comes out?

2. Making the website resemble/represent the first book. This is very similar to the item above. All too often, an author builds a website that reflects the first book cover. Maybe it uses the same color scheme as the book cover. Maybe the design is structured around an image or icon used on the cover. Regardless, this tells site visitors (either consciously or subconsciously) that the website is an extension of that book. Any future books will look out of place without a complete redesign.

3. Not collecting email addresses. I always (and I repeat, always!) recommend that authors start collecting email addresses of site visitors who are interested in their works. “But I don’t plan to send newsletters or anything,” they sometimes tell me. It doesn’t matter. Even if you never plan to do anything with the list, it’s a good thing to have. After all, you never know what you’ll be doing in the future — a TV interview, perhaps, or publishing another book — that you would love to alert all your followers about. Build the list. Figure out what you want to do with it later.

4. Making the site too design-heavy.  Web design can be a beautiful thing. But it can also be overdone. Remember: images can be a pain in the you know what to change. So, for example, don’t have your homepage text appear in an image. It may look pretty, but it won’t be easy to update when you have a new announcement to make. Ditto with the navigation. If the tabs on your site are images, it’s a whole lot harder to add a new page when you want to promote your new book trailer, press release, etc…

5. Not blogging or focusing on SEO. An author website is a long-term investment. It takes lots of time and energy to build it to where it needs to be. Over time, it will rise on the search engine rankings. The blog (if it’s regularly updated) will build a group of followers.  Anyone who doesn’t want to invest the time in either of these things is thinking short-term. He or she is also not being realistic. A site is not going to jump of the top of Google search results just for existing. It’s going to take some sweat and some thought to make it work, but a good author website is well worth it.

Can you think of any other short-term mistakes authors make on their websites? Share them with us!

3 Easy Steps to Getting Your Book Picked Up by Book Clubs

bookclubIt’s what every author dreams of: her book getting picked up by a book club. Everyone in the club reads it … and starts talking about it. Then they tell their friends about it … and they tell their friends. The rest is bestseller history.

But how do you get your book in the hands of book clubs in the first place? Here are three steps to getting started:

Step 1: Set up the incentives.

Before you even start reaching out to book clubs, you need to figure out what you’re offering them to sweeten the pot. A good starting point is a downloadable discussion guide (available via your author website). Other possible incentives can include a few free copies, autographed copies, or the offer for you to chat with the book club (either in person or via Skype). The more incentives you offer, the more likely someone is going to bite.

Step 2: Locate relevant book clubs.

This takes a little bit of time and research, but it’s totally worth it. Scour the web to find book clubs — both online and offline — that regularly read books in your genre. If you can find ones that are local, all the better. But don’t limit yourself. Make a long list of relevant book clubs and the contact information of the person who leads the club. If you don’t want to invest the time and energy, there are plenty of people out there willing to do the work for you. Then…

Step 3: Reach out to the book clubs.

Once you have your list of clubs and you have your pitch, it’s time to reach out. Customize your letter to each book club, ensuring that you touch on all the relevant points to that club. If it’s local, make sure to mention that you’re local as well. If it focuses on your genre, point out how relevant your book is to their readership. Don’t hesitate to include relevant materials in the email, such as a press release about your book, photos of you and your book cover, or the discussion guide we mentioned. This is your chance to “sell” your book, so don’t skimp.

You may reach out to 100 book clubs. If you’re lucky, a few will pick up your book. But those few could turn into hundreds — or even thousands — of copies of your book sold. Put in the thought, time and energy and your book will be the next must-read.

3 Benefits to Reading (and Recommending) Other Books in Your Genre

If you’ve written a  science fiction book … or a military history book … or a chick-lit book (you get the point), then this is obviously a genre that you enjoy and that you’re familiar with. In this post, I will explain why and how you should utilize that knowledge and interest to help promote your own book.

Image courtesy of Evan Animals/Flickr

Image courtesy of Evan Animals/Flickr

Strategy #1: Review Other Books in Your Genre
People love reading book reviews. After all, they want to know that other people have enjoyed a book before they invest the time and money to read it themselves. So build a blog in which you review other mystery novels … or self-help books … or whatever genre you’d categorize your writing as. Once you start building a following, people will start valuing what you have to say. And if they agree with you about various books, they’re much more likely to take the plunge and read your book as well.

Strategy #2: Offer to Cross-Reference Other Books in Your Genre
At the end of the day, other writers in your genre aren’t really your competition. They’re a potential source for finding new readership. So reach out to other writers who talk to the same audience. See if they’re interested in sharing blog posts with you (and vice versa) or reviewing/recommending each others books (and vice versa). Remember: authors aren’t like accountants. Most people have more than one that they are loyal to at a time. So take advantage of the following that another author has, and offer the same in response.

Strategy #3: Write Round-Up Articles
This idea comes courtesy of one of my favorite people in the field, Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz.com. She recently wrote an interesting post about how authors can get their books out there through round-up articles. Here’s a summary of her recommendations.

Step 1: Define your roundup
A “roundup” article usually gathers up the best, worst, most, least, newest, top, funniest, etc.

Step 2: Figure out your roundup topic
For example, “Best business books of 2013” or “Best beach reading for the summer”

Step 3: Create your list
Your list doesn’t have to just include books, either. Think outside the box. For example, your book could be part of a “best Father’s Day gifts” list or a “Fun things to do while your spouse plays golf.” Then figure out what — besides your book, of course — will comprise the list itself.

Step 4: Pitch your list to the press
Write a press release announcing your list. Make sure to present it as identifying a problem that your list can solve.

Voila! Three reasons you should seriously consider reviewing and recommending other books in your genre. As always, think outside the box, and feel free to share any good ideas with the rest of us!