The e-book market has exploded in recent years. According to The Digital Reader, as of Q1 2013 e-books are outselling adult paperbacks: $647.7 million versus $635.1 million.
While we’ve seen explosive industry growth thanks to the popularity of the Kindle and iPad, e-book sales are no longer growing in record numbers as they were two years ago. In fact, sales are down slightly this year (3.6 percent). It appears that the market is leveling out, and we now have near equal demand for e-books as we do printed books.
Nevertheless, the numbers are still staggering and have created new marketing opportunities for savvy online marketers. More businesses are developing e-books as a way to reach their target audiences and market their brands. Authoring a book has always been a powerful way for a business owner to establish authority and reach an audience, and today it’s easier than ever to accomplish.
How To Kick Off Your Free E-Book Campaign
Along with all the hype around e-book sales, there has been just as much hype about e-book giveaways. Amazon has led the charge by encouraging authors and publishers to make their e-books available as a free download for several days. These freebie events can lead to hundreds or even thousands of downloads, allowing your e-book to reach a bigger audience and you to generate some buzz, resulting in, if all goes according to plan, increased book sales.
All this is accomplished through Amazon’s KDP Select program. Enrollment is free, but it still comes with a cost. To participate, authors and publishers must grant Amazon exclusive distribution rights for at least 90 days. That means you cannot sell your e-book through other outlets, including Barnes and Noble’s Nook store or via Apple’s iBookstore.
For me personally, this limited distribution requirement is a deal-breaker. Combine that with the fact that Amazon doesn't provide any user data about who downloads your e-book, and it all adds up to a marketing strategy that falls short.
Curious if there was another, better way, to get an e-book out there, I decided to try something different, and it worked. The steps to my strategy are as follows:
1. I decided to make my latest e-book (Own Your Niche) available for free download for three days, and set a goal of generating 400 downloads over this period.
2. To accomplish this, I created a landing page with a registration form on my website. Anyone who wanted the e-book had to input their name and email address, and were told they would be added to my mailing list.
3. Once a user filled out the form, they were taken to a second page to download the e-book in PDF format. On that page there were social media sharing buttons where they were encouraged to promote the campaign to their networks.
4. To announce the event, I sent exactly one email to my mailing list letting them know it would be their only reminder. (This was a personal choice, as I’m not a fan of aggressive email tactics).
5. I tweeted the campaign several times, and posted announcements to all my other social networks.
Three days later, I tallied up more than 1,000 downloads along with dozens of social media posts from participants. The campaign also added 1,000 new subscribers to my mailing list, generated reader reviews on Amazon and social media outlets, caused print book sales to spike in the months that followed, and I landed several new clients because they found value in the e-book.
With the power of Amazon’s network, it’s possible I would have generated even more downloads, but I wouldn’t have the user data, the social buzz or the freedom to distribute my e-book elsewhere. Overall, I was thrilled with the results of the campaign.
Your E-Book Distribution Strategy
If content marketing with e-books appeals to you, follow these tips for distribution.
- Have your e-book formatted for Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, which distributes e-books to the other major e-book retailers.
- Create a PDF version that you can sell from your website. Many readers still appreciate a PDF.
- Leverage your e-book for freebie campaigns like this one, and for other purposes. You can allow peers and business partners to give it away as a bonus alongside their books and products. You can offer it as a reward for new mailing list subscribers. You can break it down into individual blog posts and fill up your blog for a year! (Also note that your e-book could be a compilation of your past blog posts.)
- Don’t stop with just the e-book. Remember that the reading market has leveled out and nearly half of all readers still prefer a printed book. Produce yours as a paperback as well, which gives you a tangible product to sell at events, send to prospects, hand out to bloggers and media professionals, and much more.
Publishing books alone can be a hard way to earn a living because profit margins are thin, but when you can leverage books and e-books for marketing, you can create exceptional results for your business.
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