How do you supercharge sales of an ebook? What strategies work best for marketing your ebook?
Do you promote ebooks the same way you promote paper books? You can, but many of the most effective strategies are unique to ebooks. If you don’t know what they are, you may be missing out on massive sales.
Before discussing specific strategies, we need to discuss who reads ebooks.
Who buys ebooks?
People who read ebooks are different than people who read paper books in four key ways.
Ebook buyers are voracious readers.
Not everyone owns a Kindle, but the people who do read so many books that they’re willing to buy a $140.00 ereading device to save a few bucks on each ebook purchase. It makes perfect financial sense for voracious readers. However, that purchase doesn’t make financial sense for someone who reads one or two James Patterson books each year.
Ebook buyers read indie books.
Looking at the NPD BookScan numbers, you might think ebook sales are declining. However, if you look at the K-lytics numbers, you will see that ebook sales consistently increase by double digits year over year.
Why the discrepancy?
NPD BookScan has a big hole in its data because they don’t collect data on indie Kindle sales. BookScan dismisses the hole, assuming the number of indie sales can’t be that big.
Their assumptions are wrong.
Looking at the K-lytics (Affiliate Link) and BookScan numbers together, you’ll see that indie authors gain market share over traditional authors every year.
Right now, Colleen Hoover is all over the New York Times bestseller list. On the contemporary romance charts on Amazon at the time of this writing, her best ranking is #2. Indie author Hannah Grace is outselling and outranking her in that category.
It’s a common phenomenon in ebook sales. Indie authors often outrank traditional authors.
Ebook readers are price sensitive.
As of this writing, the Kindle version of James Patterson’s memoir is $14.99. The hardback is $14.50 with free same-day delivery. Patterson’s most recent Alex Cross novel is $14.99 and ranked #200 in the Kindle crime thriller category. The #1 Kindle book in that same category costs $4.99.
Hannah Grace, the indie author who currently outranks Colleen Hoover, priced her book at $3.99.
Indie authors can out-compete traditional authors on price while making more money per book. How? Indie authors get a 70% royalty on indie book sales, while traditional authors get between 10% and 25%.
Traditional vs. Indie Royalties
Let’s break down those numbers:
- 25% of $9.99 is $2.49.
- 70% of $4.99 is $3.49.
Indie authors make $1.00 more selling a $4.99 ebook than traditional authors selling a $9.99 book. Indie authors earn more on a cheaper book because their margins are higher. If all things are equal, a $4.99 book will outsell a $9.99 book. Ebook readers are price-sensitive, and indie ebooks are almost always cheaper than traditionally published ebooks.
But we are just getting started!
Hannah Grace’s #1 book, Icebreaker, is in Kindle Unlimited (KU). Colleen Hoover’s #2 book Verity is not. Kindle Unlimited is like Netflix for ebooks. Authors whose books are in KU get paid for every page someone reads.
Authors are paid for the number of pages their readers complete. That payment comes from a big pot of money called the KDP Select Global Fund, and it’s split between all the authors in Kindle Select.
How big is the pot of money? In August 2022, it was $45 million, which means the pot is $540 million annually. What’s more, the KU pot grows over time, making that $540 million a low estimate.
Traditional publishers tend to shy away from KU, leaving most of the KU pot to indie authors.
Wrap your mind around the fact that half a billion dollars go into the pockets of indie authors like Hannah Grace rather than her traditionally published peers like Colleen Hoover.
Half a billion dollars goes directly to the authors. A traditionally published author will receive about $1.00 from the sale of a $15.00 traditionally published paper book.
Ebook buyers prefer fiction.
Nonfiction readers may start on chapter four, skip between chapters, highlight portions, dog ear pages, lend a copy to a friend, and display the book on a bookshelf. It’s harder to do any of those things with an ebook.
The bestselling nonfiction book each year is the Bible, and the experience of reading the Bible on the Kindle is terrible. If your pastor says, “Turn to John 3:16,” and you have a Kindle Bible, you will be last to find the passage. People with paper Bibles or the Bible app can find the passage faster than Kindle users.
Some readers are happy to buy nonfiction ebooks, but most ebook readers only buy fiction ebooks. They choose either paper or audio for nonfiction.
It’s hard to sell nonfiction ebooks, but it’s not impossible. You just have to tack against the headwind.
Now that you know a bit more about ebook buyers let’s explore some strategies for marketing your ebook.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #1: Price Pulsing
Since ebooks lack printing and shipping costs, they have a high profit margin. High margins mean you can experiment with pricing in ways that help juice your rankings in the charts.
A price pulse is a temporary reduction in the book’s price. Think of it like putting the book on sale. You’re changing the MSRP of the book. Amazon doesn’t have to use your price, but they usually do.
But simply dropping the price won’t do much to increase sales. To make the price pulsing strategy work, you must spread the word about the price drop.
How to Spread the Word About Your Price Pulse Promotion
The classic way to announce your price drop is through a BookBub Featured Deal. BookBub emails millions of ebook readers every day. Publishers and indie authors pay for their books to be featured in BookBub’s emails. BookBub Featured Deals Deals currently cost between $100 and $4000, depending on the genre and the price of the discounted book. The larger the discount, the cheaper the BookBub deal. Most genres land around $800 for a BookBub Featured Deal.
When I was the marketing director for a publishing company, we bought many BookBub Featured Deals, and nearly all of them paid for themselves within 24 hours. Most of them brought in a massive profit.
Once your email list gets big enough, you can price pulse to your own list and see results. This is the strategy Chautona Havig uses to generate steady revenue from her backlist.
If you want to learn more, find out How to Use Price Pulsing to Supercharge Your Backlist Sales.
You’ll want to wait at least a year after your book launch before you start price pulsing. You don’t want to make your most devoted fans feel like schmucks for paying full price.
The most extreme form of price pulsing is called free pulsing.
Free pulsing is when you drop the price to $0.00 for a short time. The tactic works best for the first book in a series, and you can learn about that strategy by listening to our episode on Free Pulsing. Free pulsing is a great way for new readers to discover your book. If your free book thrills them, they’ll become a fan and a customer.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #2: Permafree
Some authors have seen the effectiveness of free pulsing and offer their books for free permanently, thus the term permafree.
Just as Costco gives a free sample to get you addicted to the food they’re selling, authors give a free book to get readers addicted to their writing. The permafree strategy works best for the first book in a series.
We experimented with this strategy when I was marketing director for a publishing house. We made the first ebook of our most popular trilogy free. When we did, sales for the second and third books in the series increased so much that the revenue we earned surpassed the revenue we lost by giving away the first book.
To be fair, the strategy didn’t work for every series. If the free book wasn’t addicting, or if readers didn’t finish it, they wouldn’t buy the next book in the series.
The permafree ebook marketing strategy rewards authors who know how to give readers what they want.
How to Find Your Read-Through Rate
To find out if the permafree strategy will work for the first book in your series, you need to know your read-through rate. The read-through rate is the percentage of people who purchase the first book and then buy the second and third. This strategy can be like printing money if you have a high read-through rate. If you have a low read-through rate, you’ll likely be throwing money away.
To calculate your read-through rate, you must have access to your daily sales numbers. Traditional publishers do not share daily sales numbers with their authors.
Once you have determined the average number of monthly sales, do a price pulse on book one and combine it with a BookBub-style promotion. Then, for the next 30 days, compare the extra sales of book one to the extra sales of books two and three.
A high read-through rate is usually the result of well-developed and loveable characters in your novel. Readers who fall in love with your characters want to know what happens to them after the first story ends.
How to Make a Book Permafree
To price your book for $0.00, you have to publish wide. That means offering your ebook through Kobo, Apple, Nook, and all the other places. Those online retailers allow you to price your book for $0.00. When they do, you must contact Amazon and ask for a price match. You can’t simply change the price to $0.00 from your KDP dashboard. You have to jump through a few hoops.
To ask for a price match, go to Amazon’s contact us page, select “Pricing” on the left-hand side, and then select “Price Matching.” You can choose to email, call, or ask their community. If you choose to email, they provide a template that outlines the information you should include.
Once your book is free on Amazon, it’s a bit of a hassle to undo if you want to start charging for it again.
If you’re in KDP Select (i.e., if your book is in KU), you can make your book temporarily free on Amazon.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #3: Reader Magnet
Email list size is one of the top predictors of an ebook’s success.
If your email list is large, you can send all those readers to buy your book during your launch window.
The more sales you make during your launch, the higher your book will rank on the charts. If your book ranks high, readers who don’t know you are much more likely to see yours if it’s near the top of the charts.
But none of that can happen if you don’t have a growing email list.
A reader magnet is a free gift for readers who subscribe to your email list. A good reader magnet motivates people to join your list and introduces them to your writing. It can be a short story, prequel, tip sheet, or even a full-length book.
My course, Obscure No More, includes training on how to build your email list. The course offers one session called “50 Reader Magnet Ideas for Fiction” and another called “The 21 Kinds of Nonfiction Reader Magnets.”
Reader magnets can attract all kinds of readers, but they work best for Kindle owners looking for free books.
How to get the most of your reader magnet:
To learn more about creating and offering reader magnets and using them to market your ebook, listen to the following episodes:
- How to Create a Reader (Lead) Magnet
- How to Grow Your Email List Using Delicious Reader Magnets with Tammi Labrecque
Feature Your Reader Magnet on Your Website
The homepage of your website should feature a reader magnet with a strong invitation to join your email list. If your website has a blog, you may offer your reader a magnet below each blog post, in a sidebar, or a popup.
Feature Your Reader Magnet in Your Back Matter
You can feature your reader magnet in the back matter of your book. When readers finish your book and want more, they’ll see your free reader magnet offered in the back matter and rush to your website to get it.
Reader magnets help convert book readers into email list subscribers. If you have older books, you may want the back matter to focus on the next book in the series instead of the reader magnet. Whatever you include, don’t overwhelm your readers with options.
Feature Your Reader Magnet on Promo Sites
Websites like BookSweeps, StoryOrigin, AuthorsXP, and BookFunnel will put your reader magnet in front of readers through contests, giveaways, promo swaps, and more. Each platform charges for its various promotions, but these services are the cheapest way to grow an email list for most authors. Authors typically add 500 to 1000 email subscribers after one BookSweeps giveaway.
Spending a few hundred bucks on these sites typically pays for itself over the short and long term. Each has a different community of readers, so consider researching each to find out if your book would fit their readership.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #4: Goodreads Ebook Giveaways
For a modest fee, Goodreads will host a giveaway for your book, which will help you market your ebook. You can give away paper or ebooks, but ebooks are by far the better choice for several reasons:
- When you give away an ebook, you don’t pay for printing or shipping the book to winners.
- You can select up to 100 ebook winners.
- You don’t have to worry about winners selling a hard copy on Amazon as a “used” copy.
A Goodreads giveaway means that 100 readers will potentially leave reviews on Goodreads. Plus, every contestant who enters the giveaway will add your book to their “want to read” shelf, which promotes your book to their friends on Goodreads.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #5: Amazon Page Optimization
Spruce up your Kindle sales page with Kindle Instant Preview and A+ Content.
Amazon A+ Content
With Amazon A+ Content, you can customize a new section of your sales page called “From the Publisher.” In this section, you can add various elements:
- Images and Graphics
- Comparison Charts
- Series Info
- Author Background
- And more!
To learn more about adding A+ Content, see Amazon’s excellent guide. Amazon allows some authors to add A+ content on their paperback sales page but not on audiobook pages.
Kindle Instant Preview
Kindle Instant Preview allows Amazon visitors to read the first few pages of your book for free. You can also embed this preview on your website.
The WordPress plugin MyBookTable has Kindle Instant Preview support built in.
Here is an example of a Kindle Instant Preview module on a website:
Kindle Instant Preview allows readers to read the first few pages and integrates with Amazon Associates so you can make affiliate revenue when the preview generates a sale.
How to Add Kindle Instant Preview to WordPress Website
If you are not using MyBookTable and want to embed a Kindle Instant Preview on your website, here are the steps:
How to Add Kindle Instant Preview to WordPress Website
- Go to the book’s Amazon.com Kindle page.
The embed code for each book can be found on the book’s Kindle page.
- Click “embed” on the book’s Kindle page
Amazon occassionaly changes the location for the “embed” code. It’s currently displayed in the right sidebar. If you can’t find it, use ctrl+F to find the word “embed” on the book’s Kindle page.
- Select “Embed on your site (HTML)”
Copy the highlighted HTML.
- On your WordPress website, go to the page where you want the Kindle Instant Preview to appear.
Log into your WordPress website. Find the page and the location within the page where you want the Kindle Instant Preview to be displayed.
- Add a “Custom HTML” block and then paste the code from step 3
To add a Custom HTML block, you can choose it from the block menu or type /HTML and click on the block that appears. Paste the HTML you copied in step 3.
- Click save and publish.
Once your HTML appears in the HTML block, click “Save draft” and then “Preview” to see how it will look for your web visitors. If you see the books cover and
Ebook Marketing Strategy #6: KDP Select
Each year, Amazon pays half a billion dollars to authors who offer their books through Kindle Unlimited (KU). To access that pool of funds, you need to enroll your book in KDP Select.
Enrolling your book in KDP Select means making your book exclusively available on Amazon for at least three months through KU. If your book is enrolled, you cannot sell your ebook on any other website.
Some authors will strategically enroll an ebook for three months to get a bump in revenue and page-reads, while others enroll a book in KDP Select permanently to generate a steady trickle of funds.
To learn the pros and cons of each approach, find out What Indie Authors Need to Know About Kindle Unlimited with Lacy Williams.
KDP Select and Page-Reads
One benefit of enrolling your ebook in KDP Select is that Amazon pays you for each page someone reads. Those page-reads impact your Amazon ranking. KU is one reason many indie authors outrank traditional authors. Keeping your book out of KU hurts your ebook rankings.
KU rewards authors for writing books readers want to read by paying per page read. A 400-page epic fantasy will generate more page-reads and, therefore, more income than a short diet book that people quit reading after chapter two.
Enrolling your book in KDP Select can also help with your Amazon SEO. Whenever a reader elects to read your book through KU, Amazon’s search algorithm counts it as a “sale.”
If your ebook sales are low and you haven’t tried KDP Select, give it a shot. You may be stunned by how much more money you make overall. If it doesn’t work, you can always pull your book out of KDP Select and go back to offering your book wide.
Ebook Marketing Strategy #7: Digital Advertising
Online advertising can work for paper books, but it works best for ebooks.
Paper books are an artifact of the real world. Many people still purchase paper books by browsing the shelves at physical bookstores. Physical bookstores saw sales skyrocket last year, indicating that the lockdowns did not permanently change consumer behavior.
Ebooks, on the other hand, are an artifact of the online world. A reader can see a digital ad for an ebook and, within minutes, have that book on their Kindle. Ebooks also have higher profit margins, which increase the chances of your ads yielding a profit.
It’s easy to buy an ebook if you’re already online. Readers see ads while surfing the web or perusing Amazon and are much more likely to buy since they’re already online. But if the reader is offline, they’re often too busy, forgetful, or unwilling to take the steps of scanning a QR code on a flyer, downloading an app, or anything else that requires more than a click or two.
One major advantage of digital advertising is that it’s easy to measure. There are a few forms of online advertising that work well.
In addition to the BookBub Featured Deals mentioned above, BookBub also offers an ad platform. To secure a BookBub Featured Deal, you must pass BookBub’s approval process, which often means your book needs at least 100 reviews. BookBub Ads, on the other hand, are much easier to secure. They aren’t as effective as featured deals, but the cost of entry is lower.
To learn more about BookBub advertising, find out How to Use BookBub to Sell More Books with David Gaughran.
Another way to market your ebook is to buy Amazon ads . Ads appear in search results and on product pages for related books. They can even appear on the lock screen of a Kindle.
Amazon ads are comlex, so check out my episodes on the topic.
To learn more about Amazon Ads, see:
- Amazon Advertising
- Amazon Book Ads – Everything You Need to Know with Brian Berni
- How to Sell More Books With Amazon Ads
Some authors use Amazon ads to stay on top of the charts and keep their rankings high.
With Facebook ads, you can target the fans of similar authors unless you write religious books.
Sadly, Facebook discriminates against religious authors, preventing them from targeting readers of religious books. If you write romance, you can target the fans of similar authors, but if you write Christian romance, you can’t.
Facebook’s message to Christians is clear, get used to discrimination.
Another strike against Facebook ads is that they don’t work as well as they used to because of the recent privacy changes on the iPhone. Even secular authors have seen a decrease in effectiveness. As more users leave Facebook or spend less time there, the ads are getting more expensive and less effective. That’s just one reason Facebook’s stock is down so dramatically.
However, if you write secular books, you can make Facebook ads work. To learn more about Facebook advertising, check out my post, Facebook Advertising for Authors.
There are many ways to promote your book. I featured these seven tactics because they work particularly well for ebooks.
The following methods work well for ebooks, paper books, and audiobooks.
- Book Launches
- Public Speaking
- Platform Building
- Good Book Design
- And so many more!
Need Help Climbing Out of Obscurity?
If you want help building a platform so you can market your ebook, Obscure No More is my comprehensive platform-building course.
In the course, I’ll walk you through a strategy to build a platform that plays to your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses.
Current modules teach you how to:
- Develop a brand that fits you and resonates with readers.
- Automate your marketing so you can focus on your writing.
- Craft blog posts readers will want to text to their friends and family.
- Build an author website that ranks high on Google
- Start a podcast that builds a connection with your readers.
- Go on a media tour of radio, TV, and podcasts.
- Formulate a strategy that plays to your strengths and audience.
- Build an email list of subscribers who are ready to buy your book.
If you’ve ever wanted to pick my brain or wanted help building your platform, this course is my ultimate guide to help you get there. It comes with a monthly group call where you can ask me your specific questions. Learn more about Obscure No More.
New September 2022 Patrons:
- Amy Kuivalainen
- LA Biscay
- S. J. Pajonas
- Jonathan Bryant
- Natalie Arauco
- Michael Dolan
- Ann Ljungberg
- Douglas Cornelius
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- Latayne C. Scott
- Elizabeth Brickman
- Hope Welborn
- Julia Stirling
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You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.
- How to Use Price Pulsing to Supercharge Your Backlist Sales
- How to Create a Reader Magnet
- What Indie Authors Need to Know About Kindle Unlimited with Lacy Williams
- Book Marketing 101: How to Price Your Ebook
- How to Grow Your Email List Using Delicious Reader Magnets with Tammi Labrecque
- 8 Tools to Help Authors Get More Email Subscribers