Growth Hacking Your eBook Sales

In many ways writing and creating your own book is the easy part of self-publishing. The really difficult part comes when you start trying to sell it.

This is especially difficult for many writers. We are writers not marketing specialists so we don’t have the kinds of marketing budget, reputation and brand recognition that an established publishing house carries.

This often leaves writers feeling powerless to make any significant impact on the book buying market and frustrated that nobody is reading the book they have spent months or even years pouring their lives into. There are, however, some ways that you can boost the profile of our work and perhaps even increase sales. They don’t involve spending a lot of money, but you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and put in some time to promoting your book.

Your own network

If you want to develop a reputation as a writer then you should start building your network of contacts and your social media presence even before you start writing. One of the best ways to do this is still to have a blog. Build your presence and reputation there by offering free content, then when your book is published you already have a group of people who follow and believe in your writing who may be prepared to actually put their hand in their pocket and pay for your product.

Create a video ad

Many social media platforms favour video over other mediums, so sharing a video advertisement rather than a text or image one is more likely to get you onto people’s newsfeed. I created a video to advertise my ebook using simple screen-casting software and a sound track that I created using loops from the free version of Apple’s GarageBand.

I hosted it on Vimeo, which enabled me to add a closing link at the end of the video which takes viewers to the iTunes page where the book is hosted. Once you’ve created your ad you’ll need to share it and embed it in as many places as possible, so this is where having a blog presence or a network can really help.

Facebook ads

If you have a Facebook page or group, and by this I mean a community type page rather than a personal page, you can ‘boost’ your posts. This can be pretty cheap to do and you can set the budget as low as $1 a day while running daily or weekly ads. If you’ve created a video ad for your book then it’s likely to get more views. This is a quick, cheap way to push your ad to literally thousands of potential readers in your network and your readers’. It’s worth mentioning here that just because people have liked or friended you on your Facebook page that doesn’t mean that they see everything you post there.

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Facebook only sends your updates to a selection of the people who interact with you most and it will then send the post to more people if those people respond in some way. Boosting your post is a way of paying to get around this problem. It can also enable you to reach not only the people who like or follow you but also their friends.

Journal reviews

There are lots of websites, blogs and online journals that will review books, so it’s worth contacting these and sending a copy of the book to them to see if you can get it reviewed. Phil Wade collected a list of places where you might get a review and posted it on his blog here.

Reviews

Getting customers to review or rate your book on the site where you are selling it will help to boost confidence in the product and improve the chances that a casual browser will take the plunge and decide to buy. Reviews are also often used as an algorithm for placing your book on the sellers platform. Getting more reviews can increase your book’s visibility significantly. Actually getting people to review your book on the site can be a challenge and it might involve giving away a few free copies to get the ball rolling.

Give it away to influential people/multipliers

One of the primary aims of any marketing campaign is to get the right people talking about your book. The easiest way to do this is to give them a free copy. If you have published on iBook Store you should get 250 free codes that you can give away to promote your book. Use these wisely and give them to people who are likely to be able to spread the message about what a great book you have written.

Give it away free for a short time

The more people who have your book, the greater your chances of gaining from word of mouth and getting them recommending the book to others, so it’s worth having short give-aways. This is one of the great things about ebooks. It doesn’t cost you anything to give it away, and the love you build from this might well help you to sell more copies.

Enter competitions

A great way to get your book on people’s radar is to enter competitions. You don’t have to win, just getting shortlisted might be enough to help give the book a push into more significant sales. There are a number of competitions open to ELT writers including The British Council’s Innovations Award, The Society of Authors Award for ELT Writing, The Ben Warren Prize, and The HRH the Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award. You may not feel that you have a chance against products that have been created by teams working for professional publishers but it’s always worth a try.

Create a site or landing page

Creating a website to promote your book can be really helpful, even if it’s just a single page website it can help you to develop more wrap around content to help promote and inform people about the book. There are a number of free sites that can help you to do this. It’s also easier to get these kinds of site and pages indexed by search engines than getting people to a page on iTunes or SmashWords. You can also link the page to the various versions of your book for different platforms. Here are some free tools you can use to do this: Check This, and Tackk.

Write about it

Having written a book, you are sure to have learned something about the process along the way. If you have a blog or any access to publishing online, then write about your book. Write about creating it and share any insights you have gained in the process. Write about it for other sites as I’m doing here.

Strength in numbers

Working alone on promoting your book can be exhausting and soul destroying, but it takes no more effort to promote ten books than one so if you band together with other writers you can multiply your efforts and promote each other. A great example of this is The Round, a collective group of authors who work together to promote their work.

Talk about it at conferences / webinars

Talking at conference events or webinars are both great ways to promote your book. That doesn’t mean that your presentation should be one long advertisement for your book. You could just choose a related topic and just give it a mention at the end. A well-received talk that’s given good value is likely to lead to people buying your book.

Add a QR code to your business card

If you have a business card then why not create a QR code link for your book and add it to the card. This makes it easy for people you know to find your book and gives everyone you meet an advertisement and example of your work. You can create a QR code using the URL of your book here.

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Publish across multiple platforms

Make sure your book is available on as many platforms and for as many devices as possible. This is just simple maths. The more platforms your work is on, the bigger the market you have to sell your book to. Smashwords seems very popular with many authors for cross platform publishing.

Get it on your profiles

If you have a profile on any social media or networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, About.me, etc. make sure you add a mention and link to your book.

Email signature

Just something as simple as adding a link to your book in your email signature can help to inform more people about the book and push sales a little, after all most people that you send emails to probably already have some knowledge of you and so may be more likely to buy.

Create a quiz

Quizzes are very popular on social media platforms so why not create one based around the theme or content of your book. The quiz could be based around what readers will learn from your book and end with a recommendation to buy your book to improve their knowledge of the area.

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Riddle.com is a great platform for doing this and allows you to create a number of quiz types.

Lastly, I think you have to accept that for the vast majority of us there is no tipping point in marketing our books. It doesn’t suddenly become easier and gather its own momentum. Marketing your book is like constantly pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. When you stop pushing your book stops selling.

This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but I hope these suggestions do help you to get your book out there and perhaps to even make a little money.

Good luck.

This article was first published on EFL Magazine

To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the question

The pros and cons of self-publishing

The increase in popularity of mobile reading devices and the ease of access to publishing  tools and platforms has made self-publishing not only cheap and easy to do, but has enabled self-publishers to achieve standards that are comparable to those of an established publishing house.

Publish-image

So if you are thinking of publishing your own book and wondering whether you should bypass the publisher, here are a few things you might want to consider first.

To self publish?

The book you want

  • Working with a publisher usually means producing the book they want based on their market research and their belief in their ability to make money from that book> This may mean that the book you want to produce isn’t really the one you wanted to produce. If you do it yourself you can create the book you want, so if you really feel you know better and you don’t want to compromise then this could be for you.

Shelf life

  • Related to the point above, most publishers are looking for an ‘evergreen’ book that has a reasonably long shelf life and that will stay relevant and up-to-date for as long as possible without the need for rewrites and updates. If your book doesn’t fall into this category then perhaps you should think more about doing it yourself.

Royalties

  • Royalties on the average teacher development book are about 10 – 15% compared to 70% on some virtual platforms like iBook Store, Scribd, TES Resources, etc so regardless of whether your book is a big hit or a small triumph you may make more by self-publishing.

Satisfaction

  • There’s something really satisfying about being able to do everything yourself.

Lack of options

  • Sometimes if what you are doing is controversial in any way a publisher just won’t touch your idea so doing it yourself may be the only option.

Ownership

  • If you self-publish, your work will always stay under your own control. You can decide when to increase or lower the price, when to take it off the market and when you feel it’s ready for an update.

Or not to self publish?

Marketing your book

  • Writing a great book is one thing but being able to sell it is another. Publishers are marketing machines with years of experience and expertise as well as a distribution network and dedicated expert staff. They may well be able to shift far more copies of your book than you ever will.

Deadlines

  • Finishing a book to a high standard on your own without an imposed deadline takes a LOT of self-discipline. Many people don’t have that and never finish the books they start (I have a pile of unfinished manuscripts) so if you are driven by deadlines then it may be better to find a publisher.

Market research

  • You may think your idea for a book is great, but a publisher may actually know better and it could be that however much you like your book, nobody else will. Of course publishers can be wrong.

Skills range

  • Producing your own book requires a lot of various skills. It’s not just about the writing, you may also need images, the ability to format the text well, layout the design and produce any additional media. Of course you can subcontract these out, but that starts to cost a lot of money, so you have to either have deep pockets or a lot of confidence that you’ll be able to make the money back from sales.

Editorial eye

  • Having a good editor to bounce ideas off of and to tell you when you are going wrong or right can be incredibly helpful and can help to keep you motivated. They can look at your work from a reader’s perspective and also spot inconsistencies and repetition in your work that might be hard to see yourself.

Leg work

  • Not all the work that needs doing for your book is creative. Publishers have people dedicated to making sure you don’t end up in legal hot water either through payment of taxes, copyright permissions on images or text or a wide range of other potential pitfalls. Do you really want to take care of all of those things yourself.

The bottom line

To summaries, if you want to self publish successfully you have to be far more than a good writer, you have to start thinking of yourself as a startup publisher and learn a whole new bunch of skills. If that idea excites you and you are willing to put in the work, then it can be enormously rewarding on a personal level (though perhaps not financially), but if all you want to do is the writing, then it’s probably best so stick with a good publisher. Whichever you choose, good luck with your project.

Lesson Plans – Lessons in Digital Literacy

The lesson plans  in this collection are intended as examples of how technology can be used within the classroom context to enhance students’ language skills, critical thinking skills and digital literacies.

Click on the images to find out more