Friday, January 25, 2013

How to Get Your Self-Published Book Discovered (Legacy Publishers: Hints...)

(graphic from

While legacy publishers are having a hard time of getting their book discovered, indie self-publishers don't have to.

A quote from the review of a Digital Book World presentation (graphic above):
Sixty-one percent of book purchases by frequent book buyers take place online, but only seven percent of those buyers said they discovered that book online, while physical book stores account for 39 percent of units sold and 20 percent of discovery share: the stats come by way of new research from Peter Hildick-Smith, the founder and CEO of the Codex Group, which tracks frequent readers’ book-buying behavior. At the Digital Book World conference in New York on Thursday, he said that discovery and availability are being “decoupled” online. In other words, readers are likely to go online to buy a book after having learned about it elsewhere.
Their problem is that they can't deal with the upheaval which self-publishing is making in their lives. They've lost their monopoly, after working to outsource their function of fostering new authors and managing their careers for them since printing books went mainstream.

You have to look from an outside perspective to get what this can actually mean. Let's look at it from how and where you should be working in order to get the end result of bought books...

Top converters: 
Author Sites - 76%
Goodreads - 29%
Amazon - 10%
Twitter - 3.1%
Facebook/G+/etc. - 2.4%
Which belies the "conventional wisdom" that authors should be spending their time on social media to gain an audience which will snap up all their books.  Practically, they should be spending all their time (other than writing books) in getting a website which enables direct sales - or at least sends readers directly to a buy-me-now page, such as Amazon.

Building such a site can be outsourced, and is mostly a one-time fee.
Top viewed: 
Google - 72%
Amazon - 66%
Facebook/G+/etc. - 59%
YouTube - 43%
These say that people are going to Google and Amazon. (And perhaps from Google to Amazon, as the latter ranks well on Google.)  While people are on social media, you can see that they and Google do a poor job of converting.

"Most eyeballs" doesn't mean squat. Meaning that traffic isn't what an author is looking for - another "conventional wisdom nugget" overthrown.

This seems to stem from the fact that most people use the Internet to gather information. Pareto's 80/20 rule probably applies here - that only 20% (at best) of your traffic will produce any interest in your books - the other 80% are lookie-loo's.

That said, note that Amazon has a lion's share and converts 10% of these to sales.
Discovery Share (most recent book purchased):
Amazon - 6.6%
Author Sites - 3.1%
Goodreads - 1.5%
Facebook/G+/etc. - 1.4%
When you track down where people got their last book from, we now see where indie self-publishers should be spending their time and marketing coins:
  • Amazon - 50% (tweaking book descriptions, etc.)
  • Your own author site - 25% (set up and then tweak)
  • Goodreads - 12.5% - (while you can be present engaging on forums, your key point is your author page and making sure your book is listed)
  • G+, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. - 25% - (yes, watch for addiction..)
If you are looking for repeat business, this is where it shows up.

For legacy publishers, this then becomes also where they should be assisting their authors:
  1. Improve their per-title covers, descriptions, keywords, etc. for each book. While it's up to the author's work to make it viral, there's plenty of work to ensure it's discoverable on Amazon. Authors write: you market.
  2. Provide them a great author site which adds value to and makes it easy to buy their books. Or hire someone to do this.
  3. Helps them establish author pages on Goodreads and their G+, Facebook, etc. fan pages. If an author can do 1-2,000 words per hour, why should they have to spend hours getting their book updated in Goodreads or posting to Facebook - I mean, which will earn you more income?
The days of authors visiting bookstores is over. However, any agent worth their commission should be lining up virtual book tours with blogger-reviewers - not where the author has to meticulously craft a blog post, but where they do interviews (Hang-Outs) and the content transcribed so search engines can find these.

Agents and publishers take note: Authors should be producing their next book, not wearing your hat of getting the marketing done. Taleist survey said the highest paid authors were spending the bulk of their time crafting their next masterpiece - not tweeting to get book sales. Agents and publishers get paid a percentage of income made from book sales. It's their job to do the marketing. Authors only self-publish because they can't get help from the people who are supposed to be handling this end of their production.

Authors take note: Agents and publishers are sub-contractors. At best, they can contract for printed sales, not all online ebook distribution. Agents shouldn't get a percentage of anything they don't work for. This includes lectures, guest appearances, ebook sales. They are only as valuable as they provide service. And contracts with each should be easily negated for lack of service. If you find you are having to wear their job to get your book selling well - dump them and get someone who will actually provide service.

Analysis - what can any of us do with this data?

0. Info-seekers aren't buyers, but can be.
- It's the intersection of Google and book pages.

1. SEO your key sites - augmented with social signals 
- Amazon book links,
- book page on own site (w/ on-page SEO),
- book and author pages on Goodreads

2. Use G+/G+pages/Blogger to utilize Google more - which drives info-seekers you the above links.

3. SEOptimize your books within Amazon - internally in their "ecosystem".

4. As much as possible, convert buyers on your own site by having direct links to buying page. (Send buyers through Amazon affiliate buyer's links.) Best would be also selling the epub as a direct download via PayPal as the vast majority of readers out there don't have a Kindle, but probably do have a tablet or smartphone. And link either to the Amazon or site for a hardcopy version. (Preferable is to print your own via Lulu to Amazon and have both versions linked together on Amazon - you have to tell them - for better sales.)

- - - -

Now, none of this negates personal appearances by authors at huge festivals where hundreds are assembled to buy your books - or TV shows - or other offline promotion. However, when you are already making thousands of sales per day on average, you had better have that next book ready to go...

Want your Shelfari list updated, Listopia's created, Goodreads or Author Central pages updated? Your agent or the publisher should have someone doing this for you. Yes, answer your fan mail. But have someone else monitor your Facebook or G+ fan page - unless you simply need a break in the afternoon.

Do you see the division of labor outlined? See how the author is now calling a greater number of the shots, if not all? The author is the brand. Publishers and agents merely piggy-back on that brand to earn their income - which is directly proportional to their service.

The author is both piper and tune-caller in this self-publishing world we now live in. It's their talent, after all.

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