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Marketing in 2014

SandwichBoardInsertAs 2014 dawns, stories are circulating that the major publishers are reducing the prices on their ebooks.  As you know, they previously had sold ebooks for almost as much as print books.  That gave indies an advantage because we could profitably price our books lower.  We had the below $5.99 market to ourselves. The Smashwords Survey of 2013 shows that books priced at $2.99 and $3.99 had four times as many unit sales as $7.99 and above.  Writers who produced books as good as or better than what traditional publishers were selling quickly built their brand names and sold a lot of books.

The traditional publishers are now trying temporary low prices.  Once readers come to expect big name authors at less than $4.00, everyone will probably price there, and indie authors will no longer have the price advantage.  This will probably mean that the share of ebooks will continue to grow, but the total revenue from ebooks will shrink.  That probably doesn’t mean a lot to an indie author who was already selling below $4.00, but it will mean something to the major publishers.  The reaction of their shareholders will be worth watching.

How does that change things?  It probably means that temporary price drop promotions will no longer be as effective.  Amazon’s KDP Select may be a good option for some.

I think this means that, more than ever, you need to insure that your book is a good, well-written book.  Have your friends read it, have your writer’s group members read it.  Then have it professionally edited – both copy edited and edited for content. British author Stephen Leather has been a published writer for 25-years.  He says “the vast majority of self-published eBooks are bad. Worse than bad. Awful. There, I’ve said it.”  Be sure your book doesn’t fall into the category Leather criticizes.

I also think you need to have a professionally designed cover.  That’s an area the traditional publishers do not seem to understand.  An ebook cover needs to be simple, colorful, and must look good in a thumbnail size.  Subtlety really doesn’t work here.  Just as book store sales are frequently driven by impulse buys based on a cover, so ebook sales are frequently driven by attraction to the thumbnail image of the cover displayed on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Your cover absolutely must look great in this size.  The traditional publishers have not caught on to this yet.  Their covers are simply thumbnails of their printed book covers, and many (most) look awful as thumbnails.

You can still be successful with ebooks.  Just as you’ve mastered the art of writing, you need to master the craft of marketing.