When you’re traditionally published you have to move fast to get those sales. Sure, you have a lot of lead time BEFORE your book comes out and you can use that time to build hype through blogs and reviews and social media. But once that book comes out? You’ve probably got 2 months to get those bookstore sales–before those paperback copies are sent back to the publisher for recycling and you get a big, fat “Returns” negative on your royalty statement. A tiny window to make enough sales to justify another print book. It’s tough on the author, to say the least. Especially a midlist author who doesn’t get a lot of publisher resources. You’re pounding the pavement–both virtually and in real life–that entire first month, only to be rewarded by dropping Bookscan numbers each week, as bookstores clear off their shelves.
eBooks are completely the opposite. They’ll stay online FOREVER. Your readers will always have access to your complete series and it will never go “out of print.” This allows you to build an entirely different type of marketing plan around your book. A long-term plan that will grow your audience over months and even years. So what if month #1 you only sell 10 copies? With the right marketing plan, in a year, those 10 might have ballooned to 1,000. Or 10,000. Or 100,000. How many books can you sell in a lifetime?
It’s a thrilling prospect for those of us who write series. Right now, every time I have a new book in my Blood Coven Vampire series come out, the bookstores only stock the latest book. Which in March will be #7. Now imagine a vampire lover walks into a store. They see Book #7 on the shelves. They say, “Well, that sounds interesting, but I sure don’t want to start at book #7 in a series.” They look for the first book, but don’t see it. So they decide to read something else. A lost reader–maybe forever.
With eBooks I no longer have that problem. The reader goes on Amazon, sees Book 7, then clicks on my name and finds Book 1, no problem. They click and they purchase. And they can read it instantly. Heck, they can read the sample chapter for free before they buy. Then they can go back and purchase the rest of the books at their leisure, never worrying about them going out of print before they get to the later books in the series.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is, as an author, to have people post on Facebook that they can’t find my book. I try to tell them they can go on Amazon and order it or go to a bookstore and ask them to order it. But most people don’t have the follow through to do that. They take the path of least resistance. In this case, buying a different book. That’s how bookstores can get away with only stocking huge bestsellers like James Patterson or Stephanie Meyer. They know the customer wants to walk out of the store with a book. And if it’s not the book they walked in looking for, well, whatever. It’s all a widget to the store.
Once eBooks become the dominant medium for books, this will no longer be a problem. Authors will have the ability to build their audience over years instead of weeks. They’ll be able to create long, drawn-out series and always have every book available to readers. As a series writer, the prospect is mindblowingly awesome!
But authors must remember, when selling ebooks online, that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And your marketing plan should reflect this. Time and time again I see amateur authors so excited about having their book available online that they pimp it out nonstop on Twitter and Facebook, much to the annoyance of their followers and friends. It’s one thing to announce you have a new book available. But to push it every single day on social media? It gets old. Fast. And you’ll see people dropping off your list at a rapid rate.
So don’t think of eBooks as a get-rich-quick scheme. Think of them as a long-term career. Build your readership slowly. Take your time marketing to your target audience. Enjoy the luxury of no longer having to rush to sell your book within the two months it has store placement. I know I will!
And remember, even if it takes a year to sell in eBooks what you might sell in a month in bookstores, well, you wouldn’t have gotten the royalties from the publisher for those first two months’ sales for over a year anyway! So it’s all the same to your bank account in the end.