Monday, January 5, 2015

Marketing Monday: Some tips on gifting books to readers


Happy Monday! I know. No such thing.


Still, as I said in my last post, I've decided to dedicate this day on my blog to sharing some marketing tips for authors selling books. Some I've learned, usually the hard way, or I'll invite my friends to share tricks they've learned. In case you missed it, my blog post titled "What new authors need to know but no one ever tells them" is one of the most popular posts I've ever written. I figure this either means lots of aspiring and new authors found the information really helpful or those pesky Internet bots really like that title. Either way, eh, why not? Please do keep in mind that the following tips are based on my own experiences and always subject to change over time.

For my inaugural post, I thought I'd share some tips on getting your books to readers. You've written a book. High-five yourself! But how do you get it into the hand of readers? Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to sell books, so you might want to gift copies of your books to readers in advance of or soon after its release to spur hype. Lots of authors will gift copies to readers via contests. Awesome, right? But, uh, how do they do it, you might be wondering. Obviously, if you have a paperback, you can simply pop it into the post and off it goes, but ebooks are a whole other ballgame.

If you're being published by someone other than yourself, it's a good idea to check your contract to see if your publisher has placed any limitations on the number of ebooks you can legally gift to others. Not all publishers include a limit, but many do.

And, here's some technical mumbo jumbo to consider. There are a number of ways to gift copies of your ebooks to readers, but you should really think twice before simply emailing a copy to anyone. Unfortunately book piracy is a thing, and it's a bad, bad thing for your sales. Don't be surprised if you email a copy of your ebook to someone and then find it on Pirate Bay a month later. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is encoded on most ebooks by publishers and book retailers to make it difficult to share ebooks with others. But unfortunately, even ebooks purchased from sites such as Amazon can be redistributed by people who figure out how to break the DRM coding on it. And if you receive an advance ebook copy from your editor or publisher prior to its release, it's probably not encoded with a DRM yet.

First, you'll need final, approved copies of your ebooks to send. Generally, your editor or publisher will send these to you months before your publication date so that you can contact potential reviewers and, yes, give away to readers through contests. There are generally three formats you can or will receive: PDF, epub, and Mobi. It's important to note that not all ereaders can read the same format. If you're gifting a copy of your ebook to a reader, be sure to ask which type of device they have. That will determine your next step. Kindles accept only Mobi and PDF files. Nooks and Kobos accept only epub and PDF files.

You have options when it comes to gifting ebooks to readers:

  1. Purchase the ebook from a retailer such as Amazon and have it delivered directly to your recipient. 
  2. Email the ebook to your recipient.
  3. Send the ebook directly to the recipient's device yourself.

There are pros and cons to each.

Purchasing the ebook from a retailer is an easy option, as it guarantees the ebook will be delivered with DRM coding and decreases the risk of piracy. However, it obviously costs you money, and Amazon, in particular, might prevent the recipient from posting a rating or review of the book because it will associate your account with the gifted ebook and assume the recipient is a biased friend. One possible workaround is to gift the ebook from an Amazon account NOT associated with your Amazon Author profile (which you really should have). But you'll still be out of pocket for the cost of the book.

Emailing the book to your recipient is easy, but you run a serious risk of piracy. Enough said.

Sending the ebook directly to the recipient's device is also easy, costs you nothing out of pocket, and decreases the risk of piracy (although a really tech-savvy person would still be able to pirate it, you're making it harder for them).

So I recommend the third choice, and here's how to do it.

For a Kindle, you'll have to ask the recipient for their Kindle email address. They can find this by logging into their Amazon account and selecting “Manage Your Content and Devices.” Click on “Settings” and scroll down to find their Kindle’s email address.

You'll need a copy of your book in Mobi format. Your publisher should be able to send it to you in that format, but if they don't, I recommend you download a free program called Caibre. It will convert epubs into Mobi or PDF files. You can also send directly from Calibre, or you can open your email, insert the recipient's Kindle address into the send to field, attach your Mobi file, and hit send. And you're done.

So what if your recipient has a Nook or Kobo?

Unfortunately, neither of those seem to yet have a "send to" feature like the Kindle, but there are workarounds if your recipient is willing. For example, Nook owners can install the Kindle app on their device. Simply follow the directions above once they've installed the app.

Kobo owners can acquire the epub files using the app Grab My Books.





I know. You're probably thinking this sounds really complicated and way too hard and why can't you just write books and leave this stuff to the Promo Fairies. I hate to break it to you, but YOU are the Promo Fairies.

Trust me. It's easier than it sounds, and once you do it a couple of times, it'll be a piece of cake.

So there's a lot of information. Questions? Need clarification? Hit me up in the comments below.
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