MCB Blog Turns Five

Five years ago, I began the journey of this blog. For the past five years, twice weekly, I have created and posted information for you, my readers, to stay abreast of marketing books in the Christian marketplace.

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In honor of the fifth birthday of this blog, I am taking the day off. Thank you for taking this journey with me and for reading my blog. I wish each of you God’s blessings and success in your writing, publishing, and marketing endeavors in 2014!

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The Free eBook Conundrum

I recently saw The Desolation of Smaug, the second movie of The Hobbit. At the end of the movie, the whole theater audience let out a collective groan—not because the ending was so horrible, but because the ending was a complete cliff hanger.

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A number of years ago, I read the first two books in a trilogy by a Christian author. At the end of the second book, I just had to know how the story concluded. I spend an entire Saturday driving around the city I lived in, going from Christian bookstore to Christian bookstore hoping to find a copy of the third book in the series (this was before the Internet or ebooks).

Recently, I downloaded a free Christian novel on my tablet. This book was the first in a series. However, I upon completing the novel, I had no desire to purchase the remaining books in the series, even though I was disappointed that the story was left undone. I just did not like the author’s writing style, her characters, or the story line well enough to invest more time and money in the series.

A current trend in marketing books is to give away free digital copies to hook readers. I think that publishers and authors should be very careful about how they use this strategy. Studies are suggesting that around two-thirds of all ebooks downloaded are done so for free. Another study found that around 60% of downloaded ebooks were never read. Does this mean that people are not reading these free ebooks?

I believe that digital book giveaways work best for authors who have a series of books. In “Do Book Giveaways Work?“, I cited the finding that if readers liked what they read in the free book, 85% were extremely likely to buy another book from that author. Giving away the first book in a series to hook readers into buying the additional books in the series is a good strategy. Yet, it is best to make sure there is some type of cliff hanger at the end of each book in the series to keep readers coming back for more.

If you do not have a series, but are only a one book author, don’t give away the complete version of your ebook hoping to spur word-of-mouth sales. You may get a few, but probably not as many as you are seeking. Instead, offer enough free chapters to hook the reader into purchasing the complete book. I recently saw that one Christian author was giving away the first 14 chapters of his book as a free digital book. Obviously, he was hoping to hook enough readers into buying the entire book to finish the story.

The same strategy can work for nonfiction works. However, keep in mind that most readers only read about half of a nonfiction book. Therefore, to hook readers give away enough chapters with just enough information to get the readers to want the remainder of the information to complete the message.

I would love to hear what your experience has been in giving away free digital copies of a book to spur sales.

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Print is Still King

Printed books are not going away anytime soon. A recent study supports this statement.

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The Ricoh Americas Corporation in its new study titled “The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers” had some interesting findings.

The most interesting of the findings was that nearly 70% of consumers feel it is unlikely that they will give up printed books by 2016. Consumers appear to have an emotional and sensory attachment to printed books. The four top reasons consumers gave for preferring printed books were:

  1. Lack of eye strain when reading from paper copy vs. an ebook.
  2. The look and feel of paper.
  3. The ability to add it to a library or bookshelf.
  4. The ability to share/pass on to others.

In this study, students also reported they preferred print text books because reading a digital text on a PC or tablet tempted them to other distractions on these devices.

Another interesting finding in this study was that about 60% of ebooks downloaded are never read in the U.S. Since many ebooks are offered for free or on a $.99 special, this may signal that many ebook users download these books, but then often don’t get around to reading them.

Print continues to be alive and well, and may be for years to come. I know that our BookCrash bloggers who review books for Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) member publishers by and large prefer print books. Out of the last 130 requests for a book to review, only five of these requests have been for ebooks. That means only about 3% of the bloggers prefer ebooks over print books.

Yes, ebooks are growing. However, print is still the dominant medium. To glean the most sales, you should plan to continue publishing your books in both print and ebook versions for years to come.

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Unique Gift for a Book Lover

Are you looking for a unique gift for Christmas this year for a book lover in your life?

Check out Secret Safe hollow book safes. These hollowed out books have had their interiors stripped to create secret hiding places.

Book Safe 1These are real books that have been specially hollowed out with a trusty scroll saw, and then the pages are secured with professional book-binding glue. Each one comes with magnets to close with a snap.These book safes range in price from $35 to $60 on the Secret Safe Books Etsy shop.

Book Safe 2Or, if you want to use this strategy as a marketing endeavor, create your own hollow book safe out of one of your published books and sell it as a special for Christmas!

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Potential Pitfall

Publishers and authors are constantly testing new ways to create, market and distribute ebooks since the digital delivery model began gaining traction. In particular, every month it seems I am hearing about a new service that is trying to sell ebooks in a creative way.

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One of the recent start-ups is Bindworx. This UK-based book retailer is selling ebooks in a new way. Instead of buying a complete ebook, Bindworx allows customers to buy pages, chapters, or other small slices of books.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Total Boox (See “Innovative Ways to Sell Digital Content”). Total Boox allows readers to add books to their digital bookshelf and then only pay for what they read. So how is Bindworx different?

With Bindworx, customers can not only purchase ebooks in full, by chapter, page, or paragraph, but they can also drag and drop content portions from different publications to create a new personalized compilation. The end-product can then be purchased and downloaded as an ebook or printed via the Bindworx print-on-demand service with same-day shipping.

In other words, Bindworx lets consumers make a completely new book by taking portions from a number of different books.

Such a system creates some concerns about copyright for me. Will Bindworx’s smashed-up content be free-floating, unattached to its author? My concern is not that the consumer will turn around and sell the new compilation that they have personalized for themselves. Rather, what if a reader decides to quote from their personal compilation. How will they give the correct author credit? Will the author and book be listed with each “section” the consumer chooses for their compiled work?

I don’t have any experience with this new ebook retailer. Maybe my concerns are for this potential pitfall are for naught and the company has it covered. Bindworx does not appear to have made it out of the testing period yet, so maybe they are running into some issues with this new idea.

On the other hand,as new services continue to arise to sell digital content in new and emerging ways, I hope that more effort is put forth by these new companies to assure authors that their copyright material will be protected.

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