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Some Alternate Approaches to Online Book Marketing (Part I)

Marketing books has changed dramatically in the Internet age. While traditional marketing and promotional methods are still effective, they alone are just not enough to bring in the sales. With people now spending about 15.5 hours per week over the Internet, the Internet has emerged as the #1 leisure activity. Here are a few facts…

  • Internet is now the #1 sales channel for publishers, accounting for 23% of all books sold on an average.
  • A lot of interest has been generated by new ebook devices and readers like the Kindle and Stanza, changing the ways that ebooks are now being read. Ebooks accounted for 1.5% of total revenues for a title in 2008 and has jumped up to 2.5% of total revenues for a title in Q1 2009.
  • 19% of customers said that online promotions influenced their buy decision, as against 12% whose buy decision was influenced by print promotions.

This clearly shows that Internet has emerged not only as the largest sales and distribution channel – but as the major marketing channel for books as well.

How does one reach the online users?

Studies have shown that more than 59% of book buyers are also present on a social network. Of these, 44% are present on Facebook, 10% are on Twitter and increasing rapidly as Twitter takes giant strides in becoming the largest micro-blogging and news channel. Also, 90% of book buyers send and receive email. So, we have now got a decent handle on what people, who normally buy books, tend to do when they are online. Any of these channels – Email, Facebook or Twitter, or a combination of all the three is a good place to start.

What kind of tools are available for marketing online?

There are a lot of tools out there and explaining or making sense of all of them will be huge exercise in itself. We will focus only on tools that are known to be more effective than others for marketing books. Some of these tools may already be quite familiar, but they can still generate fresh ideas. These tools include (in no particular order)…

  • Book WidgetsWidgets are little windows to a publisher’s website, titles and content that have the unique ability to travel and get distributed to various places. They are distributed by readers, authors and reviewers and can be embedded in places like FaceBook, MySpace and blogs. They can contain links to sample content, Table of Contents and shopping carts. The widget can be updated, allowing updates to be automatically pushed to all installed widgets. The updates can be used to announce promotions or new book/edition releases. The widgets are also effective sales agents as each of them carry links to the shopping cart for a title. These back-links to the publisher’s website enhances the SEO/SEM of the site and makes them an effective marketing, sales and announcement tool.
  • Book PreviewsBook previews and sample programs offer the best way to showcase content and enable conversions from interest to sales. Amazon, who pioneered the preview programs through their Search Inside, reported 9% increase across 120,000 titles in the first few weeks after implementing the Search Inside program. Today, they report that readers who choose to view a Search Inside are 2 times more likely to buy the book than those who don’t. This proves the efficacy of book previews and they are valuable tools that can be offered to ensure conversions. These tools ideally allow publishers to choose a range of pages for display, enable searching across the book, showcase the TOC of the book, enable social sharing and also add links to the shopping cart as a call to action.
  • Shared Title Summary PowerPointsShared PowerPoint presentations are great vehicles to introduce titles. They offer community feedback and ratings, apart from options to embed videos. They can be shared across a wide range of social networks, including professional ones like LinkedIn. They are extremely suitable for titles that are aimed at STM and professional book markets. Readers can directly embed them in their profile and share it easily with friends. Slideshare.net is one of the services that can be looked at to share title summaries. They can also be used to give out teasers to ancillary materials and other value adds like embedding author videos.
  • User Ratings, Comments and RecommendationsUser ratings and comments are probably the most convincing tools in creating a recommendation system for titles. Amazon has been using them with great success. Readers prefer to hear what other people, who read the book, have to say about it before making a buy decision. They form the bedrock in convincing potential buyers about the value of a book and influencing buy decisions. Readers rate a title and share their views about it with the general community. Other readers, who are browsing this book, can add to these comments and convert them into interesting discussion threads. Publishers can ask known readers to write the first review to get these threads started. Community generated comments act as an add-on to reviews by known experts and can go on to augment a title’s content, and hold a lot of value for prospective buyers in the form of “customer speak”. Publishers can also get feedback on how the title / content is received and look for enhancements and ideas for new titles/editions. Comments and ratings can be added on reading list sites, book retail sites and blogs.

(to be continued..)

Read Some Alternate Approaches to Online Book Marketing (Part II)

Read Some Alternate Approaches to Online Book Marketing (Part III)