The recent eBook Self-Publishing Survey we sponsored and conducted by Sellbox provides some interesting insights into the current state of the self-publishing industry, and ebook marketing best practices to take forward into 2014.
Here are the top five observations and best practice recommendations that all independent (indie) authors should pay attention to:
1. Indie authors are investing more in the production of their book than in the marketing of their book.
The survey results show:
· That the majority of authors spend $500-$1000 on production budget compared to $500 on marketing their book.
· Many authors hire an editor to work on their book (46%), whereas only a minority hire professionals to market their books (see next bullet point for more details on this)
While the difference between the money spent on the production of their book and the marketing of their book is not vast, it is clear that the delivery of the eBook is where the majority of the money is spent. This is in sharp contrast to the best practices of large publishers. However, the reason why indie authors spend money on the production of their books might well be because this activity is beyond their own technical skills, whereas marketing, at least in their minds, is something easier to relate to.
Like most professional publishers, ensure you invest some money in marketing your book. Learn to put aside an equal amount of money (or more) in the promotion of your book than in the production of it. It seems a shame to invest in producing your book to a good quality, only to then not make people aware of it through poor marketing of the book. After all, good marketing often means good sales.
2. Most indie authors do not have a clear idea on the best ways to promote their book.
This is reflected in the survey by:
· The low number of authors who invest in getting professional cover designs for their book
- many authors (42%) investing absolutely no money at all in a book cover
· The few authors who invest in professional or paid reviews (11%)
· The few who use publicists to promote their book (again only 11%)
· The majority of authors who said they do not pay for advertising during Free Book Promotion days on Amazon (66%)
Figure: Many authors (42%) do not invest in book-covers
Many indie authors have been self-publishing their books for several years now, yet despite this, there seems to be no proven way to promote your book so that it achieves a positive return on investment. Many services have emerged helping promote or sell an author's book, but few can show that the money invested in them will result in profit in sales for the author. For this reason, there is good reason for indie authors to be cautious in the amount of money they spend in marketing their book.
There is also much confusion on leveraging the opportunity to offer your book for free on sites such as Amazon through the KDP Select program. Should you offer your book for free, and if so, should you be spending money advertising your free book? Successful indie authors such as Cheryl Kaye Tardif (as revealed in her book "How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling My Kindle eBooks") seem to think so, as this was one of her main methods to promote her books.
Figure: Only 26% spend money promoting their free book on Amazon
It's difficult to draw conclusions on why authors seem to be hesitant to promote their free books. Perhaps some believe that because it's for free, it needs no investment since there is no profit in free books. Perhaps people who join KDP Select think that just joining is enough, and that it's Amazon's job to do the promotion.
Buy a few books that help you understand the different ways to market your book. There are several best-seller ebooks on this theme, and all at very affordable prices. Many of these books as well as other indie publishing surveys (such as from Taleist) show that the emerging best ways to help sell your book are:
· Invest in a well designed book cover (use a professional to do this)
· Ensure you get many book reviews. This is important on sites where you sell your book such as Amazon, but a number of promotional sites will not allow you to advertise your book if you do not have enough reviews.
· Advertise your book on a number of ereader book sites
· Consider offering one of your books for free. This will hopefully build up a new list of fans that will then purchase your other books.
3. The use of blogs and Facebook dominate the way indie authors try to promote their books
With the meteoric rise of blogs and social media sites like Facebook, indie authors have taken to using these web-publishing channels on a large scale. The jury seems to be still out on whether these channels actually are effective in helping promote an author's book. John Locke in his book "How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months" advocates a few blogs per year and social media sites, but others such as Michael Alvear in his book "Making a Killing On Kindle (without Blogging, Facebook or Twitter") puts forward a convincing argument against it. Yet there is no doubting their popularity.
The responses in this survey show that:
· The majority of authors claim to blog (76%)
· The majority of them state they blog 1 to 4 times a month (56%)
· The majority of authors use the social media site Facebook (60%)
Learn ways to measure the effectiveness of your blogs. May authors spend a great deal of time on blogs, so it's important to learn if this time spent is paying off. There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of a link in your blog. Methods vary from using coupon codes to the use of html tags at the end of your link (some html knowledge is needed here) to draw them to your author website, where you can use popular tracking tools like Google Analytics. If you have no author website, then it's time you invested in building one yourself or invested in getting someone to build one for you at a low economical price.
If you become an Amazon affiliate, you can even measure exactly how many people came from your blog or Facebook site to your book on Amazon (contact us at email@example.com if you need further help in this).
Also learn to use other social media sites like Goodreads and Shelfari, which are becoming increasingly popular. The broader you cast your net in promoting your book across the Internet, the better.
4. Amazon continues to dominate the self-publishing industry.
This will come as no surprise, and the survey very much confirms Amazon's strong stranglehold on the market.
The survey indicates Amazon is:
- Where authors publish their books (40%)
- The major source for their eBook sales (85%)
- The leader in print-on-demand publications, where 48% of the authors say they use CreateSpace (owned by Amazon)
Amazon is where the majority of authors continue to publish their books. The nearest rival is Barnes and Noble with 19%. To emphasize Amazon's dominance, the survey also shows that 85% of authors admit that it is the major source for their book sales.
Figure: A massive 85% of authors' revenue comes from Amazon.
There are some interesting statistics here. Firstly, the 85% figure is notably high. Contrast this finding with other industry estimates that have Amazon at about 60% of the market share. Either way, Amazon remains the leader in the self-publishing world by far.
Perhaps the most surprising factor in the survey is the large number of indie authors claiming to use print-on-demand. There is further evidence to support this trend. For example, Bowker reported that for the most recent reporting year (2012) CreateSpace issued 56% of all ISBNs used by small and self publishers.
CreateSpace grew 123% between 2011 and 2012 and is sure to grow further in the next few years.
Make your book available on Amazon. While there are those wary of the monopoly Amazon has in the market, the feedback from the authors shows it to be too important a source of revenue for the indie author to be ignored. A number of authors spend a lot of time and expense trying to sell into the other tiny markets when they could focus on where all the sales are, and then expand from there once they have learned how to market on Amazon.
Also consider print-on-demand, although take into consideration how to market these type of books. Ideas include offering them via give-aways on social media sites such as Goodreads.
5. The self-publishing market remains in its infancy.
A large number in the survey reported having either published just one book or that their first book was in progress. This contrasts with other surveys showing that some 40% of authors in the self-publishing business have been writing for more than 10 years.
These contrasting results, and the lack of evidence on the best ways to get ROI from your own investments in writing and promoting your book are just some of the indications that this market remains young and has many more years to run. Although it has been going on for many years already, we are really still at the very beginning of the self-publishing revolution and many things are sure to change. Despite this, surveys such as this one offer valuable insights into the current practices of indie authors, giving hints into what is working for them, and what they have yet to try out to follow those who succeed in this competitive marketplace.
About the survey:
The objective of the survey was to gather insights from self-publishers and use these to improve the practices of fellow self-publishing authors. A full copy of the survey can be obtained by contact us from our websites below, or downloading it at http://www.kindlebookreview.net/docs/SelfPublishingSurvey.pdf
KindleBookReview enables authors to boost sales and improve their visibility in the market by providing book reviews. Our creative input gathering and scheduling service to respective buyers, combined with a strong North American and global crowdsourced workforce is breaking down the traditional barriers of cost, volume, and reach in seeking book reviews.
Founded in 2002, Sellbox specializes in helping publishers, businesses and organizations develop and market their content in eBook and print-on-demand formats. Sellbox provides eBook strategy consulting, conversion services, CreateSpace POD publishing support and eBook marketing services including distribution to the largest eBookstores.