Content marketing was the buzzword for many companies in 2012 and 2013. In fact, almost 50% of companies say they have a formalized content marketing strategy, with another 27% actively working on one. This means that if you don’t have a strategy, you’ll be left in the dark.
The most popular forms of content marketing are social media and blogs, with over 75% of the country’s fastest growing companies actively using those platforms. One medium that is just catching steam, however, is digital publishing. E-book sales in the US have consistently shown over 100% growth every year. Why is this important? Because readers and people who buy e-books are more likely to be consumers of other products as well. They’re generally wealthier, more educated, and more likely to spend their money.
The great news for you is that publishing content has never been easier. It’s more accessible than ever before, with 54% of adult Americans owning smartphones, and 34% owning tablets. People can carry their favorite content with them wherever they go. Another benefit is that the cost of publishing is significantly lower than ever before because you aren’t physically printing material. You’re only cost is the time for writing, some design, and perhaps some marketing of your content.
If none of that convinces you of the importance of digital publishing, then know that 85% of online entrepreneurs plan on publishing an e-book in the next six months. If you’re not doing this, you’re already falling behind. Let’s jump in with some strategies.
Things to Think About
Design Matters. This often gets overlooked by companies looking to publish e-books, but it shouldn’t be. A nice design will catch the eyes of readers and they’re deciding whether or not to read your content. If it has a cheesy, outdated feel, they’ll think the content inside matches. Don’t skimp on design; in fact, it should be a priority.
Content Matters. This is obvious, to a degree. You have to get it out of your head that the e-book you’re publishing isn’t ad copy. It’s content that is interesting, helpful, enjoyable…all those things that books really are. You aren’t pushing your product. You’re pushing an idea, and it happens to have your company or CEO’s name on the cover.
Size Matters. You aren’t writing a novel. In fact, shorter pieces are becoming more and more popular. They’re more cost-effective, more digestible for the average reader, and obviously easier to produce. See Kindle Singles, Snippet, and SlimBooks for examples how this strategy. No matter what, keep whatever you’re publishing to an absolute maximum of 100 pages.
Pricing Matters. E-book pricing is quite a hot topic in the publishing world. Publishers often want to charge up to half the price of what a hardcover would be (which often amounts to about $13), but readers just aren’t willing to pay that for something they can’t hold in their hands. The average price of e-books continues to drop, and is now at around $7. Research done by Smashwords, however, shows that the real sweet spot is probably around $3. That provides the greatest sales/revenue combination.
You may also want to consider giving away your first and/or second e-book. Seth Godin has said that a book in the hand is more likely to lead to sales. If you put free content into people’s hands, with no other purpose than to drive brand recognition, they’ll feel less taken advantage of, and therefore more likely to be brand advocates in the future. Don’t discount the strategy of free.
Marketing Matters. Once you’ve published, you can’t just sit on your hands. The vast majority of e-books that are independently published will never sell more than 500 copies. That’s a decent number, but not what you’re hoping for. You want widespread brand recognition. Make sure that your audience knows you have some content for their reading enjoyment. Send it out in your newsletter, share it on social media, volunteer to do interviews with podcasters and bloggers. The real work starts after you’ve published. If you don’t know where to start, let SingleGrain help you out. It’s what we do.
A Few Publishing Options
Amazon was the first company to offer easy digital publishing. Their KDP program has been around since 2007, and is the go-to for most people/companies these days. They offer good profit sharing, but only within certain realms (70% goes to author if priced above $5, otherwise its 30%).
KDP can be a good option for your company, but it has limitations. As an independent publisher, you’ll have a hard time getting discovered in the Kindle store, with the hundreds of thousands of titles available. You’ll also be leaving out those folks that aren’t Kindle users. Another drawback is that this platform does not support multimedia very well, so if you go this route, you’re best to stick with content and not trying to mess with images, videos, etc. KDP can also be fairly complicated to set-up. You’ll need to invest some time into getting to know their publishing system.
Snippet is newcomer to the publishing game. It imposes 1,000-word limits on chapters, but you can have unlimited chapters. The idea is that content should be easily digestible. They also don’t price anything over $5. Currently, it’s only an iOS application, meaning that readers can only find your content and read it from within the app. This is certainly a drawback, but the service already has 10 million users and is quickly growing.
What’s great about Snippet, and why you should consider it, is that it makes the actual reading experience thoroughly enjoyable. It’s highly integrated with social media, making sharing insights easier than it is with Kindle content, for instance. It’s also highly integrated with multimedia, meaning images, videos, links, etc. are all incredibly easy to embed for the writers, and look great for the readers. They’re currently in beta for writers, but look for this app to take off with early adopters like Jason Fried, Seth Godin, and Leo Barbatua already using the platform.
This company has become a major force in publishing. The biggest benefit is that with a simple Word doc, Smashwords converts your content into multiple formats and distributes it out to all the major e-book retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc.). You lose a little bit of revenue, but you save even more in time and energy. As the leading independent e-book publisher/distributor, Smashwords should be near the top of your list.
If you’re on the fence about using a third-party service, you do have the ability to publish books on your own through your website or blog. You can make it as simple as creating a nice-looking PDF, and allowing people to download it for free. Or, with a little bit of engineering help, you can set up a paywall so that you can sell it yourself and not even go through distributors. The downside is that people have to know about and go to your website for this option. They won’t just find your content. If you have a large, recognizable brand, this may not be an issue. For smaller companies just starting out, it’s probably not the way to go.
Have you published an ebook before for your business? If so, feel free to post a comment with the link below. We'd love to see some examples from our readers!