Where Security and Marketing Meet

We’ve just completed a big run of partner webinars, so it seems like an odd coincidence that a recent happening overlaps into quite a few of them.  If you’ve never heard of LendInk, this will be an interesting case study.

According to TechCrunch, “A bizarre thing happened late last week. A bunch of authors, playing Twitter telephone, managed to take down LendInk, a legitimate book lending site.”  Basically, LendInk was a matchmaker for Kindle & Nook readers, allowing customers who have books available to lend to share them with customers who want to borrow.lendink

There are a few important things to know about lending.  One, it is within the retailer agreements, and lending can be turned off in most cases (unless you have KDP.)  It is not unlimited: in most cases, you can only lend a book once, and while your book is “loaned,” you do not have access to it on your own devices.  It really is as if you have put the book in someone else’s hands.  With electronic loans, unlike physical ones, the author often gets paid by the retailers as well.

So there are a couple of questions here…why did LendInk exist?  Well, it operated as an affiliate site for Amazon until recently.  When the book wasn’t available for borrowing, it had a buy button available for purchase to Amazon and B&N. Every time a sale was made with those links, they made a percentage back as an affiliate. Therefore, they were motivated to show their clientele all books, not just books that someone in their network had available to loan. In addition, it was a social network for readers, and operated as a recommendation engine.

However, some authors saw their books on LendInk, and got worried.  They started sending Cease and Desist letters, and the site was taken down. It looks like the creator has been so frustrated he may never bring it back up.  The drama raged fast and furious (wrapping up in just a day), and loaning as a whole was brought into question.   So I’d like to approach this from two directions: the piracy worry, and the lost marketing opportunity.

If you see your title up someplace unfamiliar, there are some steps you can take to investigate before you worry.  First, check to see if it has a file link or download link.  If it takes you to a file sharing site, like megaupload, then this is likely an act of piracy.  We would encourage you to try Muso, an excellent anti-piracy site that will catch most pirated books out there. If you find it in one place, it’s likely elsewhere as well: Muso will search for that file everywhere, and can serve all the C&Ds at the same time.  If it directs you to a retailer selling your books,however, it is likely helping direct your customers to you.  Are you not sure?  Check out their FAQs.  And of course, the best way to find out for sure is to try the service for yourself.  If it is secretive, and keeps its information behind pseudonyms, that should be a warning flag, but that alone is not an indictment.

Now that we’ve discussed how to identify piracy, let’s discuss what was lost here.  Of course, it’s pretty clear that the authors lost sales opportunities from Amazon & B&N, and also lost links to their books.  What does that matter?  The more often your book is linked to, the more highly it is ranked in Google search.  It registers that by domains, so the more domains you have link to it, the better.  That’s why an Amazon Daily Deal impacts a title so much: tons of individual sites link to it, which drives its results higher.  So from a search optimization aspect, LendInk helped every author.  We can also presume that it led to more reviews (from loaners and buyers) and more additional copies sold.  Otherwise, their affiliate model wouldn’t lead to a profitable business. In addition, some retailer lending programs (like Amazon’s KDP Select) offer a share to authors for the lend itself.

And what about library sharing?  There is a lot of concern in the digital age that libraries will  eliminate the need to purchase.  So let me remind you that libraries buy the books they lend.  While there are concerns about digital – should the books be priced the same as books to the customer, should there be limited lends – it still means that more customers can read and recommend your titles.  Those authors with a low outreach are fairly safe in embracing libraries: librarians can become passionate advocates for your books, and libraries themselves are looking for a diversity of product that their patrons will embrace.  They are, perhaps, more motivated to try your book than your average reader.  As Neil Gaiman says, “Google can bring you thousands of results; a librarian can bring you the right one.”  Here are some of the authors that feel that libraries as providing an important outlet for you.

In the case of LendInk, the authors are now realizing that they have done this site a disservice.  It had only given them the chance to make more money, and increase discoverability.  This episode, and more like it, have shown again and again the importance of understanding the digital marketplace.

At INscribe, we are always trying to help you get the word out about your books.  That’s why we are so passionate about Ganxy, a service that costs you nothing, and gives you another site that will link to retailers.  Like LendInk, it uses its affiliate status to make money, so the money comes from the retailer. (Did you miss the Ganxy webinar?  Let us know, and we’ll resend the recording.) In addition, we have a partnership with Covercake designed to help you see who is talking about your books, and who should be.

Getting the word out about your titles is as important as securing them, and those two goals can work in tandem.  All it requires is a well-informed group of authors and publishers.  So please: attend our webinars, ask questions, and by all means, reach out to us whenever something looks scary or problematic in the digital environment.  You won’t regret it!


(ETA: Very nice blog post 8/14 from Peter Brantley about this.  I recommend you check it out!)