Creating eBook Bestsellers: Merchandising at Retailers

At BEA, Kelly Peterson moderated a discussion with three panelists, all of them influential in the eBook industry.

The panelists:

kelly panel

  • Erin Gorham, Digital Account Manager at HarperCollins, is one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet.  She has great tips to share with both publishers and authors.
  • Nathan Maharaj, Director of Merchandising at Kobo, oversees an international team in eight languages and a dozen countries.  He has great perspective about how to really make merchandising count!
  • Susan Ruszala, President of NetGalley, spoke about review copies and how NetGalley reaches nearly 200,000 bloggers, reviewers and librarians.
The biggest takeaway? A four-part comprehensive marketing plan is key:

These four areas are the cornerstones of success owned by big publishers. But smaller publishers and authors like you can take advantage of these approaches too.

The Early Bird Gets the Sale

As mentioned in our earlier post about pre-orders, creating a long runway is key.  Each retailer merchandises their site on different schedules, but each generally works a full quarter ahead.  That means they are booking merchandising placement for September in June!  Small publishers who don’t plan far enough ahead are often shut out of prime placement as a result.

Nathan Maharaj compares brick and mortar stores with their web counterparts. Each store features their top-selling content right when you walk in the door. At e-tailers, the lion’s share of their business comes from the front page and category pages of the site.  Genre readers tend to bookmark those pages and visit regularly, although nothing beats the front page.  “Above the Fold” is also key; it’s great to get placement that doesn’t require scrolling down.

Other top spots are the suggestion areas of the site: “customers who bought this” and editorial areas.  “Customers who bought this” areas are driven by algorithms, and are heavily dependent on a title’s first week sales.  If you are marketing your titles early enough, you can really make this count with strong merchandising at launch.  The nice thing about “customers who bought this” is that they show up on individual title pages. So if you can find big titles that are similar, utilize similar BISACs.  That way, the algorithms will work for you, not against you.

So what time is the right time to pitch?  Erin Gorham told us that she merchandises titles six months to a year before they are released.  How close to that number can you get?


Think Global

While sometimes bestseller lists in different countries mirror each other, Nathan notes that they will most likely be different.  Is your author from Great Britain?  Is the title particularly relevant in Latin American countries?  Make sure your team knows the “sweet spots” for each of your titles.  That way, even if you can’t get full worldwide placement, you will still be featured where it counts.

You’ve Got Mail

Per Susan Ruszala, NetGalley’s digital galley program has shown outstanding success—mostly in part to their strong targeted e-marketing campaigns. Nathan agreed in the power of email; he said that outreach is consistent and worthwhile, especially in reaching genre readers. Getting your titles into these big email blasts involves signing up for promotions and placement.  As with pre-orders, the longer the runway, the easier this is.


You’ve Made a Sale: What Now?

Catch your readers at the end of your book with the opportunity for a new beginning. Place links to the next title in the series—or other similar titles on your list. The reader is already looking for what to read next. Make that decision easier for her! Most importantly—keep your backmatter relevant and update it often.

At INscribe Digital, we recommend that you go all the way, and make retailer specific versions of your title.  By putting in active links to your other books, your reader’s next purchase becomes as easy as one click.  As Amazon can tell you, one-click purchasing works!  And now you can make it happen.

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From the back of Angelbound