Creating eBook Bestsellers: Discount Marketing

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

kelly panel

  • Erin Gorham, Digital Account Manager at HarperCollins
  • Nathan Maharaj, Director of Merchandising at Kobo
  • Susan Ruszala, President of NetGalley

The biggest takeaway? A four-part comprehensive marketing plan is key:

With this third installment, we highlight how to use discounts to market your titles.  Please check out our previous discussions of pre-order and general merchandising.  Coming soon: free books!

Invest in the Future

Discounting is important. And it is even more important to do it strategically. If you are going to offer a discount, what do you expect to get in return for that investment?  If it doesn’t pay off immediately, what can you do to improve your results?  Discounts need to give you a positive return.

EBook customers seem to be price-conscious readers.  Nathan Maharaj at Kobo agrees on the importance of price point.  Every retailer has dedicated space for eBooks under a certain price: for example, the main NookBook page has a dedicated icon for Books Under $2.99.  The marketing team at INscribe Digital campaign aggressively for placement in those dedicated spots on behalf of our clients. When publishers decide to discount, readers see those discounts.

millionaire's secret

Reel Them In

Erin described how HarperCollins utilizes discounting tactics.  When a new book releases, her team often marks down the authors’ earlier works to create trial and new fans. This is particularly effective for authors with a larger backlist.

Discounting backlist is also a great reward for existing fans, who may want an electronic copy to go with their physical edition.   And leveraging older backlist as a discounted title is a great way to promote an author in time for a new (full price) release.  It also messages that the title is discounted for an event, so customers don’t expect the price to stick around: that creates urgency.


It Takes a Village

Another reason that authors discount is to build readership.  If a great book isn’t selling at all, perhaps it is time to find a new audience who will become its advocate.  Here, the risk is minimized by the low sales trend. After all, selling 10 copies at $1.99 beats selling 0 copies at $9.99!

Pricing should be handled judiciously.  It’s important to leave yourself a little room for discounting; some retailers only promote titles on a large scale if they can offer the lowest price.

This strategy works best when supported by social media, blogs, and marketing dollars:  an investment in outreach will expose readers to this good deal!  We’ve seen success with Library Thing, Goodreads, Facebook advertising, blog tours and BookBub. This is the time to pull all the levers you can to get the word out.

We Get Buy with a Little Help from Our Friends

The very best time to discount is in a retailer-supported promotion.  Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals show amazing sales and a long tail lift. INscribe Digital titles have seen unit growth as much as 1000-6000x day to day, staying strong for the rest of the month.  After 30 days, the titles will settle to a new normal, but INscribe titles all compare very favorably between the two weeks after the deal to the two weeks before the deal.

Why do retailer promotions work?  Because they have guaranteed outreach and marketing.  Kobo’s track record with email is very impressive, and they do a great job of targeting promotions at times readers are shopping.  Other retailers leverage daily deal emails and device notifications, and social media for the retailers often pick up these titles for their daily messaging.  When authors amplify and share these promotions, it works to everyone’s advantage.

There are two important things to keep in mind here: good planning and flexibility.  Retailer driven promotions require signing up well in advance, and often have requirements for participation.  Also, there’s no guarantee you will be included; but nothing ventured, nothing gained!


We’ve Got Your Back (Matter)

If you are going to discount, consider updating the back matter of your book and adding retailer-specific links. This acts as a timely place to advertise your next book while providing an easy one-click buy option to a customer looking for her next read. By making the purchase process so easy, it truly becomes a service!

Think of discounting as an important tool in your marketing toolkit. It’s important to use the tools correctly in order to build new readers, extend your reach and drive your sales.

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