Sales and marketing decisions

Once upon a time, marketing teams developed separate plans for ‘marketing’ and ‘emarketing’, as if the Internet was a separate world. Today, online marketing is an integrated part of any marketing campaign. However, if your marketing team already promotes your print books online and is comfortable doing so, there is very little different about marketing ebooks.

The most important difference is that consumers can buy and receive ebooks immediately. The impulse-driven, convenience purchase of an ebook is a much more important factor in selling ebooks than in selling print. The success of the Kindle is attributed largely to a user’s ability to add books to it within seconds, browsing the Amazon store on the device and paying from a credit card already registered with Amazon.

The other difference is that you have to work harder to cultivate or please the curators of content online – curators are the people who influence others to buy products. Curators guide people to good content, and in a world of over-abundance, consumers depend on them more and more. In the print world, curators are organisations like Exclusive Books, the Sunday Times, your book club, or Oprah. On the Internet, there is some overlap with those, but important curators include Google, Twitter, and Facebook algorithms that choose what most users see, and influential trend-setters.

Pricing models

Ebook pricing is contentious. Consumers expect prices to be at least 30 per cent lower than print books, perhaps because ebooks have long been a clearly inferior product to print, and because customers’ think that ebooks cost nothing to produce.

Increasingly, publishers have less say in how their ebooks are priced, especially in subscription-based services.

Partners and findability

The web is a web: a network of information that can travel in any direction. Customers might come across your book anywhere, and your job as a publisher is to make it easy for them to buy it instantly when they do. In the print world, this would mean having supply agreements with thousands of individual retailers. On the web, you need to be very easy to find, and a pleasure to buy from.

Your easiest route to maximising discoverability is to partner with other organisations that add a particular kind of value (e.g. Snapplify and IT Schools) and to boost your website’s Google rankings and general discoverability by maintaining a high-quality website.

Keep an eye on the Open Publication Distribution System. It’s a standard way of distributing information about publications online, with links to buy and/or access those publications. Traditionally, a catalogue of books travels from one organisation to the next (e.g. from a publisher to an aggregator to a retailer) by way of an explicit agreement. But catalogues don’t have to travel down these controlled, restricted pipes. Anyone should be able to publish, find and share catalogue information freely, resulting in more finding of books and more selling of books.