Now that we can distribute our eBooks instantly, it would be great if we could also track eBook sales instantly, right? Good news—we can!
The latest—and most valuable—innovation in eBook publishing is the instant availability of sales data online. Publishers no longer need to wait for quarterly reports and impenetrable spreadsheets to gauge performance in the marketplace. With real-time analytics, it's now possible to access and interpret sales data quickly and easily—and to take action in response to the results.
Analytics let publishers evaluate a title's trajectory through time, in various regions and on different platforms. When comparing weekly or daily sales data, publishers can detect patterns in sales while measuring the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. The best way to identify trends is to regularly monitor movement in three areas—sales channels performance, regional sales, and pricing.
Many sales channels offer the option to distribute eBooks across multiple territories, meaning you can simultaneously release a title in the U.S., Brazil and Germany and immediately track sales in those regions. You may find that a title performs exceedingly well in a unexpected foreign market or that what's considered a popular genre in one country may be almost non-existent in another. These trends could help determine opportunities for expansion into other markets.
Sales Channel Performance
The surge in the popularity of tablets and eReaders has resulted in an influx of eBook retailers. These sales channels offer the potential for wider distribution across multiple platforms. Through our global distribution service, publishers can easily access the analytics and compare a title's performance from all available sales channels. The accumulated sales data will reveal whether a title is under-performing on one channel, allowing for swifter response to remedy the issue.
The price of an eBook is in constant fluctuation, often reliant on the perceived value of the book's content at any given time. Publishers can adjust prices seasonally or for a title-specific promotion and use analytics to measure the effectiveness of a particular promotion or sales action. Allow ample time for sales channels to update their databases to reflect new pricing, as some retailers take several business days to apply changes.
Trend tracking in sales data offers insight into consumer behavior and reveals opportunities for future promotional or marketing plans. Using these insights, you can improve on existing marketing tactics, revise pricing structures and identify new markets. Monitor daily trends to gauge the effectiveness of a price adjustment or sales action. Review monthly reports to compare performance across multiple territories and sales channels. With short-term data, you can make changes in distribution—either by country/region or sales channel—or in the content's metadata to help boost visibility and sales. Long-term data results can inform decisions on future content production and distribution.
Whether you're publishing one title or 20, sales analytics may prove invaluable to your marketing and distribution strategies. The digital shelf life of an eBook had yet to be determined, but the trends revealed in sales data will enable you to keep your title relevant in the marketplace and out of the virtual remainders bin.
"How much should I charge for my ebook?"—It's the question every new book publisher asks before entering the digital marketplace and one with no easy answer.
While ebooks become more prevalent with mainstream readers, publishers still struggle to find the magic price point that appeals to consumers and generates maximum sales. For new publishers, experts' suggestions range from 99 cents to $9.99 while established publishing houses offer new titles starting at $15.99. And because ebooks can vary in content and quality as much as their print counterparts, there is no "one-size-fits-all" pricing solution. Instead, publishers have to rely on the trial-and-error method. You can simplify your own pricing process by developing a pricing strategy specifically suited to your sales goals and customer behaviour.
To formulate your pricing strategy, first determine your book's value, target audience, and sales goals.
• What is your book's value? Consumers are conditioned to pay more for materials they deem worthwhile to career advancement or self-betterment whereas they're less keen to spend much on ebooks with pure entertainment value. If you're selling a reference guide with specialty content (worksheets, embedded illustrations, tutorials, etc.), you would position your book in a different price range than you would a short book of humourous essays.
• Who is your target audience? Are you targeting a niche market or reaching out to general audience? If you have an established fan base, they may be more willing to pay a little extra for your title because they're already familiar with your work. An unknown author promoting a new novel might have better luck with a lower price point to entice new readers.
• What are your sales goals? Is it more important to maximize profit or broaden your readership? Are you prepared to sell your title at a loss in order to gain prominence in the marketplace? Factor in the expenses involved with the creation and release of your ebook and determine a reasonable time frame in which to recover those costs.
Your actual pricing strategy should include your anchor price—the standard price point at which you plan to list your book—and a flexible timetable for offering discounts and other price modifications. Choose a price range that best reflects your goals and be prepared to experiment with different price points to gauge customer behaviour. Offer your title at the lower end of the range as an introductory price to penetrate the marketplace. If sales performance is strong, you may try raising the price. Take care not to raise or drop prices too sharply or with too much frequency as erratic pricing may scare off potential customers.
Review sales data regularly to identify trends and opportunities and use those reports to inform changes in marketing and pricing strategies. If your title has a seasonal tie-in or is in direct competition with a new release on a similar topic, adjust your sales price to attract new buyers and remain competitive.
The ebook market is still evolving and demands flexibility, patience, and perseverance. A strong pricing strategy will keep your sales goals on track and prolong your book's success in the digital marketplace.
As publishers work tirelessly to release digital versions of titles across the spectrum, Poetry is one genre that continues to be passed over. The dearth of classic poetry eBooks is not to be blamed on cultural limitations, but on technological limitations. Tricky indentations and structured stanzas of most poetry has proven problematic for basic eBook conversion services. Fortunately, we're starting to see more sophisticated eBook tools that can handle complex design needs. Will we start to see more poetry titles emerge as a result?
Poetry has long been plagued by digital format issues, from mangled line breaks in automated eBook conversion to formatting whims of individual eReader devices and reading apps. Because poetry is predominately text, it's easy to assume that converting the text digitally needs no special treatment. Poets experiment with line justifications and complex indentations in word document programs, creating word flow structures with strong visual and literary impact. These tabs and line returns, which seem like rudimentary format options, just don't translate into the eBook's xhtml page coding. Even when automated eBook conversion services can retain a word document's format, other variables can alter the integrity of a poem. Screen sizes and user preferences can impact font styles and sizes resulting in line breaks or white space not originally intended by the author.
The structural flaws have frustrated some poets to the extent where they requested the removal of their digital catalogue. Other poets request disclaimers on their eBooks warning their readers of potential format issues.
Poets and their publishers now have more options when it comes to eBook conversion. Older printed volumes can be scanned and saved as static PDF files to preserve the stanzas and line breaks. PDFs are universal standalone documents that can be read on computers, tablets and smartphones without dedicated eBook applications. The EPUB is a lightweight and widely available format that can retain a book's styles while allowing for user accessibility. however, converting to EPUB is time-consuming as it requires programmers to code individual poems.
With more sensitive technology in place to address the demands of poetry eBook design, are publishers ready to invest in Poetry again? The extensive design needs for individual titles means converting the back catalogue of poetry volumes is a considerable feat for any publishing house. What was already a low-priority genre for publishers may remain as such until consumer demand rises. We may see a slight uptick in the release of classic poetry, although at snail's pace, whilst most poets endure obscurity a while longer.
For emerging and active poets, the technical challenges offer ample creative opportunities. Armed with knowledge of how eBooks work, some poets could experiment with the digital page–perhaps developing an innovative poetry structure that simplifies the back-end for eBook conversion, making the form more attractive to digital publishers. Industrious poets might even consider tackling the conversion themselves and release their eBooks independently.
Improved technology has given poets renewed confidence in digital publication. If this enthusiasm continues to spread, publishers may find themselves amidst a revival of the genre. It's well worth giving poetry eBooks a second glance.
Although eBooks have existed for over 15 years, it took the convenience of ereaders and tablets to bring the format to prominence. As the eBook audience grows, so do eBook sales. Over the past five years, sales have soared to the extent that even The New York Times launched a weekly eBook bestseller list in 2011. With eBooks representing a significant percentage of overall book sales, it's worth considering what qualities make for a bestselling eBook title.
What attracts audiences to particular titles? If Digital Book World's eBook Bestseller list from 2013 is an indication, readers are drawn to stories, not publishers. From DBW's top 20 list—one populated with A-list authors Dan Brown, JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Grisham—three titles were from self-published authors. So, not only are we seeing more eBooks top the bestseller list, we're seeing more independent authors achieve bestseller status. Whether it's Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (Crown Publishing Group) or E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey (originally self-published), readers seek out compelling stories and then share their finds with fellow bibliophiles, propelling even the most unlikely titles onto bestselling lists.
When it comes to choosing reading materials, eBook audiences tend to respond better to ratings, recommendations and reviews rather than clever marketing campaigns. Customer reviews are an effective gauge of a book's quality and readership appeal. Sometimes these ratings generate more than sales; they can encourage the publication of new stories with beloved characters. Hugh Howey's bestselling Wool began as a novelette eBook but Howey expanded the story based on positive reviews and demand via Amazon reviewers.
Most independent titles aren't as fortunate as Gone Girl or 50 Shades to have a movie tie-in to help maintain buzz and bestseller status. What buoys many self-published eBooks is serialsation. It takes time to build an audience and serialised eBooks help in gaining recognition. With each new release, buzz builds and new readers are attracted to the series. These readers return to purchase earlier works, often boosting the original title to chart-topping success. Amanda Hocking made headlines in 2011 with her digital bestseller My Blood Approves when her groundbreaking Y.A. eBook series earned upwards of two-million dollars in sales.
Special price promotions can push titles into the bestseller limelight, but success may be short-lived without reviews and ratings to support the boost. Every eBook retailer has their own bestseller list reporting the day's biggest selling titles, so it remains unclear whether each retailer determines bestseller ranking by units sold or revenue. The self-published titles ranked on DBW's 2013 Bestseller list—including H.M. Ward's long-time chart-topper Damaged—were all priced at £0.77, while titles from more established publishers ranged in price from £1.99 to £12.99.
Because digital publishing has created a level playing field for all publishers, it's readers that now hold more power in determining the next bestselling title. Whether it's a self-contained novel or one volume of an on-going series, publishers of all sizes must focus on delivering quality stories at a reasonable price.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.