The Topic of ‘eBook Discovery’ has Re-entered Mainstream Conversation
The topic of ‘eBook Discovery’ has re-entered mainstream conversation again with a lot of industry experts chiming in with their thoughts. Many have views that are influenced by their current role, agenda or the business they represent.
The one common view is that online stores make eBooks available to buy but generally do little to help readers to discover new eBooks beyond the best-sellers and those from the most popular authors.
This emphasizes the great challenge all self-published authors face in getting their eBook noticed in a noisy world.
Where the Big Retailers Still Fail
The big retailers continually fail to realize the power of ‘belonging’ and ‘community.’ They continue to focus on the volume of eBooks they have available for sale as a mark of their size, power and success.
These retailers fall well-short on engaging customers beyond recommendations and reviews. Readers discover new eBooks through recommendations, peer reviews, discussion groups, reading clubs, forums, social media, giveaways, online communities and various other avenues.
The Problem for Self-Published Authors
The barriers to entry (publishing an eBook) for a first-time self-published author have mostly been removed thanks to the new self-publishing revolution. The main problem that still exists for these authors is that their success is often dependent on marketing and branding star power which is where they are falling short.
Once you have established yourself as a top-selling author, these retailers will give more weight to recommending future eBooks you write. This leaves the unknown authors fighting for themselves and ultimately many potential best-selling eBooks go unnoticed.
Online eBook stores provide recommendations and other features such as ‘if you liked this eBook you may like….’ The problem with these recommendations is that they are often based on that specific store’s algorithms and are designed to maximize sales and upsells to generate more revenue.
While these sites won’t disclose how their search functions work; it appears that the results often deliver results of well-known authors or best-selling eBooks and rarely provide results for new, unknown or self-published authors. And there are some valid reasons why this is the case. The known quality of a popular author will often trump an unknown author.
For the unknown self-published author, ‘discovery’ is the greatest barrier to their success. If no-one in your target audience of readers knows about your eBook then what chance do you have of selling any copies? Little to no chance I would suggest unless you can succeed in getting your eBooks directly in front of your audience through other channels beyond a stores’ recommendations and search results.
Authors hoping that their eBooks are discovered through a general internet search are also clutching at straws. While there are ways to optimize your author website, blog or eBook titles and description to help you achieve better search rankings; it often comes down to more targeted tools and tactics that we discuss in our eBook Marketing Department to engage and connect with your audience.
One proven tactic is to connect with a person (e.g. blogger) who has an influence over your audience. Amanda Hocking is one author who will testify to this tactic.
eBook discoverability will work better when a site becomes more than just a ‘shopping portal.’ Discoverability will improve when we break down the ‘everything’ store into more targeted genre and category specific sites that are interactive and provide a community feel where readers of similar interest can interact and get to meet new authors.
This is where I believe Amazon falls short. They have the most powerful and successful online store for buying eBooks. However; they lack the community tools and features that provide readers with an opportunity to discover new eBooks beyond the best-sellers that are often listed in the recommendation lists.
What About Goodreads?
Amazon’s ‘Goodreads’ is the closest option for this targeted community model. The problem here is that Goodreads caters to all genres and categories so it can become a bit overwhelming for some readers. Yes, they do guide you towards discussion groups and categories of interest, but they are still an ‘everything’ community.
What would work better? How about a ‘Goodreads’ style site where the members and visitors to the site all share the same interest in one genre? The one similar interest all Goodreads’ members share is that they enjoy reading. Beyond this ‘enjoying reading’ they vary quite dramatically with what types of eBooks they like to read.
I believe more ‘focused’ communities would take a step in the right direction to help ‘eBook discoverability’ in what is a very crowded market place.
The Future of Selling eBooks
The selling of eBooks in the future will move away from the ‘everything’ store and community to individual category stores, blogs and communities that are niche orientated and target a specific audience.
This is already happening with some cooking and recipe sites selling eBooks that cater to foodies. It is happening with motoring sites selling eBooks and products that are directly related to motoring.
There are online tennis communities that only sell tennis eBooks. The common issue that currently exists with these sites at the moment is that they sell their books and eBooks via Amazon’s associate’s program which again works in Amazon’s favor as customers are being sent to their store.
Eventually, more and more niche sites will have their own online shop where they take payments and deliver the eBook to the reader thus bypassing Amazon.
A Lesson to Learn from the Bricks and Mortar Stores
The bricks and mortar stores have been focusing on niche groups for years. Walk into a fishing and camping store in your local mall and you will only find books on fishing and camping. Walk into an arts and craft store and you will only find books for arts and craft.
The online world of eBooks is still catching on and we could all learn from these stores that figured out a long time ago to focus on a specific interest or hobby. I know that if I walk into a fishing store that I will find a greater range of fishing products than what I would find in a general ‘everything’ sports store.
I will likely ‘discover’ more products that I would have not found in a big store that mostly sells the more popular fishing products. So why does every new eBook store want to be another ‘everything’ store?
Having a huge list of eBooks available for sale in your store does not help discoverability. It only makes it more difficult to discover unknown, yet very talented authors, who get pushed further back down the pages into obscurity. There are many ways to discover eBooks and new authors.
Unfortunately the ‘all-in-one’ online store is not the best option unless you are happy buying the most popular eBooks from the best-selling authors. When was the last time you scrolled down to page 100 on Amazon to find an eBook?
What Should Self-published Authors Do?
As a self-published author it is up to you to find your own success. It is up to you to create a marketing strategy so that you can get your eBooks directly in front of your audience. Relying on a big retailer to do this for you will lead to failure.
Publishing your eBook to an online store only makes it available for sale. You cannot expect any online store to market and promote your eBook for you. They expect you to do this and if you can achieve significant sales then they will take notice.
‘Empower’ yourself with the eBook marketing knowledge and tools we share with you in our Author Academy so you can give your eBooks the greatest chance of achieving the same success as Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking who were once in the same position as you may find yourself now. They found ways beyond a retailer to get their eBook in front of their audience.