Saffina Desforges, Joe Konrath and numerous others, are proof it’s possible to make a living e-publishing. But while there’s a lot of sound advice out there about marketing e-books, there’s still much to be learnt about the most effective way for writers to promote their work. So much so, that I believe it’s fair to say indie authors are still experimenting with what works and doesn’t with regard to e-book promotion.
Mark William’s recent review of the e-publishing blogs prompted me to wonder whether the readers of e-books are different from those who read paperbacks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting there isn't any overlap between these two groups. But Kristen Lamb’s blog (cited by Mark) made me ponder how people select books to buy, and whether this has implications for the format in which they’re read.
Specifically, Kristen asks whether by limiting ourselves to social networking, indie authors may only be communicating with a tiny slice of our potential market – those avid readers who are interested in books. She points out that there are a huge number of people who don’t classify themselves as readers, but nonetheless buy one or two books a year. As she notes, while this group buy few books, they are many in number, so are a potentially huge market. But do they read electronically, or are they exclusive paperback readers? I think the later is the case, and here’s my reasoning.
If you only read one or two books a year it's probably not worth buying an e-reader. It makes sense, however, for an avid reader to own one. Electronic books are generally cheaper and easier to get hold of than paper. What's more, there’s the growing range of exciting books that are only published electronically. These reasons, however, don’t stack up for the occasional reader who's unlikely to review the book blogs or buy on-line via one-click.
You can’t pick up an e-book (and probably never will be able to) in a supermarket, train station or airport, which is where I believe most occasional readers buy books. When placed by the checkout, cover facing outwards (something most authors can only dream about), paperbacks have the potential to attract their attention. E-books don’t. My guess is that avid readers who haven’t yet moved over to electronic formats will do so shortly, but the vast majority of occasional readers may never do so.
Traditional publishers – selling a limited range of blockbusters – will, for this reason, I believe continue to dominate the occasional-reader market. Promoting their books in the aforementioned outlets, the death of the independent bookshop won’t affect their market, but they will lose a slice to the indie authors. So, despite Kristen’s observations, perhaps it makes sense for us to limit our marketing efforts to the small number of people who classify themselves as readers?