Reaching Readers by Offering Options by Julia L F Goldstein
You may have heard that eBook sales are declining as a fraction of total book sales and that independent (indie) bookstores are making a comeback. An article in The Observer describes this trend. I recently surveyed my email list in advance of my April 22 book release to learn what book formats my fans prefer and where they like to obtain books. My unscientific sample revealed that my readers indeed prefer physical books to digital ones.
Paperback books were a winner by a long shot. Almost 90 percent of those surveyed listed paperbacks as one of their preferred formats and over half chose paperbacks as their favorite among all the choices. Hardcovers were also in demand, although less so. They are more durable than paperbacks but also more expensive and heavier to lug around. Paperbacks hit the sweet spot, meeting the desire to flip through physical pages while still being portable.
I was already planning on offering my book in paperback, hardcover, and eBook formats and had been considering creating an audiobook. As podcasts are growing in popularity, so are audiobooks. But while it is not too difficult or expensive to produce an eBook, audiobooks require either hiring voice talent or recording the book yourself. I’m still mulling it over, but I’ll probably eventually make an audiobook.
My survey also asked where people buy or otherwise obtain books. Yes, my readers shop at Amazon, but that option ranked third. Public libraries received the most votes, followed by indie bookstores.
No author can afford to ignore Amazon, for both Kindle books and paperbacks, but neither should they rely on Amazon exclusively. Doing so is missing the opportunity to reach readers who shop elsewhere. For those who like eBooks, the Kindle format is the most common, but many people read eBooks on their smartphones or tablets. I uploaded my eBook to Smashwords, where customers can choose from multiple download options and file formats. Smashwords also distributes to online retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Apple Books.
Getting my book listed for sale on Amazon was easy. I put the Kindle version on pre-order, with the paperback to follow on the official launch date. But gaining the attention of the other locations takes a bit more effort. Libraries and indie bookstores have limited budgets and shelf space and only order books that they believe their customers will want to read.
In my emails to fans, I’ve been reminding them to call or visit their local bookstore and ask for the book. Bookstores will automatically order books on the New York Times bestseller list, but they won’t consider an independently published book unless their customers ask for it.
Another way to attract the attention of indie bookstores as an author is through a personal connection with bookstore staff. When I announced to my fans in February that advance reader copies (ARCs) were available, one said that she worked in an indie bookstore and would love to read the ARC. She enjoyed it, listed it as one of her staff picks, and now I’m scheduled to speak at the store.
Authors wanting to reach as many readers as possible should make their books available in as many formats and locations as they can. Just as important is letting the world know that the book exists. Every author should have an email list and actively seek reviews and publicity.
Want to learn about my new book, Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products? Visit my author website and join my mailing list if you want to stay updated with the latest book-related news.
Written by Julia L F Goldstein