by Jim Azevedo
Imagine if you had the personal email address of every reader who’s ever enjoyed one of your books. Surely, many of these readers would happily buy your next book if only they knew about it.
Apart from mastering the craft of writing, your ability to notify fans about your next new release is perhaps the single most important factor in building a successful, long-term author career.
Why it’s Difficult to Reach Your Prior and Prospective Readers
When a book sells at a retailer, the reader becomes the retailer’s customer, not the author’s customer. The retailer controls access to the reader’s email contact information, and this information is not shared with the author.
Retailers, and social media platforms, act as intermediaries that stand between you and your readers. They provide a valuable service, but because they control access to your readers, they can erect tolls, taxes and obstacles that make it difficult, expensive and even impossible for you to reach your prior and prospective readers who would want to purchase your next release if only they could know about it.
Facebook used to allow authors to freely communicate with their fans. Then one day Facebook decided to put those followers behind a paywall, allowing only a tiny fraction to receive an author’s post unless the author paid to extend their reach. It was like those followers, who had gladly given permission to receive the author’s posts in their newsfeeds, were suddenly held hostage for ransom.
In a similar vein, advertising dollars spent on sponsored ads at Amazon may result in sales, but they do not grant you access to those readers. These ads also serve as a tax on your potential earnings. On paper the retailer may pay you almost 70% list for your ebook, but your effective percentage net is much lower with every dollar spent on advertising. Although the hope is that the ad spend will result in higher unit sales, the economics of auction ad models (where the highest bidder earns the most visible ad slots) such as Amazon Ads invariably act to push the author’s effective net down to near zero. This is because authors will bid up prices for the highest visibility slots until the point at which a dollar spent earns less than a dollar in sales.
The Antidote to Toll-Takers: The Author Newsletter
Your author email newsletter is the antidote to a retailer or social media platform standing between you and your readers. Once a reader subscribes to your private mailing list, you gain 100% control over the content and timing of your messages. Your newsletter is a critical component of building a platform that you–and you alone–control. The value of your author platform is not just a measure of how many fans you have, but a measure of your ability to reach them.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool that could help authors incentivize readers to sign up for their private newsletters?
There is such a tool, and it’s called the ebook presale.
Ebook Presales Turbocharge Newsletter Subscriptions
Before I describe how ebook presales work, let’s first differentiate a pre-order from a pre-sale. Many authors mistakenly believe they are the same thing. They are not.
An ebook preorder serves as a product reservation ahead of a book’s public release. Readers reserve a copy of a new book but can’t access the book until its release day. This can be days, weeks or months later.
An ebook presale, by contrast, gives readers early access to a new book before it is released to the general public. Readers love early access.
In the past, all the buzz, excitement and promotion for a new book were tied to a single release date. With an ebook presale, authors can schedule one or more early release events. Examples might include a private presale for affinity groups such as newsletter subscribers or another for social media followers. For authors who are marketing their newsletters, now everywhere you advertise your private newsletter —such as on your blog, on social media, or within the backmatter of your published books—your messaging can inform prospective subscribers that a key perk of signing up is that they’ll be the first to learn about your exclusive presales where they can purchase and read the book before the general public.
Smashwords Presales Transacted at the Smashwords Store
Launched in December 2019, Smashwords Presales leverages patent-pending technology to enable authors to schedule one or more presale events prior to a new ebook’s public release. All Smashwords Presales are transacted at the Smashwords Store where authors earn up to 80% list.
Smashwords Presales can turbocharge newsletter subscriptions because, for the first time, readers are given the option of providing their email addresses to the author at checkout.
Smashwords Presales is compatible with any indie author book launch and distribution strategy, including Amazon KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited, direct retail upload, and wide distribution. If an author’s launch strategy includes releasing the new book exclusively on Amazon, the author can still do a presale at Smashwords by simply starting and ending the presale before enrolling the new book in Amazon KDP Select.
To learn more about Smashwords Presales please visit https://blog.smashwords.com/2019/12/presales.html.
Jim Azevedo is the marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks. Since 2008, Smashwords has helped more than 146,000 authors, publishers and literary agents around the world release over 526,00 titles and distribute their work globally to top ebook retailers, subscription services and public libraries. Jim, a convert from Silicon Valley’s tech industry, earned his “indie cred” from 18+ years of drumming, recording and touring with an indie rock band. In his spare time, Jim is a certified nutrition coach. Follow Jim on Twitter: @Smashwords or @jazzervedo.