Leo Shatzkin weighs in with some interesting thoughts on the road ahead for book marketing. He believes books (and he sees a largely digital future) will be marketed vertically — that is, by audience segment. Publishers will use the Internet and social media to discover and understand common audiences and then create and market titles tailored for those audiences. They would no longer promote books one big title at a time, and older 'dormant' books might be revived if marketers manage to connect them to their appropriate community/market. If books are to be largely digital, then shelf-life is no longer a deciding factor for the long-term success of a book.
Recently received comments regarding self-promotion from Mike Dixon, author's of Curtin Express:
I'm at last having success in promoting myself as an author. I've not started to sell books. That crucial point has not yet been reached. However, people are downloading my free ebooks and they are doing so consistently.
I'm averaging over 40 downloads a day. I start by making the books available through the "free ebook sites" listed on my home page. After that, they seem to generate a following of their own.
I suspect that Facebook plays a part but not directly. Attempts to promote through my own page on Facebook have produced poor results. The same can be said for Twitter and all those other ways that the viral explosion people talk about. They will take you for a ride which can cost a lot in time and money before you realise they are talking nonsense.
My advice is "Get focused". Expose your books to people who are interested in books and forget about everything else.
My remarks apply to works of fiction. A different approach may be appropriate in other areas.
My books are currently available in PDF format. I have started to convert them to epub via html and calibre (free on net). The steps are (i) use microsoftword to produce document - jpg images may be included. (ii) save for web (iii) convert with calibre - just three clicks on the mouse is all that it takes. Finally, don't forget to support the folks at calibre with a small payment.
The epub format allows your book to be viewed on a small hand-held device (eg iphone). I'll let you know what the outcome is. I suspect epub will greatly increase the number of downloads. There's only one way to find out.
Bibliophiles fear the impending death (or serious decline) of the printed book. We fear the often transitory and that the trivial nature of much web content and alleged reduction in attention spans will make long-form fiction and non-fiction less attractive. Even if we tentatively embrace the shift from paper to ebook, we sense perhaps that the very form itself is somehow obsolescent.
The Institute for the Future of the Book addresses these issues in a direct and engaging way, without the dispiriting jargon that accompanies much discussion on this topic. They pretty much skip over the current pallid ebook format and envisage a future embedded into the browser, with the book analogue of the future richly linked to the surrounding intellectual/cultural milieu.
Ebooks are continuing their blitzgrieg assault on print publishing. Book publishing is starting to go through similar convulsions to the recording industry. Unlike the recording industry, piracy is not a massive issue (yet). But Ebooks are not just replacements for the printed book. They are something very different, and will become more different still. If the ebook does largely replace the printed version, designers, publishers and authors will have to make many adjustments. Ebook readers may expect a much more sophisticated and dynamic interface than a print book could ever supply. Their expectations of what constitutes a 'book' will rapidly alter. Content will shift to match these expectations. And unlike the printed book, which took essentially the same form for several hundred years, the ebook will be subject to continued and rapid development.
Yet another Google service/business has been launched to very little fanfare. Google ebooks offer a huge number of current titles and also older works now out of copyright. Given that Google has scanned a vast swathe of print books already (outraging many publishers) one would think they have a big advantage over other ebook providers. Their ebooks are only available for sale or download in the USA at present, though they promise this will soon expand to other markets. The formats available are PDF and epub. Most older books are available only in PDF format. In a best-case scenario, Google will provide effective competition for Amazon in this market. Google is often good at keeping entry costs low, and may allow publishers to keep more of the sale price of their ebooks.
An interesting/alarming article at the Australian Society of Authors website documents a possible decline in quality control in the rush to get books into the various ebook formats. Hopefully just teething problems for a new industry rather than a general decline in book standards.