Monday, December 16, 2019

Increase Book Availability via Smashwords and BN Paperbacks

I tend to write more about writing than marketing these days. However, I had puzzled about how to reach more readers on ibooks, Kobo, and BN (via Smashwords), and have come up with something that works for me.

Many authors give away free ebooks sometimes. I decided to make the first four books of the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series free and wait to see if it made a difference. 
These are not books I sell on Amazon -- you cannot price a book less on another site than you do on Amazon. You agree to this when you publish with KDP.


Waiting was key. For the first few months, Smashwords reported no downloads -- keep in mind, it was free. Three months ago I saw downloads of the free book and sales of the NEXT box set began to grow on Apple. Since sales are up (I assume) my books are showing higher in Apple search results.

 Sales have also increased on Kobo and Barnes and Noble, but not as dramatically. This could be because I already had more sales on these sites. 

Pretty much the only promotion I do is regular tweeting about the free box set. I occasionally mention it in a cozy mystery Facebook group.

I now do my books also as BN paperbacks as well as Amazon. It means people can walk into a Barnes and Noble store and staff can immediately find a book and order it. There is no independent bookstore in my town (Springfield, IL) and BN has become very supportive of local authors.

A book uses the same Library of Congress Preassigned Control Number in all paperback editions. I choose to use a different ISBN from my own company, but I believe BN gives them free for paperbacks. If you use a site's free ISBN, they are listed as the publisher. The author still holds the copyright, of course.

Books have to be priced a dollar higher than on Amazon, where I no longer do expanded distribution. They could be priced the same, but the revenue per book would be less.

BN lets you work on covers in three pieces (front, back, spine). You can create them in Microsoft Publisher or jpg, and convert/load the front and back as pdfs. They do the spine. I like this method very much.

My books are largely self-published, which is why having easy access via BN stores is so important.


My Tarot cards and crystal ball have malfunctioned for months, so no predictions here. The experience does tell me it seems to pay to offer a free box set for Apple, BN, and Kobo -- via Smashwords. I publish some single books directly to those websites, but it's simply easier to do one big book via Smashwords. You only fix the epub once if there are errors.

Caveat. Free books used to increase sales a lot on Amazon. I'm not sure they do now -- at least not mine. Of course, books in KDP Select do pay some when people borrow (and read) them via this exclusive-to-Amazon marketing program.

Perhaps there are fewer free books on the other sites, so free still attracts readers. Keep in mind the book has to be a good one for readers to then buy the next books in a series. And keep writing more.
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