Tuesday 27 August 2019

Buying Ebooks at Exclusive Books

Before I begin, let me clarify what I mean by the above headline. I don't just mean using the Exclusive Books website to buy ebooks — although that's possible, too. I mean, standing in Exclusive Books, browsing their selection, and then whipping out your phone and actually buying ebooks!

I was having this conversation with a friend of mine the other day. Like me, she's more-or-less moved on to reading exclusively ebooks these days. But she still enjoys browsing Exclusive Books (which is our biggest chain bookstore in South Africa). She never buys books there, though, because she finds paper-based books to be way too expensive, and ebooks just way more convenient. So she feels guilty because she'll pick up a book at Exclusive Books, flip through it, then go home and buy the ebook version of that book, from a different retailer.

I know she's not the only person who does this, so I shared with her this dream I had, way back when I first started reading ebooks exclusively. It's a dream where anyone could walk into a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and buy an ebook. Without feeling in the least bit guilty.

Then I got to thinking. For Exclusive Books, in particular, this wouldn't be too difficult to achieve, would it?

Bear with me now. Exclusive Books already has an agreement with Kobo to provide ebooks. There's an option on the menu of their website, labelled "EBOOKS".

If you click it, you get redirected to the Kobo store, with Exclusive Books' affiliate code already filled in, meaning they get a commission when you buy ebooks after clicking that link.

So, my dear friends, how hard do you think it would be to do the following?

  • Every book on Exclusive Books' shelves, that has an ebook available on Kobo, has a sticker on the back.
  • That sticker contains a QR code, and an instruction to "Scan this code to buy the ebook".
  • Scanning the code on your phone takes you directly to the relevent ebook on Kobo, with Exclusive Books' affiliate code built in.
  • Since some people might struggle with this, make sure that every store has knowledgable staff on hand to help customers create an account at Kobo so they can buy and read ebooks.
Have I just hit on a goldmine here or what? I mean, win-win-win, right? Exclusive Books earns money when their customers buy ebooks, but they still get the foot-traffic. People no longer feel guilty about browsing paper books at Exclusive Books and then buying ebooks instead. Kobo earns money. Authors and publishers earn money. And South African ebook buyers discover alternative places to buy ebooks, that they potentially never knew existed.

What do you think? Is there a downside?

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Should Independent Authors Form Publishing Companies?

You know how, when you visit one of my book's pages at your favourite retailer, it lists my name as the publisher?

That's because I'm a self-published author; I am the publisher of my own books. That's pretty much the definition of self-publishing, right?

There is, however, a growing trend these days, for self-published authors to start their own publishing companies or imprints (whether by registering those businesses "officially" in their countries of origin,  or in name only).

Many of these people say it makes their books appear more "professional" to potential book buyers, critics, etc. Or perhaps (if they've gone the "official" route), there are tax benefits to having a proper business.

Personally, unless you're also going to be publishing other people's books, I'm not a fan of this idea. I’m all about educating readers about self-published books and encouraging them to actively seek those books out. And it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether a book’s self-published or not if it has an imprint/publisher name different from the author’s… which I understand is one of the main reasons some authors want their own publisher in the first place; I just don’t agree that it should be so, is all.

Also, as an author, I didn’t choose to self-publish because I couldn’t get a trad deal. I never even tried for a trad deal, because my decision to self-publish was a deliberate, conscious, and carefully considered one. That makes me proud to be a self-published author, and I don’t want to hide that fact.

Of course, as I said above, there might be tax benefits to registering an actual company, but if you're going to do that, there's nothing stopping you from registering your own name ("Graham Downs CC" or even "G Downs" or something; don't try and hide behind a name that has no connection to your author persona).

Besides, it’s not too difficult to figure out that a book's self-published, either way: typically the only books published through that publisher are the author’s own. And once you've figured that out, it doesn't look so professional anymore, does it?

This is just my two cents. I'd love to know what you think. Is it a good idea for a self-published author to start their own publishing company? Why or why not?

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Behind the Curtain: An Observation About Email

For those of you who don't know, I use MailerLite as my email service provider. It's about a million times more suited to author newsletters than Mailchimp (click the link to try it out, if you run a business that needs to stay in contact with people).

Around the time that GDPR became a thing (when was that? A year ago now? Maybe more? Time flies), I decided it might be cool to offer people the choice of how they'd like to hear from me.

Prior to that time, I was sending out a regular monthly newsletter, and then other emails spread out randomly through the month, whenever I had something important to say. In some months, I'd send these weekly. In others, fortnightly, and sometimes, my subscribers would get several in a single week. All excluding my regular newsletter.

GDPR made me seriously consider that strategy because, as I understood it at the time, what the bill meant was the users had to consciously and specifically opt-in to communication from you, and they had to do it knowing exactly what that contact would entail.

Long story short, when someone signs up for my email list to get a free book, there are two checkboxes, and they can tick one, both, or neither (you're also not allowed to make that opt-in a requirement for receiving a freebie).

Now, I had expected there'd be some chancers who wouldn't tick either of those boxes. They just want the freebie. Oddly enough, I don't get nearly as many of those as I was afraid of, though; it seems like most people are honest, and understand the concept enough to willingly agree to hear from me.

I also expected that most people who opted in would tick the "Monthly Newsletters" option, and a few would choose not to receive the occasional ones. For the most part, that's held true, but here's what surprised me: some people are opting into the occasional emails, but not the regular monthly ones!

That floored me because I honestly assumed that, in most people's minds, "Occasional" would imply the regular monthly one.

True to my word, though, I haven't sent those people the regular monthly newsletters. But I have no way of understanding why people would want to hear from me occasionally, but not regularly.

Food for thought. As a reader, do you subscribe to any authors' newsletters? What made you sign up? How often do you prefer to hear from them?

By the way, if you'd like to sign up to mine and get one of my books free, click here.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

As a Reader, I Choose Bargain Booksy

Free email services offering ebook deals are all the rage these days. You've probably heard of BookBub (every reader's heard of BookBub, surely?), but they're not the only kid on the block. We've also got Riffle Select, BookGorilla, BooksGoSocial... I've subscribed to them all and more.

If you don't know, readers sign up to one or more of these services, give their email addresses, and set some preferences about the kind of books they like to read. Authors and publishers, on the other hand, pay a fee to have their books advertised, and on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or sometimes monthly) the reader gets a curated list of ebooks emailed to them, based on their preferences.

It's a pretty good arrangement: authors get their books in front of readers who are interested in them, and readers get really good deals on the things they like to read most. Many of those deals are even free (Digital Book Today in particular, has lots of free deals).

BookBub's good too, but as a reader, I have to say my favourite such service, and the one that I've bought the most books off of, has to be the lesser-known Bargain Booksy.

Why Bargain Booksy?

See, none of the other services allows you to exclude books which are in Kindle Unlimited from their emails. And we know how I feel about Kindle Unlimited, don't we? (In a nutshell, they're evil. Pure and simply. Read this blog post to get my full opinion on the matter.)

In the past, this wasn't that big of a deal. Aside from the fact that I've only recently developed such strong feelings against Kindle Unlimited (because they've only recently started taking over as badly), it used to be that the chances of a book in one of these emails being in KU was maybe 10%. Now, it's 95%. And since I refuse to buy Kindle Unlimited books on principle, I'm steadily unsubscribing from services that don't allow me to exclude those from their emails.

Mind you, Bargain Booksy doesn't explicitly give you an option saying "Don't show me books in Kindle Unlimited." That would be ideal, but no. You have to be a bit smart about it.

When you sign up for Bargain Booksy (or change your preferences later), they ask you, among other things, where you buy and read books: Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Scribd, Amazon, etc.

Here's the secret: all you have to do is untick Amazon.

Most books you get will include Amazon links as well (because 99.99% of all ebooks are available on Amazon), but you'll only receive them if they're also available in at least one of the other stores you picked.

Smart, hey? ;-)

Over to you: are you subscribed to any of these subscription services? Which ones? Do you ever buy books based on these emails?

Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!