What Is Book Discoverability?

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Authors, like many entrepreneurial artists, put a lot of value in tricks. They’re willing to sell books for free or set up a mailing list because they’ve seen other authors do the same thing. The problem comes when writers employ some of these tricks without understanding the basic concepts behind them. At their core, many tactics related to book marketing have to do with book discoverability.

At its center, book discoverability can be any one of a number of ways in which readers find your books. In the old days, book buyers only had a few ways to discover their next read. You could see a book on an end cap in your local Borders or you heard about the latest bestseller from a newspaper review. If you were self-published, you had essentially no chance of getting your book out to the public at large, though you could still do well enough if you brought traffic into your website. Now, the number of methods for book discoverability has grown exponentially, which is great for readers and a new challenge for authors.

Book Discoverability Broken Down

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We’ve already mentioned the methods of book discovery like BookBub, permafree series starters, and social media, on the dozens of posts throughout the Author Marketing Institute. Plenty of authors use these tactics incorrectly because they don’t understand how the process of book discoverability works. When it comes down to it, if your books aren’t getting discovered, it’s an issue of poor traffic.

When you aren’t selling books on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, etc., it doesn’t mean that those platforms aren’t working. One of your main issues is that you’re not getting enough traffic on your book sales pages. How did a social media platform like Facebook trounce Friendster? There are a lot of reasons why, but if you ask the question “how,” the answer is that it started getting significantly more traffic. More traffic means more potential readers and more sales.

The problem with traffic is the same issue that all people who host a website run into. There’s a lot of web traffic that you can’t control. Let’s say you have a day with an unexpected and unexplained sales boost. It’s very likely that you had an increased amount of traffic to your sales pages that day for whatever reason. You can’t control days like that, but that doesn’t mean the book discoverability issue is completely out of your hands.

Your First Goal In Marketing

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Being a self-published author is sometimes like working three jobs at once, and one of those jobs is in marketing. Your first goal as a marketer should be to bring more traffic to your pages. Whether a method worked for another author or not is irrelevant. You need to find ways to bring traffic to your pages so that more readers know who you are and start buying your books. We realize this seems incredibly simplified and obvious, but a lot of authors don’t seem to get it.

If you spend 40 hours a week posting to Facebook, but you only reach about 20 of the same people every time you post, then you’re missing out on the first step of marketing. Without traffic, you won’t get sales. It’s not Amazon or Apple’s responsibility to send traffic to your pages. You can’t assume traffic will come naturally of its own accord. It’s up to you to figure out how to send traffic to your book pages.

And Your Second Goal…

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Some authors take years to figure out step one, and when they do, there’s no telling how long their method for traffic-generation will actually last. In the midst of all this, authors must also consider the second step of book discoverability. Their book must look and be good enough to buy.

When readers discover your book, it needs to be ready for its starring moment. It’s painful how frequently writers focus on the first part of discoverability without thinking about the second. They’ll spend hundreds of dollars on a promotion without realizing they have three misspellings in their Look Inside or that their book description looks terrible on mobile devices. Without a strong cover, good reviews, and a compelling description, all the traffic in the world won’t do you much good.

Everybody wants a landslide of traffic and critical acclaim that puts them into the top one percent of all authors. They want to be an outlier, but there are plenty of writers who do well simply by following the rules of discoverability: get traffic and impress that traffic. The authors who understand this simple formula of book discoverability don’t need a windfall. They’ve got the basic knowledge they require to keep themselves at the top of the heap for the rest of their career.

Why You Should Sell Your Books on Apple

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After spending a significant amount of time learning the tricks of the Amazon self-publishing trade, you may feel as though you’ve gone as far as you want to go. After all, it can take a long while to truly understand how KDP works and how to get sales up from a trickle to a deluge. You may think that it’s not worth trying more challenging platforms like Google Play and Apple’s iBooks. Before you carve that decision in stone, there are several benefits of selling your books on Apple that you may not be aware of.

First and foremost, exclusivity on Amazon isn’t right for all books in all genres. Even though Amazon’s dominance is mostly unchecked, e-readers are waning in popularity. Before long, Kindles could become more of a curiosity people pick up on eBay rather than something they’ll consider buying. As a result, you need to be prepared to reach your readers where they’re reading. An increasing number of people are reading on their phones. Since Apple products are among the most popular mobile devices, your lack of a presence in iBooks could cause you to miss out on a large and growing group of readers.

Here are six other reasons why you should start selling your books on Apple:

1. iOS8 Now Includes iBooks

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Readers who want to buy ebooks from Amazon on their phones must take the time to find and download the Kindle app. Apple noticed this extra step readers needed to take and intervened by including the iBooks app in its latest iOS8 system. For you Apple newbies out there, this means that all new iPhones and iPads have the iBooks app automatically installed without needing to take the extra step of downloading an app. It’s the equivalent of building a bookstore right at the entrance of the mall. Better and more prominent placement can lead to more clicks and purchases.

According to Apple, the integration of iBooks into its latest operating system has resulted in one million new customers per week throughout the world. While it’s unlikely that all of those people are book buyers, some are, and you could miss them by not publishing to iBooks.

2. Bigger Screens Mean Easier Reading

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Phone reading naysayers have often cited the fact that the mobile devices are simply too small to read on. The dwindling popularity of e-readers and the growth of reading on phones has left the critics in the dust. Add to that the fact that the latest phones are getting bigger screens, and you’ve got a perfect storm for more mobile reading.

The latest iPhones, the 6 and the 6 Plus, have massive screens compared to the phones of old (4.7 inch and 5.5 inch, respectively). Both of the phones come with Retina HD displays, which mean users will get a better and clearer reading experience. Apple said that between October 2014 and December 2014 it sold 74.5 million iPhones, most of which were these new larger devices. You need to start catering to the non-e-ink crowd if you want to tap into those potential readers.

3. The Price Is Right For 99-Cent Books

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One of the most frustrating parts of Amazon KDP and some of the other platforms is the reduced royalties for books priced under $2.99. Thankfully, Apple’s iBooks platform doesn’t have that problem. iBooks allows you to price books at 99 cents or $1.99, while still maintaining a 70 percent royalty rate. The higher rate can be especially lucrative if you pair it with a marketing campaign like a BookBub that can sell hundreds of books at a time. The difference in royalty rates can make a major difference over the long haul.

4. All Prominently Displayed Books Are Chosen

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Some platforms have a pay-to-play philosophy when it comes to displaying books in prominent places on their sites. iBooks on the other hand does not accept co-op payments for placement in its e-store. What does this mean for you? It means that connecting with iBooks representatives via email or through conferences can make a major difference in your sales. It’s a good idea to have your elevator marketing pitch ready to go in an email or in your head if you make contact with one of these reps. The right relationship with the right person could get your books in front of a whole lot of eyeballs.

5. Your Pre-Orders Get Excerpts

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It was big news when Amazon opened up pre-orders to self-published authors. Now you can post pre-orders for your book to Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google Play and several other smaller platforms. One of the advantages iBooks has when it comes to its pre-order function is the ability to use an excerpt from the book to promote the sale. A good portion of readers will only buy a book if they like the first chapter or two from the preview, but Amazon and Google Play don’t display excerpts on their self-published previews.

Apple displays a preview of the book’s first portion, which gives readers something to look at and can encourage sales. Make sure that the early part of your book has been edited to ensure you don’t show off a problematic first portion of your work to excited fans.

6. Free Money From The Affiliate Program

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Like Amazon, Apple has an affiliate program that generates links to give you a few extra percent of earnings from each sale. Both programs also provide you with commissions when people go on to purchase other products. Apple’s program gives you a leg up when it comes to digital products, because it’ll provide you with earnings when people who buy through your affiliate link also purchase apps, games, and other books. Using the right links in the right places could give you higher earnings than you expected from the Apple platform.

You’ll Only Get Results If You Start Trying

Sure, Apple has a bit of a learning curve for its self-publishing platform, but you’ll never earn any money from it if you don’t try. Apple is the #2 earner for many big-time authors, and it could be #1 for you if you work it the right way. You may encounter some difficulty along the way, but you should keep the above benefits in mind as you soldier on. As you try more and more things, you’re bound to get some of them to work, and publishing to iBooks may be the one that’s worth much more than your efforts.

How to Obtain and Use iBooks Review Codes

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At this point you’re likely used to trying to get your books reviewed on Amazon. Perhaps you have a list of bloggers or you’ve created a special email list for people who will automatically get review copies of your latest books. Regardless of what you’re doing to get reviews, it’s important that you request reviews not just on one platform. If you fail to get as many reviews on your iBooks products, you may be missing out on an opportunity to sell more copies there.

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Authors selling direct through iBooks gain 250 promo review codes for each book once they’ve made a request. According to Apple, these codes can be distributed for reviews, media, and testing. Once you’ve obtained the codes, you must provide them as quickly as possible because they expire within one month’s time. By following Apple’s rules for review codes, your books will show up with higher ratings and they’ll have a much better chance of closing the sale.

Here are five detailed steps for obtaining your 250 iBooks review codes:

  1. Visit iTunes Connect through your Apple account. You must have “legal level” access to obtain the codes, so it’s best to do this yourself as opposed to letting someone on your team find the codes for you.
  1. Click the My Books tab and select the book you’d like to get codes for. Click Promo Codes and enter the number of codes you’d like to download. You can download up to 250 promotional codes at a time.
  1. Click Download and make sure to read the Terms of Service agreement for the codes before you approve it.
  1. After you go through the above steps, you’ll receive an email that contains a plain text document with the number of codes you requested. the email will also include code redemption instructions that you can provide to each person that you send the codes. You must include certain wording when you submit the codes to your readers, So make sure to read all the documents that come with your codes.
  1. Send the individual codes to each of your readers and request a review by a few days before the code expiration date. This will allow for any stragglers to post their review before the codes expire.

Getting Reviewers on Board

We’ve discussed getting reviews a lot on Author Marketing Institute, but we tend to talk almost solely about Amazon. Your true fans won’t mind taking a few extra seconds to post a modified version of their Amazon review on iBooks. It’s just a matter of asking them. You may feel as though you’re inconveniencing your readers by asking them to do extra work for you, but it’s a necessary evil.

The people who love your work want you to succeed. Getting more reviews on iBooks and the other platforms helps you do that. It’s a pure win-win situation, so it’s definitely in your best interest to go through the above process and get reviews on all your Apple books.