Monday, February 08, 2016

Attack of the Bibliography!

I noticed an Amazon trend a few months ago. Some third party indie publishers were creating Kindle bibliographies for bestselling authors who had a lot of titles.

I thought it was interesting, but probably not necessary. Amazon makes it pretty simple for readers to find books. Why should readers have to buy an ebook to get a list of ebooks to buy?

But more and more of these bibliographies began to pop up.  I took a closer look at the trend, and realized why.

Amazon customers were searching for series titles in order. So to find them, they would type in something like "JD Robb series in order" or "Nora Roberts series" or "JD Robb books chronological".

If you search for any of those, you get four different bibliographies by different publishers offering their $0.99 checklist of JD Robb/Nora Roberts titles.

So I had myself a think.

I have two pen names--Jack Kilborn and Melinda DuChamp.

I operate under the assumption that most of my ebooks are bought and read by readers who haven't heard of me (or my pen names) previously. They're browsing, find a title, and buy it. If they like it, the hope is that they'll seek out other titles.

One way I do this is to have a bibliography in the back of my ebooks. But this is problematic; links are tied to a specific region, like the US or UK or Canada, so I haven't been using links, just a static list. This makes it harder for readers to instantly buy one of my other titles (every step introduced between the desire for a purchase and the actual purchase loses some potential customers). It's also problematic when, like me, you have 60 ebook titles with more coming out every year, which requires updating the bibliography in every single title.

Maybe readers who try me and like me will Google me and find my website. But that takes an extra step. More likely, they'll search for me on Amazon, perhaps with the term "JA Konrath series in order", and maybe they'll start the series from the beginning. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe they'll miss a title. Or maybe they'll give up in frustration because it isn't immediately apparent to them which books of mine tie in together, and the order they should be read in.

So I published this, for free on Amazon.

The long and search-intensive title is:

"J.A. Konrath Books in Order: Jack Daniels Series in Reading Order, Jack Kilborn, Codename: Chandler, Melinda DuChamp, Complete Pen Name Chronological Bibliography".

The link is: http://www.amazon.com/Konrath-Books-Order-Chronological-Bibliography-ebook/dp/B01BD0167G

I also made free downloads available in my website, as Kindle and pdf files.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

The Reading Order ebook has links in it, to make it very easy for readers to immediately download any of my titles, in order.

Q: But Joe, earlier you said that was a problem, because links are tied to a specific Amazon store. What if an Amazon.ca reader downloaded the book? Does your ebook have links for Canada too?

Joe sez: Sort of. I took a shortcut. There's a very cool, and free, service called Booklinker.net. You put in an Amazon link, and you can create your own URL.

For example, for my upcoming 9th Jack Daniels novel, RUM RUNNER (being released March 25), I created this universal URL:

http://getBook.at/rumrunnerebook

That link is clicker specific. If you are from Canada and shop at Amazon.ca, it will take you to the RUM RUNNER Amazon page in Canada. If you are in England, it'll take you to Amazon.co.uk. And so on.

Pretty cool, huh? So rather than have a gazillion links for each ebook title, I only have a single, Booklinker link.

BTW--if you haven't pre-ordered RUM RUNNER yet, please do.

Q: Okay, so you've got a bibliography, and it has links for all of your ebooks at all Amazon stores worldwide. But how did you make it free? Does Amazon allow free ebooks?

Joe sez: No, Amazon doesn't allow freebies. But it does price-match with other retailers who do offer freebies.

So I used the fine services of Draft 2 Digital. In about ten minutes, I set up an account and uploaded the READING ORDER ebook as a free ebook, and D2D distributed it to Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Nook, and Inktera, and they all went live within 24 hours. It was fast, simple, and free to do, and the D2D folks were accommodating and responsive.

I also created a Google Books account and uploaded it there, also for free.

Then I went to me Amazon page for the READING ORDER ebook and clicked on tell us about a lower price at the bottom of the Product Details section.

I started this on February 2. Once a day I'd tattle on myself, clicking on that link and reporting the free links from Apple, Nook, etc. Six days later, Amazon price-matched my book, so it is now free.

Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca aren't free, because first I wanted to see how the US experiment went. But now I'm doing the same thing with those stores, and I expect they'll be free soon.

All in all, not too much work. A few hours at most to compile the book. I paid 52novels.com to do the formatting, and Extended Imagery to do the cover, so there was a cost involved.

Q: Was this effort worth the time and cost?

Joe sez: I have no idea. I saw a trend. It made sense to follow it, because I understand why it's happening. Aggregation is a form of information, and it has value. So much value that some readers are willing to pay for compiled information that they could otherwise get for free.

Amazon is very good at collecting data, and very good at recommending books to readers. But there are many ways to skin a cat. The fact that these "reading checklist" books seem to be so popular shows that some readers want aggregation in ebook form. I've even seen some ask for pdf form, to print out. Why miss an opportunity to connect with fans and potential fans if this is how they prefer to find you?

Media industries are filled with cautionary tales about companies not listening to customers. One that springs to mind is Napster. Rather than study and learn from consumers who were trading digital files, they tried to shut it down with lawyers and cries of copyright infringement. As a result, Apple--a computer company--is now the biggest music retailer in the world. If the record companies had listened to what consumers wanted (easy to download digital files) they could have made billions.

If some readers want a handy ebook checklist to make sure they get all of my work, it makes sense to give it to them.

My approach seems like the best way for me to give it a go. It works for all Amazon stores, it will allow new fans (and longtime fans) to easily find and read all of my ebooks in order, and it should be easy to maintain and update as I release new titles.

But if anyone has any suggestions or better ideas, I'm all ears.

Visibility and discoverabilty seem to be the biggest hurdles for authors to overcome. Remember, sales isn't about selling something to someone who doesn't want it. It's about informing people who are looking to buy the type of things you're selling.

You want readers to be able to find you in as many ways as possible. And once they find you, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to read you. Every extra step they have to take--even if it's just one extra click--will lose you some customers.

If someone likes your kind of books, you should be very easy to find and acquire. If you have more than twenty titles, that might mean you should consider a reading order checklist.

Thoughts?