My local mall doesn’t have a lot to offer. You might think that’s crazy–why would the city mall in Fargo, ND be lacking? Joking aside, there aren’t many stores in the mall anymore. “Back in the day”, there used to be something for everyone: toy stores, candy stores, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores for every family income range. Back to school used to be an exciting day-long event.
Now, not so much.
The other day I noticed they are putting in a Sephora–that’s expensive makeup to anyone who doesn’t know.
Last month they opened an Athleta to replace Gap. That’s an expensive workout clothing store to anyone who doesn’t know.
I wondered why they put in an Athleta when we got a Lululemon last year. That’s more expensive workout clothes if you didn’t know. Pair those stores with a Dry Goods and a Francesca, and the only affordable place left is JC Penney with customer service so bad I don’t bother to shop there. I don’t want to go through the hassle of paying for something if I find something I want.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this, and my point is, if you’re financially challenged, you’re not shopping at my local mall. You’re going to bring your limited spending money to places like Kohl’s (don’t forget your coupon!), TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and Marshall’s.
This made me start thinking about where the mall finds their customers, and how indie authors find their readers.
Whether my mall has intended to do so or not, they are shutting out the little shoppers. Shoppers who can’t afford $100 dollars for workout leggings. Shoppers who could spend $100 at Kohl’s and buy three or four pieces of clothing–maybe more.
When you price your book at launch and you choose if your book is going to be in Kindle Select to take part in the Kindle Unlimited program, or wide (on other platforms like Books and Nook) you are consciously deciding where your readers are coming from and how much money they have.
In KU, readers pay $9.99 a month to read an unlimited number of books. Granted, not all books are in KU–a lot of traditionally published books are not, so a reader is sacrificing selection for value (though with the number of books published every year, month, and day that’s not much of a sacrifice if you ask me).
Anyway, so KU readers are one type of readership. They may be whale readers and read a book a day, or every two days, and their subscription fee pays for itself in a week and the rest of the month really is “free” for them. They may love indie authors and binge every book that author has written before they move on to another author. No matter how or what they read, they have limited income and $9.99 a month is a bargain.
Being wide cultivates a different readership, though you do have more flexibility with your prices and sales–if you choose to use them and many indies do not. When indies are wide they expect readers to pay for their books (duh). They can’t be borrowed like the KU model (unless you’ve enrolled your book in the program Kobo offers, but if I’m not mistaken you have to publish directly to Kobo instead of using an aggregator for the option to join).
Readers on other platforms may have more disposable cash and will buy your $2.99 book if they really want to read it. They won’t blink an eye at spending $11.97 for a four-book series at $2.99/each. Sometimes indies will do a permafree book, meaning it’s free everywhere, usually the first book in a long series to draw readers in, or they’ll run a .99 cent sale, but when you’re wide, you have to figure out your marketing strategy or no one will know you’re having a sale.
I’ll scroll through Twitter and see a book promo that makes me interested enough to click on it. Sometimes I’ll click on that link and see the book isn’t in KU, but the author hasn’t added any other store links to the tweet to indicate they are selling on other platforms, too. That ends up wasting my time, and other readers’ time when they have a KU subscription and are looking for books to read in KU. What’s the point of going wide if all you’re going to do is promote your Amazon buy-link?
This isn’t a blog post about enrolling into KU versus selling your books wide. There are plenty of those, and I don’t need to add my voice to the noise. But what this blog post is about is knowing who your reader is and guesstimating how much money they have to spend on books. With all the free content out there, and sales, too, a reader with a KU subscription or limited funds isn’t likely to spend $4.99 on an ebook. Especially if that ebook is only 50k words like a lot of romances out there. My opinion may be unpopular, especially with indies being told these days to “know your worth.” I know my worth, and I also respect my readers’ pocketbooks.
So what exactly am I proposing?
*If you’re wide, promote your books and all their platforms. You can use Books 2 Read, a universal link creator that will create a link to your book that will point your reader in the direction of their favorite retailer.
*Make your reader aware of sales. You can use social media for this, and your newsletter, but also use promo sites that let readers know your book is on sale. Some readers who like you when your books aren’t in KU or Kobo Plus have to wait until your book is on sale, and that’s the choice you’re making not enrolling into one of these programs.
*Read Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebvre. This is a great resources for reaching all the readers you can while publishing wide. Which is why you went wide in the first place, right?
Joanna Penn interviewed him recently on her podcast, and you can listen to it here:
*Research how to sell books at regular price. More often than not you’re asking readers to buy a book at full price. Some readers still have a hard time swallowing the idea of parting with money for something they can’t hold in their hands–like an ebook. Check out David Gaughran’s video on how to sell your book at full price:
*Research how to reach wide readers with ads specifically for wide books. David Gaughran also has a really awesome book on how to use BookBub ads, and you can find it here. Mal and Jill Cooper has a fabulous book out on how to use FB ads, and you can find it here.
*Make your books available in the library system. This is one of the sad things about having to be exclusive with Amazon while my books are in KU. I can’t add my ebooks to the library system. When you are wide, aggregators like Draft2Digital will enroll your books in library systems like Overdrive and bibliotheca. Ask readers to request your book from their local libraries.
*Go wide with your paperbacks too. Clicking expanded distribution on Amazon with your paperbacks is limiting and earns you less royalties than if you publish with IngramSpark. IngramSpark will distribute your paperbacks to all the online book retailers and also enroll your book into the library system.
My local mall has lost sight of who its customer is. Unfortunately because of what they offer (or don’t) I can no longer be one of them. I can’t afford to shop at most of their stores, and the one or two that interest me aren’t worth the hassle of finding a parking spot, navigating down the corridors to the store and then leaving again. Customers with money can browse the high-end selection from Lululemon or buy games and other computer/gaming equipment from Best Buy–an anchor store that replaced Sears when the chain went out of business.
When you sell anything, you have to know who your customer is so you can tell them about the products you have. Probably the most profound piece of marketing advice I ever heard was this: Don’t force customers come to you, you go to your customer. I don’t know who said it first, I think Craig Martelle said it in one of his YouTube videos–it could have been anyone in indie marketing space, honestly–and it’s true. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to books. My mall needs to show me they want my business by offering me stores I can afford to shop at. Since they aren’t, they’re telling me they don’t care about my business, that the customers who can afford to shop there are enough for them.
When you’re wide and you only put your Amazon link in a tweet, you’re telling a potential customer that a) you don’t care if they have a KU subscription or you’re hoping they don’t and b) you don’t care if they like to read on a different platform.
I don’t care if you’re wide or not, your business plans are not any of my concern, but if you are, I can’t buy your book, not unless you somehow let me know your book is on sale. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of reader my income has turned me into and there are a lot of readers like me out there.
What’s really interesting is that just this morning I was listening to Andrea, Lindsay, and Jo on their newest podcast episode of Six Figure Author, and Andrea polled her newsletter subscribers. She asked them why her newest series hasn’t done so well, and the resounding answer was that readers lost a lot of disposal income due to COVID. Also a lot of people just weren’t in the mood to read because the past year has been so stressful. If you want to listen to the podcast you can listen here:
Find your reader, market to them.
Coming up, I’m going to have an author interview with Barbara Avon and maybe a giveaway too! Have a good week, everyone!