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Beyond the Free Downloadable E-book

Beyond the Free Downloadable E-book

Free downloadable e-book PDFs: You’ve seen them everywhere, and you may even have one on your own business’s website. They’re designed to build interest, to go a little more in-depth into your company’s philosophy or process, and to bulk up your list of email contacts. There’s nothing inherently wrong with free downloadable e-books. They have their place in the business world, and when executed well, they can be useful tools for specific objectives.

The problem with these types of products is that they can only reach so far. Your audience is limited to the people who visit your website, and who are also willing to download the file. This is an important audience—these are people who have already shown interest in your business, and it’s great to give them some deeper content that will build loyalty. Still, it’s a limited audience.

When you put the time and effort into creating something of value like an e-book, you want it to have a big impact. E-books have the potential to make a huge impact! With practically everyone carrying either a smartphone, a tablet, or an e-reader (or all three) these days, e-books have never been more convenient. The catch is that they’re only convenient if they’re visible in the right places and easy to access.

E-book Retailers

 In the last five years, portable devices like smartphones have become more and more popular. We’re no longer chained to our desks—we’re out and about, working on the go. We’re consuming information at an incredibly fast pace, and our mobile devices help us to do so easily through apps and media stores.

As such, when we look for books, we typically go to one of the large e-book retailers. Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords are currently the most popular choices, all of which have huge libraries of options, easy-to-use search functions, and are convenient for mobile users.

For example, searching “digital marketing strategy” yields over 5,000 e-books on Amazon alone. If you have a company that specializes in digital marketing and you’re thinking about creating a downloadable e-book about strategy, you want that book to show up in those search results!

People don’t typically download e-books impulsively or by accident. Reading an e-book is different than clicking on a link to an article or mindlessly browsing a social media feed for interesting information. People purposefully go looking for e-books when they need to dive deeper into a subject. They know an e-book is a larger time commitment than a blog or an article, so a search for a book is much more specific.

If you’re going to take the time to create an e-book, don’t miss out on all the people who may be actively seeking it out. It’s not enough to wait for people to show up at your website—be where they’re already looking. This will increase the likelihood of someone finding your book and then choosing to do business with you based on what they’ve read.

Widely Available Is Better

 Amazon is the largest e-book retailer in the world, hands down. According to the October 2015 Author Earnings Report, Amazon makes up around 74% of the e-book market. With a statistic like that, do any of the other sites even matter?

The answer is a resounding, “yes.” Amazon offers some interesting incentives to authors who maintain exclusivity in the Kindle Store, but if your goal for your book is to bring potential customers to your business rather than to make money from book sales alone, then you want your book to be as widely available as possible. Amazon may have the largest market share right now, but the other retailers are fierce competitors and have loyal followings.

In particular, iBooks should not be ignored. Right now, iBooks has around 10% of the e-book market, and you may wonder if it’s worth the hassle for such a significantly smaller piece of the market. However, when your book caters to a niche audience (as many books by entrepreneurs do), the fact that the iBooks Store is smaller than the Kindle Store can actually be an advantage. Since fewer books are available on iBooks, the competition for visibility in each category is lower than it is on Amazon. The same can be said about Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

To make sure your e-book has the biggest impact possible, make it visible in all the places where people might be looking for it. You can set the price however you like, even making your book free, if that’s what you think your audience will respond to. Of course, you can make it available as a downloadable PDF on your website, also, but now you can show your customers where else it’s available. Knowing it’s available on major retail sites adds a whole new level of credibility to your e-book.

The (Small) Catch

 Making your e-book available on retail channels is a smart move in the long run. It dramatically increases your reach, and it opens up marketing opportunities for you that go far beyond the e-book itself (a subject for a different article entirely).

The only downside is that it requires some extra effort. Understanding the finer details of editing and formatting is important if you’re going to submit your book to retailers. Plus, each retailer is a little different, and policies can change from week to week.

It is possible to learn by doing, so if you have some extra time, the DIY approach can work. If you’re like many business owners and you’re too busy to study digital publishing practices, there are companies out there who can help you. This is Maven Publishing’s specialty—we believe e-books can be powerful marketing tools for businesses, and we love being able to help at any stage of the process to make sure your e-book is having the impact we know it can.

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by Jessica Dawson // Editor-in-Chief of Founder Nonfiction, a boutique publishing house of non-fiction, making published authors of entrepreneurs, business people, and professionals.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.