Thursday, April 07, 2016

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Reader Retention Plan? Part Two

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

In this Indie Publishing Paths series, we first discussed many of the main questions to consider as we figure out which path will work best for us. Those posts covered the steps we should go through to understand our options.

Once we know our goals and priorities and are ready to put our book up for sale, we need to decide on:

The second phase of our indie publishing journey is to determine how we can push ourselves along our chosen path toward success. Last time, we discussed how our goals affect whether we’d focus on maximizing income or maximizing readership.

Most authors fall somewhere between those ends and want to hold onto their readers because a committed readership is not only fun, but will also help an author earn more income. So in Part One, we started with a list of various approaches for keeping our readers.

We can…:
  • lead readers to purchase our next book
  • direct them to our newsletter to hear about future releases
  • entice them with extra content on our website
  • engage the reader in different ways, such as encouraging them to connect with us on social media and/or to leave a review
  • Etc., etc.

Those examples are roughly in order of most effective for additional income to least effective, so let’s now take a closer look at the first bullet and talk about how to lead readers to our other books. *smile*

Recap: How Can We Lead Readers to Our Other Books?

As we mentioned last time, there are a couple of different ways to let readers know about our other books. We can include…:
  • an “Also By” page in our frontmatter (the pages before the story starts), with links to all of our other books
  • an excerpt to another book (such as the next book in the series) in the backmatter (the pages after “The End”), with a “To Continue Reading” link
  • a cover and/or cover and back-cover blurb for another book(s) in the backmatter, with a “Grab Your Copy Here” link
  • a listing of our books (such as listing the rest of the series) in the backmatter, with buy links for each

For each of those approaches, the links could be retailer-specific buy links or links to more about our book on our website (where we’d have retailer-specific buy links). Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for those two options.

Option 1: Retailer-Specific Buy Links

Retailer-specific buy links send clicks to the buy pages for our books on each retailer. For example, the link would direct readers directly to our book’s page on Amazon or iBooks/iTunes or GooglePlay, etc.

Pros to Using Retailer-Specific Buy Links

Using retailer-specific buy links has many benefits for us—and for our readers. If someone is reading our book on their Kindle, and they want to check out our other books, a single click on an Amazon-specific buy link will take them to the next book on Amazon, and just one more click will allow them to purchase it. Likewise, if they’re reading the iBooks version of our book on their iPad, a single click on an Apple-specific buy link will take them to the next book in the iTunes store.

Those direct clicks to a purchase button are more convenient for readers, as they don’t have to navigate through menus and selections on an unfamiliar website. Each time a reader is faced with a choice, they might decide not to buy, so readers are more likely to follow through with a purchase with direct links. Not losing readers to frustration or fickleness is good for us too. A purchase means income and that we still have their attention as readers.

Cons to Using Retailer-Specific Buy Links

But there are difficulties involved with retailer-specific buy links as well. Obviously for each retailer, the links would be different, so we have to decide how to handle those multiple links.

Some authors choose to list multiple buy links in their books to cover all the retailers, much like how the retailers with my book, Ironclad Devotion, are listed below, with each linked to that retailer’s buy page. However, some retailers, such as Apple, don’t allow buy links for other retailers in books listed in their store, so we can’t include multiple buy links in our files to them.

The other option is to have multiple versions of our ebook files, one for each retailer. That solution comes with its own issues. If we pay for ebook formatting, we’d have to pay more for them to create multiple versions (a strong motivation for learning to do our own formatting perhaps).

In addition, creating multiple versions of our ebook files might work only if we distribute directly with the retailers, where we could upload the Amazon-specific file to Amazon and the Apple-specific file to Apple, etc. If we use a distributor, such as Draft2Digital, their system might not be able to handle multiple versions of the same title the way we’d like.

Option 2: Non-Retailer-Specific Buy Links

Non-retailer-specific buy links send clicks to a “clearinghouse” page, such as on our website. On that page, we’d give more information about our book and list the buy links to all our retailers, so readers could pick whichever retailer they wish. For an example, refer to the “clearinghouse” page for Ironclad Devotion.

Pros to Using Non-Retailer-Specific Buy Links

If we direct readers back to our website for purchase links, we have more control over the interaction. On our book’s page, in addition to all the retailer buy links, we could include a newsletter sign-up form and potentially get twice the contact with our readers. We could also include the covers and links to our other books (especially those in the same series) and potentially get multiple sales out of the visit. If we’ve set up our website for direct sales, we could sell our books to readers directly and keep all the money for ourselves, rather than paying a percentage to the distributor and/or retailer.

We’d have to worry about only one version of our ebook (or two, if we count a .mobi file for Amazon and an .epub file for everyone else). Especially if we’re paying someone to do our formatting, this single ebook version with non-specific links might be our only option—either because they don’t offer to create retailer-specific links or because of budgetary concerns.

If we update our file frequently—maybe to add our latest books to our Also By list in the previous books—it’s much less complicated to worry about only one version. We also wouldn’t have to worry about a retailer rejecting our file due to prohibited links.

Cons to Using Non-Retailer-Specific Buy Links

If a reader clicks through to our site and then has to click through to a retailer before reaching a purchase point, they’d obviously have more chances to get distracted before the sale. Also, in a closed environment, like a Kindle, readers expect to stay in Amazon’s online world, and being taken to an outside site can be jarring—possibly even causing them to close our site out of panic over where they were being taken to on the internet.

In addition, people are often more likely to make a forward-movement decision if faced with only limited options, while too many options (such as from too many retailer choices) can lead to paralysis. Think of visiting a restaurant with a huge menu and not knowing where to start for an understanding of why readers might simply close the browser tab if they become overwhelmed by choices. *smile*

Things to Consider about Buy Links: There’s No Right or Wrong

Our individual situations will determine the best approach for us and our books. For example, if our books are in the Kindle Unlimited program, where they’re exclusive to Amazon, there’s no reason not to set up our ebook file with Amazon-specific links, as we’d have no other retailers to direct readers to anyway.

We can also mix and match. If our best-selling retailer is Amazon, we could use Amazon-specific links in our .mobi file to Amazon and non-specific links in our .epub file to all the other retailers. That way, we wouldn’t have to create any extra versions—just the two formats that we have to set up anyway.

Or if we have a second retailer where we want to capture the most number of readers with another purchase from a direct link, we could create another file specific for that retailer. In other words, we don’t have to create a file with direct links for every retailer we use.

Notice that nowhere in the potential issues for either option did I mention the concern of our book’s purchase pages changing over time. We’ll get into how to avoid that worry next month. *smile* Until then, let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

After escaping Area 51 armed only with a ukulele, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | GooglePlay | Kobo | Additional Retailers

About Ironclad Devotion, the latest release in the Mythos Legacy series:

A faerie princess evading her fate…

Earth is no place for a faerie, but Kira can’t go home without dooming her people. Desperate to avoid the pull of her homeland, she fosters an abandoned girl, the child’s joy a source of much-needed energy.

A blacksmith with something to prove…

When Zachary Chase discovers he has a daughter, he’s determined to be part of his child’s life and not repeat his mother’s neglect. But to open the little girl’s heart, he must earn her foster mother’s trust.

One night is never enough…

Despite their rivalry, Kira and Zac’s desires tempt them into one no-consequences night. Yet the more passion flares between them, the more Kira risks destroying the life she’s carved out on Earth—and endangering those she cares about in both worlds.

Amazon | iTunes | GooglePlay | B&N | Kobo | Additional Retailers 


  1. This is some good information for bookmarking!

  2. I think I would go with making Amazon links for the Amazon eBook, and making non-retailer-specific links for my Smashwords (and retailers they distribute to) eBook. :D

    1. Hi Serena,

      That's probably the easiest, biggest-bang-for-the-buck approach. :) I'm glad this made the options clear for you!

  3. Jamie, thank you for another wonderful post. So many ideas for me to think about. Saving this for reference. Thanks, Janice for hosting Jamie's posts. :-)

    1. Hi Tracy,

      Thank YOU for stopping by! I'm happy to help. :)

  4. I haven't think about using retailer because my books are written in indonesian languange.

    1. Yes, unfortunately, much of this advice is focused on the U.S. publishing industry and market. But hopefully this will give you some ideas of what to look into for your situation. :)