Thursday, May 5

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

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

In this Indie Publishing Paths series, we first focused on how to decide which path will work best for us. 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 figure out how best to increase our chances for success along our chosen path. Whatever our goal, we’ll have a better chance of success if we can hold onto our readers from book to book.

So far, in the second part of this series, we’ve covered our options for…:
  • keeping our readers (such as leading them to our next book or to our newsletter)
  • using buy links to lead readers to our next book (with the pros and cons for each type of link)

As we discussed last time, our individual situations will determine the best approach for us and our books. But one thing we should prepare for is the possibility of links changing over time. Let’s take a look at how we can prevent problems.

The Fluid Nature of the Internet

Ever clicked on a link and gotten a 404-Not Found error? We probably all have.

Our internet browser program gives us that error when the page the link directs us to no longer exists. If we think of links and URLs like street addresses, a 404 error happens when we try to contact the resident (the page content) at an address, and we discover the person moved with no forwarding address (the page moved), or maybe they died (the page was deleted), or maybe the whole building was destroyed in a tornado (the whole site was deleted).

We obviously want to avoid that problem with our buy links. If someone is interested enough in our work to click a link to buy our next book, the last thing we want is for them to receive an error message with no way to get what they want.

Yet that possibility exists because the internet is fluid and dynamic. For example, we could…:
  • remove our books from retailers, such as to go exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select. What happens to any retailer-specific buy links in the back of our books directing readers to Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.?
  • switch from a distributor to publishing directly with a retailer, essentially deleting and re-adding our book—with a different sales page the second time around. What happens to any retailer-specific buy links directing readers to the old sales pages?
  • self-publish a traditionally published book after the rights have reverted back to us. What happens to the links from our self-published books directing readers to the publishers’ sales pages?
  • include links to an upcoming book before we have retailer sales pages for it. How can we include a link for readers to be notified of a book’s release and have them go to retailers once it’s available?

Sure, we can update our books files to link to the correct sales page with each change, but that could cost money with our formatter. Or what about readers who downloaded our books already? I don’t know about anyone else, but with my to-be-read pile, I often read books months after I download them. *smile*

How can we make sure our readers don’t hit an error message when our books’ sales pages change over time?


Redirects are the internet’s version of leaving a forwarding address. We can keep the same links in our book files and forward that link to wherever we want.

Every web address out there like or (or hundreds of others that we’ve all seen but might not have noticed) sends our clicks to somewhere else. Go to and we’re redirected to, but Amazon could change that destination address if they wanted. Given my ebook shopping habits, may as well lead to *smile*

There are several ways to do redirects, but if our author website is on WordPress, we can use a redirect plugin to set up a virtual forwarding address post office. For other options or methods, do a Google search to learn more about redirecting URLs.

(I use the Redirection plugin currently, and for Amazon links, I use the smartURL service to handle the international Amazon stores. Another popular Amazon-specific redirect service is BookLinker.)

No matter how we set up redirects, we need to think of:
  • the source URL address (this should be the unchanging link in our book files)
  • the destination URL address (this will be the always updated link for our book sales pages (or wherever else we want to direct traffic)) 

How Do Redirects Help Us?

Let’s go back to the four scenarios above for why our links might “go bad” and see how redirects would help:
  • Remove Books from Retailers: For example, if we remove our book from Apple iBooks, any links directly to that sales page would stop working unless
If the link in our book goes through a redirect (such as using a source address like, we could change the destination for that link to our book’s page on our site, where readers could see where our book was still available. No error message.
  • Switch from a Distributor to a Retailer-Direct or Self-Publish a Previously Published Book: For example, if we start off publishing through a distributor but decide to remove the middle-man and publish direct instead, or if we regain rights to our backlist and self-publish those books, any links to the sales pages will change (as the retailers will likely treat them as different books) and the old links will stop working unless
If the links in our other self-published books go through a redirect, we can change the destination to match the new sales page. No confusion. 
  • Include Links to Upcoming Book: For example, if we want to promote our next book, but we don’t have sales pages yet, we couldn’t include buy links unless
If we set up redirect links like our usual buy links (such as, we could have the destination initially set to our mailing list signup so readers would hear the release announcement, and then we could change the redirect to send readers to the sales page after the book was available. No lost clicks.

Get the feeling that redirects are helpful? *smile* Once we start using them, we might find even more uses. I have redirects set up for each book’s abbreviation, each book/retailer combination, each book’s Goodreads page, all of my social media accounts, and a few website pages as well.

For an example related to Unintended Guardian, my free book below:
  • leads to my Unintended Guardian web page on my site.
  • leads to Unintended Guardian’s sales page on the reader’s local Amazon store
  • leads to Unintended Guardian’s sales page on Apple (/ugko is for Kobo, /uggp is for Google Play, etc.)
  • leads to Unintended Guardian on Goodreads
  • forwards to my Pinterest account (/facebook is for Facebook, etc.)
  • gives me a shortcut link for my mailing list so I don’t always have to type out the full address

If every link in our ebook files is a redirect, we won’t have to worry about a link going bad and losing readers to an error message (unless our chosen redirect option stops working). In addition, if every link in our ebooks is a redirect, we’ll also always be able to send our readers somewhere, even if our next book isn’t complete yet. *smile* Until next time, 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.

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About Unintended Guardian, the free short story introduction to The Mythos Legacy: 

A shapeshifting gryphon cursed to eternal darkness…

Sunlight shouldn’t be deadly to Griff Cyrus. Determined to break his curse, he follows an oracle’s bizarre instructions to have a magical package shipped to his apartment. Since when do brown trucks deliver mystical cures?

A lonely woman craving the spice of life…

Kala Kaneko’s social life couldn’t be more bland. When a strange parcel arrives at her door by mistake, she seizes the excuse to introduce herself to the intended recipient, her mysterious neighbor.

Fate has a twisted sense of humor…

Griff expects the package to free him from the curse, but opening the box unleashes a mythical creature bent on Kala’s death. Yet if Griff follows his instincts to protect her, he could sacrifice his last chance at freedom.

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  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cool idea! :D (Serena's shortest comment ever.)

  3. It's a very efficient way to selling our books. Thanks a lot, btw.