Your business helps people. Through products, service, and ambitious goals for improvement and development, your organization works hard to make a difference for your customers. So why does your influence have to end there? Publishing educational materials and periodicals about your customers’ lives, industry trends, and general useful information can deliver value in dynamic and engaging ways. Truly, avenues for customer engagement are changing every day and putting value in the palms of their hands is a strong way to leave a lasting impression and build a constructive relationship.
One such avenue being explored is the ebook. With the growing ubiquity of tablet devices, it’s no wonder why tech-savvy firms are giving the format a try. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Apple reported their highest earnings ever after the release of the iPad, which took off like a shot, crossing the million-device threshold twice as fast as the popular iPhone. And if customers aren’t holding iPad’s in their hands, then they probably just favor the Kindle. After selling 3 million devices by December 2010, Morgan Stanley estimates the device will result in $4.5 billion in sales in 2013. What does this market penetration mean for your business? A ready channel of useful information and communication between you and your customers.
Sounds like a pretty solid venture right? Well, before we hit the keyboards, let’s understand what an ebook is and how it differs from its “analog” counterpart. For starters, let’s consider some misconceptions about books.
There are three key misconceptions to dispel before you start writing. The first is that a book must be 200 pages. The reason this understanding is flawed comes from the necessity of 200 pages to economically justify printing, publishing, and distributing a conventional book. Since ebooks are distributed without physical material, this conventional length requirement is not applicable. In fact, the second misconception piggybacks off of this: books come from the heart. In fact, many engaging and profoundly important books were written from the heart, but as a business, your goal should be to solve a problem. This is the primary reason that readers look to business blogs and ebooks: to solve a problem in a concise manner. The final myth is that books take a long time to write. Due to the length of the books you will likely be writing, you will actually find that small books are faster and easier to write and edit. In all, many of the concerns associated with conventional books do not apply simply because your audience is looking for something very particular when they download your work.
For that reason, brainstorming topics and vetting them is your next goal. Consider what value your company delivers and how it does so. If you are a bakery, perhaps a series of ebooks featuring cooking tips or favorite recipes would be worthwhile. If you are a construction firm, a series on safety could benefit smaller organizations and do-it-yourself-ers. Identify what your company has to offer based on the know-how and products you offer. Next, break that idea down into a series. For the baker, consider a book for cupcakes, a book for breads, and a book for novelty desserts. For the construction company, this may be how to select proper safety equipment, what to look out for when working on a project, and how to make your home or business safer. Next, perform market research to determine whether or not your series has any potential. The shear novelty of the ebook may seem attractive at first, but considering the time and effort required to make one, even a short one, your focus should be on what you will see in return, be that increased sales, reputation, or traffic.
Going to Market
Okay, so you’ve got a great idea and your research has shown that it has potential. In addition, you feel strongly that your series will deliver real, recognizable value to our customers in a way that will benefit your organization. Great! The next step is the hardest: polishing your work and getting it into the hands of eager readers.
Distributing your ebook can take many forms, some more affordable than others. There are several tools available to enterprising writers and organizations, each providing a distribution or publication solution. Clicktotweet offers a free and easy way to advertise products over Twitter by providing your corporate handle and a link to the product. MailChimp is another affordable tool, free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails sent per month. Unlimited email plans can be purchased, starting at $10/month for 0-500 subscribers. During writing and development, you may find the $40 Scrivener handy as an all-in-one workflow, canvas, and publishing tool. For cover art, Digital Book World recommends 99 Designs, a crowd-sourced design site where you can hold contests for art starting at $299.
As for sales, a couple of options exist, both with pros and cons. E-Junkie is an ecommerce tool that allows you to distribute the series through your own website. For $5 a month, you can list up to 10 products with up to 50 megabytes of storage on their servers. For $18 dollars, you can keep the data on your own servers and utilize their services for sales. The advantage? You retain the profit from your sales. Another channel, the Amazon Kindle marketplace, is free up-front and plugs you into a library readily accessed by millions of users. However, the service comes with its own price. While your ebook series will be placed at users’ fingertips, the saturated marketplace, coupled with the fact that Amazon keeps a cut of the sales, may not be worth it. In either instance, the key is to identify what works for your organization.
So now that you have the lay of the land, the question has to be asked: should your business create an ebook series? To be frank, that’s for you to decide. However, if you can deliver value to your customers in a real way, within budget, and have the personnel available to create the series, then chances are the option is for you. Just remember that your series is a part of your marketing efforts, and that return is important. Keep it simple, think of it as an extension of your product and brand, and write to solve a problem. When the five-star ratings and new customers come in, you’ll be happy you took the time.