Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To "e" or not to "e"

(Photo - High school student in Ghana holds up an e-Reader donated by

I have been reading a book called Aiming at Amazon in which author Aaron Shepherd advises authors, mainly self-publishers, on steps to take to increase the sales of their books on Amazon. He suggests that authors choose to publish their books either in an electronic or a printed format. I can paraphrase his reasoning into a few simple truths:

1. The more sales that you have, the higher your book will be ranked on Amazon.
2. The higher your book is ranked, the higher it will be on the list when people type in keywords that match your book.
3. Most people only look at the first two pages of search results, they assume the rest are not relevant or not interesting.
4. If you have both an e-Book and a physical book on Amazon, they will be ranked individually and so your total sales will be split and your title as a whole will not be ranked as high as it should be based on the total number of sales.

It is a very convincing argument, and it would seem that if one was going to follow this advice, the natural step would be to publish only in electronic format. However, this is a piece of advice that has presented a significant dilemma for me as I prepare to release the third book in the Caribbean Adventure Series.

Both of my children have e-readers, but this was just more practical for us because we live in a place where it is difficult to get a steady supply of books for children in their age group. I also note an increasing number of children's books in electronic format, but I wonder if the e-book rage has reached to the point where I can risk releasing a children's book only in that format. On the other hand, I don't want to only do a traditional format as I think that the electronic version will be important in some of my target markets in the Caribbean where purchasing the book online and having it shipped is a barrier to purchase.

I hate to sell myself short, but my suspicion is that my place in the rankings won't be affected much if my sales volume is cut in half, so perhaps I can table this problem for my next best seller.


Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting in that Killing trail, which is only in ebook, is rated higher generally than any of my print books, which are in both formats.

Carol Mitchell said...

Very interesting, it supports the argument. Maybe it is just the authors who are hanging on to the idea of having a physical book they can touch and display!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Amazon ranking, may not necessarily be the best marker of success for some types of books. If your book is targeted for a market where it can be used as children's literature in schools (text book like), then print form is best.

For general readership in an area where many people have access to e-reader, electronic form is best. I say despite the recommendations, to reach the widest market, do both.

KeVin K. said...

Agreed. Go with both. If nothing else, because children's books are often bought as gifts, and a physical book is much more appreciated (by both giver and givee) than a ebook download code.

Liane Spicer said...

I'd go with both.