Ebooks are a huge market these days. Everyone knows the market share is growing. But the one problem with ebooks is when an author is making appearances, they’re often not readily available to sell. Interested readers have to go back to a computer or ereader and download them. And if the bookstore doesn’t have Wifi, it may not happen. Oh sure, they promise to do it later, but often those sales never materialize or, at least, there’s no effective way to measure them that tells you how successful your author appearances really are. Whereas people will buy paper books on the spot, and, often on impulse. So how do you take advantage of those sales with your ebooks for people who might still think the paper version is too expensive for their budget?
Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch are friends of mine and they are brilliant, not just as writers, but as business people. Their blogs are filled with all kinds of great advice, warnings and tips for writers. It’s no surprise that their blogs provided the answer to this delimma for me. In fact, I saw it in action at Larry Smith’s bookseller tables at Conclave in Detroit: ebook cards of Kris’ books. What are they?
Well on the outside, they look like this (works in progress):
They are pocket sized, greeting card-like brochures printed on light card stock, featuring the book’s cover and descriptions, etc. But inside, they contain a code for downloading the book when the buyer gets home. Yep. They buy it off your table, folded like a card and sealed with two of those round disk sealers that come on newsletters and mailers all the time. But the difference is, they download them after their already bought using codes and the weblink listed inside.
Here’s an example of the inside:
And yes, the code is fake, of course. But it won’t be on the real thing. With Smashwords or Paypal, you can change the codes whenever you want, so once an event is over, make a new code, then just hand write in on the cards for the next event or, even better, print labels with new code to go over the existing code. That way you can match downloads using the code with sales from your events to keep track of anyone who might “loan” the code to a friend or spread the word.
I think you get the idea. The beauty is that you can make these yourselves using Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher and then print them on your printer as you need them. I get two out of each sheet so I tend to take them with me about 20 each to events. Remember to offset the margins properly so they print on both sides lined up correctly. Then trim them down with a paper cutter, fold them, clip on those sticky round disks and you’re good to go. Note how I also list my other books with ISBNs so people can find them later.
You can even autograph these ebook cards so that ereading folk take home a signed book cover in effect. It can be set on a shelf or kept in a scrapbook, etc. very easily for collectors.
I think this is a brilliant idea Smith and Rusch have. They’ve even gone so far as to get theirs placed in stores. I’m just getting started with it, but to me, the possibilities are endless. And having these on hand can only help increase sales to people who are excited about the book on the spot but whose enthusiasm might fade later. After all, people are confronted with lots of books and items for sale at events and cons. It would be disappointing if they got distracted and never got around to checking out your books after they seemed so excited about them.
So, ebook cards, another do-it-yourself solution. Yes, professional printers could do these for you but they cost a lot more and you’d have to buy them in larger volumes. My total cost making mine was an hour of time for the original set up (doing a second book took 10 minutes just to modify data and change images) and then 1 ream of cardstock at around $7.50. That’s 250 sheets and thus 500 potential cards. 600 round/waffle mailing seals came in a pack for $8.67. So less than $17 total. Not a bad investment if you ask me. For what it’s worth…
By the way, when they’re done, they look like this and they fit in a standard business card holder:
P.S. If you want to borrow my .doc template, I’ll happily send it to you. Just ask.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Book sell sheets are a key component of publicity for books in traditional publishing. Having a professional sell sheet can help distinguish your book from thousands of others and really help it get noticed. It’s important that it stand out from the crowd, because a mid-size bookstore can receive a hundred or more sell sheets a year. For your book to get noticed, you need to distinguish yourself and your book from the crowd. A professional presentation, careful selection of items to include, and proper placement of wording can make all the difference in the hands of the bookstore’s buyer on the other end.
Although you can do one book sell sheet for whole series, typically a sell sheet exists for each book you release.
Professional book publicist Adonna Pruette explains: “When you are making efforts to promote your new novel, you want to walk into the bookstore with at least two things in hand – your books (buy some to take with you!) and your sell sheet. You want to be able to hand the manager, owner, or book buyer an attractive sheet that will act as an actual sales piece after you leave. It’s wise to spend some time reading up on the basic rules of effective sales copy to make sure that your sell sheet makes the grade. You want to present your book (and yourself) well on paper so that your book can get it’s foot in the door at that bookstore.
“Please remember while you are designing your sell sheet to try and make it as quickly scannable as possible. You aren’t trying to bog them down with a full page of paragraphs. Use color, lists, and boxes where possible and effective to make it a quick read with all of the info that the store needs. The person that you hand this sheet too will read it just as you would – they are going to quickly scan it from top to bottom with their eye stopping briefly on focal points on the way down.”
Let’s cover the basic information suggested or expected, look at some examples, and then talk about how to make your own, okay?
This is the sell sheet for my novel The Worker Prince. It’s probably easier to just click on it and open a separate screen so you can view it as I go through the elements. I have marked them on the sheet for visual reference. But here’s a breakdown:
1. Book title. Make it big, use the font from the cover and put it at the top. The title of your book is the most important thing on the page. Try the squint test. Look at your sell sheet and squint. Can you see the title really well? Make sure the font is very readable. If not, try adding spacing between the letters o u t just a bit. If that still doesn’t help, then change the font to something similar but more readable than what is on the cover of your book.
2. Sub-title (if you have one). Not as large as the title though.
3. Next, a brief book teaser description. Two paragraphs max. Don’t tell the whole story. Keep it open ended so they want to find out what happens. Leave them with questions they just have to get answered! Get a friend or fiction loving neighbor to read over your description and see if they want to know more about your book after reading it. Do they start to ask you questions about it? That’s a good tip off for you that it is “just right”.
4. Basic data: book categories, include the number of pages, ISBN (this is super important), all formats available, pricing per format, and publication info. (Stores will use this to look it up right away.)
5. Special honors, especially national ones come next, followed by blurbs or excerpts from reviews which demonstrate your book’s quality or appeal. Use the more well known reviewers or larger book blog review snippets toward the top of your reviews section. You will bold the reviewer’s name or site name to make it stand out more than the review itself usually. This practice will make your sell sheet a much more scannable read.
6. Which book distributors can your book be ordered from, if any? Two of the largest are Ingram Book Company (http://www.ingrambook.com ) and Baker & Taylor ( http://www.btol.com ). Adonna says that the store will want to know if your book can be ordered along with the normal book order that they place to their suppliers. If not, make sure that complete ordering info is on your sell sheet: Publisher’s name, web address, phone number, and email.
In cases of nonfiction, you may wish to bullet point your platform and what you offer as a speaker and expert here. Why should you be chosen? What do you offer which no one else can? What distinguishes you?
7. CALL THEM TO ACTION: Ask them to order copies and give them the info to do it NOW!
8. Sell yourself, not just the book, with a brief bio and contact info, including 1 or 2 (max) social media accounts. Make it easy to go directly to you. You’re the one with whom they want a personal relationship. Not just an order desk.
9. If you can’t give them an ARC (they cost money, of course), then tell them how to get a peek inside right now. Tell them where they can read an excerpt in big, bold, colored letters that say FREE. This also gives them a good reason to hold on to the sell sheet. If they’re intrigued by all of the rest, they’ll look into it.
10. Always include the publisher’s logo, if you have one, and the book cover shot and your photo. Be professional. If your book is traditionally published, even by a small press, this helps it to stand out as gatekeepers have approved it.
Here are links to sample sell sheets. One covers a series, the others individual books.
You can create these Sell Sheets in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher fairly easily. Having a publicist create your sell sheet isn’t a necessity but it can be helpful if you still feel lost or unsure about your sell sheet. In my case, publicist Adonna Pruette looked mine over for tweaks after the fact. She also suggested this alternate layout as yet another option:
My version was created using Publisher and Adonna’s using Word. Either way, text and photo boxes and other tools, it’s fairly easy to create one.
Adonna has some final thoughts:
“Your sell sheet is an actual marketing piece. It’s not just a piece of paper that you should throw together haphazardly. After you’re gone, a store employee may see it on the counter three hours later, check out your book info, read it, and then ask the manager to order in a few. This is marketing material will be used over and over again to sell your book to the book buyers. Take your time pulling your sheet together. Make sure it looks really nice. No typos! Color printed (if color adds to your layout). Attention to detail matters here and it just may sell you quite a few books.”
Ok, once you have a Sell Sheet, what do you do with it? Well, that’s what we’ll talk about Monday in Part 2: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Book Sell Sheets. So meantime, get to work on those Sell Sheets. OMG Blogging guy just gave me homework! Why yes, yes, I did.
Adonna has agreed to a special offer exclusively for the visitors here. PR Quick Check$35 – Adonna will check your current sell sheet offering general guidelines as well as give you tips for how to revise and improve it yourself to increase it’s marketing value for bookstores. PR Sell Sheet Review – If your sheet needs more than just a few tips, she can fix it up for you for a range from $50 – $150 depending on how much work is needed. You will be given a quote before any work is completed. Custom Book Sell Sheet – Created for your book from scratch for $200 (which is $100 off of the normal fee for this type of detailed service). Contact her at [email protected] to get started. From DIY help to full service PR, there’s something for everyone in there. You must mention this site in your email to her to get these discounts! Enjoy!
Adonna Pruette is a freelance professional publicist that works with fiction authors and publishers to create digital PR as well as traditional media outreach. Her clients range from well known writers like urban fantasy author Faith Hunter (www.faithhunter.net) to debut authors such as Lillian Archer (Twitter: @LilliansBooks). Her online home at TheAuthorPro.com (http://www.TheAuthorPro.com) is her current WIP. You can contact her at adonna AT theauthorpro.com or connect with her on Twitter @PassionMuse.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.