1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    How Do You Buy eBooks?

    Discussion in 'Electronic Publishing' started by Steerpike, Jan 30, 2014.

    I was having this discussion today with an author who is self-publishing, and was considering where to put his assets in terms of selling his books. He has already had the services of an editor and feels like it is ready to go. The conversation centered around things like blog tours, social media, ad campaigns, and so on.

    It got me thinking about how I buy eBooks, whether traditionally published or self-published, and I realize that I've never bought any as a result of blogs or ads, and maybe only one or two after seeing them mentioned in social media.

    Instead, most of my buying comes from the same behavior I exhibit in bookstores - browsing. I'll go to Amazon, Kobo, or whatever, and just browse through the books, selecting the genre category I'm interested in at the time and just browsing page by page until something catches my attention.

    I talked to my brother, who also buys a lot of eBooks, and he does the exact same thing.

    It makes me wonder whether a lot of time spent posting in various blogs, or creating an ad campaign for the book, is likely to have a significant impact. I thought I'd throw the question out to the forum - how do you shop for eBooks?
     
  2. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I'm still catching up on classics. I'm trying to get "The Left Hand of Darkness" but google doesn't have it (Le Guin hates google) and Amazon wants too much.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Word of mouth and recommendations are the biggest factors for me. That's how I buy most of my books. I've never bought books based on campaigns, blogs, or social media.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My current route for new books has been through looking up author interviews on the web. An interview I recently read with China Miéville put Mary Russell's The Sparrow and Dan Simmon's The Terror in my hands. Author's often speak about other books they themselves are reading, inspired them, interested them, other writers they admire, etc. My next interview search will be of Dan Simmons, see what tickles his fancy. :)
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of the ebooks that I've bought were from traditional publishers and I got them because:

    - I was already familiar with the author, generally from having bought a paper book in the past.
    - It was a well-known reference that for whatever reason I didn't care to own in paper form. (Often computer or technical books--they get outdated so fast that the fat chunk of paper annoys me.)
    - It was extremely cheap or free and I noticed it while looking at other things on Amazon. I don't think that any of those have led to any subsequent real-money purchases.
    - One purchase did come from online information, but that was because I'd been a member of the same fairly small mailing list as the author, for years.
     
  6. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Most of mine come from Amazon recommendations and 'also boughts'. Amazon are generally good at finding the kind of books I'd like to read, though it's been somewhat muddied by downloading a couple of thousand free books.
     
  7. iPatrick
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    iPatrick Member

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    I normally read the first three-five pages. I don't like what other recommned. I need to see it myself.
     
  8. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes I'll see browse to see what's cheap on Kindle that day, but usually it's from either recommendations, reviews or Amazon's 'other people who viewed this' feature.

    It's worth noting that when done properly, ads never cause you to think you've bought a book because of them. Display ads are rarely meant to be direct response, they're just there to get the book's name into your head, so it stands out more from the crowd when you're browsing. As such, it's an absolute bastard to measure how 'worth it' it is - the best I can suggest to your friend is to test it. Do a month without an ad campaign, then add it into the mix. If you get a better ROI, keep doing it until you don't.

    And if he is doing direct response, make sure he's got a way of tracking sales from every one - it sounds obvious, but I've lost count of the number of businesses I've worked with where that came as a revelation.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    As far as ebooks specifically, it's almost always from a communication from amazon. They're having some sort of special, where a book I'm interested in is like $1.99. Or I want the real book, but there is a huge price discrepancy between the real book and the ebook. Like the paper book is $20, but the ebook is $3.

    BUT, as far as books in general that I want, a lot of that does, even indirectly, stem from the big promotional campaigns. Often, I see an author making the talk show rounds -- John Stewart, Colbert, other late night shows, sometimes the cable shows, sometimes the morning shows, etc. Or I see a book review in the NYT, Washington Post, sometimes even People or Costco's magazine. Sometimes I see a book pushed/highlighted in Shelf Awareness, or from amazon emails/best of the month highlights. Or I'll see some article about the book on a website like Huffington Post or something. And then, there's the word-of-mouth, that I hear from friends or members of my book club, or sometimes through a goodreads or amazon recommendation, based on books I've read.

    Sometimes, as I've mentioned, I'll end up with the ebook due to it's vastly reduced price. But I never seek out an ebook specifically, because it is a far 2nd choice for me as far as book format. So, I NEVER am in a position where I think, "I'd really like an ebook. What's available?" I therefore never seek out self-published authors (since these days, they're mostly publishing in ebook format).

    As Nige noted, direct ads also may be at play. They will increase the awareness of a book, without readers realizing why they've become more aware of that book, and because they have this greater awareness, may be more receptive to learning more about it, leading them to buy it.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I almost never buy any books just by browsing. The vast majority of books - print or ebook - I've bought are ones I already knew about. Family or friends recommended them, or I saw reviews in the New Yorker or somewhere else, or I saw an author interview in the Paris Review or the Daily Beast or somewhere else, etc. etc. etc. When I buy a book, it's not random.

    Also, I don't think I've been inside a bookstore in years. (I live in the west end of the San Fernando Valley, and good bookstores around here are as common as unicorns.) I buy almost all my books from Amazon. Occasionally, if it's something out of print, I'll buy from Ebay. But that's about it these days. Amazon is great because you can see so much information about the book before buying - you can read samples, see customer reviews, etc. Often, if I see something on Amazon I'm interested in, I search around the web to see if the author has a website, or if there are professional reviews available, etc. I do some research before I buy.

    My process is the same for print or ebook. Very occasionally, an ebook impresses me enough that I want a print copy - I still prefer to read print books. They're more beautiful to look at and hold than a Kindle.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in case you want to factor in the other side:

    i don't

    never have, never will

    and i've been reading books for 70 years, been buying 'em for over 60 years...

    i prefer having a print book in my hands and turning the pages, to scrolling down a screen of any kind... will go on buying/reading 'real' books for as long as i've got left in this life...
     
  12. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    And there you have the problem that faces epublishers. No one here responded and said they went to buy a book because someone dropped in on a forum and touted their book. Worse yet, there are so many lousy self published books that anyone who has bought one has a bias against looking at another. And people who are looking through the offerings may have to wade through the bog of crap for fifty or more titles before finding one that's readable.

    That's why I elected to make the first volume of my Sisterhood series free, with the hope that more people would at lest look at it—and if they made it to the end, pick up one of the follow on books. It worked, but I'm not getting rich. :eek:
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    "Dropped in" no, but I've bought 3 books from authors I know from a forum, (not this one). There are several people here I'd at least read the beginning of their books and buy if I liked them. That's one benefit of ebooks, you can read enough of the beginning to know if you want to read the rest. Obviously you can do that in the bookstore as well, but it's not as convenient as reading from my IMac or Mac book.

    I've bought (or gotten from the library) a lot of books after hearing the authors on CSPAN's Book TV and at our Town Hall venue. But those are all non-fiction.

    Word of mouth is how I found more than a few fiction books. My son is a common source for me.

    I've only gone to an author's blog after reading one of their books. I don't think the point of the blog is to directly sell books, I think the idea is to get your name out there so people recognize it when they hear it.

    EL James had 30K readers on a fanfic site before she published 50 Shades.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, the samples of eBooks are important. I don't care if a book is self-published or traditionally-published. I'll know from the sample whether I am interested or not, and so far the ones that really draw me in with a good story in the sample have turned out to be good. I've pulled up other samples that were just terrible, and of course I don't buy those.
     
  15. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    I'm a browser, just flipping around until a cover catches my eye.
     
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  16. yanlins
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    yanlins Member

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    I read reviews, preferably on Amazon, or they come by the word of mouth. I've never bought a book because of any online campaigns. Price too is important to me (cause for eBooks, well, if I wanted to spend twenty bucks on a book I'd buy the physical copy).

    @mammamaia Have you tried reading from a Kindle?
     
  17. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    I buy books exclusively by what the cover looks like.

    Seriously, I mostly browse from my Kindle the genre I am targeting and see what catches my fancy. I read virtually all of the 3-star or less reviews, and then a few of the 5-star ones. If big money is involved ($15+), I'll do a little research online. As above, if there's big money involved, I'll usually saunter down to B&N and buy a real copy in person. I don't necessarily prefer one format over another, but the convenience of Kindle, not to mention space on the shelves has me leaning toward ebooks. That is, unless there is material included like a DVD or maps or something.

    I am currently quite poor and have been browsing the free books on my Kindle. Some of them have been very good. Some, not so much. That's why the less-than-positive reviews are so helpful. I won't buy (or even download for free) any book with less than 20 reviews. Amazon also makes it easy to tell which reviews are worth heeding since they let you know how many reviews a person has written. If a reviewer gives a book 5 stars and has written just one review in the last 3 years, I'm guessing he is the author's brother/spouse/bff.
     
  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you checked goodreads for reviews, too? I know that I write a lot more reviews at goodreads than I do at amazon, just because I've started using goodreads to keep track of the books I've read. So when I tell goodreads I'm finished, it prompts me for a review. Often, I don't go back to amazon to do a review, because I don't spend my time there as much thinking about books I already own or have read, but more in search of new books. Also, although of course, people are prompted to give positive reviews at goodreads by authors, they're more frequently prompted to do so at amazon, just because of the immediacy of the availability for purchase.

    I'm more likely to do an amazon review if I truly despised a book -- so much so that I was actually angry about it.
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Do people really just buy books based on the cover? So as long as I hire a good cover artist, I should get rich, right? ;)
     
  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, I've heard some ebook authors say that the cover is even more important, because it is the only thing visual that they see about the book and that has to do all of the advertising work.

    I will admit that a cover has an influence on me. Now, if I've heard of the book from some source (recommendation, review, etc) then it doesn't make that much difference -- I certainly won't refuse to buy or read a book because I don't like the cover. Also, if I love the cover, I won't buy the book if I've heard terrible things about it or it really doesn't seem like it would interest me.

    BUT, a cover I like will make me pause and pick up the book. I'll take a look through it and read the blurbs to see if it sounds at least initially interesting. And I have bought books that I picked up because of the cover.
    Here's one book whose cover I LOVE and I have considered buying it because I love it so much. I have not bought it because I'm not convinced I'll like it. But it will probably take less to convince me than some other books might:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Flame-Alphabet-Vintage-Contemporaries/dp/030773997X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391728193&sr=8-1&keywords=the flame alphabet
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @chicagoliz, that looks like an interesting book! I read the first few pages and I might wind up buying it for my kindle. Thanks for mentioning it!
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you love it, I will buy it.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's that people buy books based on the cover, but that they *consider* them based on the cover. If the cover doesn't look reasonably professional, the book probably won't be either and people won't look at it at all. If the cover does look professional, prospective readers may look at it, to see if the rest of what they can see measures up to the promise of the cover.

    So the cover is a prerequisite, but it's not enough.
     
  24. violinguy
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    violinguy Member

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    Just FYI, I was kidding about the cover thing. Unless I'm shopping at B&N in person, I pay almost no attention to the cover at all. And even then, I only buy books in person by authors I know well.

    VG;)
     
  25. yanlins
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    yanlins Member

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    I would never have read Terry Prachett's novels had I seen their covers...

    ~Yan
     

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