Amazon, Goodreads, and eBook giveaways

Now that readers and authors have had some time to come to terms with the news of Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads, I’ve been thinking of ways this turn of events could end up benefiting both readers and authors. One idea seems like a no-brainer: eBook giveaways.

It’s no secret that GoodReads giveaways are a useful tool in the publishers toolbox. It’s a proven method for getting attention and finding new readers, for big publishers and indie publishers alike. But currently, if you’re an author focusing on digital releases and you don’t have any physical books to offer, GoodReads giveaways aren’t available. They only allow physical books.

With Amazon at the helm, this could change. That would be a very welcome change for indie publishers who aren’t quite ready to take the paper book plunge. Amazon could even build in a system that helps authors promote their KDP free days, which could be a powerful new tool to help self-publishers get exposure.

I’m also hoping that the GoodReads acquisition leads to some integration between Amazon sales pages and GoodReads ads. Right now, I can only track clicks on my GoodReads ads, but if I could tell exactly how many sales were coming from those ads I’d have extremely useful information to help me shape my ad campaigns.

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Ads: The Future of ebooks?

I’m going to propose something controversial, perhaps even blasphemous. My fellow authors may spurn me and say my dangerous ideas will ruin the industry. But here it is anyway: I think eBooks should have ads in them.

Now before you write me a nastygram, hear me out.

Today Amazon announced that AT&T has joined the ranks of advertisers on the Kindle. As odd as this may sound, it isn’t really new. Amazon first debuted the Wi-Fi Kindle with Special Offers in April and the 3G version in May, which gave marketers new ways to ply their wares to consumers on one of the most popular gadgets out there. General Motors, Olay, and Chase already sponsor ads on the Kindle. If you agree to buy a “special offers” Kindle and see all these sweet ads, you shave some money off the purchase price of the Kindle. The AT&T deal is notable because it gives an even bigger discount for the 3G “special offers” model (15% drop to $139). Ads on Kindle offer nice discounts on products from Amazon and other companies, and they appear on the Kindle’s screensaver when the device is turned off and also appear on the Kindle’s home screen. Amazon’s “special offer” Kindles don’t show ads within the actual content of the books, yet.

Most of the industry pundits are looking at this news from a competition perspective, especially as Amazon continues to fight off the iPad and other e-readers. But there’s another angle here that a lot of people are overlooking.

We’re seeing ads on a book platform.

Think about that for a second. The ad-supported model that has worked on just about every form of modern media is finally encroaching upon the book market. It’s a sign of the times, but we need to go a step further.

Ads in readable material are nothing new. Magazines have had them for ages. So have comic books. But booky books (the kind without many pictures and lots of pages) have never really been a good platform for advertising, besides the occasional 1 page ad at the end of the book, which sells other titles by the same publisher. But as digital books on eReaders, smartphones, tablets, and even PCs become more common, the opportunities for advertising get better and better. Although the purists are all filled with book nerd rage about this possibility, I think it might actually help the book industry in the long run.

Just about every other form of entertainment is ad-supported these days. TV? Ads. Radio? Ads. Mobile apps? Ads. Web? Ads everywhere you look. Even the movies you see at the theater are doing product placement more than ever. Hell, some movies are just 2-hour advertisements (Transformers, for instance, is really just a big toy commercial). Books, especially novels, may need to get with the program, especially since the novel is already the least-favored form of fiction now.

So what would an ad-sponsored book world look like? Well, imagine that all the books you could ever want were available to you for free, legally. You would simply go find it, download it, and start reading. Authors would make money on the same model most of the web works on: the content’s free, and the ads bring in the money. The ultimate goal of the author is to get people to read their work, after all, and when it comes to exposure, nothing beats the free price point (as the app markets on iOS and Android have shown us). Many indie eBook authors are already doing well with content that is already almost free (99 cent eBooks on Amazon are becoming increasingly common), so free is just the next logical step.

Here’s the thing: through ads, authors may make even more money than before. Instead of a one time payment, authors will get a cut of recurring ad revenue that accumulates as users read their digital books (and for series like A Song of Ice and Fire with books that have over a thousand pages, that’s a lot of opportunities to show ads). Maybe this would work on a commission basis, or pay-per-click, or pay-per-view. But whatever it is, it’s a continuous form of revenue for the writer. For example, if a writer has a chapter that takes place in Monaco, and at the end of the chapter the reader is presented with an ad for a heavily discounted trip to Monte Carlo, the commission from that sale could be orders of magnitude greater than the sale price for the book. eBooks could even be used to serve up video ads and trailers for movies in that book’s genre. Your epic fantasy book could be used to show trailers for The Hobbit movie, and its assorted merchandise. And of course, if you prefer to not deal with ads and pay your one-time fee, you’ll have that option (once again taking a page from the mobile app industry).

Google showed us that context-sensitive, relevant ads can be a big winner for blogs and online magazines. There’s no reason it can’t work for books too.

Free, ad-supported books on digital platforms with good ad-serving capabilities could be just the boost the book market needs. The Kindle with Special Offers has a prominent position on Amazon’s bestseller list, proving that readers are willing to deal with ads in exchange for a lower price. We just need the literary industry to be proactive for once, and take the lead in using technology to its advantage.

The Remortal: Now on Amazon Kindle

I wrote a novel! Well, I’ve written a few novels, but this is the first one I’ve decided to release into the wild. The Remortal is a labor of love, and I’m hoping you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The book is available on all Kindle platforms — so that means if you have an iPhone, iPad, Android device, PC, Mac, or Kindle you can hit the Amazon store and check out the most amazing story you’ll read this year!!! (okay, maybe I’m hyping that a bit too much). The Remortal ebook is available for only $2.99 on Amazon. You can also check out a free sample.

Cover and plot synopsis below:

Telly is a homeless teenager struggling to survive on the streets of
Los Angeles, but he has just met a man that can make all of his dreams
come true. His rich new benefactor only asks for one thing in
return—something no one else has been able to do for two and a half
centuries.

He wants Telly to kill him.

The man with the death wish is named Van, and he offers Telly an
escape from the constant fear, hunger, and shame that have haunted him
during his homelessness. Telly thought he had Van all figured out,
until a chance encounter with a gun-wielding thug shows that bullets
don’t do Van the slightest bit of harm.

Van is much more than he seems; he’s an immortal seeking escape from a
world he now despises. He desires a higher plane of existence, but in
order to get there he must train someone to complete the grim ritual
that will free him from the confines of his immortal body. If Telly
can fulfill Van’s request, he will inherit Van’s wealth, strength, and
eternal youth. But he soon discovers that Van is a harsh teacher with
a questionable sense of morality, and there are other immortals who
believe Van’s plans for ascension could lead to something they’ve been
dreading for centuries: the birth of a wrathful god.

The Remortal: by Ramsey Isler