Six things you should be including in your ebook (and probably aren’t)

Or, How to Use Your Ebooks as Your Best Marketing Platform

Last month I came up with a flash of inspiration: a way to use ebooks to market themselves. After trying it out on a number of my own ebooks, I wrote a post for Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for independent publishers, TheBookDesigner.com.

That post sparked a lot of interest and so I knew I wanted to share it here as well. (Since a number of folks have asked: yes, I will help you do this if you’d like. The directions here should be easy to follow — for someone comfortable getting in under the HTML hood of an ebook. Not everyone is, however, and so I can provide assistance. Just email me at editor@stillpointdigital.com head on over to our new order page for Smidget — the social media widget for ebooks!

Quick: who—aside from you, your immediate family, and your dog—are the people most excited about your book, most ready to talk about it with their friends, and best equipped to talk about your book’s virtues? Anyone?

Well, there are lots of possible answers for each of those questions, but when it comes to identifying the whole bunch, I’d bet it’s a group that you haven’t thought much about: The people who have just finished the last page.

Think about it. If someone has actually finished your book, they’re committed to it. They’re interested in what you have had to say, and it’s fresh in their minds. They are your ideal advocates, your perfect evangelists for generating more excitement about your work and making sure that people hear about it. So what are you doing to harness that potential?

Most self-publishers don’t do much of anything. Maybe they put a bio at the back, and, possibly a link to their web page. Commercial publishers don’t do a whole lot more—they’ll put a list of similar titles the reader might be interested in, and, if they’re very twenty-first century, they’ll hyperlink those titles to the appropriate pages on their site.

Those are all really, really good ideas, and a great way to make the next sale. Is that enough? No, no, no.

What are you going to do to make sure that this title finds its audience? How are you going to harness that band of potential sales reps who’ve just finished your book and really want to talk with someone about it? I was thinking about this recently, and realized that the answer was pretty simple, when you remember that an ebook is simply a specialized web page. You do something like this:

David Kudler Thanks

To anyone who uses the web regularly—especially anyone who buys ebooks—those buttons are self-explanatory. Click us! they say. Click us and let everyone know what you think of this fascinating book you’ve just read!

You’ve seen a million little constellations of buttons like that on your browser. Why not put one where those motivated readers can use them at exactly the point where they’re most likely to do so?

To decode (if you haven’t been submerged in the culture of social media), each of those buttons leads to a review site. From top left to bottom right, they are buttons from the bookseller—in this case Amazon.com (you should change this to match each site you sell on), GoodReads.com (the preeminent review exchange site), my own website (more on that later), Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and Pinterest.com. (The missing link here—heh, “missing link”—is for Google+. I’ll explain below why I haven’t included that button.) I now have a working Google+ button! See below!

Finding the buttons is easy—the sites themselves usually have link buttons that they want you to use, and you’re welcome to use the buttons from this post. Building the appropriate links is just a bit harder, but only a bit. In order to create the appropriate links for these buttons above, you must first do the following things, all of which you have to do anyway:

  1. Create a dedicated web page for your book — on your own site, or on any other site that you like (if you are working through a publishing services company, they’ll create one for you).
  2. Create a cover for your book.
  3. Create a GoodReads page for your book (or, if your book has been published before, for this edition of your book).

Now to the business of building those links.

Your page: The first one that you need to think about is the one to your site—or whatever you are using as your dedicated page, since a number of the other links will be based on that. If you haven’t already loaded a copy of your logo/colophon into the ebook, do that, and then hyperlink it as follows:

<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&amp;buy“><img src=”images/logo.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

Now, obviously, the actual addresses will need to correspond to your page and the location of your image in your book’s structure. Okay so far? If you’ve been working on your ebook or know HTML at all, that should have been a piece of cake.

Okay. Load the rest of those images into your ebook.

GoodReads: Now, the easiest of the remaining links will be the one to your GoodReads page. The link will look something like this:

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/123456789-yourbook“><img src=”images/goodreads-button.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

Amazon: Since the large majority of ebook sales—especially by self-published authors—happen through Amazon’s Kindle store, I’m going to show you how to link to that. However, you should absolutely change this button and the link code to match that of whatever site you’re selling on, since they don’t like you linking to other booksellers from within their ebooks!

All of the booksellers use the ISBN as a unique identifier for each individual edition—except for Amazon. Amazon uses their own identifier for ebooks—ASIN—which means, unfortunately, that we have to wait until after the book is published on the Kindle Store to create this link.

In either case, we’re going to use that number to create a link to the seller’s review page for your book. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to hit the button that says “Post your own review” or whatever. Because Amazon doesn’t assign an ASIN until the title is published, the easiest way to get this link is to go to your book’s page. Look up in the address bar; it will look something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

The two parts we care about are the title tag (Your-Title-ebook) and the ASIN (B00ABCDEFG). Now, you can’t link directly to the script launched by the “Be the first to review this book” link. However, you can link to the list of reviews. No reviews yet, you say? Pshaw. Here’s a typical Amazon review listing:

http://www.amazon.com/Death-in-a-Fair-Place-ebook/product-reviews/B00AXN84H0/

You’ll note that I’ve highlighted the title tag and ASIN. Replace those with your own so that it looks something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/product-reviews/B00ABCDEFG/

Now create that link in your ebooks:

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/product-reviews/B00ABCDEFG/”><img src=”images/amazon-button.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

There you go! When someone clicks on that, the first thing they’ll see is a button reading “Create your own review.” Just what we want.

Now it gets interesting—but if your dedicated web page already has social sharing set up, even this isn’t a big deal. If there are buttons already set up for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., just click on them, copy the URL out of the address bar, create the link, and you’re done.

If you don’t have sharing set up (and if you don’t, you should), it’s still doable. You just need to know one thing about how web addresses are called from inside other URLs: you can’t use any non-alphanumeric characters. So to include a colon (:), slash (/), ampersand (&), question mark (?), etc., we have to use (gulp) the HTML numeric code for that character.

Well, no big deal. I’ll give you a cheat sheet. So let’s start with your book’s dedicated web page. It probably looks something like this:

http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&buy

To use this inside of one of the social networking site’s URL’s, we’re going to need to change all of those non-letter characters to HTML codes. Here’s that cheat sheet I was talking about.

  • Change the colon (:) to %3A
  • Change all slashes (/) to %2F
  • Change all question marks (?) to %3F
  • Change all ampersands (&) to %26
  • Change all spaces ( ) to %20

When you make those substitutions, your URL will look like this:

http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&amp;buy

Ugly, but browsers will read them just fine. To create those social links just replace the bit that matches our dummy address above with your own.

Facebook: For this link, we’re going to replace the web page URL, which goes after the “u=” attribute, and we’re also going to pre-enter some text (the author’s name and the book’s title, in this example) after the “t=” attribute. For that text, instead of using %20 for spaces, use the plus symbol (+).

https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&26;buy&amp;t=Your+Name+-+Your+Title&amp;display=popup

Twitter: This link is easy; just paste our doctored URL (or a shortened URL) after the “url=” attribute:

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&26;buy

Pinterest: For this link, we’re going to use your web page’s actual, undoctored URL, and we’re again going to pre-enter some text—your name, the book’s title, and more text (the short description, for example) after the “description=” attribute.

This time, we’re using %20 for spaces. We are also going to need a web address for your cover art (here called “cover.jpg”) which goes after the “media=” attribute.

http://pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&buy&amp;media=http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/images/cover.jpg&amp;description=Book%20by%20Author%3f%20The%20best%20book%20ever%20written%20blah%20blah

Google+: (I was finally able to make this one work after the original post came out!) Just paste your doctored URL in to the following link after the “url=” attribute.

https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&26;buy&amp;gpsrc=frameless&amp;partnerid=frameless

There you go! Now you’ve given your erstwhile evangelists the wherewithal to share their passion for your work with their friends, their colleagues, the world! Will every reader take advantage of that opportunity? No. But if even one in ten does, and even one in a hundred of that person’s friends buys your book, that’s a win. You’re harnessing the power of social networking.

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