Ebook Sample Subscriptions and Automation

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Ebook Sample Subscriptions and AutomationEach time I finish a book, I end up going through the same inefficient process: I head to Amazon and a couple other sites to look for other titles on similar topics that might interest me. I usually find several candidates, and then I go through the equally inefficient process of requesting samples of those ebooks.

Why is it that I can subscribe to dog food for my three basset hounds but I can’t subscribe to ebook samples? This is an opportunity not just for retailers like Amazon, but for publishers as well.

As I’m browsing a book catalog, either on a retailer’s or a publisher’s site, a seemingly endless list of titles and covers is presented to me for consideration. Once I find one that looks promising, I should be able to click once and have the sample sent to me. This assumes I have an account set up on the site, of course, but if you’re browsing a catalog you probably have log-in credentials there; if not, it’s a terrific opportunity for the retailer or publisher to encourage you to create an account.

Since I tend to read books on a narrow range of topics, why not let me subscribe to new samples in each of those areas? Retailers and publishers, push the sample content to me and quit waiting for me to come to you.

I get a kick out of back-of-book ads that promote related titles at the end of an ebook. Those are nice solutions for print, especially when you have a few blank pages at the end of the last signature. Bu they’re next to invisible in an ebook. Here’s a better idea: add information about a couple related titles inside the ebook, maybe between a couple chapters. Don’t disrupt the reading process—hence the suggestion to message between chapters—but please feel free to let me know I’m getting close to the end and that I might want to consider a follow-up title, especially if you’re going to give me an extra discount as an owner of the first title.

What I’m ultimately suggesting here is to think about applying some technology and automation to the ebook sample distribution process. And as I’ve said before, make sure you’re sending those samples in a totally DRM-free format, and one that encourages sharing via email and social channels.

Anyone who has been reading my articles over the years knows that samples are a hot topic for me. Long ago I suggested that ebook samples are one of a publisher’s most underutilized marketing assets. What’s changed since I first started hyping the ebook sample opportunity years ago? Pretty much nothing. Now that I’m back in a publishing role, I plan to take my own advice and make sure that we’re getting the most out of our ebook samples. Stay tuned as I’ll be sure to report on our team’s progress in the weeks and months ahead.


This article first appeared on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.


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