Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Marketing Toolbox: Ebook Cards

by J. Lea López

Whether you're traditionally published by a big house, indie published with a smaller press, or self published, we all have to play the marketing game. So tell me: have you figured out how to hand-sell ebooks yet?

If you're scratching your head, you're probably not alone. I first heard of ebook cards a year or so ago from author Cheri Lasota. Now that I'm embarking on my own self-publishing journey, I've been looking into how this works a little bit more. Lucky you! Here's what I've learned.

The Basics

An ebook card (or ebook gift card) is a plastic card that can vary in size. The design can include things like your cover image, QR codes, a small blurb, your web site, and so on. Each card has a unique PIN for the reader to enter on the distributor's web site in order to access the book. That's really about it. Think about how you can buy a song or a whole album by picking up one of those plastic cards at the store. This is the same thing for ebooks.

Okay, but how does it actually WORK?

A reader buys the ebook card, either from you directly (at a conference or signing, for example) or from a retailer. They take it home, go to the distributor's web site - Cheri's e-publisher partnered with Greenerside Digital, but other such companies include Enthrill and Livrada - and redeem their code. Sometimes this will mean creating an account on the distributor's site, but other times it requires little more than an email and the PIN from the card. Greenerside Digital also offers a secure download widget so customers can redeem their code right from your web site.

With Livrada, the customer will be redirected to Amazon or Barnes & Noble based on the ereader they own. From there they will be able to have their ebook delivered wirelessly to their reader. With other ebook card companies, the customer will have to load the ebook to their reader themselves, through USB connection or email.

Give me one good reason...

Ebook cards have a lot of potential uses and benefits. The most obvious is being able to reach digital customers in a physical retail space. Here are some other scenarios:
  • Instant gratification for fans at a signing or in-person event who want to buy your book, but whose preferred medium is digital rather than print (yes, those people are out there, even if you aren't one of them!)
  • Where you might usually drop a few business cards or bookmarks as a marketing tool, try dropping a handful of ebook cards for curious folks to download a short story or two. It may be a little more expensive than giving away bookmarks, but maybe it will be more effective, too.
  • You can set up ebook cards to hold more than one book/file so you and the customer get maximum bang for your buck.
  • While a small or independent bookstore may be reluctant to stock a book by a relative unknown and unproven talent, they could be more open to selling your ebook cards. A small easel stand near the register takes up less space, and you could offer a no-risk consignment deal.
  • Ebook card companies will also sell batches of PINs, sans cards, for use in online promotions, newsletters, etc.
What's the catch?

Probably the biggest question mark here is cost effectiveness. Prices vary widely. For instance, 500 wallet cards from Livrada will cost you $599. I don't know what, if anything, that includes beyond the printing of the cards themselves and setting up the logistics of your digital files and PINs. On the other hand, Greenerside Digital offers a range of sizes and thicknesses for you to choose from. Cards roughly the same size as Livrada's wallet cards will cost you less than $300 for 500 cards.

Depending how the cost of the cards works out for you, and how much you would sell them for, your profit margin could vary greatly. I think they would be more cost effective for book bundles that have a higher price point, since you could sell your series of six ebooks on one card for a higher retail price, but with the same production cost as ebook cards for a single title.

What do you think? Have you used ebook cards? Would you give them a try? And what do you think are the benefits or limitations of this media?

J. Lea López is a shy, introverted writer with a secret world of snark and naughtiness inside her head. She writes character-driven erotica and contemporary new adult stories. Her first novel will be available soon, and her short story collection, Consenting Adults, is available as a free download now. She'd love to tweet with you.


Jean Oram said...

Jen, I LOVE this idea. This is using technology to our advantage! This is even better than a flashdrive with your book on it. Thanks for sharing!

J. Lea Lopez said...

You're quite welcome. :-) Just imagine showing off a gorgeous cover on that sleek plastic card. And you can sign one of those! I know you can do the ebook autograph thing, but this would be pretty awesome to have too.

Jai said...

I've never seen eBook Cards. It sounds like a great idea.

Denise Covey said...

At the last conference i went to, eBook cards were everywhere. I think this has to be developed a bit more yet, but it gives ebook authors something to hand out while the print authors signed books.

Thanks for the enlightening post.


J. Lea Lopez said...

The other great thing that I forgot to mention in the post (kicking myself... lol) is that you don't have to worry about which type of ereader the customer has. With sites like Livrada, the customer chooses their preferred ebook retailer to redeem their ebook from. And with Greenerside Digital, they will have all formats of your book so the customer can select the one that works with their reader.

I'm really intrigued to see where this trend goes.