Are ad-supported ebooks the future of publishing?

kitty your ad here by Shannon Kringen

kitty your ad here by Shannon Kringen

Tonight I had the privilege to speak before a digital marketing class at Arizona State University. I was one of a series of speakers, all dealing with emerging media trends. I talked about the coming of advertising inside of ebooks.

I’m not decrying ad-supported ebooks as the harbinger of doom. Nor am I stating that they are the future. But they are a reality, and not one you should be afraid of.

A history of ad supported content

If you’re my age, you can remember a time when your parents shelled out a few bucks a month for this new thing called HBO. For your (parents’) money, you could watch 2-year-old movies without commercial interruption. Ever. Fee-based television was invented, where the consumers were directly responsible for paying the bills at HBO. At least in part. Cable companies had to shell out big bucks to get access to the signal (via a giant Death Star-esque dish), but those fees were covered by hungry households who couldn’t wait to watch Smokey And the Bandit seven times a day.

But those days were short-lived. More stations came to cable viewers, and cable companies quickly developed advertising options for local and national businesses. While the movie stations (by and large) remained ad-free, the other 900 channels — channels you (and still your parents now retired to Boca) happily paid good money for — were rife with ads. Sometimes even more so than the free broadcasted channels you could pull down with an antenna.

Publishing isn’t immune

But this is the printed word, and there’s absolutely no precedent with which you can substantiate your ludicrous prediction of ad-supported books, Evo! Er… bought a magazine lately? Picked up a newspaper? Print’s not quite dead yet, and has an even longer history of ads fitting the bill. Yes, even when you’re paying for the content. So there.

Amazon beat you to it

By recent reports, Amazon sold four times as many Kindles during this chum-filled buying extravaganza as they did last year. Four times. Back then, they didn’t have their subsidized Special Offers Kindle. Nor did they have the Kindle Fire. And just like always, Amazon isn’t sharing precise numbers. But you can bet the 30% reduction in price was enough of a motivator to get some folks interested in the ad-supported model.

DIY ad-supported ebooks

Adding advertisements to books isn’t something reserved to marketplaces or device makers. Any author can add whatever they want to their books. It just takes a little time, a little effort, and the ability to re-compile and re-publish your books in various market places. It also might take a willingness to deal with the backlash. Backlash from readers if ads start cluttering up their space. Backlash from advertisers if the ads fail to generate leads/sales for them. Backlash from publishers who want a cut of the action. And backlash from marketplaces who also want a cut of the action.

Technically, you can do it. You can even swap out ads every month, republishing your EPUB files to the marketplaces each time to get those ads in front of a fresh set of eyes.

Enter Jurassic Park logic

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This isn’t something to enter into without your eyes being very very wide open. Not only could you get banned/blacklisted, you may find yourself without anything to sell. If you think advertisers are lining up to place ads in your book, then you don’t understand advertising. This isn’t bleeding edge stuff. Heck, the blade hasn’t even been forged. But I think it will be.

I fully expect to see ad-supported ebooks — either at the device or at the title level the de rigueur in coming weeks/months/years. But if I’m wrong, I won’t lament the fact. I can always pay to watch ads on cable.

Want more cutting edge digital publishing goodness?

We’ve got an ePIC seminar coming up at the end of January that will teach you plenty about getting your book on the various marketplaces (ad-free for now) and how to promote the heck out of you and your book to reach a wider audience. Reserve your spot today!

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Author, promote thyself!

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!”

That’s not promoting. That’s annoying. Please don’t do that, OK?

You might be thinking really promoting your book is a lot of work. That might get you thinking that if you just give up this silly idea of indie, digital publishing and land a big fat advance with a publisher, they’ll take care of all the promotion for you. And you would be very, very wrong in that last bit of your thinking.

Reality check: the vast majority of traditionally published authors get little to no promotional help from their publisher. In today’s world, publishers expect the author to handle most of their own book promotion. When you think about it,  that’s not all that crazy sounding. After all, the author has already connected with fans, built out a mailing list, started blogging, cultivated followers on social media, and…

Oh, you didn’t know you had to do all that? Yeah… you do. Even if you land that big contract. So while you’re working on your query letter, you might as well start promoting.

Not like some pushy sales person, schelping your wares to anyone who accidentally looks in your direction, because that is NOT the way successful digital authors tackle promotion. Sure, plenty of morons out there are “that guy”, but we’ll show you how not to be.

More importantly, we’ll tell you why its more important to promote yourself than your book. How you can use elements of your book in innovative ways to gain an audience. What the heck “transmedia” is and how it takes your words right off the page.

This is one of the most exciting pieces of digital publishing. I promise you won’t be bored for a second!

Promoting is the fourth phase of our Digital Publishing Lifecycle. We’re covering a different phase each day, and welcome your thoughts and input.

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