Last year, I wrote a technical book, focused on a niche tool of a niche technology. I posted about my writing process, but wanted to write about my marketing process as well. As my father, who has published a few books, says: “once you finish the book, the hard work [marketing] begins”. After all, the world, and even the Internet, is a big place, and no one was going to beat a path to my door (or yours).
I tried several different marketing channels. Here’s a list and some commentary on how each channel worked in terms of traffic and sales. My main goal was to drive traffic to my leanpub book page, where purchase was only a click away.
- I published a blog post about the book and put an embedded ‘buy now’ link on my blog sidebar. I also did some follow up posts about Cordova CLI, including one about accessing more info from hooks in later version of Cordova and running multiple version of Cordova. Hard to tell if the additional content helped, but I had quite a few sales referred from my domain.
- I set up a Google alert for ‘cordova CLI’ to see if there was anyplace I could reply and help people with questions while linking to my book page.
- Monitored and answered Stackoverflow questions about Cordova and Cordova CLI–these typically also figured prominently in the Google alert. SO was the third highest referrer to my leanpub book page.
- Google adwords: this didn’t work so well. I had 7K impressions and a 0.52% CTR but no conversions. I ran the campaign for about two months, but most of the keywords were pretty obscure.
- Guest posts at on topic blogs: this worked great. I posted two different posts–Three hooks your Cordova/Phonegap application needs and Phonegap makes mobile app development more accessible. The more aligned the blog post was with the audience of the blog, the better the conversion. I also engaged in the comments section as well.
- Emails to tech influencers (often with a coupon for a free or reduced price book). This was both marketing and a ‘thank you’ to all the people who either help out with Cordova, or who I have read for years and just wanted to thank (ahem, Matt Raible). It did result in some tweets. Thanks to Jason Grigsby, Brian Leroux and Holly Schinsky
- Posting on the phonegap google group about the book, with a coupon. This didn’t drive that many visits, but the ones who did converted very well (>25%).
- Posting on the phonegap google group answering general questions with a link in my signature. This drove some traffic and lead to one conversion. It didn’t scale very well, as when I stopped answering questions, the traffic fell to zero quickly.
- Emails to members of the phonegap developer directory. I ended up sending out about 50 of these (both myself and hiring someone from Odesk). Surprisingly, I didn’t see any sales from these emails, which were admittedly “cold calls”.
- Posted to hackernews. No discussion, but a non trivial number of visits.
Here are some things I should have done, or should have done sooner:
- Set up a custom domain, like this person did.
- Build a useful email list. I actually have one, but it’s hard to find out how to subscribe. Oh, and post to said list.
- Written and flogged a talk about Cordova. There are probably two or three meetups in the Denver or Boulder area that would have been happy to have me talk, and I expect I would have sold some books through that venue.
- Added the book to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I just did that (links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble). Leanpub makes it silly simple to do this, however the royalty hit you take for the distribution is high.
- Written more articles and pitched them to online magazines. In fact, I should have, when writing the book, queued up 3-5 articles to pitch to publish on launch day.
- Emailed my readers via leanpub and asked how I could help them (I did this, belatedly).
- Kept the book up to date. (I still may review, expand and update the book, because it is still a topic that interests me (and there is interesting stuff happening with Cordova, like Ionic and Google Glass support.)
I missed some of these marketing opportunities because my life just got too busy. Others because we stopped using Cordova at my day job, which meant I had less interest in keeping up with Cordova in general. And that, in turn, made it hard to keep up with marketing effort.
The final piece of advice I would share about marketing an ebook is that it is a long game. I realized that even a book on a topic so short lived as a Cordova book–it covers 2.9, 3.0 and 3.1, and the current version is 3.5–there are still ‘long tail’ effects. I make sales now, almost a year after first release.