by Shelley Sturgeon (@ShelleySturgeon)
Shelley and I have been working together for almost three years, and she is responsible for a lot of what goes on behind the scenes here at my blog. When I found out about using cards to sell ebooks at live events, I asked her to do some research on how you can use this great new technology for your own books. Here’s her report.
(Editor’s Note: It has come to our attention that since this article was written, Livrada has closed its doors and Enthrill has been sold to Firebrand. You may, however, wish to check out Nate Hoffelder’s article A Look at eBook Gift Cards as Promo Tools for Indie Authors for the latest information on this topic.)
E-books and e-readers have changed the face of publishing in ways that we might not have anticipated just a few short years ago, but with good reason.
E-books are convenient. They’re easy to store, easy to distribute, cheaper to buy than print books in most cases and with adjustable font sizing available on most e-readers, they can be easier to read than a print book for a lot of people. There are also a lot of free ebooks available.
They’re also cheaper to produce and often offer a higher profit margin for authors compared to print books. For all of these reasons and more, e-book sales are strong and many authors are bypassing print books and publishing their books, particularly works of fiction, only as e-books.
But bookstores have been left out of the loop where e-books are concerned. They haven’t been able to display or sell e-books so there’s been no way for them to promote or profit from them.
And for authors—especially those who have opted to publish their books only as e-books—opportunities for selling their books when giving readings or presentations have been lost, and book signings have been impossible. As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” E-book authors have been at a disadvantage at bookstores with no offline physical representation.
But you probably already knew all of this, right?
What you might not know is that a couple of companies put their thinking caps on and came up with ingenious ways to solve these negative aspects of e-books—with title specific e-book gift cards!
Livrada works closely with authors to provide them with e-book gift cards that can be used to promote and sell their e-books at book signings, conferences and local bookstores, and for giveaways to reviewers, family and friends.
There are two options for e-book gift cards:
- Wallet sized (2-1/8″ x 3-3/8″)
- Signature size (3-3/8″ x 5-1/4″)
They also sell Digital PINs available in .xls or .csv files for email distribution of e-books. Livrada e-book gift cards can be redeemed for e-books for NOOK, and Kobo e-readers and e-reader apps for tablets and smartphones and can provide PDFs which can be read on Kindle.
Livrada e-book gift cards are available for popular titles and can be purchased in a few retails stores throughout the United States or through the online bookstore on their website.
Wallet sized cards range in price from about $0.50 (1,000 gift cards) to $1.50 (250 gift cards) depending on how many you purchase at a time. Signature sized cards, designed for book signings, sell for about $1.80 on average but this price also decreases if large quantities are ordered.
The gift card will include the cover art of the book with instructions for redeeming the e-book and possibly a synopsis of the book on the back of the card, depending on which gift card size is selected. Digital PINs sell for $1.00 each but are ordered in batches. A $53 activation fee applies to each batch of Digital PINs regardless of size.
In addition to the cost of the e-book gift card or Digital PIN, the author or publisher must pay for the cost of his/her e-book upfront for each e-book gift card.
So, for example, if I’ve written an e-book and it is selling for $2 and I want 100 Digital PINs for that e-book, the upfront cost of the Digital PINs will be $403 (100 e-books x $2, 100 Digital PINS x $1 plus $53 activation fee.) The author can recoup some of this cost, however, because if/when the e-book gift cards are redeemed, the author will receive his or her royalties from Barnes and Noble or Kobo.
E-book gift cards are redeemed through Livrada’s website and then, depending on the e-book format required, Livrada redirects the purchaser to either Barnes and Noble’s or Kobo’s website to download the e-book. The purchaser also needs to have an account with the e-book retailer.
Currently, Livrada works with various TED authors and other best-selling authors. Their services are available only in North America at the moment, but they are hoping to soon make their services available internationally.
Enthrill sells digital codes for $1.50 each or less if large quantities are ordered. Authors can have their own gift cards printed by any printer using the codes or distribute the codes by email or however they would like.
Enthrill can also provide printed e-book gift cards at an additional cost. Their cards are available in three sizes:
- Credit card size,
- 4″ x 6″ (like a large index card)
- A signature folding card that looks like a book.
Costs for printed gift cards range anywhere from 0.35¢ to $4.50 each depending on the style of card and the quantity ordered. Shipping charges for printed cards also apply. Gift cards display the e-book cover on the front and a description of the book, author and publisher information, as well as download instructions for the gift card purchaser or recipient on the back of the card.
Using the previous example of an author purchasing 100 digital codes for an e-book that sells for $2, the cost in this case would be $150 (100 digital codes x $1.50.)
Enthrill is, however, a fulfillment engine, not a card printer. They host and distribute the ebooks to all e-reading devices. The delivery of these books is done through their Endpaper Engine and uses PackaDRM, their cross-platform DRM solution.
This gives the reader more flexibility with their books and provides the author/publisher with the ability to track misuse. There is no additional charge to the author/publisher beyond the cost of the codes to have Enthrill host their e-books.
Only the unique 12 digit redemption code and an email address are required initially to access the e-books. When a customer downloads an e-book to their device for the first time, an account is automatically created for them. This account serves as a library as they download more and more content, which they can access at any time.
Enthrill also sells e-book gift cards through retails stores in Canada but, at this time, the retail program is only open to best-selling authors usually offering bundled content of multiple books on one gift card. It is still an option, however, for independent authors to make their own arrangements to sell their e-books in bookstores using Enthrill’s e-book gift cards.
Enthrill currently works with many North American publishers and authors including Guy Kawasaki (APE: How to Publish a Book) and Leigh Anne Tuohy (The Blind Side) and the company hopes to soon offer their services internationally.
So now, bookstores can have the option to sell e-books, and authors can sell their e-books at events such as book signings or easily provide download codes to reviewers or for giveaways. And authors can sell gift cards online as another revenue source, or use the cards to distribute free ebooks.
What do you think? Do you like the concept? Do you think you will buy e-book gift cards for your next e-book?
Shelley Sturgeon (@ShelleySturgeon) is a virtual assistant who works with authors to help them create and maintain their author platforms. She understands the importance of establishing an online presence. Interested in writing since childhood, Shelley hopes to one day complete her own novel. In the meantime, she enjoys working with her clients on their journeys to success. For more information, visit Shelley’s website E-vantage Business Services.