How to Use Links to Enhance Your Book Sales
When most people imagine living life as an author, they often assume their daily routine will consist of mornings spent writing and afternoons editing. You might even think about performing onstage at a library or, if you’re particularly entrepreneurial, marketing your books using a range of tactics. One bookselling activity you probably wouldn’t consider unless you’ve ever tried to sell another product online, though, is creating smart links to sell your books.
No one would blame you. From the average person’s perspective, a link is a link, right? A website URL with a string of letters and other characters at the end of it. Most new authors who want to share a link to their book with readers simply copy one from the top of an e-retailer’s sales page. If you’re astute, you may have contemplated shortening your link using a service like Bitly or TinyURL so it’s more presentable for readers, but that’s it. When it comes to the functionality of the link itself, you get what you’re given. Or, at least, what’s how it seems to the casual internet user.
Dig deeper, though, and you discover that links come in many forms, and can be manipulated to suit your business needs. As authors, there are several types we can use to promote our books. All have unique purposes. And while identifying the differences between them can prove challenging to newbies, it pays to understand how they work. To help you start learning, today’s blog post contains an overview of the major link types, presented in order of their complexity. Understanding them will allow you to make more intelligent marketing choices to enhance your bookselling strategy.
Default Store Links
The first of the links you encounter will likely be the default store link. You’re probably familiar with these because they’re the normal URLs that display in the address bar of your browser when you look at your book on a bookstore website. Each website has their own URL prefix, followed by a suffix for the sales page and customer information.
Mark Dawson’s The Cleaner link, for example, appears as follows for the US Amazon store:
Default store links are problematic in many ways. They look messy and, depending on the e-retailer, often send readers to a fixed storefront (e.g. Amazon US) regardless of where they live. You can tidy Amazon links by removing customer and search information so it reads more like this:
However, this isn’t possible for all e-retailers. Each one works differently. Having said that, this link variety is easy to use and serves its purpose if you’re just starting out as an author.
Localised Links (Exclusive)
If an e-retailer link is localised (or geo-tagged), it sends readers to a book sales page that corresponds with their location, instead of a fixed, regional sales page like a UK one that forces US readers to take extra steps to complete a purchase. Some retailers automatically add localising functions into their default links but not all. Amazon is one such culprit. And since it’s the biggest bookstore, this can pose a problem… unless you create your own localised links. Using them streamlines the buying process for readers, significantly improving conversions.
The simplest free service you can use to create localised links for ebooks is BookLinker. It only works for Amazon ebook links but that’s fine if you sell mainly ebooks and your entire backlist is exclusive to Kindle Unlimited. To use it, all you have to do is enter your Amazon ASIN and write an appropriate suffix and you’re done. This link type won’t help you sell books on wide retailers but it can still be useful to a wide author if you want to channel your readers to buy or leave a review specifically on Amazon during a key sales window.
Universal Book Links (Wide)
It’s not only the Amazon-exclusive authors who get to use localised links, though. This is partially thanks to the guys at Draft2Digital, the publishing aggregator. As a side service, they offer a free solution to the wide universal book link conundrum in the form of Books2Read’s Universal Book Links (or UBLs). Creating these links is slightly more complicated than using BookLinker’s service, but that makes sense when you consider the range of storefronts a Books2Read UBL has to incorporate into its link.
Instead of sending readers directly to a single retailer website, Books2Read UBLs send them to a page of logos where readers can choose their preferred stores for ebooks or paperbacks. After clicking once, they can also set a store preference for Books2Read to redirect them automatically in the future. Localisation capabilities are enabled. Plus, the service can scrape data from selected stores to help with the setup process. It currently only has limited audiobook link functionality but overall provides a great service that covers most wide author needs.
Audiobooks are a relatively new addition to many authors’ intellectual property portfolios. That’s why many link service providers don’t include them; they’ve focused their efforts on creating more effective ebook links, which make them useful to most authors. Recently, however, the publishing aggregator Story Origin has come up with a solution that’s similar to Books2Read’s offer but is specialised for selling audiobooks on a variety of platforms.
The localisation capabilities are limited for now. That’s partly, however, because many retailers don’t offer audiobooks in as many territories as they offer other formats. Regardless, the links provide a neat landing page optimised to sell your audiobooks and will no doubt improve to meet the growing demands as more authors move into the audio space.
Many retailers offer affiliate links that keep a record of how many customers click them and buy products, plus the value of the products they buy on the website. These companies share unique affiliate links with influencer partners like authors to have them promote the products they sell in return for a commission percentage of any revenue they generate.
Wide e-booksellers like Apple and Kobo offer affiliate programmes that have flexible terms regarding where partners can use their links. Yet their popularity is dwarfed by Amazon’s more rigid affiliate programme, Amazon Associates, which is the biggest in the world. Despite this, there are two main reasons for its popularity:
- Amazon sells more books that the other retailers.
- Amazon also sells more expensive items like TVs and refrigerators
This second fact is key because, alongside getting helpful analytics about their readers’ behaviour, authors who encourage readers to buy on Amazon with an affiliate link get a percentage of all sales that link generates, even if it’s for jewellery or clothing worth thousands of dollars sold by another seller. The one catch is that Amazon limits where you can use these links to webpages you own. Social media posts and email newsletters are forbidden, according to their Terms of Service. And while some authors ignore these terms without getting punished, this practice can lead to a random Amazon Associates account shutdown at any time if you do decide to risk it.
Amazon offers an alternative to their affiliate links programme that you can use if you want the benefits without risking an account shutdown: attribution links. These have all the tracking capabilities of Amazon affiliate links, providing key metrics in a similar way to a Facebook tracking pixel embedded in a webpage you control. Only they don’t offer affiliate income. As a result, Amazon gives partners unbridled flexibility to post them wherever they want to A/B test paid ads, social media posts and newsletter efficacy.
These links are fantastic, but be mindful as a beginner because they aren’t yet available in commonly used dashboards for authors. To access them, you need to open an Amazon Seller account designed for general product sellers, pay a monthly fee and jump through several legal business hoops. Getting there is fiddly and can be expensive. However, if you have the time, money and all the paperwork associated with a mature author business, go for it. These links can afford you significant advantages, not least enabling you to create your own Amazon Store page on which you can feature your books alongside higher-ticket merchandise items.
You’ve probably noticed that all the links mentioned so far are limited in some way. Well, if you want to create links that do everything, Genius Links offers a close solution. It’s a paid service and is only necessary for advanced online marketers. However, if you want to delve into genius links, they can offer almost limitless flexibility once you master the dashboard and functions. Just some of the things you can do with them include:
- Creating landing pages that link to a customisable range of stores
- Develop landing pages specifically for niche formats like hardbacks
- Localise your links to as many territories as are available
- Embed affiliate or attribution links in them as long as you comply with retailer terms
If you sell niche books and never plan to grow a huge business then you probably don’t need to spend time, money and energy creating genius links. But they can be useful to those who want the extra functionality and access to advanced analytics.
If your mind is spinning at the prospect of using all these links, don’t worry. You don’t need them all to be a successful author. Ultimately, what you need depends on you and your business. As long as you can send your fans to a place where they can buy your books, that’s all that matters. And some of the simplest links provide that service for free. The more advanced links, on the other hand, can help you do more and go further if you have a complicated business model and mammoth commercial aspirations.
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