I read an interesting post on the Bookbub Partners Blog a couple of weeks ago, where they shared some of their findings on backmatter optimization. “Backmatter” is all the stuff that goes in the back of the book, like teasers, first chapters, buy links, author bios, and the like.
Way back when I first started publishing, I decided to write a unique author’s note at the back of each of my books. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on that from my readers, so I intend to keep doing it (though they may get a little shorter as time goes on).
I’ve also avoided putting sample chapters for other books, mostly because of some advice I read on KBoards early on about how that changes the “percentage read” bar at the bottom of the ereader. A lot of people on KBoards complained about how annoying it was when a book ended at only the 90% mark, or 85% mark.
That was anecdotal, though. Bookbub crunches a lot of data, and their report says that sample chapters are more effective. So be it.
I’ve also been putting links to the book pages on my blog, where I’ve condensed all of the ebookstore links for each book. If you put a buy link to Amazon and try to upload that book to iBooks, they will block it. Likewise for many other stores. The laziest solution for this was to just have a page on my blog that links to all the stores, so that I can upload the same file everywhere.
Again, however, the Bookbub data show that you sell a lot more books when your backmatter links directly to that store. So even though it means making a separate file for each publishing platform, that’s what I plan to do.
And it’s actually not as hard as I thought it would be. I upload to Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords, so I only need four different files for each book. Because of the modular way epubs are structured, each sample chapter is an .xhtml file with a link at the end, and all I need to change really is the link. Drop the sample chapter at the back of the master file, export as epub, swap out for the other sample chapter with the different store link, export again. A little tedious, but not overly difficult once all the .xhtml files are made.
Point is, I’m making a big change to my publishing process, and it’s going to take a while for all these changes to trickle down through my catalog. But the only thing that’s changing is that I’m taking out the book teasers and adding a sample chapter. All of the author’s notes are staying, and nothing in the actual book content is changing.
Most of the prep work is already done. I’ve mapped out where all the sample chapters need to go, and made all the .xhtml files that I need to add to the master epubs. Now I just need to make the new epubs and upload them, which I plan to do one series at a time.
All told, this is probably going to take another 8-12 man hours to accomplish. But that’s on top of all the other stuff I need to do, like writing. If I can put in half an hour to an hour each day, this project should get done by the end of the month.
So that’s what I’ve been up to on the publishing end. This is one of those things where it’s best to make a decision early on in your career, because it’s a lot more work to change course midway. Of course, you should always be willing to change that decision based on data, which is what I’m doing here.