Secrets of Ebook Marketing, Excerpt Trades & the Future of Enhanced Ebooks

This post, by Cheri Lasota, originally appeared on her site on 12/12/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.

I’d been search­ing for months for the right book to do an excerpt trade with. I’d heard about this sim­ple idea from my won­der­ful friend Nancy Kelley who heard about it from her friend, Jennifer Becton. Sometimes ideas spread like wild­fire, and this one ought to because it’s bril­liant. The con­cept is a no-​​brainer: get together with another indie author writ­ing in a sim­i­lar vein and trade chap­ter 1 book excerpts in the back of each other’s books. Voila! Now you have access to a brand new audi­ence you wouldn’t have had oth­er­wise. Cool, huh?


When I joined the Pacific Northwest YA Authors group, group mem­ber Lisa Nowak rec­om­mended I approach Laura Elliott with the idea. It turned out to be the per­fect fit. I asked Laura some ques­tions about how she viewed the excerpt trade process and wanted to share her answers with you. Without fur­ther ado…

Did you have any hes­i­ta­tions about excerpt trad­ing when I first approached you with the idea? What put those hes­i­ta­tions to rest?

Not at all. I love to try every­thing. I guess if I had one doubt about the process it was my own skills at pro­gram­ming your beau­ti­fully for­mat­ted excerpt of Artemis Rising into my ebook, Winnemucca. I enjoyed read­ing such a beau­ti­fully for­mat­ted ebook and learned from you in the process of adding your excerpt to Winnemucca. Because you are so knowl­edge­able about the process of for­mat­ting ebooks and enhanced books our col­lab­o­ra­tion was like tak­ing a lit­tle class—my favorite class. Thanks for putting up with my learn­ing curve, Cheri! This how my ebook world broad­ened as a result of our collaboration:

I made epub files out of my books, Winnemucca and 13 on Halloween, (book 1 in the Teen Halloween series) and uploaded them to the Barnes & Noble site so that they are now avail­able for the Nook. I didn’t want to go the Smashwords route for a num­ber of rea­sons, so I pre­vi­ously only had my books avail­able for the Kindle and as paper­backs. But because I wanted to help spread the word widely for Cheri and her book, as her books were more widely avail­able on dif­fer­ent ebook plat­forms, I used Calibre to make the nec­es­sary con­ver­sions. As a result my books are avail­able to a much wider market.

I found that xhtml is easy for me to under­stand since I was an html pro­gram­mer. But I’m all thumbs com­pared to Cheri, not that any­thing I had to do to add her excerpt was very advanced, but I began to see what I could do. Anyway, I got inspired by Cheri’s for­mat­ting and inter­ested in mak­ing more beau­ti­fully for­mat­ted books. Cheri sug­gested that I read Elizabeth Castro’s book, and I look for­ward to read­ing it when I have some time to play around with this stuff. I mean, we are indies because one of the ben­e­fits we have over tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished authors is that we can con­trol every aspect of our books, includ­ing their for­mat­ting. Okay, it’s not as sexy as a cover for some, but there is going to be a great deal that can be done from what used to be termed “cover to cover.”

Granted we do need to find a bal­ance with our writ­ing, pro­mot­ing, and mar­ket­ing lives, so leav­ing this up to pro­gram­mers might be an option too. But even so, know­ing what’s pos­si­ble is very impor­tant in work­ing with ebook professionals.

Will you con­tinue to use excerpt trad­ing as part of your mar­ket­ing plan in the future? Why or why not? 

Yes, I will. I’m sure that excerpt trad­ing, as you have indi­cated, will morph into dif­fer­ent things in the months and years to come. But I think it’s a solid way to mar­ket great sto­ries to readers.


What do you think of what Author Carolyn McCray calls “sales nodes”? Do you think of this as a nat­ural expan­sion of excerpt trading? 

Yes, actu­ally I think this is the future of excerpt trad­ing. I think it makes sense to pro­mote in this way and it could be viewed as our own “lists,” if you will, like the lists that tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing houses have. We would offer our read­ers a col­lec­tion of writ­ers and not only excerpt their work but col­lab­o­ra­tively take turns at offer­ing books at steep dis­counts. A com­bi­na­tion of a candy store and old school pub­lish­ing cat­a­logues. And I think it’s a win-​​win for read­ers, because the mar­ket is huge. Finding qual­ity titles can be time-​​consuming. The odds of find­ing a great story among authors affil­i­ated in this way ups the reader’s chances of find­ing sto­ries they’ll love because authors would want to be sure the qual­ity is high in the group before lend­ing their name to it.


You are already doing a lot of cross-​​promotion with the authors of your Pacific Northwest YA Authors group and the YA Indie Carnival. What has been your most suc­cess­ful cross-​​promotion thus far?

Both groups have had huge suc­cesses! And I’m actu­ally also in a third group. =)

I think the YA Indie Carnival #yaindiecar­ni­val has been a huge suc­cess for cross-​​promotion. It is a group of 25 authors & review­ers who post on all things YA Indy every Friday. It’s been a great way to show­case our books and review sites to new read­ers. It’s also been a tremen­dous source of writ­ing and pro­mo­tion tips, and most of all we’ve helped to sup­port each other. We’ve not only learned about what’s new in our ever-​​changing indus­try but also about each other. Our most suc­cess­ful events have been our give­aways. Our most pop­u­lar posts have been about social media and exclu­sive excerpts of new releases as well as per­sonal posts about high school and a wide vari­ety of other top­ics. We like to keep it inti­mate at the car­ni­val so that read­ers get to know us well and want to run away with us to the car­ni­val every Friday.

The best cross-​​promotion for the Pacific Northwest YA Authors has been the tra­di­tional face-​​to-​​face tour­ing with our read­ers, be it at shows like Wordstock or libraries or inde­pen­dent book­stores. What an amaz­ing group of writ­ers! I can hon­estly say I’d never have been able to talk about my books as well as I can now, if it wasn’t for the sup­port of Stacey, Angela, Lisa, Rebecca, Cidney, and you. If it wasn’t for the group, I never would have met you, Cheri. And not only would I miss your sup­port, I would have taken much longer to find Artemis Rising, a story I loved. So, when you emailed propos­ing the excerpt trade I was thrilled. And I’m glad every­one was open to includ­ing me as I live part-​​time in Portland and part-​​time on the cen­tral coast of California.

I’m also involved in a group called The Paranormal Plumes Society and we have started cross-​​promoting each other in our books by list­ing each other’s names and web­sites at the end of our books. Beyond the cross-​​promotion we do, we just have a LOT of fun together and even had A Haunted Book Tour in Savannah, GA just before Halloween last October where we got to hang out with our read­ers and do things like eat at haunted restau­rants and get spooked at one of the scari­est haunted houses in the nation! We are on tour in Florida at the end of July, going to a high school and a few mid­dle schools in the Deltona, FL area.


What do you think about the direc­tion book mar­ket­ing has headed in the past decade? How do you think the ebook explo­sion will play into book mar­ket­ing in the next decade?

Well, I pub­lished my debut novel Winnemucca, a small-​​town fairy tale, last July so I wasn’t out there try­ing to swing for the fences before this year. I’m not really cer­tain of what it was/​is like for tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished authors, hav­ing not been one. But I have heard quite a few sto­ries about authors not feel­ing in con­trol. I pre­dict that in the next decade the for­mat­ting, pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing of books will be more and more in the hands of authors.

I also pre­dict that’s where the next big idea will come from. From authors. Tech-​​savvy authors. Someone among us is the Mark Zuckerberg of ebooks and ebook mar­ket­ing. One of us will be able to take ebook mar­ket­ing and aug­ment tra­di­tional book tours with a place where read­ers can learn about ebooks in all the ways peo­ple like to, with trail­ers and music and excerpts, reviews and author inter­views. We have entered the age of the reader.

Not since the Gutenberg Press has there been such a devel­op­ment in the abil­ity to read lit­er­a­ture. Now we need to har­ness it. Aggregate the con­tent, much like the Googles and Yahoos of the world do with what’s hot and trend­ing in news and enter­tain­ment. That’s my pre­dic­tion. There will be a Google or Yahoo of books, a site that aggre­gates things from Goodreads, Kirkus, Booklist, Amazon, Independent book stores, Barnes & Noble, and the other play­ers to give read­ers what they want, and easy ways to find sto­ries that they love.

Cheri, thanks so much for hav­ing me on your blog today! It’s been a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence to col­lab­o­rate with you on my first excerpt exchange.


** Want to read Laura’s cross-​​post on the same topic? Laura asks me about excerpt trad­ing as well as the future of enhanced ebooks. Just click here for more.