Hi there 👋,

Last week, we started exploring the waters of non-Amazon retailers, especially the philosophies behind their book recommendation systems (manual curation vs algorithms). This week, it’s time to do a deep dive into the second largest eBook store out there: iBooks.

What are the advantages of the iBooks store?

Apple’s iBooks store is second in line after Amazon’s Kindle Store — and it’s much, much smaller. In most markets, it accounts for less than 10% of ebook sales.

10% may not seem like a lot. But keep in mind that this doesn’t take Kindle Unlimited into account. While KU has arguably made it harder for “wide” authors to succeed on Amazon, it has also lured a lot of them into Amazon exclusivity — thus lowering the competition on non-Amazon retailers. 

In other words, if you play your cards right, it might be easier for you to get a big chunk of Apple’s 10% than a small chunk of Amazon’s 83%. On top of that, iBooks offers some specific advantages.

Readers pay more on average for a book on Apple

While there’s no official statistic to confirm this, it’s common knowledge that iBooks readers are less sensitive to price elasticity. This basically means that you can get traction for a $5 or $6 book more easily on iBooks than on Amazon. 

Free first-in-series work particularly well

Another tidbit of common knowledge: while permafree first-in-series don’t work as well as they previously did on Amazon (due to Amazon splitting up their free and paid bestseller lists), they still work extremely well on Apple. If you have a series and you’re using iBooks, make sure to try making Book One free.

iBooks pays 70% royalties on books above $9.99

You probably know that Amazon only pays you 35% royalties on books priced above $9.99. Well, Apple doesn’t have that upper limit: you still earn 70% royalties on sales at $10.99, $19.99, or even $24.99. This makes iBooks a perfect place for having exclusive box sets. (As you’ll remember from last week, seeing authors offer products exclusively on their store makes merchandising teams happy, too.) 

Touchpoints with no sale aren’t penalized

This advantage might be less well-known, but it’s just as crucial. Amazon’s algorithms are constantly testing your book. If it detects many readers going to your book’s page but not purchasing, Amazon will peg your book as a loser and stop recommending it. In contrast, iBooks doesn’t care about the number of “touchpoints” that customers have with your book — so you don’t have to fear any consequences when you drive people to your book’s page as many times as possible.

Pre-orders count twice

Perhaps the best advantage of iBooks when compared to Amazon is this secret weapon: pre-orders. If you get a pre-order sale on Amazon, it counts (towards bestseller rankings and popularity lists) as one sale at the time of the preorder. Now, on iBooks, it counts as one sale at the time of the pre-order — and then as another sale on launch day. This means that if you manage to get 500 pre-orders on iBooks, your book will shoot to the top of the ranks on launch day (and attract the attention of the merch team).

Now we’ve looked at the particularities of the store, let’s dive into actionable tips for maximizing your presence on iBooks.

Signing up to the iBooks affiliate program

The first thing you should do if you’re serious about iBooks is to sign up to its affiliate program. iBooks allows authors to place affiliate codes anywhere, including on websites and within advertising spheres (while Amazon Affiliates doesn’t allow you to use their links on ads). 

Using affiliate links in your communications and ads will allow you to:

  1. Track your sales and conversion rates more effectively, and
  2. Earn 7% more on your sales (that’s the affiliate percentage). 

How to plan your launch on iBooks

With all this in mind, here’s an example of how you could put together a solid plan specific to iBooks for your next release:

  1. Set up a pre-order exclusive to iBooks one year in advance (just put the metadata information — no cover or sample).

  2. Two months before launch, run a cover reveal exclusively on iBooks.

  3. One month before launch, offer a sneak peek (e.g. first chapter) exclusively on iBooks (the store allows you to update your pre-order with sneak peeks). The goal here is to generate several “touchpoints” through the duration of your pre-order in order to maximize the number of pre-order sales (which count twice). Remember: “touchpoints” with no sale are not penalized, so don’t be afraid to drive as many people to your iBooks page — as many times as possible.

  4. If you upload to iBooks directly (i.e. not through an aggregator like Draft2Digital), iBooks will give you 250 promo codes after launch that will allow your fans to download your book for free. You can use them to run giveaways or contests on social media. Bear in mind that these codes are “live” for 30 days after distribution — so it might be a good idea to only request 10 at a time, pass those out, and then request more.

  5. Run Facebook ads specifically targeting iBooks readers. Facebook allows you to select “iBooks” as an “interest” — or “iPhone 6, 7 … X owners” as “behaviours.” This way, you can narrow down your usual audience and run ads that take readers straight to your iBooks page. (Don’t forget to use your affiliate link!)
I know several bestselling authors out there who make as much (or more) money through iBooks than they do through Amazon. They generally use a combination of the tactics above. If you apply them on your next launch, please drop me a line to let me know how it works for you!

Until next week (which will be all about Kobo!),

Ricardo, Founder @ Reedsy
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