Gavin Steel wants nothing to do with the Alliance’s war against the Syndicate, but when sensitive data falls into the enemy’s hands and the number of fallen Arc soldiers continues to rise, he’s left with no choice but to enter the fight.Read More
When a strange signal comes from an isolated area in the forests outside of Seattle, they find that First Contact is not going to happen with big ships and grand world-wide messages. Aliens, it turns out, like to keep their existence quiet.Read More
While the Council has been busy between possible talks with the United Nations and following clues into the man who killed Scott's parents, rumors of dead mermen are reaching the news. Is the hunter human or one of their own? More importantly, how is he so easily finding victims who have learned how to hide over centuries?Read More
When an injured merman is found washed up on a beach in Maine, his arrival at the ER leaves his new doctors at a loss of how to treat him. Worse, how are they going to keep him from the military's eager hands?Read More
The grueling part of writing novels is the need to promote your own work. This is especially true of authors published by small presses or those who go the self-publishing route. The Kindle Scout winning authors behind this site have also learned that despite the awesome marketing machine of Amazon, they still need to engage in frequent self-promotion. There is no sitting back and relaxing once the novel is published by Kindle Press.Read More
A Harsh Truth, But We Can't Ignore It
Admit it. As a debut author, you’ve dreamed of walking into a bookstore and seeing your book on the front table luring readers over to buy it. Dreamy sigh. Am I right?
It’s not until you’ve been in the business that you understand the chances of that are fairly low, unless your book was selected to receive a generous marketing budget from your publishing house. In reality, those spots are paid placements from coop funding between publishers and bookstores, and can run upwards to the 10s of thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, whether an author is published traditionally, hybrid, or indie, many still have the dream of physical representation in bookstores and libraries. A place where people can see and touch their books, not just look at a thumbnail on Amazon. I know I did.
Yet, as much as we all hunger for print, what I’ve found is many debut authors don’t understand the deep nuances around the economics involved. The topic has spurred many a discussion between me and some of my closest author friends. Just like the dream of being in bookstores is universal among authors of every publication pathway, so are the drawbacks. It’s just that when you are in a traditional situation, it’s masked by royalty systems, but it feeds into why a large percentage of debut authors never see a dime beyond their advances.
So, why is this the case?
Let’s start with the basics and some averages.
- The Industry. Booksellers run consignment businesses. They can order as many of your books as they want, and they only have to pay for the ones they sell. All the others can be returned, sometimes up to a year later, in any condition…without penalty. Return rates run between 25 – 50% with the largest impact coming from wholesalers and chain stores. Small independent bookstores tend to buy only a few copies due to space limitations.
- Trade terms. To have your book stocked in a bookstore, you need to offer trade terms. That means you must offer a 55% discount off the retail cover price, and make the book returnable. If you are publishing through Amazon, unless they have changed their terms, your books are not returnable. That means, unless prompted by you, rarely will anyone order them. Add to that the general bias independent bookstores have against Amazon, and you most likely are wasting your time with expanded distribution through Createspace. If having a chance at being in a bookstore is a must have for you, I’d recommend IngramSpark with an IBSN purchased from Bowker.
Let’s pause to do some math. I know! It’s the wrong side of the brain. But just stick with me here:
Retail Price = $16.00
Manufacturing cost = $4.00
How the Biz works for Indies (if you are traditionally published, after publisher and agent fees, you’ll see $0.60 - $0.85 per book in this example. Hopefully, you’re making it up in volume):
Retail Price (GROSS) $16.00
Minus Trade Discount of 55% (8.80)
Wholesale Price $7.20
Minus Manufacturing Cost (4.50)
Net Profit to Author $2.70 / book
- Hurts & Return fees. Remember when I said that bookstores can return your books in ANY condition and not pay for them? If they are damaged, they are considered a “hurt” and cannot be resold. If it costs $4.50 to produce that book, guess how much you made for the sale of that book? You took a $4.50 loss. That loss will be used to offset any sales on future books. Restocking / return fees are generally $0.50 per book.
Remember that math?
You’ll need to sell more than 1 book to make up for the loss of that returned hurt as an indie. As a traditionally published author? Yup, you guessed it. You need to sell 3-5 more books to make up for the single loss. If 30-50% of books are returned, remember that royalty check with all those sales? That’s why they withheld 25-30% of your last royalty check as a ‘reserve’– to cover future returns. Keep in mind, the average traditionally published author sells 2,000 full priced books. If they are doing really well? 10,000. For indie authors, it's 150 books and 1,500 as a 'respectable' number. Of course there are the outliers--I've met some of them--but comparing yourself to them would be like a movie extra comparing themself to Brad Pitt.
Are you starting to see the economics of print coming back to bite you in the arsenal?
It used to be that if a bookstore asked you to sign some copies of your book to leave behind after an event, they couldn’t return them. Well, not anymore from what I understand. They can return them, and guess where they can end up? Your hurt pile as unsellable stock. So, think twice about signing those 30 extra copies…
- Backlist status. Another thing about the publishing industry. Your book is like a ripe melon that has a shelf life. It’s considered a “frontlist” title for only the first year it is out, with most of the activity occurring in the first twelve weeks after publication. Backlist is anything a year or more from the current date. If you have a series, backlist matters less than if you have a standalone novel. Generally, bookstores won’t go out of their way to order backlist titles from debut authors unless they plan on having a physical event at that particular store.
The general flow of royalty checks looks something like this (at least from my first publisher who used to pay quarterly with no upfront advance), the first two checks are high, and then slowly decline over the next two quarters when all the returns come home to roost.
- Discounters. Who are these people anyway? Not all, but some show up on Amazon and sell in the secondary market. You may or may not see a dime on these sales. Where are they getting their books? Giveaways and ARCs tend to make their way to the secondary markets.
At the end of the day, I’ll still offer print on all the books I publish as an indie using print-on-demand technology. Nothing compares to the actual feel of the book in your hands. Also, I enjoy in person events and signing books. As far as bookstores are concerned? I will continue to form relationships with bookstore owners and nurture them, but if you’re looking for my books in Walmart, chances are you’ll only find them in their online catalog.
My eyes are open to the impact these sales have on my overall economics, and I've made the choice to take that potential hit. With Ingram, I can always turn off the distribution machine with the toggle of a button. Honestly? Without the benefit of an Ingram Sales Rep pushing my book at my first publisher, the chances that I will have to are low.
One more thing to consider: offer print through Createspace for Amazon-based print sales. You'll make more on those sales, and let Ingram distribute the rest. Best of both worlds.
What about you? What are your experiences with print and your thoughts on how this contributes to your sales?
A lot of support services have grown up around the indie-publishing industry over the past few years. While some of them are less than stellar, some I can't live without. Around 2015, I came to know of a service called Booklaunch.io that has since become, for me, a must-have. 2015 was the time I was trying to set up my web presence, and with a demanding full-time job and a super-active toddler on my hands, I was looking for something fast and easy that would make my book pages look clean and professional. Booklaunch was offering gorgeous landing pages for books at a very enticing price–FREE.
Let me explain the landing page before I get further ahead–it is a webpage that is your book's home online. It usually has a blurb, maybe a detailed behind-the-scenes look, purchase links, reviews, endorsements, author bio, sharing options, email/newsletter signup options etc. A landing page is very important, not just because it shows off a portfolio in a measured and glamorized way but also because it is an unifying portalfor things like purchase links across multiple retail sites.
Before Booklaunch, I used to have landing pages for each of my books on the website. Setting those up was not too difficult, not even getting the purchase links together, but they were not great looking pages at all. Even before I heard about Booklaunch, I had been looking for a solution that was affordable and easy to maintain.
The greatest thing about Booklaunch is the minimum programming skills required on the author's part to set up these pages. Although, I have a decent knowledge of HTML, creating book pages as gorgeous as the ones on Booklaunch would need a lot of work. Each time I wanted a change in the layout, I would have to invest time. Or hire a designer. Thinking through, it seemed like trying out Booklaunch was a sensible idea.
So I signed up.
Setting up my book pages was the easiest thing to do. You can start building your pages by entering ASIN/ISBN or building manually and typing it in one section at a time.
The dashboard is where you can see all your books listed and you can access each one from there.
On the individual pages, you have the ability to edit each section, change the colors, sort the sections, add or delete them.
For a PRO account ($10/month if billed annually, $12/month if billed month-to-month), there is a great email-signup feature (AWeber or Mailchimp) as well as a lot of other plugins that you can set up on your book pages. The integrations are extremely easy and it took less than 5 mins for my first Mailchimp integration and less than a min for the rest of the pages.
There is an analytics page available to PRO accounts also. It is a great snapshot of what is working and what is not, and can be detailed down to individual books.
You might ask, why PRO? Thought it was free.
Booklaunch went to a paying model about 3 months after my signup. That made me switch to the PRO account which supports unlimited number of pages. Currently, there is still a free option, but it only supports 1 book page. The PLUS account ($5/month if billed annually) gets you 3 book pages. The biggest benefit of the PRO account ($10/month if billed annually) is the unlimited pages and the ability to capture email signups from the book page.
Back from the sidebar, it is easy to link to the Booklaunch pages from your website. I have a wordpress.com account which does not allow plugins, the solution is to make links via the menu options that redirect to the Booklaunch page. The Booklaunch pages can also be assigned custom addresses so they are easy to remember. For example, my book The Eternity Prophecy has an address like this –http://book1.empire.sgbasu.com/. You could have it set up anyway you want.
If you choose to buy custom domains for the books, those can be included in Booklaunch also. Cool, right?
A very important note–these pages are all hosted by Booklaunch, so you don't have to worry about servers and hosts.
However, along with all the upsides, there are a few downsides. It is important to remember that Booklaunch is a startup. The site has some features that do not work perfectly and some features that are necessary but not yet there.
A feature that I want really badly is the ability to copy/clone a book page. There are things I want replicated on each page, the author section for example. Unfortunately, there is no way to copy the whole template. I've heard they are working on it, but until then it's a grind.
Booklaunch offers custom sections also, which is great. This is in addition to the premade sections. All you have to do it format it using the built-in editor and launch it. However, image insertion sometimes does not work here and that is a pain.
One erratically working feature is the sequence of the books on the dashboard. For a long time, the books got added in sequence. One fine day, they started jumping up and down the list. I finally figured they were getting sorted based on the "last update" timestamp and not the "time created" timestamp. Now it has reverted back to the original setting but not before getting my list entirely out of whack.
Another unfortunate thing with Booklaunch.io has been emailing/contacting the support team. In my experience, every time I send an email, it takes a couple of days for the Booklaunch team to get back to me.
I understand fully well that the team might be small and getting back within a few minutes is too much to ask. But I hope that as Booklaunch picks up more subscribers, they improve on this aspect.
So, to anyone who might be considering using Booklaunch, it is easy and quite affordable ($10/month for the PRO account with unlimited pages being the most expensive option) and in my opinion, worth every penny. But make sure while you're excited about seeing your books dazzle in their glamorous pages, you're also prepared to handle the less than perfect customer support.
L.G. O'Connor has had some great luck putting together book reviews, and she was able to narrow down the entire process into a few simple steps that will hopefully help readers and authors alike in generating reviews to post on Amazon and other platforms!
If you follow these easy steps you'll be able to dramatically increase how fast you can post reviews on Amazon.
Writing Book Reviews in Three Minutes or Less
Many people (including me!) are sometimes daunted by leaving book reviews, or don't have time, or just don't like a book enough to make the effort (or hate it so much they feel compelled to leave a bad one, LOL). I totally get it, but for those of you just too intimidated, here are a few easy steps to write a review and support the authors you enjoy.
The secret: they don't need to be long, or talk about the plot - that's what the book description is for. The review can be one or two sentences.
Answer 1 or all 3 of these questions, and you'll have a review:
- Would you recommend the book? If so, who do you think would enjoy it most? (Ex: people who like X author or X type of book)
- Did you like / dislike the characters? Name one or two reasons why.
- Your overall impression of the book in a sentence.
As an author, the reason I write is to share my stories and hope they connect with readers. Reviews aren't for me, they are for you -- the readers. But even though they aren't for me, they are supremely important to me. For instance, without at least 100 reviews, my chance of getting a Bookbub featured deal is slim to none, which impacts my ability to capture new readers. I'm always super grateful and appreciative when someone leaves an honest review, so I invite you to add your voice!
Posting Short Reviews is not a bad thing!
If you don't have time to post out a really long and in-depth review, then posting something can really help an author out! Getting honest reviews is one of the hardest things to do, so getting even short little snippets as reviews can be hugely beneficial.
So, if you have time to post reviews on any books you read, whether you enjoyed them or just wish to warn other readers away, then know that we are all super grateful!
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