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Miss Erin

Self Publishing Companies

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I don't really know much about the area of self-publishing, but I have been giving it a lot of thought as of late and have decided it's a great way to get your feet wet and get yourself out there as author. 

 

But I don't really know how to get started once I have completed a manuscript. Do you self publish through some sort of agency or company? And if so, what are some good ones you could recommend? 

 

Puh, it's not like I even have anything close to a completed manuscript right now! 🤪

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16 hours ago, Erin Cook said:

But I don't really know how to get started once I have completed a manuscript. Do you self publish through some sort of agency or company? And if so, what are some good ones you could recommend? 

The quick and dirty on being an "indie" (because you could write a book about this): You are basically the publisher. You make all decisions as to what, when, and where to publish. Beyond that the choices are numerous.

 

The low (or no) cost publish for eBooks is to deal directly with retailers: Amazon (Kindle Direct)., Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play. Or you can publish through an "agregator" that distributes your eBook to these places (and more) for a small slice of the royalties. These include Smashwords, Draft2digital, and a couple of others have popped up. Or you can mix and match. Or you could go all-in with Amazon through their KDP Select program (which means you can't publish your eBook anywhere else). LOTS of choices here.

 

You can also publish a print version of your book through POD (Print on Demand) vendors like Kindle, IngramSpark, Lulu, and some others that have recently popped up. Each have their own cost structures, but Kindle will do it for free (you just pay for any books you order for yourself). Like eBooks, you have lots of choices and each company has a different distribution structure. 

 

You can produce an audio book through places like ACX (Amazon owns this), Findaway, etc. I have yet to produce one for my books, so I don't have any experience to share on this.

 

Overall, which is an important step to consider, is that once you've produced and distributed your book, you are also responsible for all aspects of marketing.

 

Again, this was a quick, high-altitude look at self-publishing. There are many free resources to study. I would start with Indies Unlimited. They can link you with many other on-line resources.

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2 hours ago, Accord64 said:

 

Again, this was a quick, high-altitude look at self-publishing

He knows his stuff! 

 

And be careful of vanity publishing companies! 

 

Hey @Accord64, you should copy the above and store it somewhere. It seems you rewrite this every few months. Might be a time saver. 

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Wow, thank you, @Alley & @Accord64; that was a boatload of info!! I really appreciate it. 😊

 

3 hours ago, Lucian Hodoboc said:

How close are you to finishing the manuscript? :)

Oh boy ... well, Lucian, I, um, really couldn't say right off! Lol. 😂

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3 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

However, it's always fresh for somebody.

Very true! 😊

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3 hours ago, Lucian Hodoboc said:

Where can we find them?

I've gone "wide," which means I sell eBooks directly through:

 

Amazon

Barnes & Nobel

Google Play

Kobo

 

I also utilize an aggragator (Smashwords) to sell/distribute on:

 

Apple

Baker & Taylor (Blio, a retailer)

Tolino

Inktera

Gardners 

Scribd 

Axis360 library platform

Odilo

OverDrive

Smashwords Store

 

I also have print versions on POD through Kindle Publishing, and they distribute to Amazon & other expanded outlets.

 

So who is my best-selling retailer? Surprise - it's not Amazon. It's Kobo! They accounted for 75% of my eBooks sales last year, and 87% this year. Amazon used to be my top dog, but since their advertising got so expensive, I shifted my promotion focus to Kobo. They've been good to me ever since.

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Accord64 said:

. Amazon used to be my top dog, but since their advertising got so expensive, I shifted my promotion focus to Kobo. They've been good to me ever since

I have heard this from soooooo many people! 

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12 hours ago, Accord64 said:

So who is my best-selling retailer? Surprise - it's not Amazon. It's Kobo!

That's awesome. They don't seem to like me on Kobo. I've sold just three books there, one of them to myself. :D I've sold a handful on Apple, a smattering on Barnes and Noble, and the bulk of my sales, well over 80%, have been on Amazon. Even when I use non-platform specific promos like Robin Reads, most of the sales come from Amazon.

 

I suspect it's a genre thing, since most readers of Christian romance are based in America, where Amazon dominates. But there's no way I'll go in KU. I'm after buyers, not borrowers, and I believe wide sales will come with time and more books published.

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16 minutes ago, Alley said:

I have heard this from soooooo many people! 

Maybe Amazon's domination is starting to wane?

 

2 minutes ago, EBraten said:

I suspect it's a genre thing, since most readers of Christian romance are based in America, where Amazon dominates

 

I write thrillers & Sci-fi, and sell surprisingly well in Canada, Australia & New Zealand. Although UK sales picked up this month. That's what I love about Kobo, my books sell in countries I'd never think would be interested - like Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. They also partnered with Walmart last year. I haven't seen too many US sales, so I'm not sure how that's going.

 

6 minutes ago, EBraten said:

But there's no way I'll go in KU. I'm after buyers, not borrowers, and I believe wide sales will come with time and more books published.

 

I tried KU once with a new release, but for only 90 days to get a boost. That was back in 2015. It's a much different animal these days. I wouldn't go near it. Way too much abuse & fraud, which Amazon can't seem to stay ahead of. 

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5 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

or just copy and paste into files

 

That just doesn't have the same ring to it.

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On 12/31/2019 at 7:55 AM, Accord64 said:

You can produce an audio book through places like ACX (Amazon owns this), Findaway, etc. I have yet to produce one for my books, so I don't have any experience to share on this.

 

Most producer will do it for a fee- usually $150-$250 per hour, but you can get some to do it for a partial sharing of costs, and some (very rarely) will even do it for free for a royalty share.

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I'm coming in a little late here... Accord64, have you used IngramSpark? I'm planning to go with them for my second book, but I would love to hear from someone who has actually used them.

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45 minutes ago, Chris Brown said:

I'm coming in a little late here... Accord64, have you used IngramSpark? I'm planning to go with them for my second book, but I would love to hear from someone who has actually used them.

 

Welcome to the party, Chris. :)

 

Sorry, I haven't used IngramSpark, but I know several authors who have. They report that IS has superior distribution channels and a return policy - which is very important to bookstores. They generally won't stock titles if they can't return unsold units, although you need to be sort of an indie rock-star to get them to carry your book to begin with.

 

I currently use KDP Print (absorbed through Createspace). I've always been interested in IS, but they charge a fee of $49 per title, and $25 each time you want to make changes (which also requires you to go through the whole publish set-up again). KDP has no fees and will even supply you with a free ISBN (under their name). I don't think IS gives you an ISBN (but it's probably a good idea to get your own, anyway).

 

I generally sell many more eBooks than print books, so I'm sticking with KDP for now. But I check out IS from time to time to see if there have been any changes.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

 

Welcome to the party, Chris. :)

 

Sorry, I haven't used IngramSpark, but I know several authors who have. They report that IS has superior distribution channels and a return policy - which is very important to bookstores. They generally won't stock titles if they can't return unsold units, although you need to be sort of an indie rock-star to get them to carry your book to begin with.

 

I currently use KDP Print (absorbed through Createspace). I've always been interested in IS, but they charge a fee of $49 per title, and $25 each time you want to make changes (which also requires you to go through the whole publish set-up again). KDP has no fees and will even supply you with a free ISBN (under their name). I don't think IS gives you an ISBN (but it's probably a good idea to get your own, anyway).

 

I generally sell many more eBooks than print books, so I'm sticking with KDP for now. But I check out IS from time to time to see if there have been any changes.

 

 

 

Thanks for the reply! My information from IS says you do have to get your own ISBN from Bowker, but I was going to do that anyway. 

 

My first book is in a couple dozen independent bookstores around the U.S., and I've been getting some sales through those stores, so that market is important to me. My main hangup with KDP was that the book would not be returnable (I actually did a little supplemental book through KDP and it was fine, but I never intended to sell that through stores). I was warned by one person that IS didn't give a typical retailer discount to bookstores, but after corresponding with someone there I figured out the person giving that warning hadn't understood the supply chain when they did their pricing. 

 

I've sold some eBooks of my first book, but the print copies are still well ahead. When I do events I have a QR code sheet for people who want eBooks, but almost everyone who sees me in person wants a print copy, even if they don't want it signed. 

 

On bookstores, you don't have to be a rock star to get in, but you do have to put in some work. I'm happy to share my process if anyone is interested. You absolutely DO have to be a rock star if you want to get into Mardell's or any other big chain, and a lot of the independent stores as well, but there are plenty who were willing to give me a shot. 

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All right, buckle up, this will probably be a little long. 🙂

 

First, there are some basics you need to have in general. A quality book goes without saying, but it will need to be in one of the major wholesale networks and will need to be returnable (one exception on returnable that I'll get to later). You need to have a good "sell sheet" ready to go, and I recommend having a media kit on your website. Those two things you want to have whether you're reaching out to bookstores or not. I don't consider myself a pro on that, but you can go to my website and click media kit and see what I did (the media kit includes a copy of the sell sheet). Google it and you'll see roughly a million different views on the media kit, so just do what works for you. 

 

So, on to bookstores. Step one is just getting together a list of bookstores in the first place. I started in my state, then expanded to the rest of my region, then ultimately to the whole U.S. Unless your name is Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer you can forget the big chains - we're looking for independent stores. There are a few lists out there, like the Logos-affiliated stores, but I didn't get very far with those lists (with the exception that I'm in the Logos store in Nashville). What I did, which was very time consuming, was do a google maps search for "Christian Bookstores in <state>" and just go through the list. Some you can skip right away, like the big chains. There are also a bunch associated with christianbook.com that you can skip. Catholic stores almost always exclusively do Catholic books, which there's nothing wrong with, but if you don't have a Catholic book you can skip them. Stores that end with ABC are Adventist Book Centers, which are fine, but like most Catholic stores they only do Adventist materials. Same with Christian Science reading rooms. And finally church bookstores tend to sell only denominational materials or if it's a megachurch only books from their staff, so I pretty much skipped all the church bookstores. I'm telling you all these to skip so you can save a lot of time up front and have a more manageable list.

 

All right, I told you to search for bookstores, and you may well have a better way to do it than I did, but what information do you actually want? What you ultimately want is the name and email address of the book buyer, i.e. the person who decides what to stock. With most independent stores that is just the owner, but the bigger ones have another staff member to do it. With some you get lucky and that information is on their website or Facebook page. For the best results as far as getting the right person, you call the store during business hours and ask whoever answers the phones. About half the time, with small stores, the person who answers the phone is the book buyer and you can actually break the ice on the phone. Sometimes it's the opposite and the person on the phone is clueless and you spend time explaining what you mean by book buyer and eventually they give you an email address. Making the phones calls is also time consuming, and for those of us with day jobs kind of tough because the bookstore hours are often the same as your work hours. 

 

Now you've got a list of bookstores and the names and email addresses of the person who makes stocking decisions for them. This is when you need the sell sheet. You send an email to the book buyer (and if you spoke with them on the phone make a reference to that), you say you have a book you would like for them to consider stocking at their bookstore, give the two-sentence version of your elevator pitch, make sure they know it is available and returnable through a wholesaler, and attach the sell sheet. Marketing types recommend you also include some incentive for them, like including them in an upcoming ad campaign. I did this (the ad just being a boosted post on Facebook, which is cheap), and while some of them expressed appreciation after they saw me give their store a plug, I'm not convinced it made the difference in anyone giving me a chance. A book and pitch they are interested in is worth far more. The other thing you do in the email is offer to send them a PDF copy or paperback to review - after all you're really just asking them to review it for consideration at this point. If you don't want to spend a few dollars on mailing a paperback, just offer the PDF, but I had quite a few who wanted a paperback only (it lets them check the quality of the book). 

 

I'd say 80% of the stores will never respond to you. After your first emails go out, wait two weeks and send a follow-up to the ones you haven't heard from. The ones that want a review copy obviously send one as quickly as possibly. After you send it, give them a few weeks and check back to see if they have had a chance to review it yet. Don't pester them but check back at appropriate intervals until you're sure you aren't getting anywhere. 

 

I mentioned one exception to returnable, and that is that a few stores want to do consignment. I have three stores doing consignment basis, which basically means it's your money sitting on the shelf in the form of inventory instead of theirs (for some small stores they can't afford much inventory). It's up to you whether you want the hassle and expense of doing any on consignment, but I decided it was worth it. I also have one store that just purchases straight from me at a steep discount.

 

One other thing that is worth mentioning is that there are plenty of general market bookstores that happen to be owned by Christians. So I'm in a couple of those. I didn't spend a lot of time on general bookstores, I just reached out to a few in my general area that have "local author" sections. I've done some book signings at those as well.

 

Bonus points: I donated two books to my local library system. The library people will tell you it actually helps sales, but I think that is more true if you have multiple books or if you have a series and just donate the first one or two. Mine finally made it into the system about three months ago and the copies I donated have been checked out pretty much non-stop.

 

Double-bonus: My friend wrote a book (Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown, for the horse racing fans), and was shocked to discover it on the shelf at our local Barnes&Noble. She honestly didn't know how it happened, until she found out her friend went to the store to order a copy. I haven't tried this with my book yet, but the theory is that if someone orders it at the store it signals demand and they'll stock it at that store. Feel free to try that and let me know if it works.

 

Whew, I think that covered it, but please let me know if you have questions or if some part of that didn't make sense to you.

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19 minutes ago, Chris Brown said:

Whew, I think that covered it, but please let me know if you have questions or if some part of that didn't make sense to you.

 

Great info, thanks!

 

I can add one more (small) suggestion. Apply to have your book reviewed at sites like BookLife (by Publishers Weekly), which is free. I wouldn't recommend paying for a review, but sometimes a strong Kirkus review helps (so I'm told).

 

I scored a good PW review for one of my books and (at the time) my Createspace distribution channels lit up. This was particularly surprising since CS had no return policy that many bookstores require, but they (and many libraries) consult Publishers Weekly to decide what to stock. I never took it this far, but when contacting store buyers as Chris suggests, I think a recognized critical review would enhance your elevator pitch.   

 

 

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