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Category: Distribution

What does your book look like to booksellers?

Posted in Distribution, Just for Writers, and Publishing

Print on Demand (POD) (versus short-run print jobs) is the typical method used initially by indie authors, and the two big providers are Createspace (owned by Amazon) and Ingram, either via Ingram LSI (Lightning Source) or IngramSpark.

The merits of Createspace vs Ingram is a common discussion topic among indie authors who produce paperback editions. This post is an update of this analysis and focuses on what your books look like to booksellers placing orders with Ingram.

The recommended practice these days is to use both vendors for print, if you can: Createspace (without their expanded distribution option) for Amazon, for inexpensive orders for inventory, for an online store, and for direct shipping; and Ingram for everything else. (The recent news about availability of print from Amazon KDP seems to signal that access to Createspace directly might change.)

Some authors create a separate Library edition, just to use that part of Createspace's expanded distribution with a Createspace ISBN.

If you don't want to go to the bother (and the expense) of getting your own ISBN (a whole separate discussion) Createspace will supply you with an ISBN owned by Createspace for you to use, for free. (If you have an ISBN, you can use your own.)

Since the common progression for indies seems to be to start with Createspace only, and Createspace has an expanded distribution option and a free ISBN that gets your books into Ingram (“Booksellers and Online Retailers”), the question often comes up: why bother going to Ingram directly?

Why go to Ingram directly, in addition to Createspace?

The manufactured products are slightly different (quality issues with a small and debatable preference given to Ingram), and unlike Createspace, the Ingram edition costs money: a title setup fee (circa $49), an annual market fee (to stay listed in Ingram's database) ($12), and a revision fee for any change in cover or content ($40 each). The fee details vary a bit between Ingram LSI (mostly for traditional publishers) and IngramSpark (mostly for indies) and coupons/discounts are not infrequently available.

And you need your own ISBN, a not-inconsiderable expense in the US.

But there are other concerns.

Bookseller-specific issues

1) Discounts

A bookstore with good credit and broad needs may use Ingram as its main supplier. Other bookstores use smaller, more targeted suppliers who get their list of offerings from Ingram (and charge a fee).

Ingram allows you to set the same standard discount that traditional publishers use: 55%. Createspace's maximum is 40%.

Here's what that means. Ingram takes 15% of that discount for its services. It subtracts that from the books you list directly with Ingram, but it also subtracts that from the books it lists that were given to it by Createspce via expanded distribution.

So at 55% (Ingram's standard), minus Ingram's 15%, there remains 40%. Some of that may go to an intermediate distributor. Whatever's left over is the bookseller's potential profit, which he may discount to push sales.

At 40% (Createspace's max), once you subtract Ingram's fee of 15%, all that's left is 25% for the intermediate distributor(s) and bookseller to share. That is unattractive to many booksellers. Some won't even order books to fulfill customer requests at that small a profit to themselves.

2) Free ISBN / Publisher name

Createspace offers its own ISBN, if you don't have or want to use one of your own.

The general rule is: whoever owns the ISBN is the Publisher, from the perspective of forms and databases. Some recent forms have separated the two things, so that the owner of the ISBN and the “Publisher of record” and the provider of the data feed on a form can be different things, but that is far from general.

For a while, the Createspace data downstream showed Publisher = Createspace, even if you used your own ISBN. Now that only happens if you use a Createspace ISBN. And even so, what shows on a form depends on what the form uses for data sources: if it shows ISBN and looks up the ISBN, then it would get the ISBN owner. If it simply assumes the supplier of the data feed (Createspace) is the owner, then it shows Createspace as the publisher. That's how audiobooks often show up as Publisher = AudiobookFeedProvider even when the ISBN belongs to the Publisher.

How booksellers see a traditionally published book when they order from Ingram

Read More What does your book look like to booksellers?

Participating in the book trade

Posted in Distribution, and Just for Writers

All kinds of industries

I've been a business entrepreneur all my life, primarily in the software and IT industries. In addition to building companies, I've had to build a working understanding of other industries and sectors in order to provide services for them: logistics, health care, educational testing, banks, brokerages, and several others. My businesses were small and mid-size, but most of my clients were large Fortune-500 sorts of companies.

I've prided myself on being able to dive into a new-to-me industry and burrow down into its basic gears and levers, so that I can analyze how it works. In many cases, I've had to understand it well enough to create software for it that would cover all situations, and that takes a deep understanding of what can happen.

So when I decided to become an independent author, I was cocky about applying the same acumen to the book trade. After all, I wanted to know all about how it worked and how to match my new business with it successfully. That naive expectation didn't last long.

Here's the problem…

Read More Participating in the book trade

Libraries and independent authors

Posted in Distribution, and Just for Writers

Kansas City Public Library (my old hometown)
Kansas City Public Library (my old hometown)

As a courtesy recently for my local library's director who wanted to understand more about how she could get indie authors into her library, I put together an overview document for her which I thought I might share here.

This is entirely from the perspective of an old IT entrepreneur turned indie author, not a library distribution insider. But I've seen plenty of business model disruptions in my career, and I think some trends are likely. We'll see… 🙂

Introduction

As an entrepreneur who has spent her entire career building and running small and medium-sized software-related businesses with Fortune 500 customers, I am excited by the rapidly-evolving world that is the independent author movement.

As an independent author with a single-author publishing business (Perkunas Press), I consider libraries an important component of my business.

Many of us (independent authors, aka “indies”) are deeply informed about the publishing industry from the author and publisher perspective, but much less so about the library portion of the industry, and when we speak with our library colleagues, we find that they are also less knowledgeable about the indie movement.

I’d like to change that. This little document is a gift to the Director of my local library, in case she or her colleagues might find it helpful.

I will generalize with a broad brush, concentrating on those indie segments which are the leading edges of opportunities to work together. My own knowledge of library procedures and constraints is limited, and I apologize for any errors there in advance.

The publishing world today

Disruption

What is now typically referred to as the “traditional publishing” industry is in the middle of a classic business model disruption event, similar to the one that hollowed out the popular music industry a decade previously (c.f., the excellent “Ripped” by Greg Kot ).

Like most such events, the incumbent industry is still in denial and unsure of what is happening to them. The upstarts, however, are very clear about what’s occurring.

Read More Libraries and independent authors

Sending your books out into the world

Posted in Distribution, Just for Writers, and Publishing

ThrowingBooksI've been coming up the learning curve for the issues of distribution ever since I started writing in 2012. I thought I'd share with you some of my procedures, since my internal “tips” document has just stretched to 10 pages and shows no sign of stopping.

I'm not going to look at marketing at all here. Instead, I'll focus on just the mechanics of getting my books into all the distribution channels I can.

If you note any particular omissions, I'd be grateful if you'd mention them in a comment, or if you would bring up differences for other countries. (Keep in mind I'm based in the United States — your mileage may vary.)

Goal

Worldwide distribution (in English for now) in ebook, print, and audio without going to extraordinary efforts.

I want to create my books, and then fling them out to as much of the world as I can reach. That's the first step. What good is it to make the world's readers want to read them, if they can't lay their hands on them?

Read More Sending your books out into the world

Audiobook edition of To Carry the Horn

Posted in Audiobook, Distribution, Just for Writers, Publishing, Release, and To Carry the Horn

ToCarryTheHorn - Audio - Trimmed - 800x800More than two years ago I decided to experiment with producing an audiobook edition of To Carry the Horn, the first book of The Hounds of Annwn. Many new authors were having success with audiobook editions, and I wanted to get some experience with the market and the process.

I looked at the primary partner at the time (and still), ACX, where most people went for this service. The process was well-laid out and very thorough. They offer voice actors who charge by the finished-hour of recording. There are ways of having some of that cost subsidized. It's a very clean, seductive marketplace, bringing authors and voice performers together and distributing the results.

I went through the audition process and located a couple of promising voice actors but then I… stopped. You see, the costs to produce an audiobook are quite high.

Read More Audiobook edition of To Carry the Horn

Stage 2 of self-publishing

Posted in Distribution, Formatting, Just for Writers, Production, and Publishing

person-reading-ebookOver the summer I've been unusually busy with the business and technical side of publishing. I've reformatted all my books behind the scenes and I've moved up a level from starter self-publishing and am just beginning to move beyond the basic retailers (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple, Kobo) to a broader worldwide market. This has required my learning a great deal more about worldwide aggregators and distributors, as well as professionalizing (further) my use of metadata in the trade channels.

For those of you who aren't doing self-publishing, let me give you a quick overview. It's quite straightforward today to take your book, apply professional assistance in areas such as editing and cover design, and produce a product that is indistinguishable from the work of traditional publishing. Yes, the devil's in the details — you have to write reasonably well, too — but that's a given. There are no artificial barriers in the way of doing this.

The big difference is in the area of distribution. The US market is the furthest along, and ebooks are perhaps 20-30% of the US market. (Independent publishing is not well captured by book trade statistics, so there's a lot of speculation about the actual numbers). That number is still growing though the speed has slowed down and, of course, print isn't going away. Still, in fiction particularly, it's clear that ebooks will likely eventually approach 50%. The rest of the world is just getting started, but ebook adoption rates there might surprise you — remember, many third world countries went straight to cell phones without bothering with landlines much, so technology adoption rates do vary. Read More Stage 2 of self-publishing

Setting up international Amazon Author pages

Posted in Distribution, Just for Writers, and Publishing

One of the challenges of indie publishing is taking responsibility for your brand all over the world. Amazon, like many online book retailers, provides an Author page to serve as the base of operations for telling readers about your works, and every author is well-advised to take full advantage of it.

When you begin to look to Amazon's international sites, however, things become a little stranger. The naive publisher rejoices in only having to publish a book once using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and letting Amazon do the hard work of making it available at all of its international sites. That works just fine for your product, but everything else — Author pages, Affiliate pages — they don't work that way. Each Amazon international site maintains its own Author and Affiliate pages, and presents them in its own native language, of course.

It can be intimidating the first time you look at a website in a language you don't speak. But you can easily set up Author and Affiliate presences on these sites because Amazon has designed the pages very similarly for each country, and the actual content (like your book) is assumed to be in your own language. Read More Setting up international Amazon Author pages

Selling books on Amazon – What happens with a second book in the series

Posted in Distribution, Just for Writers, and Publishing

I try to keep most of my blog posts focused on my books — characters, writing, and so forth. But I am also running a business and every now and then I think you might find it interesting to understand a little about how it works.

I published book 1 of The Hounds of Annwn in early October, 2012, and released book 2 on January 1, 2013. This series is aimed at fantasy readers, but I have a strong secondary audience of foxhunters who also care about the topic. There are millions of fantasy readers and only a few thousand foxhunters, but I know the foxhunting crowd and am known to them for hunt country photography, so I had a built-in initial audience to tell about the books and to go to for editorial reviews. This has been great and I'm very grateful for their support, but it's imperative for me to come to the notice of the much, much larger fantasy audience. That's made more difficult by the unfortunate fact that few fantasy blogs will review independent authors.

One measure of penetration for Amazon is to see what's in the “people who bought this book also bought…” category on your Amazon book page. Initially, this was blank, but soon book 1 began to accumulate references to books the foxhunting community likes, such as the Rita Mae Brown foxhunting mysteries. I kept hoping I would begin to see general fantasy books listed, but for the initial three months that wasn't the case.

Since book 2 has been released earlier this month, things have become very different. It's still in its “recently published” period which is driving a certain amount of general discoverability. Sales for both books together so far this month (there's a week to go) have exceeded sales for the first book for the preceding three months all together. Book 1 is being bought at about twice the volume of book 2, which is what you would expect for a series.
Read More Selling books on Amazon – What happens with a second book in the series