Category Archives: on demand publishing

Time to Shop My Book? Advice from Three Who Know

With more than a half dozen great reviews of my book up on Amazon and a successful book signing last weekend, I wondered if I should take John Austen’s advice to shop my book. I have had increasing evidence that I have produced a quality product. People appear to connect with Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on a variety of levels. Maybe if I put together a press kit with book reviews and newspaper articles my book would be well received by a publisher. Having the assistance of a established publisher should make it easier to get Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into bookstores and gain greater attention by national media outlets.

I queried Jane Friedman at Writer’s Digest. I was interested to hear her opinion? Can you guess her answer?

She recommended I keep focused on my indie route. Friedman’s counseled it wouldn’t be time to shop the book until I could claim a couple thousand copies sold.

Question: When I sell a couple of thousand books should I consider a publisher? It seems too much like the story of the Little Red Head. Remember the story of the farmyard shebird who planted wheat, nurtured it, harvested and then baked it into bread before any other farm animal was willing to help. When the bread was baked they all volunteered to help the hen eat the bread.

Surrendering my book to a publisher after I’ve sold several thousand copies on my own doesn’t make sense. The primary reason is that many books are considered a success if they generate a couple of thousand sales. If that’s the expected limit why would I want to share any of the profit with people who haven’t done any of the work?

Kathleen Okeefe Kanavos, author of  Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing, pointed out: “Big publishing houses are not in the business to publish books. They are in the business to make money. Until the day that you become an author of Dan Brown’s caliber, you will be required to show the steps of how you plan to market and sell your book beyond what the publishing houses can or will do.”

Okeefe Kavanos says authors need a business plan in order to interest an agent or land a publishing contract. One of the first steps in developing the plan is to identify the audience. Authors need to identify their target market and demonstrate that they are equipped to capture that audience. Those are the two most important components of a successful marketing platform.

Friedman responds to the obvious question: “Why don’t publishers market and promote the books on their list? According to Friedman the answer is that publishers don’t have enough money, time, or staff to target books to a variety of audiences. Publishers are good at putting books into physical and retail distribution. Once there the hope is readers will find the books.

In October I made the decision to pursue indie publishing. I believed in the power of the Internet, digital publishing, and the value of the message contained in my book. I hadn’t bargained on the amount of work and time it would take to make a success of Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I admit I was naïve in this regard. In the first two months after the book appeared on Amazon.com I experienced a number of frustrations with little success. I have just finished the third month. As I said at the start of this post the book has received good reviews, some media coverage, and I can attest to forward movement.

Marketing is HARD work. There is a LOT more work ahead. However, I see only two options: digging in for the long haul or shelving the book.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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What is the Measure of Success for Self-Published Authors? The Numbers are Shocking

A while back someone asked me: What would you consider a success? I had contacted the woman in mid-January after I published my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. She was local, and had a social media consulting business. Carole was eager to help. As she’d never used social media to promote a book Carole contacted a colleague for advice. The contact wanted to know if I’d only view myself successful if I reached my stated goal of 100,000 book sales (something I thought at the time was reasonable given the power of the Internet) or if I’d be satisfied signing with a traditional publishing house.

I suggested a third option. After some thought I decided I’d feel successful if Living in the Heartland was picked up by a publisher who also offered me the opportunity to do additional books about extraordinary women living in America’s heartland.

It’s approaching three months since Living in the Heartland appeared on Amazon.com. Has my personal measurement of succession changed? In a pie-in-the-sky world I’d say ‘No.’ I’d love to sell lots of books. I wrote Living in the Heartland because I wanted people to read about these extraordinary women, and because I wanted to promote dialog about issues faced by contemporary women and about diversity.

If I can’t lay claim to 100,000 book sales, I am willing to redefine my personal success in terms of securing a publisher for Living in the Heartland with hopes of future contracts to write more books.

Am I giving up on self-publishing? The answer is, “No and yes.” At the moment, I am not actively pursuing a publisher. Unless one reaches out to me, which isn’t likely until I sell enough for them to consider me a success, I’m committed to working to make my book a success. I believe that the future for books lies in social media especially as more books are sold in digital format. One thing I can say for certain is that I am positioned for the future, and ahead of authors who aren’t developing knowledge and skills in using social media.

Why then would I be happy to embrace a traditional publisher if one came to me and asked to handle my book? This blog presents some of my experiences in self-publishing. In doing background for some of my posts I’ve also come across some unsettling data. I’ve used excerpts from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of American 2-1-2010 article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services below. See if you don’t reach a similar conclusion.

E-commerce currently accounts for approximate 20% of book sales. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially the large chains, represent the most significant single sales source, and most of these don’t like dealing with print-on-demand self-published authors. Most books require a balance of online and offline presence to have sales of any significance.

Here are the eye-popping, gut-wrenching statistics that the article present: “The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies, mostly to ‘pocket’ markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse… 40% of iUniverse’s books s are sold directly to authors.

POD services’ own statistics support these low sales figures. AuthorHouse’s..reveals that it has signed up more than 40,000 authors, and issued more than 60,000 titles… AuthorHouse reports selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008–which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 41 sales per title…

Stats for Xlibris were similar. According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%–or 352 in all–had sold more than 500 copies. Things looked up in 2007: according to Xlibris’s own internal reports, obtained by Writer Beware, 4% of its titles had sold more than 1,000 copies. However, the averages still aren’t good. As of mid-2007, Xlibris had 23,000 authors and had published 23,500 titles, with total sales of over 3 million–around 127 sales per title.

Once independent companies, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Canada-based Trafford Publishing are now all owned by Author Solutions Inc… the average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150.”

Wish I’d read these numbers before deciding after only about two dozen rejections − some were actually handwritten and supportive – from agents and publishers. If I known what I do now I think I’d still be sending out manuscripts as opposed to complimentary copies of my book trying to establish a foothold in the market.

Read more at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Publishers and Media: Do they conspire against self-published authors?

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t some type of unspoken yet accepted relationship between established publishers and the media that has made it difficult for self-published authors to get recognition in the press, on the radio and television. I can’t remember reading a review of a self-published book in a mainstream newspaper or magazine. So I decided to do a little research of my own.

First I contacted a syndicated National Public Radio show host. Her response wasn’t all bad news.

“I know how hard most authors work on their books so I know how easy it is to take everything personally but it is simply a matter of volume. I may get anywhere from three to five books a DAY, unsolicited. Some shows get easily 150 books a MONTH. There is no way all of these authors are going to get the attention they would like. I personally have done two self-published books, neither particularly well written (to be honest) but the news hooks were so strong I felt compelled. There are also documentaries to cover and other cultural works. Add to that the fact that most NPR hosts insist on reading the books themselves and you can see why we can only address a fraction of the material we receive.”

Then I queried Jane Friedman, editorial leader and brand manager for the Writer’s Digest writing community (including Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Digest Books, Writer’s Market annuals, WritersMarket.com, WritersOnlineWorkshops). Her answer provided less hope for self-published authors.

“Yes, there is definitely a bias. Most self-published work is considered inferior in quality.”

Friedman referred me to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services last updated on Feb. 20, 2010. I WISH I had read this before I’d decided that two dozen rejections, some personal handwritten notes from agents and publishers, were too many and it was time I go the self-publishing route.

I’m not going to quote the entire SFFWA article here. It’s too depressing, but I’ll refer to it again in the future. The article touched on a number of issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The article says that Print-On-Demand (POD) services are not a good fit for writers looking to establish a career.

“ POD services’ policies on pricing, marketing, and distribution severely limit their books’ availability…, and are likely to result in tiny sales and readership, even for authors who diligently self-promote…It’s unlikely that a book published by a POD service will be considered a professional publishing credit, or that, as many authors hope, it will provide a springboard to commercial publication (according to a 2004 article in the New York Times, out of the 10,000 or so titles published to that time by POD service Xlibris, only 20 had been picked up by commercial publishers).”

One of the few cases where the article suggests a POD service may be a good option is for writers of a niche nonfiction project. “These can be a tough sell for commercial or academic publishers, but they can do well for the motivated self-publisher who has a way of reaching his or her audience, and is able to devote time and money to marketing and promotion. Writers who can exploit ‘back of the room’ situations may also do well with a POD service–someone who lectures or conducts workshops, for instance, and can sell books at these occasions, or a restauranteur who wants to make a cookbook available to his or her customers.”

The article points out that there are people on the Internet who are eager to dispute the negatives of POD. “They’ll tell you that self-publishing is the way of the future. They’ll claim that the stigma traditionally associated with paying to publish has all but disappeared, and that it’s becoming ever more common for self-published books to be acquired by bigger publishing houses. They’ll often be able to point you to a news story about a writer who parlayed self-publishing into a lucrative commercial contract.

“But like the hype from self-publishing “evangelists,” articles about self-publishing success are often biased, inaccurate, or overstated…And there’s nothing new about big publishers picking up self-published books that sell robustly–just Google What Color Is Your Parachute? or The Christmas Box. As for the self-publishing stigma–unfair though it may be in many cases, it is alive and well.”

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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What’s the Best Way to Sell Your Book? Are Giveaways Worth It?

A recent post at NovelHelp.com consisted of an interview with purported indie book publishing guru Todd Rutherford at Yorkshire Publishing. The March 5 post gave a list of 11 actions an indie writer needs to do to promote their book.

I’ve discussed some of these already, so I decided to address item #8 entitled, Is it important to give books away? The answer given: “It is the most important thing to do, as long as they are being given to influential people or wholesale book buyers.  Most major publishers give away 3000 to 5000 books when they release a new title.”

Let’s get the math out of the way first. To give away 3000-5000 books, you’d need the distribution network of a major publisher. In practical terms for an indie writer, you’ll have to give out books to anyone you are hoping will review the book – online, radio or print reviewers, bookstores where you’d like to do signings, people with connections.

The cost of a complimentary copy for me is: $4.71 (my cost for a book) + $0.50 (roughly the cost of postage for shipping from publisher. I buy in lots of 50) + postage to mail the book to person receiving the complimentary copy (about $5 as the USPS has a limited tier of rates. If the difference between slow boat to wherever and priority is $0.25 I chose to show the recipient I care and spend the extra quarter). This adds up to nearly $10.25 per book.

Free books are definitely part of the public relations campaign. I agree books should be distributed to influential people, people who are likely to result in multiple sales of your book. I don’t agree this is the most important thing you can do to sell a book. YOU are the MOST important equation in book sales. How much energy, heart, time, perseverance you put in IS what counts. Of course, this is providing you have a good product, you are a TERRIFIC salesperson, or have a GREAT incentive gift to accompany sales.

I have friends who are giving free books away on their Web sites and blogs. I’ve been encouraged to do the same. I haven’t yet. Why? A giveaway isn’t worth much unless there are enough people competing for the freebie. If you don’t already have an audience interested in your product, it’s unlikely you’re going to generate one simply by offering a free book, even an autographed book, if no one has heard of the book or the author.

Being a writer and one’s own public relations staff is tough. I don’t want to be a salesperson. When I wrote my book, I didn’t envision myself in a full-time sales position. I was foolish enough to think that when my book appeared on Amazon.com, the power of that bookselling titan would be sufficient for my book to fly off the digital bookshelf. It didn’t work that way. Building a SM platform, working the traditional public relations routes – newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores – takes a lot of time. There are repeat calls, looking for new ideas, and work, work, work. They all take time. Time I’d prefer to spend on writing my next book.

There’s no question that an indie writer has to spend money to sell a book. Where and how you spend it will, most likely, depend on trial and error. There is no single method that is guaranteed to be a success. Unless you have an endless supply of cash you’ll need to determine what avenues you need to pursue on your own and where you can get help. I chose to employ a SM coach.

I’ve written and distributed my own press releases, and have been following up on my own. I can tell you from years of working with a newspaper, follow through is VERY important. A press release whether by email or snail mail gets lost in the clutter of a blizzard of PR. That’s why follow threw is important.

To turn a phrase: You wrote your book now you’ve got to live with it. You’ve got to work it every way you can.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Self-Published Author Caught in a Squeeze Play: Costs up, Royalties Down

I’m caught in a squeeze play and it isn’t even opening day! That’s how I feel because the cost of my book has gone up 27 percent while the royalty payment has plummeted 30 percent. This financial debacle has taken place since December.

What’s the reason? Ah, that’s a great question. There’s no straightforward answer. It’s evolved as I’ve exchanged emails and phone calls with the publishing company. I rarely converse with the same person twice. My account manager, who was supposed to be my go-to gal, seems to be AWOL much of the time. When she does respond her answers don’t specifically address my question. She merely replies with something easily found under the company’s FAQs. Frustrating? Hell YES.

Bottom line, the company I signed with in October to publish my book, announced soon thereafter that it was morphing into another company to better serve ME. My costs were supposed to go down, my royalties up. When the one company became the other, the transition didn’t move seamlessly. The responsibility fell to me to reauthorize the distribution of my book. This is why it has taken so long for distributors to show my book title among their listings. Many things were unstated prior to the transition or even now. My account manager who was supposed to work FOR me is anything but proactive. I’d say she’s inactive. More characteristically: UNRESPONSIVE.

As to the financial squeeze play let’s look at the numbers. My book sells on Amazon.com for $15.99. The printing of the book NOW (it was less in quotes back in December) costs $4.71. The publishing company takes $5.68 and gives me a royalty payment of $5.60. (BTW it takes them an extra month to pay this to me. I don’t get a royalty payment until March for books sold in January) I’m not upset about the 50/50 split since the publisher is in charge of shipping and handling. Just for the record it’s going to take a lot of book sales before I break even. I’m talking more than a 1000 books. That’s means recouping prepublication and promotion costs, not time and expense for researching and writing.

Here’s the shocker: If the book is sold through a bookstore or any organization that buys through the “ independent distribution channel” my royalty is only $1.68!!! I’ve been tearing my hair out to get my book listed on this channel without realizing that while there is potential for additional sales, there is a veritable cliff from which returns plummet.

Here’s the math. The book buyer gets a 40 percent discount. Their cost is $9.59. The printing cost remains constant at $4.71. The value left in the book is $4.88. The publisher takes $3.20 leaving me with $1.68. There’s been no explanation why the split is 50-50 when the book is sold on Amazon and only 65/35 when sold through other channels.

Obviously my earlier posts that tell people to write because they love to write and not because they expect to make money are on target.  I am aware that mine is but one experience. I’d like to find a self-published author who can relate a success story.

People tell me to be patient. After all, my book only made its debut on January 11. Let’s see what happens. There may be a success story down the road. I’m certainly working hard enough.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Writing with Professionals – A New Publishing Scam?

Yesterday, a well-meaning friend sent me a link to a blog where the author was offering the chance to be published alongside “well-known” authors. The authors were never named. The blogger said she is involved with a series of books; the last is going to be published soon.  She’s looking for a few authors to be involved. Here is an excerpt from her blog:

“Getting published with well-known authors, looks great for your portfolio, saves you on publishing and editing costs. Just for one book it can cost well over $1500 to hire an editor. Why not take that money instead and invest it in yourself?

“You buy a set number of books for a small fee, and turn around and sell them by doubling your profit. Not only will you get back your initial investment, but you will make a tidy profit for yourself. You are guaranteed to sell your books because you are the one that will promote and sell them. You can easily set up an account on Amazon, or on your Web site.

“Talk to the experts, they will tell you just how easy it is to be published along with some very well known authors who have written best-selling books and sold millions. It’s not every day you get a chance to be connected in such a fabulous way!

“All you have to do is write a chapter about something inspiring as a speaker, author or writer. You can submit from 750 to 1500 words. The only fee is you promise to buy a certain amount of books and in turn you will sell those books and double your profit.

“How’s that for a publishing deal?”

Before I say anything else I need to tell you I’ve corrected some of the typos I found in the original message.  What I’ve pasted above is a mouthful!! Bottom line is that this is a thinly veiled pay-to-publish scam. The only one likely to benefit is the blogger or whoever gets your money for purchasing the books.

Being published with well-known authors would look good if you worked directly with the authors. Just having your essay in a book with established people isn’t likely to give your career anymore of a boost than having your essay in a book that also has works by criminals is likely to result in guilt by association.

One truthful claim is that good editors cost money. They are worth it.  They provide the author with a trained, objective eye. Editors can point out inconsistencies, mistakes, and other errors that might take away from the content of the work. This blogger’s offer implies editorial assistance but there is no direct assurance.  This project IS COSTING you money. You make a commitment to BUY books. If you are going to invest your money shouldn’t you have input on who edits your work? What kind of credential does the editor have?

Who guarantees that your book will sell? I have been working EXTREMELY HARD to promote my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women since it was first listed on Amazon.com in Jan. I am all too aware that book promotion is not easy. It is extremely uncommon to get buyers just because I tweet about my book. Maybe you’ll be able to sell enough books out of the back of your car. Of course, the blogger didn’t say how many books must be purchased. What if you can’t sell the books to your friends and family? Most likely you’ll have to do the work publishers usually do: contact newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores, etc.  This means more than distributing press releases. There’s lots of follow-up work to do. Only a small percentage of the contacts will respond, even fewer will be interested. I’ve also encountered a number of unexpected obstacles. For example, it’s harder than simply calling a bookstore to arrange a book signing. Stores want you to have an affiliation with their wholesalers.

Selling books is a big investment in time and money. I know. I’m actively involved in this every day.

This offer appears to me to be a clever scheme to make writers feel ownership in a book, because their essays are included. The purpose is ultimately to obtain the writers’ money.  I have no idea if the blogger cares if writers sell more than their allotted share of books. If the book is a success it will be because of the sales work put in by the writers not the publisher.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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OMG, What Will You Do?

In response to my last post Martin asked, “My God, I would have preferred to read something more cheerful. So what now? What will you do?”

I would have liked to have posted something more cheerful. Believe me I would like to say I already reached my goal of selling 100,000 books. Didn’t happen though. Not even close.

What will I do?  This is a good question. In any decision-making process one answer is always: Do nothing. One way I could ignore yesterday’s problem is to say, “So what if one indie bookstore in Washington can’t get my book? After all, it IS available on Amazon.com. And, I HAVE been PROMISED that Ingram WILL carry my book (Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories) in their catalog within the next 6-8 WEEKS.” Doing nothing might also demonstrate that I’m beat up, that I have no fight left in me. I have had a number of setbacks trying to make my book available to a larger audience than only those who buy books on Amazon.

What will I do? In response I ask, “What can I do?” When I decided to take the self-publishing route, I believed in the power of the Internet. We all hear about videos going viral on YouTube. Many of us have faith in Twitter, believe it is THE WAY to spread the word. Why else are so MANY people joining SM Webinars, purchasing programs to increase their Twitter followers, and using auto-messaging sites?

I spent several weeks in February concentrating on SM. I built a following on Twitter, on Facebook and on my blog. I joined a tribe. I also saw my sales on Amazon plummet. What I’ve taken away from this experience is that I have to balance my social media work with more traditional networking. I’m actively trying to arrange for book signings (the subject of my next eye-opening post), radio and newspaper interviews, and, whatever else I can think of that will make people familiar with my book and with me.

I never imagined how much work promoting my book was going to be. I thought that by using a BIG name (Amazon) on the Internet to sell my book, I’d only need to send out emails to friends and family, ask them to pass it on to their friends and their families, and twitter. Then voila I’d be a success. Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t that easy.

I expect there are others who have had more success. I would be more upbeat if I hadn’t set my goals so high initially, and I didn’t feel such a deep responsibility to the women I wrote about to share their stories. The positive news is that since my book became available on January 11 on Amazon, I have made several good contacts via Twitter. I’ve found a SM coach who has given me good advice and emotional support. I joined a Tribe of great gals who provide much needed emotional and professional support. These are ALL pluses especially as writers are often isolated in their work. Agents and editors probably offer similar support but, I imagine, not as frequently or earnestly.

Martin asked: What will I do? I’m going to do what I’ve been doing. Rejoice in the good days. Those are the days when I receive positive comments. Whimper and SCREAM on the bad days like yesterday.  I need to find ways to breathe, so I can move forward. Letting others know about the pitfalls I’ve encountered allows me to put a positive spin on them. They become teachable moments.

Now I ask you: What can you do? If you believe in the power of SM, if you want to help prove that writers CAN succeed by self-publishing and self-promotion on the Internet, then you will help me. I’m going to continuing sharing my experience – the good and the bad. I’d really like to prove that my initial belief in the Internet was right. I’d like to believe that everyone who has counseled me to be patient, that it takes time, were also right.

So what can YOU do? Spread the word through twitter, FB, everywhere about my book and, of course, this blog. Tell your friends and family, contact your local newspaper, everywhere, anywhere. Let’s find out what works.

I’ll going to continue blogging and encourage others to leave comments. I want to collect information from others what has worked for them and what hasn’t. How long have they found it takes?

Help me make this blog a community where writers share. What I don’t want is my blog to become an advertiser. Also, I require that all criticism  be constructive not destructive.

I am earnest and passionate about writing, about my book, and about working with other writers to help each of us realize our dreams. So onwards.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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