Archive for category Self-publishing
Following on from my previous little self-promotion post, children’s author Robert A. Brown has been in touch with some brilliant advice about how to sell to, liaise with and organise events at book shops. Robert is the author of William, the Hedgehog Boy. Over to Robert:
For the purpose of this blog I am differentiating between the national chain retailers such as Waterstones, W.H. Smith, Foyles, The Works and Blackwells and smaller independent bookshops or the WH Smith/Post Office franchises.
Engaging with the major book retailers.
• Choose a retailer that is appropriate to your book and possible events you can offer. Mine is a children’s book, aimed at fluent readers aged 7-9 years, and featuring a hedgehog as one of the main characters, so I was looking for retailers with a large children’s section and also those that show in an interest in wildlife. I wanted a children’s section that was bright, colourful, welcoming and featuring a wide range of children’s authors not just the most popular ones such as David Walliams, Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, Jaqueline Wilson etc. I wanted retailers who host children’s events at weekends and during school holidays. As the timeline for my book encompasses both Halloween and Bonfire Night I was particularly keen to secure bookings during October half-term.
• Once you have decided which major retailers to approach, work on building a relationship with the store manager and the events team (readings and signings). This should involve several visits and face to face discussions besides emails. The more they get to know you the more likely they are to be positive about offering you an event slot.
• For the pitch try to highlight the unique selling points (USPs) of your book and introduce these into these discussions.
• Leave the manager with a copy of your book and copies of any publicity and or reviews.
• After the initial meeting pop back into the store every week or so for a brief chat and find out what they thought of the book and the prospects of a reading and or signing event.
• Inform your publisher and get them to send the press release and advance information sheet to the manager. It helps to keep your book at the forefront of the store manager’s mind.
• Assuming you are given a date and time for an event it is very important to establish how the event will be publicised and by whom. The retailer, your publisher or yourself. Hopefully all three. You should try to maximise local media outlets, company website, social media, flyers and posters etc. Hint: Don’t expect too much from the retailer, some are excellent other less so. You will probably need to be very proactive at this stage. The larger stores will source copies of the book for the event from their usual suppliers at the usual rates. You will be paid royalties based upon this order.
• Also confirm how the event is expected to run, structure, timings, breaks, refreshments, permission for taking photographs for future publicity and social media posts.
For independent bookshops and smaller local retailers the principles remain basically as above however:-
• Having established a good relationship and confirmed their interest in stocking a few copies of your book, you may wish to supply them with copies of the book yourself rather than expecting them to go down the usual trade routes. This will enable you to fix a convenient price point for them, on a sale or return basis. I chose £5-00p per copy and the shop could then choose to sell at the cover price of £7-99p. Therefore, you receive more than the usual ‘royalty’ rates, whilst they too make a handsome profit per copy sold. Thus, it is in their interest to promote the book and display it prominently.
• My local Post Office started with 5 copies and I provided them with an invoice on a sale or return basis.
• You will need to provide publicity flyers for window and table top displays.
• Offer to pop in frequently to sign purchased copies with a personalised message, check on how sales are progressing and replenish stock.
• If stock needs replenishing, request payment for copies sold and provide a signed receipt.
The Event- reading and signing
• Arrive early to meet the staff, set out the space and make yourself comfortable.
• Welcome everyone and explain what is going to happen and when.
• Be prepared to ‘ambush’ store browsers and have a chat about the event.
• When you have an audience, and let’s be honest here, you are not John Grisham, they will not be queuing outside the door, so only a very small audience is sufficient to commence your presentation and introduce the reading. Hopefully, others are likely to be curious and join you.
• Offer bystanders a ‘well thumbed’ copy to flick through.
• When somebody wishes to make a purchase, accompany them to the till and offer to sign the purchased copy for them. This is less embarrassing than sitting alone at a table at the end of the event with nobody taking any notice of you.
• TIP at the end of the event offer to sign a few unsold copies for the store. Retailers like to having a few author signed copies available, perhaps at a discounted rate for a later date. The benefit to you as the author is that they are considered sold and will not be returned.
This is really good advice from Robert, an author who is proactive at sourcing sales outlets for his books. I shall be following some of these tips. If anyone else has techniques that work when engaging with book shops, please feel free to share them in the comments. Regular followers of this blog may remember that Robert also dropped by last summer to share some tips on organising a book launch.
And if you know any children who deserve an Easter treat, I’ve heard very good things about William the Hedgehog Boy.
In 2017 Kindle Direct Publishing introduced the facility for authors to self publish in paperback as well as on Kindle. This meant it was no longer necessary to use Createspace to produce paperbacks for sale on Amazon. However, there was a downside to moving away from Createspace towards KDP paperback publishing – unlike Createspace, KDP paperback publishing didn’t allow authors to order proof copies or author copies (i.e. books for the author to sell direct to the public). I blogged about this previously.
However, that has now changed!
It is now possible to order proof and author copies of paperback books via the KDP Author Bookshelf. According to Amazon, authors will pay just the printing costs plus delivery and any taxes. And the really good news? Copies for the UK and Europe will be printed and shipped from within Europe – an improvement on CreateSpace, which ships from America.
Chris McMullen has written a detailed blog post comparing Createspace and KDP paperback publishing, which is well worth a read if you’re wondering which path to take or whether to switch from Createspace to KDP. He concludes that for most authors KDP is now the better option.
Back in May I went on a day course in London run by the very successful Joanna Penn and Orna Ross entitled How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing.
We covered lots of topics to do with writing, publishing, money, income streams etc and I came away inspired. Needless to say, these things take time and I’m not yet (!) making a living from writing. However, I wanted to tell you about one very simple but motivating exercise that we did.
At the end of the day each course participant was given a sheet of paper and asked to note down their writing goals for the next three months. We were also given a stamped envelope, asked to address it to ourselves and put our sheet of writing goals inside. Joanna and Orna collected the envelopes, stored them for three months and then posted them.
My list of goals arrived through the letterbox a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t remember exactly what targets I’d set myself (they’d been written at the end of a long day when I was full of enthusiasm for everything I’d just learned) so I was prepared to see a list of over-ambitious stuff I hadn’t done. But there was a nice surprise – all three goals had been achieved:
- Started the publishing process for my second grip-lit novel, The Promise. At the time I wrote this goal the novel was under consideration by The Book Guild and I’d decided that if they turned it down I would embark on the self-publishing route rather than join the masses knocking at every agent’s door. Happily, The Book Guild felt The Promise had commercial potential and I’ve now seen the cover (it will be revealed it in a later post), had a lovely endorsement by crime writer Judith Cutler and had the typeset proofs. Publication day is 28th January 2018!
- Create a boxed set of my three short story collections in e-book and paperback format. Done and blogged about. The proof (should you need it) is on Amazon and Kobo in the form of A Coffee Break Story Collection : 36 Short Stories
- Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to reflect the lessons learned as I created the paperback version of the boxed set and also to include other changes in KDP since I’d last updated the book. A tick for that one as well! The updated book is now available.
Last weekend I exchanged my next set of goals with my writing buddy, Helen Yendall (we managed to talk writing for 4 hours – can you believe that?!) and we’ll meet again in November to see how we did.
Do you make goals? How do you make yourself accountable?
In my previous blog post I talked about why indie authors should consider creating a box set of their works. In this post I’m going to look at the points to think about when obtaining a cover for a box set. My next post will look at creating the paperback using the new KDP paperback facility.
The EBook Box Set Cover
There are two types of box set cover – a 3D or a 2D design.
The 2D design is the same as a ‘normal’ flat, e-book cover. It might feature images of the original covers of the books within the set or a design indicating the overall concept or theme of the collection.
The 3D version shows the spines of all the books included in the set and emphasises the number of books and therefore the great value for money it offers.
However, the 3D image does not always reproduce well as a thumb nail image on e-book retailers’ websites. A recent Kobo promotion of box sets advised authors that books with a 2D cover would have a greater chance of inclusion within the promotion than those with a 3D cover.
In addition, 3D images do not convert easily to paperback covers. If there is to be a paperback version of the box set, stick with a 2D image.
There is a very good article on the Kobo Writing Life blog about box set cover design. Read it before ordering a cover.
I used cover designer, Debby Dale, on Fiverr for both the e-book and paperback covers of A Coffee Break Story Collection. I sent her the covers from the original three books and specifically asked they be used for a 2D design that could also be used on a paperback cover. She also supplied two 3D images (with and without reflection) in case I wanted to use them for publicity. All three covers are shown below so that you can see the difference and also how the design might impact the thumbnail image.
One of the joys of self-publishing is the freedom to re-use published works to create a brand new product and attract a new readership.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been re-using my three short story collections to produce a ‘box set’ containing a total of 36 short stories. Most people are familiar with DVD box sets. A book box set is similar – it is two or more books, previously sold separately, combined together and sold as a bumper, single ebook and/or paperback. This single volume generally offers the reader great value for money when compared to the individual selling prices of each standalone book.
In this blog post I’m going to talk about why creating a box set is a good idea. In my next post I’ll talk about procuring a box set book cover and in the third post in this series I’ll talk about using the new KDP paperback facility to create a print copy.
Why Create a Box Set?
- To maximise revenue from individual books by repackaging them as a new product.
- Binge consumption has become the norm with viewers lapping up complete series of TV shows in one sitting on Netflix and similar providers. Book consumption is heading the same way and therefore it makes sense to offer readers what they want.
- Box sets offer good value to the customer (the box set price offers a good discount on the individual book prices) and may therefore sell in higher numbers.
- Maximise revenue per customer. The sale of a box set brings in money ‘up front’ without relying on a customer returning to buy each individual book.
- If the individual books in the set are relatively slim, as with many short story collections, bringing several together in a box set makes the production of a paperback version worthwhile. I’d had several requests for paperback versions of my short stories but felt I needed more content in order to make a paperback value for money for the reader.
- On a more personal note, I’m trying to get away from an over-dependence on Amazon and had read that box sets sell well on the Kobo ereader.
The super-successful indie publisher Joanna Penn offers more detail on why box sets are a good idea on her blog, The Creative Penn.
Public Lending Right (PLR) is on its way for ebooks. Until now only ebooks downloaded on library premises, to fixed terminals and then taken away on loan have qualified for PLR payments. Legislation was passed last month (April 2017), in the Digital Economy Bill, which extends the UK Public Lending Right legislation to include remote loans of ebooks. These new arrangements are expected to apply to loans from July 1st 2018, with the first payments being made in arrears in February 2020.
I have written previously about how to get self-published ebooks into public libraries via the distributor Overdrive but there are a couple of things to bear in mind before rushing off to do so:
- It is not possible to keep an ebook in KDP Select and make it available through other channels e.g. public library loans
- Under PLR legislation, loans are collected using ISBNs. Many of the ebooks published through Kindle Direct Publishing have only the Amazon assigned ASIN.
So, this is good news for a lot of authors, who will, in the future, get recompensed for ebook loans. Others will have to take decisions about whether it’s better to stay exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select with its marketing/Kindle Unlimited benefits or go wide to other ebook distributors and obtain an ISBN.
Any traditionally-published/self-published authors have an opinion on this new legislation?
Last month total sales of the psychological thriller, Bedsit Three, passed the 1,000 mark.
At this point it’s worth reflecting on the breakdown of sales across retailers. It’s not what I was expecting 18 months ago when the novel was first published.
I expected Kindle to generate the largest number of sales because it is still, by far, the largest ebook sales platform. However, Bedsit Three was shortlisted for a competition organised by Kobo and Silverwood Books. On the back of this, I contacted Kobo and was able to get the book included in some promotions, which obviously paid off.
The lesson going forward? Don’t get obsessed by the benefits of KDP Select (which requires authors to keep their books exclusive to Amazon). Dip your toe in the water and try other ebook retailers as well.
Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the reasons I chose to distribute Bedsit Three via Smashwords is the access it gives to Overdrive, a platform which supplies e-books to public libraries. My original blog post can be read here.
Recently Smashwords announced the addition of a new library distribution channel via Bibliotheca. Bibliotheca is the operator of the cloudLibrary™ digital lending platform which is used by over 3,000 public libraries in America, Canada, U.K. and Australia. So the Smashwords distribution network now includes almost all major library e-book platforms including OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners UK (Askews & Holts and VLeBooks) and Odilo. Those of us indie authors choosing to distribute our e-books via Smashwords can now reach 30,000 public and academic libraries across the globe.
Many libraries today lack the funds to buy print books. E-books are a cheaper option and can offer a way into the library system for indie authors. Unfortunately e-books do not qualify for PLR payments so writers only receive their standard royalty on the e-book sale. But being in the library catalogue generates exposure that may lead a reader to purchase other books (print or digital) by the same author.
The biggest factor in the indie author’s decision about whether to take advantage of Smashwords wide distribution channels is the abandonment of Amazon KDP exclusivity and the potential benefits that scheme can bring.