And we’re back with another exciting edition of Going Indie. Yes, you’re still reading an author’s How-to-Guide on independent publishing (I assume since you’re here).
Let’s get this ball rolling…
Alright, my fearless contributors, how did you do your basic marketing?
JEWEL ADAMS: Emailing lists, group mailings, advertise on Wattpad, Facebook and other social networks. I keep two regular blogs, I never leave home without bookmarks, and I do some public speaking. I do signings and book groups every now and again, but the majority of my sales come from Kindle and Nook.
JOLENE PERRY: The book that I did the most extensive blog tour on is the book that has sold the least copies. Right now I’m of the opinion that a TON of it is luck. Some of it is putting out the right book at the right time and a HUGE amount of it is cover. I’ve started reading some really bad books that I bought because of the cover. That is where I won’t skimp.
HEATHER JUSTESEN: I’ve gone really basic on my marketing with my second self-published novel. With Blank Slate I did a blog tour and giveaways and spent a fair amount of time the first few weeks getting the word out, including several signings at my local library and independent book stores. I didn’t see a huge number of sales from the hoopla. I did far better with my second book just by listing it on KDP select and giving it away free for two days, sending a few tweets, blogging about the giveaway, and mentioning it on Facebook and in my online groups. I didn’t spam everyone every hour or anything, but it gave my book a big jump in sales (not enormous numbers, but a nice regular number of sales). I sell far more ebooks than paper books, but I always keep paper books on hand for signings and events, which I still do, but not as aggressively as when I worked with a traditional publisher.
ANDREA PEARSON: Here’s what I do to market: Almost nothing. That’s not to say I didn’t used to market. Oh, heaven knows I did. We flung all sorts of time and money toward this fairly useless (for me) endeavor. My success and sales didn’t start to go upward until I’d published several quality books. After I released my first book (yes, it was edited. :-)), we spent a lot of time trying to get the word out through reviews and free advertising. I spent hours and hours contacting blog owners and reviewers. I hired someone to head up a blog tour for me. And saw almost nothing from it. Just a few sales here and there (and I’ll be honest – my sales were more than a lot of Indie authors have during their first few months. They just didn’t equal the amount of work I put in). Success didn’t actually start happening until a couple of things were in place:
1. I had a bunch of books available
2. We put up the first book in my series for free (across the board – Nook, Kindle, etc.)
I’m not saying marketing won’t work for you. If you feel strongly like you need to do something, then do it. But remember this: the digital age is different from days of the past. Our memories, as readers, are shorter – if there isn’t another book available when we finish an enjoyable story, we probably won’t return to the author. Most people won’t make it a point to return until they’ve read several things from an author. Don’t market to other authors. We’re all in the same boat, and it gets annoying to hear messages over and over again from the same people. “Check out my latest book!” “Fan my author page!” I block people who are constantly spamming others in their search for new readers, fans for their pages, people to support their cause, etc. Rather than searching for sales from other authors, we should be supporting and friendshipping each other.
ME: I’ve done a few things that were helpful to get the word out there. But the main thing is letting people know you are alive and that your books exist. Recently, we’ve written a whole Marketing Guide for Indies on this blog. CLICK HERE. But yes, I also agree that the most important part of marketing is getting more of your stuff out there for people to read (something I’m working on, believe me).
Okay, ready for another hard question? Contributors, what did you do for distribution?
CHRISTINE BRYANT: Amazon.com has an option where you can pay to be put on Ingram Distributing’s mailing list. They have a catalog that goes to all public and school libraries, and some independent bookstores. They also distribute in Australia, the UK and just recently, Spain. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. If you want to hire your own distributor, say Brigham Distributing, then you have to pay about $3-4000 to a printer to have your books printed and then have BD store them and distribute them for you. But even then, I think BD is only an area distributor (Utah), not national. I can’t afford to do that right now. I’m hoping the digital sales will far exceed the paper sales. That’s where the future is in publishing.
JEWEL ADAMS: On some books we pay an extra $25.00, which gets you wider distribution. My books are distributed through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, so any store can order them.
ME: On Createspace, there are a few boxes you can check for free distribution. One of them allows you to give your book to libraries—you only qualify for that one if you didn’t buy your own ISBN number. Argh. You can also check a box and allow outside buyers to sell your book. I got burnt on that one though. There were distributers selling my book on Amazon (where I was selling it and they were selling it nowhere else) for a dollar less than what I was selling it for. People bought the book from the distributer and not from me, and I got a WAY smaller percentage for my book. I think a lot of scammers pick up books like these and sell them on Amazon and nowhere else, and then you lose out. I unchecked that box on the distribution tab on Createspace. Hopefully they fix that soon.
There are other distributors like Brigham Distribution (Utah), Baker and Taylor and Ingram. I don’t know too much about them. When Prank Wars came out, I tried to contact Brigham Distribution, but they were too swamped to answer my submission letters and/ or several of my emails. Haha. Too bad I don’t know how to use a phone. Therefore, I am sadly deficient in knowledge when it comes to outside distributors. I can only give you their links. Baker and Taylor: CLICK HERE and Ingram: CLICK HERE. And Brigham Distribution: CLICK HERE
And lastly (on this subject), this is what I learned from Alexanders (who answered all my emails quickly—so gracious actually). They are a printing company. CLICK HERE. You have the $40 set-up charge to get your book into the system and to get your proof (this was the last time I talked to them). After that they basically charged me the same for Createspace for single books, but if I were to buy them in bulk, they had much MUCH better prices. If you are interested in buying your books in bulk, you’ll have to call them/ email them for your own quote. They also said they could ship to different addresses if I wanted them to take orders (I would have to set up an ordering site) and the cost would depend on the detail I put into it. But as far as someone contacting bookstores and putting my book into them for me, I haven’t tried to find someone like that (besides Brigham Distribution).
I would love for someone to write in and tell us more about them or other distribution companies if they’re more experienced with distribution than I am with them. Man, I should’ve stalked the girl I just heard about who got her books in Costco. I should. Soon!
Anyway, here are just a few miscellaneous questions I threw at my steadfast contributors regarding publishing an Indie paperback:
What is the lowest possible price you can self-publish a book for? The highest? How do you keep costs down?
IAN ANTHONY: What is the cost of writing my book: Nothing. More money is exchanged when someone picks up a Canadian penny in a parking lot than in writing my book. All of my research is done for free. All my software is free. All the services I will use are going to be free.
*Steph’s note: Stay tuned because Ian Anthony is writing a novel and is attempting to do it all virtually free. He’s even making his own cover and visuals using free downloads of photo editing services. He found some basic editing programs, etc. Ian might not be able to escape basic LCCN fees for the paperback…or maybe he can??? But publishing a novel for less than fifty dollars is still pretty good, and yes, it is very possible to do a digital copy for free (if you do it ALL yourself, which is his plan). As of now, Ian is collecting all links to free downloadable softwares to help with his campaign to go free: CLICK HERE.
ME: I think you can make the mistake of spending too much money on your book (the prices could get monumental if you indulged in buying every service out there). I’ve heard of authors spending thousands on their books. That’s not necessary. However, you DO need to put a quality product out there. You are a business, after all. There are things you shouldn’t skimp on (a good story, editing, book formatting, cover), but bargain shop! Learn formatting and programs. Find free software and templates as Ian suggests. LCCN at the most is $50, copyright is $35 (if you choose that route), ISBN at the most is $100 (but it can be free with Createspace). Some expenses such as business licenses (to forego CreateSpace showing up as your publisher) are investments, but that could be about $22 for your business name (depending on your state) and about $50 for the license. Cheap websites can be $40 a year (or you can go with a free blog with wordpress or blogspot). I’ve spent more than I want to admit on promotion (book trailers, advertisements, free give-aways, etc.). And yes, I’ve skimmed some prices by doing trade-work and looking for bargains, but that only takes an author so far—because in no way should an author cheat others just because they are ‘starving artists.’ Therefore, the prices add up; the good thing is that you can take some of that out of your taxes at the end of the year (*I’ll talk about that on another post). And an even better thing is that I now have the software programs, business licenses, and websites I bought to use for my next books—so, they’re investments. And the BEST thing? I’ve realized some of the expenses I paid for last time around were COMPLETELY unnecessary, so the next time I do this, it’s going to be so cheap! Blogging is free. Giving away copies of my book (digital) is free. Learning programs and formatting (though hard and time-consuming) is free (or the cost of a how-to-guide, which is an investment). I’ve learned what gets readers’ attention and what doesn’t (*see comments above on marketing), and because of my former efforts—I have the attention of my audience now. They know I’m alive. That means; I might be able to get away with publishing my next book for the cost of an LCCN, a copyright, a cover AND editing. The more I learn, the cheaper this gets.
Royalties and the like…
JOLENE PERRY: I price my paperbacks as cheap as Amazon allows me to. You sell almost no paperbacks. My Forever, I make 8 cents per paperback sold. SO, yeah… that’s not where I make money. I’m fine with this, and the people who want my books in paperback have generally purchased several of my books and/or are friends, so I don’t care that I don’t really make money there.
ME: So, to be honest, paperbacks isn’t where the money is for Indie publishing—it’s in ebooks (for most of us anyway—though I would love to hear from others if they’ve succeeded where I haven’t). Most of our money comes from ebooks. However, it is nice to get a paperback of your book and have them available for die-hard fans or just for people who really like the feel of a book in their hands. I price mine as cheap as I can without losing money (though you can do whatever you want). Doing a paperback with your ebook isn’t much more expensive than doing the ebook by itself (just the cost of the LCCN and the time it takes to format it basically). However, we’ll talk more about royalties for ebooks later (they are much MUCH better)…