What is Book Distribution & How Is It Done?

Ahhhhh…Where do I start?

It is easy for those of you that have secured that illusive Big Traditional Publishing contract. Those publishers have decades old systems that release press releases to newspapers and trade mags, publicity departments that will (for the big name authors) send out copies to book stores on a sell and pay option with posters for the store windows. The store will get a box of the books without spending a penny until they are sold. They will distribute through the online retails sites as well.

So how does the rest of us get that distribution without those contacts and systems in place? (or the bankroll to fund it?)

Self publishers or small independent publishers have access to online publishing platforms. Some of the major ones are Createspace, Ingram (Lightening Source or Spark), Smashwords, iBooks,  Nook Press, Google Books, Kobo and Amazon.

Each of these has their advantages, depending on your skill level as an self publisher and what formats you want your book offered for purchasing. It also depends on how much you want to pay for the specific options they offer. Each will take a cut of your royalties. Some will distribute to some of the others for you. There are print edition and ebook edition options. Let’s get a bit more specific.

Print distributors: Createspace, Ingram, Nook Press. Nook has two divisions, and is specific to Barnes and Noble. They do not distribute to other retailers. Both Createspace and Ingram have distribution programs that make your print book AVAILABLE to bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, and online resellers. Your book MAY be included in a catalog that is sent to stores or buyers. At the least they should be available or purchase through bookstores or libraries in their respective online catalogs IF they get a customer request to purchase or find your book among the many millions available. Ingram platforms are more expensive to use than Createspace but they do offer some options that Createspace does not, including bookstore discounts and a return policy.

eBook distributors: Smashwords. Smashwords will place your book for sale in a variety of online ebook retail sites as part of their publishing platform. You choose which ones and if your ebook meets the requirements of each, it will be distributed to them. Createspace has an option to convert your print book to an ebook on Amazon. Ingram gives you ACCESS, note that word, to a host of online ebook retailers. Beware the special note if you have previously published to the Kindle store (Amazon) or Apple iBooks. Ingram wants exclusive ebook distribution rights. It doesn’t restrict you to a particular store like the Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp) option of enrolling in KDP Select which restricts publication of an ebook to ONLY Amazon. However, you cannot publish directly to KDP or iBooks when using Ingram’s ebook platform for publishing.

All distribution schemes come at a cost. Royalties. Each time your book passes through another set of hands or through a set of hands that gets a discount, your royalty decreases. For example: You publish your print book through the Createspace platform. If a reader buys it at Createspace, you receive the highest royalty. If a reader purchases your book through Amazon, you get a reduced royalty because Amazon takes a cut.  If it is purchased by someone on Barnes and Noble’s online store or it is purchased by a bookstore for a client, an online reseller who has their own affiliate store, linking to some online retailer’s sale page or it is purchased by a library or academic institution, your royalty will be even further decreased either by another person getting a cut of the royalties or a discount on the purchase price.

There are numerous marketing and distribution plans offered by author service businesses online. But if you read the details, they are the same outlets that are listed by the main distributors. It is unlikely in most cases that these author service businesses have direct access to putting books on the shelves in Barnes and Noble. It is unlikely they have direct access to any of the distribution outlets. It is much more likely that they are using one of the major publishing platforms and simply listing the distribution outlets provided by that specific platform.

Another thing to note is that many of the online retail outlets are simply affiliates of the major outlets like Amazon. They have a large website or Amazon store that links each book back to their affiliate connection with Amazon who then fills the order. The author then gets less royalty.

So, in conclusion, as a publisher or self publisher you want to place your books on sale directly with as many retail sites as possible. You can do this with Nook (Barnes and Noble) for print and ebooks, Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) for ebooks and Kobo through their publishing platform. Createspace is a Print on Demand print book platform. Each other site you choose to distribute to from there costs you royalties. Smashwords is an ebook only distributor although they do have their own store as well.

Is it really necessary to have your books in every single online retail outlet that exists? Most readers choose an ereading platform and buy books at that outlet. All the small resellers and obsure outlets will generally not get you many sales.

The biggest catch of all in this self publishing saga is that many publishing platforms are at this time restricted to U.S. Citizens or foreign individuals that have complied with the IRS by filing the proper out of country tax forms for identification. On top of that is that many of these publishing options will only make direct payment (EFT) to U.S. banks. Other payments are made by check and are only made when your royalties reach a specified amount (often $100). Then you are burdened with conversion fees and international deposit fees from your bank when you deposit. Add on top of that paying U.S. Taxes. They can be deducted from your royalties before payment and can be up to 30%.

This is by no means meant to discourage you in your quest to become a published author. You need to know the steps, the stumbles and the small print. You need to know the realities that authors on the whole do not get rich from a book. Most self publishers never recover the money spent getting published until years later if ever. This will not stop the dedicated. But hopefully it will help minimize every author’s chance of being swindled by some unscrupulous business or fast talking salesperson playing on your author ego. It will inform you so you know what to look for in a proposal and what questions you can ask. Authors wanting to be published find a way.

 

“Informing the uninformed is much easier than enlightening the ignorant.”

Robin-WoolysWagon ePublishing

If you love following blogs about books and bookish finds, check out www.bitcheslovebooks.com

I Need Help with My Baby-Where to find Service Providers

Google it. That is the quick solution to leads. You will get thousands of possibilities. How do you know which are legitimate and qualified?

You can have a look on sites that specialize in listing providers and rating them as to legitimacy.

Preditors and Editors: http://pred-ed.com

Although this site has become the most referred when someone asks about a business being legitimate, it is not one that can be without possible faults.

I am not that impressed with their definitions, personally. I have touched on those industry definitions in a previous post. there is a difference between a company offering author services, a small publisher and the antiquated term of vanity publisher. When the only options were to get a publisher or publish yourself, the term vanity publishing was coined. It designated someone that thought their work was worth publishing and could not or did not chose to secure a publishing contract so they prepared their book and sought out a printer who they then paid to print off their own copies. Now there are companies that call themselves publishers, self publishing companies and the like that offer author services bundled into packages. Some host your book for sale on their site, post the book for sale on other sites and also claim a percentage of the royalties. Some provide the files you need so you can self publish. Some claim to promote your book using social media and other means. Small publishers will function much like the big publishers, but with smaller staff numbers. Sometimes the author can maintain some creative control providing input and the publisher will retain a portion of your royalties. Some may pay advances, depending on their size. Many do not. However, you will not pay for the services needed to prepare your book for publishing or to publish it. If there is a restriction to this policy it should be clearly stated.

So, a resource, but do your own due diligence as well. I’m not sure how current things are, but the last book promoted at the bottom of one of the pages was published in September 2016, so at least that part is current.

Various blogs: I came across this one that also has a Facebook page that seems useful. I did not check their resources, however, so again, due diligence on your part.

http://accrispin.blogspot.com.au/                                                                                                         also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterBeware/

If you want a professional editor, there are editor associations you can find by doing an online search.  Here you can also find prevailing rates for services. Joining LinkedIn can also expose you to a number of groups that can give you everything from self publishing tips and information, connections to editors (vet them, please) and other various service providers. Please, don’t just join up and start shooting off questions. Read back discussions first. Most of your questions have already been answered numerous times. If you don’t want to put in the time to learn or you are someone that approaches life wearing rose-colored glasses, that should tell you that hiring someone to handle it for you is the way to go. In that case look for a small publisher that offers services or a book doctor and seek advice.

Facebook: Although there are numerous writer groups on Facebook, most have turned into promotional avenues. And as most will tell you, your market (unless you have written a book for authors) is not other authors. You may be able to find a review or beta reader group if you have time to search.

This is undoubtedly the most daunting period in the life of your baby, your book. As I have said before, except for at least one good editing by another person, most of the tasks to publishing can be learned. It all really depends on where you set your priorities.

This may not be the post you were expecting with lists and lists of possible service providers. I’m not one for reinventing the wheel. There are ebooks and groups and websites and blog dedicated to promoting or dissuading use of service providers. I am more interested in you not experiencing the disappointment of someone reaching deep into your ego pocket and robbing you of your book publishing budget, without providing quality service.

Protecting yourself means putting in effort to prevent being taken advantage of. It means looking at getting your book published realistically. It means understanding the difficulty of getting your book seen among the millions available and thousands of new books arriving daily. It means realistic expectations of return on your investment.

Anyone with quality work can get published. Whether that means for you that you will make an investment in time and money, pitching and submitting, or seeking the less expensive or no expense way, depends solely on you.

Now an advertisement:  WoolysWagon ePublishing offers author services and no fee publishing contracts. All services are independently quoted based on the package of services you need to self publish. They will always come in under the majority of professional pricing. They will never beat fiverr. 😉 Quality service at non ego prices.

Yes, Bookmomma/daddy, There is more.

There are so many steps in the publishing process. Each one I walk through with you will help you learn or decide something…but until you reach the end you will not have the information to complete your plan. At this point you will be thinking about your book publishing budget or lack of one. You will be beginning to understand the truth about your very close relationship with your baby and how it is both a blessing and a stumbling block toward its growth. That big sigh of relief upon completing your book has been replaced with…what? Dread? Excitement? Confusion? Determination?

Let me just make you a list. The processes a book needs to pass through before it can be published. Give you a little glimpse into your baby’s future.

  • It has to be written.
  • It needs to be beta read. (by friends, family, groups)
  • It needs to be edited again by you.
  • It needs to be formally edited.
  • Front, back and cover matter needs to be written. (Dedication, Acknowledgements, Author Bio, Back cover blurb for the paperback and subsequent book description.
  • It needs to be formatted for the paperback edition. (Known as book designing)
  • It needs to be formatted for the ebook edition.
  • A publishing file for each needs to be prepared. This is also know as ebook conversion for the ebook version.
  • Book cover designs
  • Publishing files of the covers need to be created.
  • You need to start, if you haven’t been doing this already, thinking how you will publicize your book.
  • You need an author’s Facebook page or possibly a website.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it will begin to help you understand the complexities of publishing.

Each part of this process can mean money spent or processes learned, depending on your situation. Everything except the professional editing you can learn to do yourself to some degree or other depending on your skills and talent. The reality is that you need to figure out what you can and want to do yourself and which ones you will be hiring/bartering out to others.

Let me clear up a few more bits of terminology.

Self publishing: This term is bandied about in all types of contexts. Put simply, self publishing is handling all the steps necessary to publication of a book. So in effect you are the book’s manager. You can contract needed services, do processes yourself or contract or hire someone to manage the process for you. However you get to the end, a self publisher will end up setting up accounts with online book retailers and uploading content to those accounts. They will provide these retailers with information on how to make payment of royalties for sales, in other words, bank account details. You will receive royalty report directly and manage all communications from retailers, fans, etc. After publication you will manage (contract services or self promote) promotion of your book. You will also manage any tax obligations.

The pros and cons: You have complete control. You have complete responsibility. There is a rather large learning curve. You need to vet service providers. You retain all royalties from sales minus retail commission. You need to invest time you could be spending writing. You need to reply to fan comments and email.

Publishing or Author Service Company: This is a business that provides services an author needs to publish a book. Whether you are self publishing and looking for specific services or looking for someone to do it all, you will be engaging with one of these more than likely. (At the least an editing service as it is not recommended you edit your own work completely.)

There are people available to do any single service you may need or those offering packages including several or all of the services needed. My biggest piece of advice here is to be provided in writing exactly what the service(s) being sold includes. Reading post after post from authors saying, “I thought…”, or “They said…”, should clearly tell you that this is the biggest hurdle you will face-vetting a service provider. Due diligence and reading the fine PRINT, not phone conversations, is the only way to accomplish this when securing services yourself.

Again, depending on the money, time, skills and learning you want to invest, there are innumerable paths and combinations to your end goal. So let’s walk a few…

Scenario: You have a lot of skilled and talented friends and are no novice yourself with technology or perhaps administration. So you garner support and either pay, barter or secure without cost some of the services needed to publish. You get the edit, and an illustration for the book covers. You research. You discover that Createspace has interior book templates and cover templates for the paperback editions. You obtain them and because of your personal knowledge of using word or InDesign, you are able to create the properly formatted interior file for your book’s paperback edition. Then you tackle the book cover with equal success. At this point, your technical skill is exhausted so you engage someone to properly format and convert to obtain the ebook files. You set up accounts with the three or four or five major online book retailers. You then research again to learn their programs and rules. Or, perhaps you decide to throw your eggs all in one basket and up for one exclusive outlet.

Next you set up all the other promotional accounts: Facebook, author central, Goodreads, website, … Knowing you must maintain them and post content. You have everything sorted, post your book files, send off tweets, posts, blogs, and your life as a self published author begins.

Scenario: You want control of your sales reports, managing your book prices and the like, but have no desire to really be involved in the process of getting there. You could learn some of the skills for some of the steps but you really want to start on that next book in the series that is nagging at you or that next book idea that has captured your fancy. You decided long ago you don’t want to do the Big Publisher Dance of learning how to submit manuscripts, find an agent. Do you have money to pay for services knowing it can be thousands? Can you find a small independent publisher interested? You decide to invest in your book. It won’t be the last and you want to get on with it. You decide to hire someone to manage it all for you. You contract a book publishing manager. This might be a small publisher or an independent book manager. You discuss services needed, decide on a budget and after contract, they go to work and you get back to writing, stopping occasionally to view and possibly approve something or other from your publishing manager. When the process is complete, your book manager assists you in opening various accounts so your book can be self published by them. Then you change the passwords and your book is for sale. You, in the meantime are well on your way to a second book.

Or: you decide to buy a publishing package from an author services company. What does that include and where will it leave you? Will you get files you can upload for sale and are confident you can navigate that process of opening accounts with retailers? Have you fully understood what is included and what services you will need to secure and purchase on your own? Will that package make you an ongoing client and not a self published author, paying a portion of your royalties to them in addition to paying for services? Remaining under contract for how long? Being sent reports and royalties how often?

Scenario: You have no such thing as a book publishing budget. You could run the gauntlet through the Big Publisher submissions. You could enter various book writing contests to secure the win of a publishing contract. You can seek out a small publisher that, while not paying any advance, do pay higher royalties than the major publishers. The contracts may be longer than the pay for services options. They won’t be getting paid up front. They only get paid through sales. They do exist. Research to find them.

As you may have gathered, this blog isn’t designed to directly teach you to self publish or to suggest or endorsing any particular service providers. Except WoolysWagon, which is inherent in this being WoolysWagon ePublishing’s blog. It is to inform you on the process in general. It is also designed to clarify the responsibilities of an author and the publishing process as a whole.

Next: I need help with my baby! Where and how do I find it?

 

 

 

But I Thought…Accepting Criticism

You’ve put your baby out there for inspection, your pride and joy. You’ve prepared yourself (you HAVE, haven’t you?) for comment and criticism. Depending on your reader’s relationship to you this can be about anything…your parenting (writing) skills, your ideas, your spelling, grammar…you name it.  But it is your job to wade through it all with a smile and gather the important bits that will make your baby thrive.

Focus on the important stuff. The story itself, the plot, the characters. The grammar and spelling and annoying writer habits will be handled in the succeeding baby steps toward getting your book published. Consider the suggestions with an open mind while still maintaining control of your creation. But do listen.

After you feel you have enough information and can see the flaws, if any, then it is time to go back to the changing table and make improvements. Time for that final edit.

Next step is to find an editor.

Editing by a professional, though it may not be a card-carrying member of some editor association (yes, I know I will get criticized for this statement), is crucial to your baby’s success. Nothing is more exasperating than starting a book, getting into the story and constantly being interrupted by ‘road bumps’. You know, the misspelled words, the grammar snafus, the character’s eyes changing mid story. Or, yes, those annoying writer habits of using the same phrase over and over.

I once read a book that was wonderful…except.  It was so hard to get to the end, going over all those speed bumps, having to go back and reread something just to be sure MY mind wasn’t flawed because something didn’t add up, that I was exhausted. Never to purchase that author’s books again though a story she could tell, for certain. You do not want your readers to be left with that impression. Especially if you plan to write again. You want followers, fans, people waiting for your next bit of escape from reality. My husband just came in. He was reading a book while volunteering at a museum; slow this time of year. “Rubbish.” Luckily I did not pay for that ebook. Road bumps that would risk the condition of your tires. “In need of one of your edits,” he said.

So, where do you find your editor? Google it. You will get lists and lists.  LinkeIn it. Join an editor or writer group and seek suggestions. But research and be knowledgeable. You need to know what editing is, what it should or could cost and even how you can get it.

So let’s talk editing.

Editing is the process of having someone else read your story and fix it, basically. Editing comes in several layers, like a good cake. We will start at the top. Proofreading. This is the icing on the cake, so to speak. It pretties up the great story beneath. It is the final check for anything amiss, that final soothing lotion for your baby’s skin, that final swirl of icing. You will find proofreaders everywhere and not too expensive in the broader pricing scheme. But they are not enough. The most delicious icing cannot hide a badly baked cake. The prettiest dress cannot hide a badly cared for baby.

Copy editing is the correction of spelling and grammar and consistency. This will remove those annoying road bumps in your story. Soothe that baby’s skin with lotion. Your character’s eyes won’t change color mid story (unless they may be a werewolf or something). So is this the filling of the cake or the cake itself? That depends on you actually. If you have crafted a solid story line and seen it through this might be both. If you have rushed and did not get enough feedback to find crucial faults in your book then it may only be one…or the other…but I will call it the cake.

Substantial or structural editing is the filling holding everything together. Keeping each chapter connected to the next in a way that drives the reader forward. This editor is sometimes known as a book doctor. Sometimes, your best friend. This editor can actually teach you to be a better writer in the long run. If you are a new writer, having someone along on the writing ride can be a significant benefit, catching problems in your story early and a small retainer could save you many more dollars later on when you send that problem ridden book to an editor later. Like it to teaching a child to brush their teeth…get it? This editor catches plot flaws, bad story lines, misplaced chapters and guides the writer as they write. Or in some cases later.

As a publisher I often find myself fixing it later. But once an author is under my brand, we move to fixing it as they write.

So you are ready to be edited. The baby looks a pretty as you can manage, after assessing many suggestions. What do you do? What can you do? That depends on your book budget, if you have one. This is the million dollar dilemma. You can find ‘editing’ as cheap as 1 cent per word or likely even less on those budget service sites. But what are you getting? Do they even tell you?  Likely a proofread that may fix some copy editing issues. Your job is to find out. So let’s say you have a 50,000 word novel…$500.  A pretty penny. And things may not even be fixed.  I have had authors come to me with a previously (sometimes several times) edited book with oodles of errors I still bumped over. What a waste of money.

There are options to obtaining editing.This next bit will delve a little into future baby steps to publishing but everything fits together like a puzzle in this process to a degree. You can straight out hire an editor. Which level depends on your obtained criticism from the previous step. If there were story problems mentioned and you could not see it or fix it or understand those comments, get a structural editor. A badly constructed book won’t sell.

If you are eyes wide open confident with that aspect, get a copy editor at a minimum.

Now for the detour. You can get editing through other arrangements. If you plan to pay for publishing services (also known by the old name of vanity publishing, which I feel is an outdated term) or can secure a publisher (a process I will touch upon later), editing can be included in the package or contract. So it becomes something you pay for within the scope of a paid package (cash out once for everything)  or by contracting with a publisher (no cash out-of-pocket, but lessened royalties than those realized by a self-published author). But BEWARE: Some paid publishing packages DO NOT INCLUDE EDITING. Some author service companies will publish your book as they receive it. Many said companies make their money from the sale of the packages, not future sales of the book. Their interest in your book selling or getting positive reviews are squelched by their business model. So keep that in mind and know what you are getting in any package deal.

Time for an advertisement:

WoolysWagon ePublishing offers author services as well as publishing contracts. We do not at this time offer paid publishing packages, but would consider it only for those wanting to self-publish. Said package would need to include all services (complete editing, book design, ebook conversion, book covers) so the files received by the author would be everything the author needs to upload the book/ebook for sale at online retailers.

We offer editing at all levels. We quote a fixed price after reading the submitted book and assessing what is needed to present the book in its best light. Because we know how much time will be needed to present you with a publishing ready quality copy we can keep the price as low as possible. Please note, however, that we do not present revisions in a word document that has tracked changes. You get our edited copy. We do consult if there are structural/substantive issues. We do consult if we discover a writer’s habit that we feel should be addressed.

We offer book shepherding services. We offer book appraisals. (These include a discussion of the readiness of your book, possible issues, and a synopsis of what you will need to proceed to publishing.) We may also discuss providing services along with a quote or possibly a contract proposition.

But the foundation of WoolysWagon ePublishing is the publishing contract. We were started in order to prevent authors being ripped off by author services companies and more importantly helping those deserving authors that don’t have a publishing budget, period. We instituted a 50/50 royalty share contract where you provide the story and we provide the rest (illustrations excluded). Authors are given a fixed royalty per sale upon publication of their book, royalty reports once a month with immediate payment.

Back to the show…

So you can see that editing is a crucial and possible big expense on the road to publishing your book. All the more reason for you to take those baby steps and be sure of your path.

Next: I had NO IDEA what being a parent really…There’s MORE???

Baby Steps-What Do I Need To Know To Plan My Book’s Future?

So now you have a baby, you have finished your new book. And you thought the hard part was over, did you? Your worries and sleepless nights have just begun.

In my last blog I suggested you begin researching what you will need to set your baby up for the best chance of success in a world full of babies. If you indeed started doing that you should be pulling your hair out just about now. Information, misinformation, suggestions, opinions – you name it – should be giving you the biggest brain ache you could have never imagined.

In this post I will attempt to make some sense of the terminology that has been tossed around, best we start out on the same page as we take baby steps through the process of bringing your book, your beloved baby, out to meet the world. I will tackle ‘the critique’ in this baby step.

Your book is your creation. You have become close over the past months or years and no one knows it like you. That is good. And that is bad. Sometimes the closer and more involved we are, the less objective we become and what we think is obvious, really isn’t. It is time to get another opinion.

Your first visit with your baby will likely be to people you trust. People that may have been waiting for the arrival. You want to share your book with them and celebrate its birth. These visits can take a variety of paths.

Friends

Family

Teachers or mentors

Fellow writers-critique group

Groups

Associations

Professional Appraisals

Each has pros and cons. Friends are your friends because you like each other and you take care to maintain a certain interaction code. That varies with every friendship but each has an element of caretaker-ship. Family is always a mixed bag of support, from the “You did what!” to the “It must be perfect because you are!” Teachers and mentors have investment in you but they also have their own ideas of what that baby’s path should be. Fellow writers are basically in the same boat as you are. They come with their own skills, flaws, perspectives, rules. Groups can be people with similar interests, goals, aspirations. Associations, likewise, but perhaps on a professional level. Those offering professional appraisals will vary in skill just as every single author service provider you will encounter in the publishing process.

But your goal in your first series of outings is to get those second opinions of your book. Biased or unbiased, it will get you looking at your baby in a different light and hopefully bring your feet back down to earth after the exhilarating experience you have just been through. It will be rough at first, realizing you are not the first, nor will you be the last emerging author. But it is a necessary journey learning to let others hold your baby and to listen to what they say. Really listen. Without prejudice or taking the opinions and suggestions as a personal affront to you.

Your access to the various outlets to get these second opinions will vary, but you must find someone or preferably someones to get an objective view. They will alert you to problem areas. Character flaws, gaps in the story line, anything that is not clear or just not plausible. They may even point out writing habits you may not know you have.

So step one is get other opinions on your book. This will give you the information to determine your next baby step.

Next: But I thought…Making edits in your book and your perception for your baby’s best chance in life.

Note: Just want to add there is a way to get feedback on your book idea with Write On by Kindle through Amazon. You can post your story here and get reviews and comments here from readers. You can post and remove stories at your will. You cannot post anything published and once published you must remove it. However, it could be a good way to get some constructive criticism on that idea or some interest for readers to follow your progress. I would caution that if you post an entire book, once read it is unlikely to be purchased, so be careful. I have not joined as yet so don’t know the ins and outs but it is a possibility. Just get familiar with it before you go too far.  Amazon has laid out review criteria and offered some advice on reviewing so hopefully you will get constructive advice and comment.