Have you noticed how the size of your favorite brand items in the stores have shrunk while the prices remain the same or are higher? You’ve probably observed how your grocery bill has increased while portion sizes have gotten smaller.
While I was writing A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, I had to adjust recipes that called for box sizes no longer available. For example, cake and pudding mixes come in smaller boxes than in the past. This means less dry ingredients for your recipe. Take a look at your older cookbooks or family recipes and you’ll see what I mean. For other items, the bottle sizes have shrunk or the items inside are no longer as large or as plentiful. The manufacturers benefit while we get less and pay more.
Does this also apply to book lengths? Do readers today, with short attention spans, prefer shorter works?
I looked at a few books from popular indie mystery authors and came up with these averages:
My books – 291 pages
Author A – 336 pages
Author B – 163 pages
Author C – 171 pages
What does this say? Those last two averages are considerably lower than mine. Does this mean readers prefer shorter and more frequent works? My books come out an average of once a year. If I wrote short, how many more stories could I produce? Being prolific isn’t my goal. I like to write a meaty story and that will take as long as it takes.
Another factor I noted is that all three of these authors have their e-books exclusive to Amazon in Kindle Unlimited. They are successful with this choice, but I don’t care to keep all my eggs in one basket. I’d rather offer my e-books wide. I do get sales from these other venues, including libraries, so it’s been worthwhile for me. My print books, too, are available wide through IngramSpark and KDP.
But this still begs the question – Do readers prefer shorter books that are quick reads with more frequent releases? A subscription service like Kindle Unlimited? Or books that are available from a variety of sources in varying lengths? What’s your opinion?
Have you been wanting to self-publish your book, but you don’t know where to begin? Or does the prospective task seem so daunting that it paralyzes you into doing nothing? Is this even something you can do for yourself, or will you need a “village” to help you along the way? Maybe you’re afraid of the costs involved. Is it worth the risk to become an indie author?
I tackled this topic initially in a nine-part blog series called Self-Publishing Made Simple. These same questions keep popping up in writer groups, such as “Do I need an ISBN number?” and “How do I get my book in print?”
So let’s take a fresh look at the answers. First decide why you’d like to indie publish your novel and then we’ll move on later to show how to go about it. Here are some common reasons:
You have backlist titles and the rights reverted.
You want to publish work in between your traditionally-published novels.
Your book doesn’t fit into a particular genre category.
You have a nonfiction book or personal project you want to publish on your own. You want to direct the publishing process.
Pricing and discounts
Input on cover and interior design
Back cover copy, book descriptions, metatags
Loss of prestige
Difficulty getting reviews
Limited booksigning and speaker opportunities
Tougher standards to join professional organizations
Bookstores and Libraries may not stock your work
Pressure to Produce
Now that we’re clear why you want to self-publish your work, we’ll talk next about how to prepare your manuscript. In the meantime, please feel free to share why you are interested in becoming a self-published author.
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Through much trial and tribulation, I learned how to publish my books direct to Apple Books using my Dell desktop computer. Earlier, you had to submit using an Apple computer. Since I didn’t own one, I hired a formatter to do the uploads for me. Then Draft2Digital came into existence, and they offered an easy way to submit your books to Apple. Naturally, D2D takes a commission for this service.
Then Apple changed the rules. You could upload directly through any Apple device, such as an iPad, or via the iCloud on your PC. I decided to learn how to do this rather than going through a third party aggregate or hiring a formatter.
Click on Pages. If you haven’t added this app, you need to do it first. Once in Pages, on the upper row is an upload symbol. Click on this and upload your Word document. Double click on the document. At the upper right, click on the tool symbol that looks like a wrench. This brings up a dropdown menu. Click on Publish to Apple Books. You’ll have to sign in with your Apple password. Check “This is a new book.” You can update an already submitted book at this stage, too.
Make sure you fill in the boxes accurately. Under Layout, click Reflowable. Upload your book cover. Correct the book title. Add your series name and number. Make sure your author name is correct, including your middle name or initial. Next, provide your book description. If you’re copying and pasting, paste it in with Control-V.
Next, choose your Apple subject category and subcategory, i.e. Mysteries & Thrillers, Cozy.
For Interest Age, I’ll put 12 and Older
Contains Explicit Content: No
Publisher and Imprint: [Add your publisher name if you have one]
Original Publication Date: [Today or later]
Pre-Order: Yes or No
Specify Sample Range: No
Vendor Number: Apple assigns you a different vendor number for each submission. Do not make the mistake I did in thinking this was something I had to fill in. It has nothing to do with your seller account. I screwed up on this point and kept filling it in and messing things up. Lesson learned: Leave this box alone.
ISBN Digital: Scroll down below Vendor Number to find this box. Use “Control-V” to enter number if you are copying and pasting.
ISBN Print: Add your print ISBN here if you have one.
Hit “Download Preview” to review.
Hit Open. Use “Page Down” to flip pages.
When done, Hit “Upload” on bottom right of the previous window
This will take you to iTunes Connect, where you should already have an account. Sign in and click on My Books.
It may take a few minutes for your new book to pop up. When it does, click on it, then click “Edit Metadata.” If the spacing isn’t right on your book description, add <br> at the end of each paragraph and in between paragraphs. Here’s mine for Hairball Hijinks.
Make sure all else is correct, then click on Submit.
Go to Rights and Pricing
Click on Add New Territories
Fill in the Release Date
Cleared for Sale: Yes
Base Currency: US Dollar
Publication Type: New Release
List Price: Fill in your retail price
Suggested Apple Price: Can be same as above
Apply to Territories; Select All, to check the boxes for all territories
Continue, Confirm, Done.
Get your Apple Book ID. Come back later, sign in to iTunes Connect, go to My Books, and get the individual store links. Consider joining their Affiliate program at https://www.apple.com/itunes/affiliates/
More people are reading on their smartphones and tablets these days. While they can download the Kindle app, it makes sense to have your book directly available to Apple customers. If you’re just setting up a seller account for the first time at iTunes Connect, you’ll need to fill in all the payment and tax information. If you have an LLC or a fictitious business name, you may have to contact Apple and ask them to apply this publisher name as the Seller on your account.
Once you’re all set up, everything will become easier. Apple has a few more hoops to jump through to submit a book than Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble, but it’s worth the effort. And by uploading direct, you can take advantage of whatever promotional opportunities they offer, such as free promo codes.
This is Part 10 in my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
The Library Market
What format do libraries prefer?
Librarians responded to one author’s query stating they preferred trade paperback in large print over hardcover books, because hardcovers were heavier, more expensive, took up more space on the shelves, and were difficult to hold for older patrons. This may not be true across the board, but it’s something to keep in mind. You might want to conduct your own survey.
Library of Congress Control Number
Libraries use the Library of Congress number to organize their materials. This program allows them to catalog books before they’re published and to add the digital record to their computer search program.
If you have an imprint that buys ISBNs from Bowker, you can set up an account with the LOC. You cannot, as an individual, order a number for a book. You have to buy at least 10 ISBNs. Publishers must list a U.S. city as place of publication on the title or copyright page.
Apply online through the small press option at https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ about two to four weeks before you go to final formatting. You’ll need to assign your ISBN number first, because LOC will ask for the title and ISBN. They email you the LOC number and how you should put it on the copyright page.
Be aware that getting a Library of Congress Control Number does not guarantee the LOC will catalog your book. If they choose not to, when a librarian plugs your number into their system, they will pull up a blank entry.
Items that are NOT eligible include works under fifty pages unless it’s children’s literature, E-books, mass market paperbacks, books that have already been published, and more. Complete list is here: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/about/scope.html
Getting Your Book Into Libraries
You can help make your print book available to librarians by offering a discount through IngramSpark and by listing your book in their new release catalog. You can also offer it through Baker & Taylor at Draft2Digital. Having an LOC number is an optional choice.
See if your county or city library system accepts books by local indie authors. Some have special programs just for this purpose. Offer to give talks and participate in panel discussions to get to know your librarians. For e-books, make sure your book is available through Overdrive. See Part 6 below.
This is Part 9 in my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
How to Use Ingramspark
Open a free account at https://www.ingramspark.com/. See if a coupon code is available for title setup. There is a one-time setup fee of $49 for print or for print and ebook. Put your imprint as the publisher or company.
Decide your trim size (i.e. 8.5 x 5.5) and format (trade paperback). Hardcover options are available with a laminated cover or full dust jacket. For paperback, choose perfect bound for the binding, meaning the spine is glued and not stapled. Choose black and white interior, and pages to be cream or white (white is my choice). Laminated cover with gloss or matte finish.
Go to the Help page, find Tools, then find the Cover Template Generator. You will need to know the page count, ISBN and price. Fill out the form and send the template to your cover designer. Tell her to save the cover as a pdf file. Note that cover requirements differ for KDP.
Your book file will need to be a pdf file with embedded fonts. This ensures that no matter what fonts a reader has on their device, they’ll be able to see the file as you intend it to be seen.
Upload a pdf file for the book and one for the cover. You can use the same interior pdf file for KDP and Ingram.
The Publication Date is when you plan to make the book available for purchase to bookstores, libraries and online retailers. The On Sale Date is the date that you mean to release a title to be printed and delivered. This should be the same as or later than the Publication Date. My advice is to make them both the same to avoid confusion. If you want to do pre-orders, set the Publication date and the On Sale date to the same date in the future. This will be the actual release date.
Global Connect Program at Ingram: http://bit.ly/2xOH5T0
Price using the Currency Converter and rounding up for a $14.99 title (USD):
14.99 USD; 11.99 GBP (UK); 12.99 EUR; 19.99 CAD; 19.99 AUD
Physical Proof Copies
At IngramSpark, you have to approve the ebook proof before you can order a physical proof. From your Dashboard, click on the Order link by your book title. You’ll have several choices. One proof at $14.99 retail costs $4.69 (economy service takes up to 5 days to print the book) + $1.99 handling + $3.80 (basic shipping takes 7-10 business days and is not trackable) + $.40 tax = $10.88. Click Override On-Sale Date if your book is available for pre-order.
The proof from KDP costs less than Ingram. It’ll say “Not for Resale” across the front of the book. Your number of proof copies might be limited at KDP. Ingram has no limit on the number of copies you may order and the books are not labeled. These are great for advance reading copies and look the same as the final printed book.
Discounts and Returns
A full trade discount between 53% and 55% of your list price encourages booksellers to buy your book, especially if you offer returns. You can choose from three different types of returns—return and destroy, return and ship, or non-returnable. Be aware that if you allow returns, you will be charged for them. I do a 40% discount with no returns. This means the bookseller gets 20% off and Ingram gets 20%. Decide if you want your books on bookstore shelves or want them available for readers to order through their favorite bookstore.
Why Choose Ingram?
• Book distribution to over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools and universities.
• Direct shipping and global delivery. IngramSpark distributes to Canada from the U.S. and has print facilities in the UK and Australia. With their Global Connect program, they have relationships with print partners in China, Germany, Italy, India, Poland, Russia, South Korea.
• Ingram does not sell directly to the public, but it gets your book into more online bookstores. You can use these bookstore links on your website pages.
• Bookstores can order your book directly from Ingram.
• Booksellers are attracted by deeper wholesale discounts, returnability, and not having to buy your book at Amazon.
• You can produce your book in hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions.
• You can choose a discount between 30% to 55% on the IS print version. In KDP, you lack flexibility.
• Payment is royalty percentage of retail price minus printing costs. For example, you set a retail price of $14.99. With a 40% discount, this means you’ll earn 60% royalty. That comes to $8.99 per book minus the print cost of $4.56 equals a net royalty of $4.43. Ingram takes half of the discount, and the retailer gets the other half. So for a 40% discount, a bookseller only sees 20% off.
• Librarians most often will not order from KDP. So even if you choose their Expanded Distribution, it does not guarantee librarians will have access to your books. They prefer to deal with Baker & Taylor (accessed through Draft2Digital) or Ingram, among other sources. They use Overdrive for e-books (accessed through Kobo, D2D, or Smashwords).
• On Ingram, you can personalize your orders with an extra page inserted at the front.
• There is a one-time setup fee at IS of $49 for print or print plus e-book. This $49 is refunded if you order 50 print books within 60 days of title setup. Or, for the e-book alone, it’ll cost you $25 setup fee at Ingram. It costs nothing to upload a book to KDP. However, Ingram offers coupon codes periodically if you sign up for their author mailing list or blog. Some professional writing organizations have Ingram codes as well.
• Uploading a revised manuscript costs $25 at IngramSpark. No charge at KDP. Ingram will only process this revised file after all current orders have been filled.
• Ingram can be more complicated to learn than KDP.
• It costs $85 to get into the advance Ingram catalog.
What’s the difference between IngramSpark and Lightning Source?
IngramSpark combines Lighting Source print-on-demand services with e-book distribution. This gives authors a single platform to manage both print and electronic titles. IngramSpark is more user friendly. Royalty statements in either case come from Lightning Source.
This is Part 7 in my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
Print Book Distributors for Indie Authors
Print distribution options for indie authors include, but are not exclusive to, Ingramspark, KDP Print, Barnes and Noble Press, and Draft2Digital Print. Uploading is free, or in Ingram’s case, free with a coupon code. Books are printed on demand, so there is no print book run like for a traditional publisher. You may order author’s copies at a discount. Usually, you’ll bring your own books on consignment to a signing event.
Disclaimer: This information changes rapidly, so it only represents my interpretation at the time this article was written. Please let me know if you have any updates or corrections.
Benefits of publishing paperbacks with KDP include:
• You can reach readers through Amazon websites in the US, Europe, and Japan.
• Physical proofs and author copies are available. Your KDP proof and author copies for the UK and Europe will be printed and shipped from within Europe. For author’s copies, you pay printing costs plus shipping and tax.
• Use your own ISBN, or KDP can supply one for you. This free ISBN can only be used on KDP for distribution to Amazon and its partners. It cannot be used with another publisher or a self-publishing service.
• If you use your own ISBN, KDP will check to see if your imprint matches what is on file at Bowker. If you are reprinting your book, the title, author name, and trim size/binding type must stay the same. The ISBN cannot be changed after publication. A new edition requires a new ISBN.
• Royalty is 60% of retail price minus printing costs. Printing Cost for a 77,000 word book that’s 268 pages in pdf format is $4.07. So for $14.99 x 60% royalty = 8.99 – 4.07 = $4.92 royalty
• You can save your book as a draft and order proof copies before publication. Proof copies will have a “Not for Resale” watermark on the cover and a unique bar code but no ISBN. You pay only the printing cost for your selected marketplace plus shipping.
Barnes & Noble Press
• Print preorders are available up to 180 days in advance.
• E-book preorders are available up to 12 months in advance.
• One free correction for print book files per cover and interior file.
• Can order advance copies of print books ahead of publication even if the book is available for preorder, before your on-sale date.
• To transfer a title from D2D: B&N will give you a transfer request form that you send to D2D. They will release the book over to B&N. You keep your reviews and EANs so you don’t have to change any links.
• Print books published by B&N Press will more likely be available to their own booksellers for ordering.
• You’ll be able to create an e-book coupon code to sell your books at a specially discounted price to NOOK readers, without worrying about price matching on other retail sites. Go to the Manage Promotions section from your Projects page.
• Series Management allows you to view your titles’ metadata grouped by Series.
• Cover Converter—If you need a print-ready version of your e-book cover, they’ll generate one for you.
• Cover Templates—If you want to supply your own existing print cover, you can use their free cover templates to ensure it is the right size.
• Various Trim Sizes—All of the POD industry-standard trim sizes are here.
• Auto-Generated Interior—If you submit a .doc file, this can help keep the weird line breaks and widowed and orphaned text to a minimum. You can also upload your own print-ready pdf file.
• Other Choices—Matte or glossy finish for your cover, cream or white paper for your interior, a free ISBN from D2D or supply your own.
• Brick & Mortar Distribution—You will need to request that a bookstore order and carry your books. They can place orders through their regular channels. Draft2Digital does not distribute directly to physical bookstores. They do distribute to Baker & Taylor.
The Best Choice
• Use KDP for print distribution to Amazon and Amazon Europe only. Do not enable expanded distribution.
• Use BN Press for distribution to Barnes and Noble.
• Use Ingram for print distribution everywhere else. The next two posts will focus on this distributor.
• You can use the same ISBN number for all print editions in the same format, such as trade paperbacks. If you want a hardcover edition, you’ll need a different ISBN. This is assuming you own the ISBNs and not the distributor.
If you’ve uploaded to Ingram first, and Amazon is showing your book as unavailable, submit your KDP print edition. Amazon will use this version instead of the Ingram book and your title will show up as being available. But you can only upload your file to KDP when you are ready to release the title.
Likely you’ll have to access your account at Amazon Author Central, claim your new title, and request the print edition on Amazon be linked to the e-book edition.