Gordon Burgett's Newsletter
for Writers, Speakers, Publishers, Consultants, Coaches, and Empire Builders
February 3, 2011
There are three distinct paths to publish your book…
Publishing it with a standard big-house (or even small-house) is the riskiest in terms of acceptance (they may accept 1:1000 in fiction, less in nonfiction) and the slowest (expect 18 months to see it in print after the final text is edited and accepted). You may earn 6-10% of the list price in royalties. If you get an advance, those royalties will come after the advance is earned, often six months or a year later. Why bother? Because while you must prepare the book, they will produce and promote it. Production will be first rate, promotion won’t. Can be more prestigious, but probably far less lucrative. It’s best to be a celebnty to score here.
You can self-publish, and with a good topic, an excellent title, a solid general book, and lots of hustle in a fading sales market, you might earn 20%–after all the costs are paid. You set the production pace. The cover is critical.
You can earn big in self-publishing by sticking to niche fields and solving key problems. The risk is removed by pre-testing. (See my Niche Publishing book for the process.) You can set yourself up for life by expanding from that core book into an information empire. You can also keep your costs down by sticking to POD printing until you know that you’d benefit from a solid stock run, then using POD again for your backlist.
The most exciting of the three, and probably (now) the least profitable, is ancillary publishing, where you can get your book published free in minutes and marketed worldwide in days: think LSI, CreateSpace, Lulu, Kindle, iPad and iPhone through Smashwords, Blurb, and Pubit. (Again, check my book for the process.)
The advantages here? Fast, almost free, you set the price, they will make it marketably accessible and do very modest promotion.
If you need a book to convince speech bookers you have the savvy, this is quick. If you have novels in you and will sell them (digitally) for $2.99 each, you can sell 1,000 a day this way. Or if you have memoirs, family stuff, a wedding or travel book, photo album, or a weird idea and 15 weird friends who can read, you can be a published author now…
How can you do all three? If you have a non-fiction gem that gets legs the ancillary way, you can send it to Lightning Source (LSI), get a small stock of bound copies printed, create the digital copy, and begin your own self-publishing firm simultaneously, also selling your book through the ancillary routes at the same time. (Then you can contact a big house to pick up that book to reissue or distribute.)
101 Business Tips for Writers and Small Publishers.
A new-old $5 special! A couple of years back I was niggled daily for information about how I ran a fairly large firm almost alone—could I give them some tips? So here’s the 36-page response, digital and instantly downloadable. It’s divided into supplies, computers, organization, writing, and more, plus the appendix has the mailing record, expense sheet, income sheet, and a sample invoice. It may be a bit of found gold for somebody just starting out. If I had it when I began I’d have bought more modestly. If interested, unfurl a digital fin and order here.
How do you change your book prices at the ancillary publishers—and why would you?
I decided to lower some older bound and e-book prices at Lightning Source (LSI), CreateSpace, Kindle, Lulu, Scribd, and Smashwords as part of a small revamping strategy for 2011. (You’ll see the new prices on my own order form too.)
Yet it turned out to be vastly confusing, or I’ve grown vastly dumber. So in most cases I had to ask the publishers how to do it—itself a huge task to find anybody to contact. Here’s what I found out. Plus some significant benefits to charging less!
LSI has contactfolk lovingly listed everywhere on their website (although their software is a bear to use). So to change the price on four bound books I emailed Natalie Mozingo, who said to: (1) login, (2) go to “My Library,” (3) select “Title Information and Links,” (4) click on “Start search,”(5) once titles appear, click on the title, (6) pick the Request Price Change icon, and (7) make the changes when the requested screen appears. Sounds easy but (4) and (5) aren’t. For eight e-books, Brad Cantrell had me send a spreadsheet with the title, ISBN, and new price for each and he would make the change.
(Amazon) handles bound books, so
Lulu was easy. Find “My Lulu” along the top row, find the book to change, hit “view/buy,” open “edit your project,” and you’ll find both the bound and e-book prices to alter. Scribd, on other hand, has become a nightmare for sales. Thirty minutes later I sent them an email (I think). No reply days later. But they don’t sell anything anyway, so I won’t fret.
The last was Smashwords. Very quick reply: go to Dashboard: Settings. That was it.
I was changing some bound book prices down to $15, and their e-book components to $10. But if I went a penny lower (less than $10), I made a lot more in royalty. At Kindle, for example, my income jumped from 35% to 70%. The bump in royalties reaffirms what we are learning, that price is critical to ancillary publishing buyers, particularly for digital downloads.
(Read the blog in my January newsletter by Joe Konrath on how he sells 1,000+ books at day at $2.99 [and earns about $2 a book], plus a CreateSpace author bio in this newsletter. That prompted me to try my novel at $2.99! And that made me think about the prices of my other aging books, so….) Still, it hurts to discount your own printed wisdom! Vanity a penny deep.
We now have a SUBJECT INDEX to this newsletter and all of my blogs!
Please browse—and share it with friends.
The question I get asked most often is, “Where can I re-read that piece about x or y?”
Of the 300 or so items now listed in the index I can seldom recall if was in a newsletter segment, a blog, or both. And the date? Heavens, as far as dates go I’m only certain about the Fourth of July. So for self-protection I have sorted the items by the most likely related subject, and then it tells you which blog to seek or in which listing in the newsletter archives those words are hiding. Here’s the SUBJECT INDEX—I’ll repeat the link regularly at the newsletter and blog too. You may even find more useful stuff about that topic!
It’s current now, and I’ll update it monthly, on about the first.
That’s about it, except that I sometimes get asked by readers if they can pluck the copy to use in their blog or article. Take what you want. (The same with text in my books and other products.) Cite the source, please, and if you can link the blog, newsletter, or publication we’re doubly appreciative. There are about 75 categories in the SUBJECT INDEX, and if you want to think about looking at the guide before you actually do it (however strange that sounds), you can see the categories in my blog on January 29, 2011.
A February seminar that might interest you.
On Tuesday (2/8) I’ll be offering a four-hour
seminar a few miles south of Stanford, at Foothill CC on 270, (exit at
How Joe Konrath is using CreateSpace to sell his fiction
This is from a direct interview with Konrath published in the CreateSpace e-zine in January 2011:
I've made nine of my self-published e-books available through CreateSpace. These include the thrillers Origin, The List, Shot of Tequila, and Disturb, along with the horror novels Trapped, Endurance, and Draculas, which I wrote under the pen name Jack Kilborn. I also have two short story collections.
After seven years in traditional publishing, I released some of my unpublished novels and previously published short stories onto Kindle, using Amazon's Digital Text Platform (DTP). I expected to lightly supplement my writing income with e-book sales. But those e-books sold really well--in fact, I'm earning over $100,000 a year on them. So I more or less gave up traditional publishing, and focused on e-books, writing new material for Kindle distribution.
However, some of my fans asked if I could make these titles available in print. Since I had such a good experience with digital publishing through DTP, I chose CreateSpace to self-publish and print the titles on-demand.
My experience so far has been promising. I'm averaging $75 a day in royalties on these titles. I've priced the 6" x 9" trade paperbacks at $13.95 each, which gives me around a $4 royalty when the books are sold through Amazon. To compare that to a traditionally published book, I earn 68 cents on a paperback sale, or $2.50 on a hardcover sale.
I've found CreateSpace to be easy to work with, and its customer service is terrific. What other company calls you on the phone a few seconds after you tell them you have a problem? That boggles my mind. I opted for the Pro Plan for all of my titles, and quickly earned the $39 investment in the program back with higher royalties. It also allows me to buy my own author copies for less than $5 each, which I've found beats the heck out of any other POD service out there. The CreateSpace Community forum is also a good place to get advice from peers.
Industry statistics show that more than one million books have been published in the last 12 months, and it's tough to stand out among all of that competition. Overall, the top four things that are essential to finding (and keeping) an audience are:
1. Writing a good book. Join a critique group to help vet your manuscript and make sure it is perfect.
2. Making sure it is professionally edited and formatted, with a terrific cover. I always hire pros.
3. Having a smart product description. Read other books in your genre and emulate their style.
4. Keeping the price attractive. With e-books, I recommend $2.99. With trade paperbacks, a 300-page book shouldn't cost more than $15.
I've been lucky that I have a popular website and blog that get a lot of traffic, so I haven't done much in the way of marketing, promotion, or advertising. But I'm active on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and I've monetized my website, www.jakonrath.com, with the Amazon Associates program, along with having an online store through PayPal where fans can order signed books.
Self-publishing has several advantages over traditional publishing, but one of the largest is the speed of which the author can make changes. If you find typos, or need to do a rewrite, you can upload a new version and turn it around much faster than the "Big 6" can. You should experiment with covers, prices, and descriptions. You can try various ads and marketing strategies, and learn from your successes and failures. Your book, and how you promote it, should be an ever-evolving process, and the more you absorb, the better you'll get at selling. It took me twenty years to get this far, and I still have a lot learn.
Above all, remember to have fun. It's always been my dream to be an author. Traditional publishing has done its best to squash that dream, but venues like Amazon DTP and CreateSpace have helped me reach more people, and make more money, than I ever could through the traditional methods. Your mileage may vary, but if you're taking pride in the process, and having a good time, you'll be a success no matter how many books you sell. Just remember to keep your expectations in check, keep trying and writing and experimenting and learning, and don't let the man grind you down.
J.A. Konrath, author of Shaken and Shot of Tequila
(Incidentally, Joe isn’t my
brother or buddy. We have never spoken, despite the fact we both come from
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