It’s good to see you again. All is well here. I wish you a fun and prosperous 2014!
You might be interested in some of these presentations that I will offer before mid-March
(1) a four-hour workshop, “Creating Travel Articles and
Video Tours That Sell,” at
(2) any of six presentations at the SF Writer’s Conference at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in mid-February. (Contact sfwriters.org. for conference details, registration, and presentation locations.)
* a panel discussion from 4:30-5:15 on Thursday (2/13) about “Building Credibility.”
* on Saturday (2/15) from 5-6:30 I’m a “pro” at four “Ask the Pros” sessions.
* “Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days” twice, on Sunday (2/16) for 45 minutes and on Monday from 2-5 p.m.
* “How to Sell Almost 100% of Your Nonfiction Writing” twice, on Sunday for 45 minutes and on Monday from 9-noon
(3) a four-hour workshop, “Publish Your Own Book Free with Nine Different Publishers!” at Foothill C.C., on campus, on Wednesday, March 12, from 6-10 p.m. Call (408) 864-8817 for registration and specific details or see additional information is in the catalog posted at email@example.com.
If you’re not, please tell friends eager to get in print or to publish about them, if the programs are convenient.
Amazon versus LSI, and the order and where I would submit my book for publication
Kind of a loose, global title—intentionally imprecise so what I want to share fits in. Title aside, it’s an extremely interesting topic and it might be very helpful to folks confused about paperback versus digital, self-publishing versus the big houses, and where the outliers like Blurb, Lulu, Scribd, and even Nook fit in now…
I kept stepping on the question “If I was new to publishing right now, what would I do first, then second, and down the line so I could take full advantage of the pot of gold of free (open) publishing that has fallen into our laps in the past few years?” I’m updating How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days right now and I’m revisiting, in detail, all of the ways one might strategize for maximum return.
Some table setting first:
(1) the best deal (most profitable, least risky, quickest to make happen, longest lasting) is still niche publishing, with pretesting and empire building from a core niche base. (That’s my next major book but I’m excluding it here because the process is so different and the marketing is so particular. In the meantime, read my Niche Publishing book and my ebook about pretesting.)
(2) I’m assuming your book is nonfiction. (What I know about fiction writing and publishing fits in my Cubs’ pennant hat: not much and very old.) And that you would like to get your book (and wisdom) as widely known, sought, and bought as possible with the least amount of foolish, useless, and time-wasting expense.
(3) that you have done the requisite topic and related book study (to know what else is available and how your book has a unique selling something), you know who is eager to buy your book, you know how (and maybe where) they buy books like yours, you’ve read three or five or so of those other books, and you have a realistic sense of how many sales and how much profit you need to be satisfied. (I’m revisiting How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days, as I said, and I’m pleased at how well the first 60 pages of that book address the pre-pub prepping that I just discussed.)
Several starter paths get different results.
If you want to publish a book that will make you rich, probably sort of famous, and maybe in the media regularly. Focus on the big houses. Get a major publisher that understands marketing (however poorly they do it) and will force you to create a good-looking, well-researched, almost error-free book that looks good on TV and the bookshelves. See Michael Larsen’s book about writing a sure-selling book proposal, create one, and either submit the proposal and query widely or seek an agent to be your spokesperson in the right places. But seriously consider a simultaneous action that may enhance your selling to the major publishers. Create a book that has all the polish of the big-house book (paying outside professionals to help where needed to get it there). Send that book to Kindle and CreateSpace and other open publishers so it is in fact a book in hand. You will earn some money that way, but instead of working the social media and other rather marginal exposure avenues, focus heavily instead on submitting the book with the query and proposal to the big houses.
More impressive to the major publishers will be the platform (number of followers) you have who will draw attention (and buy) your book. So the best way to create that spread is probably to create seminars and presentations about the book’s topic, get it booked, and develop some public perception of topic expertise to accompany your book/proposal. Selling lots of your CreateSpace/LSI paperback at the programs will further impress major publishers—and you will use comp copies of your paperback book (sent with a query letter to the booker at the assns where you will speak) to get the booking.
But if just having the book in print and buyable widely is the goal, forget the big houses. They buy about 1 of 500 (some say 1000) supplicants’ over-the-transom submissions. (Where do they even find transoms?) And it will take the big houses 18 months, after the book is approved, to produce the actual tome. (By the path I’m discussing now you can have your book on sale in weeks after it has been well proofed and a good cover is made available.) Further, if you’re not very pink at publication, you may indeed be dead before the big-house hits the paying vein. You may get a few thousand dollars advance, but it often or usually takes another year to catch the payment train again (as they pay the advance back to themselves.)
On the other hand, it’s fairly easy to create a good book and get it widely sold if you are content to consider also making a profit an extra blessing. A fun example of this approach would be your book called Granny’s Cucumber Patch. This can be your book, your grandma’s, or your book co-authored with her. Let’s say that in the book you cover the actual raising (planting, caring for, and harvesting) of this rather tasteless yet fleshy fruit, its storage and/or sale, its use in recipes, and anything else that others can do with it.
Here the joy is the book’s existence and your/her, or both of your names on it. It won’t pay for retirement (except maybe for the target cucumber) or a new Lexis but any book authored by you or kin may be a big feather. There’s even a good chance that there may be several or many thousands of cucumber aficionados eager to pay hard cash to read your words.
So, if it was my fate to write and publish this cucumber almanac, I would research and find any book about cucumbers that’s in print or was. I’d find out what they talked about (the table of contents and sometimes the index yield this information). I’d capture any fact or interesting tale they shared of a cucumber nature, and I’d acknowledge the source of what you used in your book. I’d try all of the recipes. I’d probably talk to some cucumber farmers (that’s easier to do now through emails or by phone). And I’d find any other book that lists cucumber publications, particularly salad and greens publications, where I might be able to write a short article so the readers will know of and can buy my book. In other words, I’d find where the reclusive cucumberfolk live, what they read, and if (heavens forbid) they have associations or groups. And that’s where I’d sell my book, mostly by asking the editors or leaders how they would suggest that you sell you book to their followers. (They get a free copy, one hopes to praise. That becomes a testimonial that goes on your promotional material, with their permission.)
As for where I’d go to publish this book, I’d get every open publisher I could find to publish this gem and get it posted so the book will find buyers. I would write the book’s interior, lay it out like a fancy book, and give it all of the usual accoutrements, like a table of contents, copyright page, index, chapters, a header or footer—in other words it would look like other good-looking paperback books. Get a cover (front, side, and back) made, or (dare I suggest) make it, and go to CreateSpace and have them produce your first book. It will cost about $30 total and it will be sold on Amazon.com. That will make it visible and available to the general book buyers.
Then I might also take the same book, get an ISBN for it,
and submit it to LSI (Lightning Source), where Ingram (its marketing wing) will
make the paperback available to all of the major distributors in the
Now you have the cucumber book available to most of the public and commercial book-selling buyers. To market the book fully, your task is to let cucumber lookers know the book exists, is well written and professionally published, and where it’s available.
The next step is to get the very same book out in digital book format. If there are lots of illustrations, charts, graphs, and page-breakers, that may be very difficult to do because the current state of the digital publishing art, with its pages free-flowing, makes it very difficult to print artwork of almost any kind. (Having said that, often there are imaginative book designers or software experts who can move things around and overcome the seeming obstacles.)
Creating digital books from paperback formats is quite easy, and you can use the front page of the same cover. So if the artwork can be redesigned, then I would check the submission steps of these “open” publishers and send the modified book, with front cover, to Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, LSI, and Scribd, so they too can post the book digitally (in less than a day) and set up a selling mechanism so the public can also buy the cucumber special and you can be paid. I’d forget Blurb and Lulu. Too few sales.)
Mind you, once CreateSpace, LSI, Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and Scribd make the book salable, all you and Granny have to do is sit back and rock as the tiny checks reach your bank account each month (or thereabouts).
Note the role that Amazon and LSI play in marketing the books.
As much as Amazon’s greed is mentioned, accurately, it still sells most of the books bought by the public, since it owns both Kindle and CreateSpace. It doesn’t pay well, usually 35% of the list price (on some books 70% for Kindle), but using those venues that is all we do. You needn’t print the book yourself and join Amazon Advantage where they take a 55% discount, and you pay shipping to them too. If you use Kindle the book is simply downloaded to the buyer and your royalty (alas, not so regal) is sent to your bank monthly. For CreateSpace, if one buys one of the paperbacks that they create, C/S prints it right away (POD, print-on-demand) and it is mailed in a day or so, from Amazon or CreateSpace itself to the buyer. In neither case must you do anything more.
If you want to sell some of your own books, say as back-of-the-room items, you can buy them for a pretty good discount in volume from CreateSpace and earn the difference after shipping (again, about 30-35%). Where it stops being a good deal is when you start ordering 100+. Then it makes more sense to become the hands-on publisher and get the books from an offset or copier firm like McNaughton-Gunn—and/or from LSI. The profit runs above 50% as the volume that you print increases.
Those who fall into this latter case (you becoming the hands-on publisher) quickly are niche houses (like us, selling 75% of our books to K-12 school administrators, and formerly dentists). And if you want a solid income from your books, you simply produce the quality of proofed book that the major publishers do, and you compete openly with them with retailers, distributors, and specialty markets. Done right, you can usually earn more and quicker than the big houses—and sometimes they will come to you to ask if they can buy the book or co-produce by some agreement. (Once we “sold” an updated version of three writing books that the bigger house wanted as backlist items; we kept the book club rights, BOR rights, and the just-emerging pdf ebook rights, they got the rest.)
This is where LSI
fits in. And where it makes a lot of sense to have both CreateSpace and LSI
simultaneously print their own versions of your paperback. Actually, the books
look almost identical because you use the same file created for the paperback.
The only differences are on the second,
Why would you pay $105 plus maybe $100 more to have LSI also print the book? A couple of reasons. (1) We buy new or almost-spent books in low quantities, sometimes 25-50, and LSI is faster providing them—they cost about the same for CS and LSI. (2) The big reason is that LSI sells to the rest of the commercial retail world; that is, almost all of the big distributors go to LSI and order what they need. So we want our book in ready-to-go fashion already set up at LSI so we get the advantage of having their huge (the largest in the world) provisioning available. It costs us a bit (I think it’s $12 a book a year) plus, gulp, a 55% discount so there is enough money made to get our book handled. If it’s not there, it’s very hard to do all that providing yourself—and most of the distributors, libraries, and others don’t want to buy from wee, small-assortment houses.
Incidentally, LSI will also sell your ebooks free (the system is just like Kindle, Nook, etc.) whether or not you get a POD-like set-up, but to date that has brought in at best negligible sales. It takes 30 minutes to post so on the hope it gets better, it’s worth the 30 minutes. Also, LSI has a rather painful website to use (offset by very good phone help; Amazon is awful on interpersonal contacts and a rather shoddy looking website to post your books, but it seems to pay on time) so on July 1 they are changing the system, mostly for folks like us. It is called Spark. See more about it at on the first page, right side, at www.lightningsource.com. If you get a book up now under the present system you will have an option of which program to use. From what I’ve read about Spark, it might be wise to give yourself that option.
At LSI the POD format is also in effect. If Kobo or some other firm wants a copy of one of your books, LSI prints and sends it within a day. The pay is about the same as Amazon’s (30-35%) and it is posted on your account monthly; alas, about three months late. So again you needn’t be involved in printing, mailing, invoicing, and so on.
A quick look at the other “open” publishers.
Kindle is mandatory because so many buy there, and it’s easy to use although its proprietary software is bewildering. It has some programs where it wants exclusive rights to your books for 90 days. I tried it once and nothing happened except that others couldn’t sell the item, including us in house.
Nook is a Barnes & Noble outlet, with a reader by the same name. It’s the easiest to post to and looks clean, but its sales are modest. I just post there because it is easy and they pay a bit regularly.
Smashwords has great potential but it’s very complex, and it almost always has a list of changes it wants to list the product in its premium catalog, which then sells the book to Kobo, Apple, and others. It’s also picky and unpredictable about covers. You need an ISBN here to sell to some outlets. And it’s almost impossible to figure out its very peculiar sales list: what firm bought what item when. Very hard for us to figure out the royalties we must pay our authors who list under our name. They are nice people and they answer email questions, quixotically at times.
Blurb has some beautiful products but it seems to be for artfolk and photographers mostly. The books are very expensive and by their figures they don’t seem to sell much or have any public way to get our books sold. So we don’t use it.
Lulu looks good and has a nice system for letting you create your own cover on site, but three times I submitted there and three times there were big errors on the proof. It all got corrected but the amount of sales we’ve received in about four years may be double digits total. We don’t use our time submitting here anymore. If I hear any good news, I will look again.
Scribd announces huge numbers of people who look at its holdings, and alarming numbers of things to look at, but while I’ve posted several dozen items, most at very low prices, I finally reached $25 a few months ago! It’s hard to figure out though by far the easiest to submit books to. They just don’t seem to have a business sense. Maybe it will get better now that Smashwords is going to handle much of their sales, if the release said that!
A quick closing. If I want to create my own book and ultimately I want it to be well enough known to speak about, or to earn a worthy penny from it, here is the (very) rough order of the publishers (and others) I would contact. [Niche publishing would be first; doing my own publishing… but that is excluded in this newsletter.] Here it is for a nonfiction book, assuming (1) the book has been properly researched and proofread, (2) the final inside pages are laid out ready-to-go in the appropriate software, (3) the cover is completed and meets the submission size requirements, (4) the paperback copy can be modified into appropriate ebook format(s), and (5) the paperback front cover is usable for the digital copies or is properly modified:
* send paperback to CreateSpace
* send paperback to LSI
* buy 100 starter copies from LSI for my company’s initial use
* convert digital to PDF for my company’s distribution
* begin concurrent campaign to get the book bought by a major publisher
* send digital to Kindle
* send digital to Nook
* send digital to LSI
* send digital to Scribd
* if warranted by demand, send paperback to offset or copier press for my distribution
That’s it. Send questions or your thoughts about the process and publishers, if so moved!
Here are some blogs I’ve posted in the past few months, most recent first. The price is right!
* Find the buyers before you write your book