Self-Publishing Blog

Step Four: List your eBook with KDP

kdp-00-logo-614x256Go to kdp.amazon.com and sign in with your existing Amazon account. If you prefer to use a separate account for your self-publishing activity, then sign up and create a new one with a different email address.

You’ll be taken straight to your Bookshelf and a notice informing you that you need to complete your account information before publishing a book:

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Press Update Now to go to Your Account. This consists of three basic sections:

  • Company/Publisher Information – fill in your address.
  • Tax Information – click to complete the form.
  • Your Royalty Payments – follow the link to add details of the bank account you wish your royalties to be paid into. You’ll need your IBAN number and BIC code. You should find these on your bank statements. If you have trouble locating them, ring up your bank and ask.

Of the three sections, the only part which could be considered vaguely complicated is tax information. It really isn’t anything to be scared of, though. If you signed up to use CreateSpace, you’ll be familiar with the basic idea. Its sole purpose is to see if Kindle needs to withhold 30% of your earnings to hand over to the US government. If you’re a resident of a country like the UK which has a treaty with the US on this matter, then, they don’t. However, if you don’t fill in the form, Kindle, as a US company, will be legally obliged to withold this money.

In these circumstances, it’s well worth spending five minutes filling in the form. You’ll be paying tax to your own government so the last thing you want is to be forking out twice. All you need to proceed is your national tax identification number. For UK citizens, this is your National Insurance Number.

Press the big yellow Complete Tax Information button. Assuming you’re in the UK, fill the form out as follows:

  • For U.S. tax purposes, are you a U.S. person? Select No
  • Type of beneficial owner: Select Individual
  • Country of citizenship or country of residence for tax purposes: United Kingdom
  • Full Name: This should be your legal name, not any pseudonym you may have used as an author.
  • Permanent address/Mailing address: I think you can manage these yourselves.
  • Are you an agent acting as an intermediary? No
  • U.S. person test: Read this carefully and check none of the qualifying criteria apply to you. Don’t worry if you’ve spent a couple of weeks on holiday in the US. This doesn’t count as Substantial Presence and won’t affect your tax situation.
  • Tax identification number (TIN): Select I have a foreign (non-U.S.) income tax identification number (this is your National Insurance number).
  • Country of Residence: Check this states United Kingdom and tick the box immediately beneath it.
  • Fill in your Foreign (non-U.S.) TIN number: Type your NI number and confirm it’s correct.

Next, you’ll get a chance to review the information you’ve provided before giving your electronic signature. This simply involves typing your name in a box.

After submission, you’ll be returned to your account page and see a satisfying tick, indicating your tax information is complete. Even better, the applicable withholding rate (the money Kindle withholds to give to the US government) should read 0%.

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You’re now ready to list your eBook. Click on the Bookshelf tab at the top of the page:

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Select + Kindle eBook under Create new title:

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You’ll be presented with a simple form, divided into three tabs: book details, content and pricing.

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Kindle eBook Details

Language: Self explanatory

Book Title
This must match what’s on your front cover. Ensure it’s correctly spelt and capitalised.

Subtitle
Only complete this if you actually have one. Again, write it exactly as it appears on your cover.

Series
Is your book part of a series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games? If so, in the Series Name field, enter the overall series title and in the Series Number box, indicate whereabouts in the series this book belongs. In all likelihood this will be 1, at least for the first book you list.

Edition Number
This is the first edition of your eBook version (your print version doesn’t count here) so enter 1 in the box. If, at a later date, you significantly update your book, then that will be your second edition.

Author: Self explanatory

Contributors
Only add contributors in very specific circumstances eg if your book was translated from another language, you collaborated with an illustrator for a picture book or someone prominent has provided a foreword or introduction. Otherwise, ignore this section.

Description
Enter your book blurb here. Make sure it’s been properly proof read and doesn’t contain any typos or spelling/grammar errors.

Publishing Rights
Confirm you own the copyright.

Keywords
This section represents a real opportunity to lead potential readers to your book. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about the sort of terms someone interested in your genre might be searching for. Keywords can be short phrases or single words.

Categories
Kindle allows you to choose two of these. Listing your book in a relevant category will help interested customers find it so think very carefully about where your book belongs. Be as specific as you can. It’s not worth selecting Fiction -> General because if you choose any category under Fiction (such as Action & Adventure), your book will also appear in the general fiction search results.

Age Range and Grade Range
If you’ve written a children’s/young adult book, complete the Minimum and Maximum fields. Again, this helps target potential readers and/or their parents. The Grade Range is essentially giving the same information but equating it to school years, like Key Stages in the UK. N.B. American students start in Grade One at six years old and finish Grade Twelve at eighteen.

Publishing Options
This is a rather nifty feature that allows for pre-ordering. Until recently, when you published an eBook with KDP, it became available as soon as the listing went live (approximately 12-24 hours after you complete set up). Now, you can set a specific date for your book release and your eBook will be available for customers to pre-order for up to ninety days beforehand. They’ll then be able to download it on release day.

This not only gives you greater control over when the book becomes available but also creates hype and lots of registered sales for launch day. This, in turn, places your book higher up the bestseller charts, making it more visible on Amazon and more likely to feature in sections such as Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.

Click Save and Continue at the bottom of the page to move onto the next tab.

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Kindle eBook Content

Digital Rights Management (DRM)
DRM is an anti-piracy measure and as such, it would seem logical to enable it. However, doing so limits the devices on which legitimate purchasers can view your eBook and stops them being able to share it with friends. Amazon tries to replicate the sort of lending and borrowing print book readers enjoy with their eBook lending scheme. However, this is only available on Amazon.com and imposes significant restrictions on its users.

You’re probably thinking this is a good thing. After all, you don’t want your book to be ripped off or shared for free. However, this attitude is to fundamentally misunderstand the battles you face as a self-publisher. Your main problem isn’t theft; it’s obscurity.

As a self-publisher, you’re invisible. The main purpose of everything you do from now on is to get noticed. You need to create hype and interest round your book and have as many people as possible talking about it. Someone sharing and discussing it with friends is far more valuable than a few royalty payments here and there. Remember, those royalty payments won’t even exist if no one’s heard of your book to start with.

Besides, getting hold of a pirated copy of an eBook is a hassle to most people. They have no idea how to do it and even if they did, are unlikely to risk viruses and damage to their hardware when they can buy your book legitimately for a couple of quid.

For these reasons, I prefer not to enable DRM but there’s no right or wrong here. It’s an entirely personal decision for each author to make for themselves.

Manuscript Upload
Press the Browse button, locate your eBook file on your computer and upload it. If you have different Kindle and Smashwords versions, make sure you upload the correct one. Click here for detailed instructions on how to prepare your manuscript for upload.

Kindle eBook Cover
Either design a cover with Cover Creator or preferably, upload your professionally designed Jpeg/Tiff file. You’ll find more information on cover design, here.

Preview Your Book
Using at least one of Kindle’s previewers is essential. It’s both the first time you’ll see your manuscript after conversion and the last chance to spot errors before publication.

I suggest flicking through every page on at least one e-ink and one Fire device/simulator. You don’t have to read every word. The conversion process won’t have changed spelling or grammar. You’re looking for formatting errors, stray tabs, bizarre margins or pages that end without warning. Even so, it’s an arduous job, best broken into half hour chunks to avoid going insane or losing your ability to spot errors altogether.

KDP offers three previewers: an online simulator, an offline one (on your computer) or the option to download your book onto a specific reading device:

Online Previewer
To use this, click on Launch Previewer and then navigate to the top right-hand corner of the screen to change the device you want to simulate. The online previewer allows you to see what your book will look like on three basic types of devices: tablet, phone and Kindle eReader.

This is the easiest option as it doesn’t require you to download your book or any extra software. However, turning pages can be rather slow and gets frustrating when checking several hundred pages.

Preview on your computer
To use this, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

  • Download and install Kindle Previewer onto your computer. If you click Preview on your computer, links to this software are provided for both Mac and Windows.
  • Download your converted eBook file. I suggest you choose the Mobi option.
  • Open Kindle Previewer on your computer.
  • Select File -> Open Book, navigate to your Downloads folder and double click on your downloaded eBook.
  • Click on the Devices tab to select the simulation you want.
  • Once you’ve selected Kindle e-ink, Fire or Kindle for iOS, the previewer allows you to specify an exact device:

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Unsurprisingly, as you’re dealing with downloaded material, it’s faster than the online previewer. However, it takes longer to set up and I’ve yet to successfully achieve an iPad or iPhone simulation.

Preview on Your Kindle Device/Android Tablet
If you own any Kindle devices or have the Kindle app installed on an android one, then you can view your book on these. To do this:

  • Download and install Send to Kindle software onto your computer. You can download it for free, here.
  • Download your converted eBook file. I suggest you choose the Mobi option. If you’ve already used the computer previewer, then you don’t need to download the file again.
  • Locate your eBook file. It’s probably in your Downloads folder.
  • Right click on it and select Send to Kindle from the drop down menu:

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  • If you have multiple devices registered to your Amazon account, a pop-up box will ask you to select which one(s) to send the file to. I suggest you select all of them.
  • Wait a few minutes and your eBook will pop up on your Kindle. You can read it like any other book.

Once your eBook is published, ideally you should also buy yourself a copy and download it to any Kindle devices you own in order to clarify if there are any problems which have slipped through the net. Obviously, it’s unlikely you own all the devices the previewers simulate so, where possible, use friends as guinea pigs. Hopefully, they’ll be downloading your book anyway. Don’t be pushy or demanding but its fine to casually ask them which device they’re reading on and if they’ve encountered any major problems.

ISBN
Leave this blank. You don’t need an ISBN to publish an eBook on Amazon. Instead, KDP assigns an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number).

If you really want to assign an ISBN, use a fresh one, not the same one as your print version. EBooks and paperbacks are different products with very different properties so can’t share an ISBN.

Click Save and Continue to move on to the final tab.

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Kindle eBook Pricing

KDP Select Enrollment
This is where you decide if you want to be exclusive to Kindle. Remember, if you agree to this, you can’t list with Smashwords for a ninety-day period. After that, you can choose to leave KDP Select and sell your book through as many other outlets as you wish.

Territories
Assuming this is your own work and you haven’t signed away any rights, you almost certainly have rights to all territories.

Royalty and Pricing
The first question here appears to be a trick. Do you want a 35% or 70% royalty? Obviously, you want 70%. However, there are two circumstances in which you might not select this:

  1. As already discussed, to earn 70% royalties you must set a minimum list price of £1.99 so if you want to price low, you’ll have to accept 35%.
  2. If your book has lots of pictures and complicated graphics, it may actually be more economically viable to choose the 35% rate.

This second point is because the percentages don’t tell the full story. The 70% royalty rate doesn’t actually mean 70% of your list price. More accurately, it’s:

70% of your list price minus applicable VAT (20% in the UK)
minus a delivery cost of 10p/15c per MB

The 35% royalty rate, by contrast, doesn’t deduct this delivery charge.

If you’ve written a straightforward novel or text-based book, your book will be under 1MB, making the delivery cost negligible. However, if you have a lot of high quality pictures, your file will be larger and the delivery cost higher. In this case, you may end up earning more money through the 35% rate.

Your file size is helpfully stated just beneath where you select your royalty rate:

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I’m going to assume you have a simple novel and select 70% royalties.

Enter your list price for Amazon.com. I’m setting mine at $2.99. Kindle then calculates your royalty earnings based on this. Assuming you have an average-sized, text-based book and price it at $2.99, this will be around $2:

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You might wonder why the 35% royalty rate is also shown, even though you selected 70%. This is because there’s two royalty rates for Amazon.com. If a US customer buys your book, you’ll receive a 70% royalty. However, customers in countries without a dedicated Amazon site can also buy eBooks from Amazon.com. One of these purchases only yields a 35% royalty.

I shouldn’t worry too much about this. Amazon is quite strict about where customers are able download eBooks. For instance, someone in the UK can only buy an eBook from Amazon.co.uk. If they go to Amazon.com, they’ll be redirected back to their national site. This 35% royalty is only likely to affect a tiny proportion of your market.

Once you’ve set your Amazon.com price, click on the arrow at the bottom-right of the Royalty and Pricing box:

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This opens a drop-down list of all the other sites your book will be sold on: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de etc. The list price for these has been prefilled based on the US one. You don’t have to keep these prices, though. If you want to set your own price for any or all of them, you can do so. Simply type the new list price into the relevant box and KDP will recalculate the royalty for that site. I like to do this for Amazon.co.uk in order to keep the price static at £1.99 rather than having it fluctuating with exchange rates. For simplicity’s sake, I keep the automatic conversion for all other sites (where I expect to make fewer sales, anyway).

If you didn’t choose to enrol in KDP Select, you’ll notice you only receive 35% royalties for sales in Brazil, Japan, Mexico and India. The 70% royalty rate is only available in these countries to members of KDP select. If you expect to make massive sales in any of them, it’s another reason to be exclusive to Amazon.

I want to give my eBook away:

You’ll notice even if you select the 35% royalty rate, it’s impossible to set a price lower than $/£0.99. Technically, you can’t give your book away on Amazon for longer than five days every three months and that’s only if you signed up to KDP Select.

However, it often works to list your book for free on Smashwords and then inform Amazon, in the hope they’ll price match. To do this, ensure that you’ve selected the 35% royalty rate on KDP. This is particularly important as the 70% rate requires you to promise you won’t undercut Amazon’s price. The 35% one doesn’t, leaving you free to follow the rest of the instructions.

  • List your book for free on Smashwords and wait for your listing to appear in one of the big retailers, such as iBooks or Barnes & Noble.
  • Locate your eBook on Amazon.com and scroll down and at the bottom of Product details.
  • Click on the link entitled: tell us about a lower price.
  • When asked where you saw the lower price select Website (Online) and complete the details requested. In the URL box, copy and paste the iBooks or Barnes & Noble website page where your book is available free.

You’ll need to repeat the process across all of Amazon’s major sites: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca etc. KDP usually then price matches, making your book free. However, this is by no means guaranteed. They’re getting increasingly savvy about authors manipulating them. If you want to promote your book in this way, though, it’s a quick enough job so you might as well give it a go.

Some people think it helps if you get a friend to do it or are signed in on a different Amazon account. This makes you appear more like a genuine customer and less like you’re attempting to manipulate the price which is *cough* exactly what you are doing. However, I’ve yet to hear any evidence that this approach makes any difference to the end result.

MatchBook
If someone buys a print copy of your book, you can choose to make the eBook available to them at a discounted price ($0.99, $1.99 or $2.99) or for free. Currently, you can only do this for US customers.

The print copy is likely to cost considerably more than your eBook. Given this, I think it’s a nice gesture to make your book available in whichever format these high-paying customers find most convenient. They may wish to switch between the eBook and print editions, depending on where and when they’re reading. Giving your customers a good reading experience can help garner positive reviews and make them more likely to recommend your book to friends. For this reason, I like to offer my eBook free to print book customers. However, you can select a price of $0.99/£0.99 or not enter the scheme at all. It’s up to you.

Book Lending
This is Amazon’s attempt to replicate the lending and borrowing ability readers enjoy with print books. A customer can lend your book for a fourteen-day period, after which it will disappear from the recipient’s Kindle device. This shouldn’t be confused with Kindle Owners Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited, which are subscription services managed by Amazon. Book lending is purely a reader-to-reader programme. It’s currently only available to Amazon.com customers.

If you opted for 70% royalties, you have no choice about enabling the service. You can’t untick the box even if you wanted to. This isn’t something to get stressed about, though. If someone’s excited enough about your book to bother lending it to a friend, you’re on to a winner and don’t need to worry about sales.

Additionally, the purchaser can only lend the book once, not constantly to everyone they know. The loss of one hypothetical sale is more than made up for by the fact these two people wish to share (and presumably talk about) your book, in person or online. Hopefully, others will see this and buy themselves a copy.

Besides, the borrower might not get through your book in fourteen days, in which case, they’ll need to buy their own copy in order to finish it.

Despite not receiving royalties for this scheme, it really is a win-win situation for everyone so, even if you opted for 35% royalties and have a choice about the matter, I’d recommend enabling it.

Publish Your Kindle eBook/Submit for Pre-order
Depending on whether you selected immediate publication or pre-ordering, you’ll see a yellow button at the bottom of the page inviting you to Publish Your Kindle eBook or Submit for Pre-order.

Once you’ve clicked this, Kindle will review your book. I’ve no idea what this actually involves but it can’t be very stringent as, in my experience, it only takes about 12 hours. Officially Kindle state a time period of 24 hours, and warn that the cover image can take up to 72 hours to be added to the listing. If you’re working to schedule, it’s best to allow three days but it’s unlikely to take that long. After this, you’ll have a live listing and customers will either be able to buy your eBook straight away or pre-order it to download on release day.

Linking your eBook to your Print Edition
This should happen automatically but if it hasn’t after a few days, simply email KDP and they’ll sort it out. Like CreateSpace, they’re quick to respond to queries and in my experience, extremely helpful.

Making changes
Even after your book is live, KDP allows you to make changes to it at any point. To do so:

  • Log into your KDP account
  • Select the Bookshelf tab to see a list of the books you’ve published.
  • Find the book you want to change and click on the three dots to the right of Kindle eBook Actions
  • Select the correct option, depending on whether you want to change details, content or pricing:

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You can then change any details you wish, upload a revised version/cover, change the price, enrol in KDP Select or leave it (assuming you’ve completed the obligatory ninety-day membership period).

Whilst the ability to make changes is a great feature of online publishing, don’t overuse it. Every time you update your book or its details, it will be unavailable to customers for the 12 – 24 hours it takes KDP to review it.

N.B. Correcting a few spelling mistakes or even updating the cover, doesn’t constitute a new edition of your book. This would only be the case if you were making serious modifications, such as adding, removing or rewriting whole chapters. If you do make substantial changes, you should ideally start a new listing and ensure you enter 2 under Edition Number.

Sales Reports
KDP provides a great deal of sales data, all of which is accessible online. It’s updated daily, making it extremely useful for evaluating the success of a price change, promotion or marketing drive. To access this information, click on the Reports tab (to the right of Bookshelf):

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You’ll arrive at the Sales Dashboard which consists of two charts and a table, informing you of your recent royalties.

The top chart shows how many sales you’ve made in the past month. You can alter this to reflect a longer or shorter time period or specify a particular Amazon site. If you have more than one book available, you can also choose to see all your sales or those for an individual title.

Underneath this, you’ll find a second chart: Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read, a confusing title if ever I saw one. This refers to the number of pages read in the KOLL and Kindle Unlimited schemes. If you’re not a member of KDP Select, the graph simply deadlines at 0.

At the bottom of the page, the Royalties Earned table details exactly how much money you’ve earned over the past month in each currency. This only includes direct sales, not revenue from KOLL or Kindle Unlimited.

Other than the Sales Dashboard, KDP provides several other reports charting your book sales. These include Pre-OrdersPromotions, Prior Months’ Royalties and Payments. They can be accessed by clicking on the relevant option in the box at the top of the page.

Royalty Payments
Kindle sends payment two months in arrears. So, at the end of March, you’ll receive your royalties for sales made in January. These royalties can be a little confusing to work out without reference to the correct report.

Around the middle of each month, you’ll receive a separate email for every Amazon site on which you’ve made a sale, telling you payment is due in a couple of weeks. You’ll have one for Amazon.com, one for Amazon.co.uk, one for Amazon.ca and so on. These emails don’t identify which site’s sales they refer to or the amount that’s due to be paid. The net result is that your inbox gets clogged up with a number of fairly uninformative emails.

Things become marginally clearer at the end of the month when you receive payments in your bank account. However, these also come without reference to the site on which the sales originated so, each month, your bank statement consists of a series of payments (eg £50.28, £15.34, £2.83), all with the generic description AMAZON.

In order to make sense of them, you need to visit the Payments section of your KDP Reports page:

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This lists royalty payments by date. Each one clearly states the sales period it relates to, the date the payment was issued (which may be a couple of days before it arrived in your bank account), the royalty accrued in the original currency and the payment issued in your own currency, in short everything you need to know to decypher those emails and the seemingly random payments made to your bank account. As such, it’s an invaluable resource for completing any tax return.

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List your book with Smashwords

Go to Smashwords.com and click Join for Free:

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Complete the simple sign up form, entering an email address, username, password, age, country of residence and name/pen name. For this, you should write the name that appears on your book cover. If you write under initials (like J.K. Rowling), enter these in the First box and your surname in the Last. Ignore the drop down menu that allows you to add Jr, Sr or VIII, unless, your writing name is, indeed, Joe Bloggs VIII.

Once you’ve confirmed your email address and proved you’re a human, account setup is complete and you’ll be returned to Smashwords’ website.

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Payment Settings
Before you publish your eBook, it’s a good idea to complete your payment settings so Smashwords knows how to pay you. To access these, select the Account tab:

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Scroll right down to the bottom of the page and click Payment Settings. You’ll be presented with a stream of information. Read through it and then complete the form underneath. For my answers, I’m going to assume you’re a UK citizen:

Tax Information
Are you a U.S. entity or U.S. citizen or resident?
Select No and then Individual or Sole Proprietor

You’ll now be prompted to fill out form W8-BEN. This is the same form that you completed with KDP. Its purpose for UK residents is to stop Smashwords witholding 30% of your earnings to hand over to the US government.

Complete Part I: Identification of Beneficial Owner with your name, address, date of birth, country of residence etc. When you type your date of birth, remember to do it in US format: month first, followed by day and year. Leave the question about SSN/ITIN numbers blank. These are US tax numbers which, I assume, you don’t have. Instead, enter your National Insurance Number into the box which requests your Foreign TIN (Tax identifying number issued to you by your tax reporting country).

In Part II: Claim of Tax Treaty Benefits, select United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, No. Ireland) – 0 from the drop-down menu. The 0 indicates that the UK has a treaty which allows its citizens to pay 0% tax to the US government in circumstances like this. Under Explain the reasons the beneficial owner meets the terms of the treaty article enter: Beneficial owner is resident of the UK so meets terms of the treaty.

In Part III: Certification, check through the boxes and tick them all.

Payment Information
How would you like to be paid?  This isn’t really a question for anyone outside the US as the only method available is PayPal. You still need to select it from the drop-down menu, though or you won’t be able to complete the form. If you don’t have a PayPal account, then click on the link provided to sign up for one. It’s completely free and a great way to accept and send money online.

Enter your PayPal email in the appropriate field.

Confirm and Sign
Finally, tick the boxes confirming the information you’ve supplied is correct and consenting to an electronic signature. Type your name in the correct box to give this signature and press the green Accept & Save Payment Settings button, at the bottom of the page.

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List Your Book
Select the Publish tab:

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The form is a simplified version of the KDP one. Complete it as follows:

Part 1: Title and synopsis

Title
As always, make absolutely sure the spelling and grammar are correct. There isn’t a separate box for a subtitle so if you have one, add it here.

Release date
As with Kindle, you can make your book available immediately or set a release date for some point in the future. This will make your book available to pre-order on both Smashwords’ website and the retailers that have pre-order facilities, currently Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

You can set your book’s release date up to 12 months in advance and even opt for something called an assetless preorder if your book file/cover isn’t ready yet. In this case, select I will upload my final formatted manuscript later, complete the box telling Smashwords the approximate word count and agree to upload the final manuscript and cover at least 10 days before your selected release date. Just as with KDP, pre-orders create lots of registered sales for launch day, placing your book higher up the bestseller charts and creating hype just when you need it.

Long description
Copy and paste your book blurb. Follow Smashwords’ instructions displayed beneath the box and omit any email addresses, hyperlinks, book prices, or promotions.

Short description of your book
A few retailers don’t provide space for a long description so you need to come up with an abbreviated version of between 50 and 400 characters. Think of a catchy phrase or two that sums up your book and type it in the box.

Language of book: I’d select English (dialect unspecified) rather than British/Scottish/Welsh/Australian/USA etc, unless the location of your book is key to its themes and general feel.

Part 2: Pricing and Sampling

Price
Unless you want to give your eBook away, select Charge a specific amount for my book and enter the price in US dollars. Make it identical to your Amazon.com price. Firstly, because it’s not good to annoy readers who’ve spent money on your book only to find it cheaper elsewhere. More importantly, though, if you opted for KDP’s 70% royalty rate, you entered into a contract promising you wouldn’t undercut their price. Doing so will result in an unpleasant email from Amazon threatening to remove your book from their catalogue.

Smashwords deals exclusively in dollars so you don’t need to worry about setting a price for different currencies. External retailers with national sites will automatically convert to the appropriate currency, where appropriate.

Make my book free
If you want to give your book away, select Make my book free. Before doing so, ensure that you’ve chosen the 35% royalty rate at KDP. Unlike the 70% rate, this doesn’t entail a promise not to undercut their price, meaning you’re not breaking any contract by giving your book away on Smashwords.

If you also want your eBook to be free on Amazon, follow the instructions, here.

Sampling
I think sampling (making a portion of your book available for free) is an excellent marketing strategy. Many readers hesitate to part with money for an unknown author but will happily download a free sample to try. A generous 25-30% will allow them to get involved in the book and make them more likely to pay to download the rest. If they dislike it, it will prevent them feeling resentful for having spent money on it and avoid negative reviews.

If you don’t enable sampling, your book will be excluded from some mobile app retailers.

Part 3: Categorization

You can pick up to two categories. The same rules apply as when you selected these on KDP. Think carefully: placing your book correctly will help potential customers find it. Remember, selecting Fiction -> General is a waste of time if you can possibly specify further.

Adult Content:
As with KDP, don’t just tick this automatically because your book contains a sex scene. It’s a specific category meant for adult erotica/seriously graphic themes.

Box Set
This would be a collected edition of multiple works. If you have several books, it’s much better, from a marketing point of view, to publish them individually so I suggest you select No for this.

Part 4: Tags

This is the same as KDP’s Keywords only this time you’re allowed ten of them. Enter the word or phrase into the box and then click Add Tag before typing another. Smashwords gives you a bit of help with this, suggesting frequently used keywords as you type. Unfortunately, tags only work in Smashwords’ own store and are not exported to other retailers.

Part 5: eBook Formats

Select them all. There’s no reason not to, unless you’re uploading an ePub file and then your book will only be available in ePub. This isn’t really a problem as it’s the format that Smashwords uses to distribute to the biggest retailers: Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc.

Parts 6 & 7 Cover Image and Book File Upload

For each section press Browse and upload the relevant file. For your book interior, make sure you select your Smashwords rather than your Kindle version. For more details on preparing your manuscript, see my instructionals or download the free Smashwords Style Guide.

Part 8: Publishing Agreement

Agree to Smashwords’ terms and conditions and click the yellow button at the bottom of the page to either publish immediately or make your book available for pre-order.

Your manuscript will enter what Smashwords calls ‘The Meatgrinder’ to be converted into the correct formats. There may be a queue of books waiting to undergo the process so you’ll need to wait a while. Once done, Smashwords will email to tell you either that the conversion’s been a success or that there’s a problem.

If the latter, go back to their style guide and rectify the issue before uploading your file and putting it through The Meatgrinder again.

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Add an ISBN
Select the Dashboard tab at the top of the page:

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Scroll down to Book Summaries and you should see your eBook listed as published (or pre published) but under review for the premium catalogue. This means, it’s available to buy (or preorder) from Smashwords’ own site but isn’t currently listed at any other retailers, like Apple or Kobo. Only books included in the premium catalogue are distributed to external retailers. You can’t gain access to this until you assign your eBook an ISBN.

Scroll back up to the top of the page and select the ISBN Manager under Metadata Management:

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You’ll be taken to a page of instructions, outlining a little about ISBNs and eBooks. It basically explains that Smashwords can provide you with a free ISBN or you can use your own as long as it’s not the one from your print edition or your KDP eBook (if you even gave that an ISBN).

Click Assign ISBN and select the free one on offer or copy and paste your own. There’s no good reason to spend money on your own ISBN but if you really want to, there’s nothing to stop you either.

Unlike your print version, the ISBN doesn’t need to appear on your copyright page.

Smashwords advises that it can take up to couple of weeks to approve your book’s entry into the premium catalogue. When this happens, you’ll get a nice big tick by your book’s details on your dashboard and your eBook will gradually filter through and become available on sites such as iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

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Checking your eBook

In the mean time, your book will be available on Smashwords and you can download a free author copy whenever you want. It’s a good idea to download both the ePub and Mobi versions to check through on your own reading devices.

If you don’t own any tablets or eReaders, you can still check the files on your computer. To view the ePub one, download Adobe Digital Editions. This is also the software you use to transfer an eBook to ePub compatible reading devices, such as a Nook or a Kobo. To check your Mobi file, download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac.

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Sales Reports

You can keep track of sales via the Sales Reporting box at the top left of your Dashboard. Don’t be alarmed if the number of sales under Books Sold at Smashwords is rather low. As the name suggests, this refers only to books sold on Samshwords’ own webshop. Most of your sales will take place at external retailers, like Apple’s iBook store, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

To see these, select Sales and Payment Report. This lists sales for each and every channel. There’s likely to be a time lag between an actual sale and when it’s registered on the report. It all depends on how regularly the individual retailer reports sales to Smashwords. Apple, for instance, only sends sales data once a month. Unlike KDP, this makes it difficult to judge the effect of promotions in the short-term. However, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to the breadth of service Smashwords offers.

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Royalties

Smashwords provides a service and therefore charges a commission, just as KDP do. For sales through Smashwords’ own store, you’ll receive 85% of the list price after a modest fee for credit card processing has been deducted. The percentage of your profits this transactional fee eats into depends on a variety of factors, including your list price and h0w many books the customer is buying at the time. If it’s several, then the fee is spread between all of them.

With so many variables, it’s impossible to give an exact percentage for royalties. However, the following figures should give you some idea. Assuming yours is the only book in customer’s basket at the time of checkout, you’ll receive $8 for an eBook priced at $10, $2.21 for one at $2.99 and $0.56 for one at $0.99. You’ll then lose a tiny amount (around 0.5%) as a fee when PayPal converts your earnings into pound sterling.

The majority of sales don’t come through Smashwords’ own webstore but third-party retailers. The royalties for these vary from retailer to retailer.

For sales at Apple’s iBooks and Barnes & Noble, you’ll receive 60% of the list price but only if your book sells in their US store. In other stores, including the UK, France and Australia, VAT is added to the list price meaning the percentage you receive varies.

Kobo offers 60% for their US and Canadian sales but only 38% for sales in other currencies.

If you want exact details of royalties for each retailer, click on Channel Manager in the Marketing & Distribution Tools section of your Dashboard.

Payment Schedule

Smashwords pays you all the money that’s in your account monthly, within 40 days of the close of that calendar month.

This will include sales from Smashwords’ own store and any payments from third-party retailers that have reached your Smashwords’ account during the calendar month in question. Be aware that some retailers can take up to 60 days to register sales and transfer the money to Smashwords, meaning you could potentially wait up to about 130 days to receive payment. To make this clearer, let’s take a concrete example:

  • 1st January – eBook sells at third-party retailer
  • 2nd March (60 days later) – third-party retailer pays Smashwords
  • May 10th (40 days after the close of March) Smashwords pays the author

This is the worst case scenario. Many retailers pay more rapidly than 60 days and most of Smashwords’ payments to their authors go through within 30 days. A more likely scenario for a book sold in January is that Smashwords receives payment sometime in February and the money arrives in the author’s account towards the end of March.

However long it takes, be assured, you will be paid eventually, providing your Payment Settings page is up to date and all information entered is correct.

Payments are made to your PayPal account. There’s no minimum threshold so even if you’ve only sold one book, you’ll get the royalties from it.

Coupons

Smashwords offers the ability to generate voucher codes for you to share with whomever you please. This either gives the recipient(s) a specified discount or allows them to download your book for free. These are called coupons. To create one, select Coupon Manager from the Marketing & Distribution Tools section of your Dashboard. Then, on the Coupon Code Manager page, click Generate Coupon and complete the following form:

Coupon discount/New promotional price
Choose the level of discount you want to offer. This can be calculated either as a percentage off or an exact price. If you want to give your book away, type 0 in the New promotional price field.

Projected proceeds from each sale
Once you’ve complete the Coupon discount/New promotional price fields, Smashwords calculates your royalty payment based on this new price.

Coupon expires
Set an expiry date.

Description
If you’re going to use a lot of coupons, label each one to avoid confusion. Titles might indicate what percentage off they offer or the particular event they’ve been created for. This label will only be seen by you, not your customers.

Metered Redemption
If you want to limit the number of people who can redeem a coupon, complete this box. For instance, if the coupon is for a competition winner to claim a free eBook and you only want it to be used once, enter 1 in the box.

Make the coupon public
If you want the coupon to be available to all customers, then tick the box and it will be displayed on your book’s Smashwords page.

Click Generate Coupon and you’ll receive a 5 digit code. You can share this privately (by email) or publicly on your website/blog.

The customer enters the code at checkout to receive their discount.

Step Three: Decide on a Price

piggy-bank-850607_1920.jpgEBooks are a relatively new phenomenon and pricing can be notoriously difficult. Browsing the shelves of Amazon or Smashwords reveals alarming variability, from bestselling self-published authors listing at 99c/99p to eye watering figures of £9.99 and upwards.

It’s a thorny issue for many self-publishers. More than once I’ve read words to the effect:

I charge £9.99 for my eBooks and if people aren’t prepared to pay that, it’s their loss!

It really isn’t. Your potential readers will happily move on and find another book that’s reasonably priced. It’s you who’ll be sitting there, increasingly embittered, with pitiful sales.

As authors, we put hundreds, even thousands, of hours into each book. To be successful, though, you need to consciously forget that, put on a cool business head and focus on the market and what people are willing to pay. It isn’t easy but if you get it right, your chances of success improve dramatically.

Firstly, let’s start with a couple of don’ts:

  • Don’t equate your eBook to the print edition. Bear in mind you won’t have any printing or postage costs and retailer commissions tend to be considerably lower. This means you get to keep a much higher proportion of the list price.
  • Don’t price match bestselling mainstream authors. A novel by the likes of JK Rowling or Dan Brown might retail at £4 – £6 but this is because they have huge reputations. Their new releases are eagerly anticipated. Readers visit Amazon specifically to buy their eBooks and are more than willing to pay £5 or so to do so. The self-publishing market is very different. Readers don’t know you and are taking a chance buying your work. For a novel, they may be willing to risk a couple of quid. Much more than that and they’ll simply download Dan Brown’s latest instead.

Now for the good news: eBooks do much better than their printed counterparts in the self-publishing sector. This is due to two factors: price and immediacy. If you’re making yourself and your book visible in all the right places online, your potential customers will see a review for your book, a comment you’ve left on a blog or a tweet, be intrigued, click on a link and arrive at your book’s listing. At that point, you want the price to be at a level where they feel they have nothing (or very little) to lose by giving it a go.

The 99p Bracket
Many self-published authors with sales in the millions list their work at 99p/99c. And yes, I know £0.99 is more than $0.99 but something to do with exchange rates, VAT or just plain bad maths makes the two prices equivalent according to Kindle.

There is, however, a major disadvantage to setting a very low price on Amazon. Kindle has two author royalty rates: 35% and 70%. In order to qualify for 70%, you must price your eBook at £1.99-£9.99 on Amazon.co.uk and $2.99-$9.99 on Amazon.com. Anything above or below that sees your royalty drop to 35%. In short, if you list a book at 99p, you’ll only see 23p of that but for a £1.99 sale, you’ll receive a more impressive £1.13.

Pricing for Fiction
I’d recommend listing a full length novel at £1.99/$2.99.

This, for me, is a comfortable price that looks temptingly inexpensive to readers but will still gain you a decent royalty. You could try slightly higher at the £2.49/$3.99 mark, but I wouldn’t go above £2.99/$4.49, at least not until you gain a fan base and your work takes off.

If your book is very short, this should be reflected in the price. For a novellas, of under 120 pages or so, it’s generally unwise to charge much more than 99p/99c.

Pricing for Nonfiction
Nonfiction eBooks tend to be slightly more expensive. There is a theory that a very low price here could make the customer question the quality of the product. Having seen low-priced bestsellers in a multitude of genres, I remain unconvinced that 99p is the kiss of death for a nonfiction book. However, a more usual price tends to be between £2.49/$3.99 and £5.99/$8.99.

In the nonfiction world, price varies widely depending on category. To get a better idea of the price you should set, check other books in your genre. Look at both the price they’re listed at and how well they’re selling.

To check out Amazon’s bestsellers eBooks in your genre, select Shop by Department -> Kindle E-readers & Books -> Kindle Books:

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Click on Bestsellers:

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In the central panel, you’ll see the top one hundred eBooks across all genres. To the left of this, book categories are listed:

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Select a category and gradually get more specific until you find the exact one that corresponds to your work. You should then see a list of books in your genre in order of how well they’re selling. Have a look at the prices and see where your book might fit in.

If you’re utterly bewildered by the array of pricing and sales ranks, try starting your book at the £2.49. You can alter the price up or down at any point, depending on how sales are going.

Be Flexible
However you price your book, keep an eye on sales figures and be prepared to change the price if necessary, preferably without developing a chip on your shoulder about how the world doesn’t appreciate your genius.

If your book fails to sell, don’t discount the 99p bracket, even if it means accepting KDP’s 35% royalty rate. Remember, 23p profit on a hundred sales will earn more than £1.13 on five.

Pricing down not only gives a flagging book a much needed boost but can also do wonders to build up a fan base. Fans will buy your next book and the one after and tell their friends all about your work. Many self-published authors with multiple books have at least one of their works listed for free in order to gain these fans.

Self-publishing is all about persuading readers to take that initial step and invest their time (and money) into getting to know you as an author. If you price your book high, you’re making this process unnecessarily hard and doing yourself and your book a disservice. Always remain flexible and think about the long game.

Step Two: Ebook Design

EBOOK DESIGN.jpgManuscript Preparation

As you read earlier, Kindle publishes eBooks in Mobi and KF8. You’re welcome to upload your book to KDP in Mobi format but it isn’t necessary. All you need to do is prepare your book (in Word) for KDP to convert it to the correct formats after upload. This preparation basically involves removing all complicated formatting and snazzy features, like headers and footers and checking everything else is uniform and neat. Click here for instructions on how to do this.

Smashwords supplies a number of retailers using several different formats. The main one is ePub but it employs many others, including Mobi, PDF and LRF (used on older Sony Readers). Again, you don’t need to worry about this. Simply upload your manuscript as a Word .doc file and they’ll convert it for you.

The only difference from Kindle is that, because Smashwords deals with so many different types of files, you need to be extra careful when formatting. With Kindle you may get away with the odd error, here and there. However, virtually any formatting slip will see you excluded from Smashwords’ Premium Catalogue. This catalogue supplies external retailers, like Apple and Sony. If you’re not included in it, your book will only be available through Smashwords’ own website, which has a very limited market reach.

If you’re a complete technophobe and the idea of negotiating Word for several hours makes you break out in a cold sweat, I suggest you hire a professional designer. In all likelihood, whoever you employ for cover design will also offer formatting services.

If you can’t afford this, Smashwords provides a list of low-cost freelancers who offer to prepare your manuscript for upload to both Kindle and Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/list. Some convert your book to ePub and Mobi. Others simply format it in Word so it’s optimised for conversion when you upload it to Kindle/Smashwords. Most offer a guarantee that your book will pass Smashwords’ Premium Catalogue criteria or they’ll keep working on it until it does. These services represent excellent value for money, costing as little as $19 (approximately £15) for a standard novel.

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Cover Design

As with your print version, a professional-looking cover is essential to achieving sales.

Your eBook should match the front cover of your print book. This helps maintain branding and avoids confusion for buyers. It should carry the same cover image and the title and author name should be in the same font and position. The spine and back cover are, of course, omitted.

However, eBook covers are sometimes marginally simplified. Potential purchasers may view them on their reading devices as tiny thumbnails (as little as 1cm x 1.6cm). If you employed a very complex design for your print cover, particularly if you have a lot of text, it may be necessary to simplify it slightly. This could involve cutting cover endorsements down, or even out altogether.

That said, the front of most print covers are fine to reuse for your eBook version with little or no alternation. Simply ensure that the title and author are clearly visible and the overall effect isn’t too cluttered.

From a technical point of view, eBook covers need to be extremely versatile. It’s true, they may be viewed as tiny, black & white thumbnails but they also have to look good on ten-inch, full colour displays or even splashed across 32″ HD monitors. Kindle and Smashwords provide technical perimeters to help authors achieve the best results across a wide variety of platforms.

Kindles are as follows:

  • File format must be Jpeg or Tiff
  • Maximum file size 50MB
  • The ideal ratio is 1.6:1. This means that if your cover has a width of 1000 pixels, it should be 1600 pixels high.
  • The lowest quality cover they’ll accept is 625 pixels x 1000 pixels.
  • The highest quality they can process is 10,000 x 10,000 pixels, a size so huge you don’t need to worry about accidentally exceeding it.
  • For best results, Kindle suggests you supply a cover design that’s 1563 pixels wide by 2500 pixels high.

Smashwords have the following, similar requirements:

  • Covers should be in Jpeg or Png format
  • A height 1.3 to 1.65 times the width
  • The minimum quality accepted for admission to the Premium Catalogue is 1400 pixels on the shortest side.
  • 1600 x 2400 pixels is given as an example of an ideally sized cover.

If all these figures are making your head spin, don’t worry. Simply ask your designer to provide a Jpeg image of 1563 x 2500 pixels. You don’t even need to understand what you’re asking. Just pay the fee, take the file and upload it to Kindle. As Smashwords’ ideal size is very close to Kindle’s and both sites allow a certain amount of leeway, you can safely upload the same cover to Smashwords.

N.B. if your cover is white or pale in colour, ask your designer to add a grey border of three or four pixels round it. This helps it show up against the white background of Amazon, Smashwords or most other websites.

Finding a Designer
As with your print version, it’s vital that your cover looks the part and this almost certainly involves hiring a designer. If you already have a professionally designed print version, it should be relatively inexpensive for your designer to provide a good quality Jpeg of the front section for you to use.

If you decided not to produce a print book, you’ll need to find a designer from scratch. Remember, don’t be intimidated and make sure you understand the service you’re getting before handing over any money. Areas to clarify include:

  • Is the price for a template or custom design? Template design is where the book elements have fixed positions and your photo, title, blurb etc. are just dropped into pre-arranged spaces. The template may even already include a picture. These services tend to be significantly cheaper but aren’t ideal. They don’t look as professional and other people could use the same design, severely affecting your branding. If you’re paying a designer, ideally, you want them to come up with original, custom-made work. However, if you really can’t afford this, template design is an option.
  • Does the price include an image or do you pay extra for this? Images are usually sourced from stock photo libraries, like the ones listed here). If you want the designer to come up with an original illustration, this will be considerably more expensive.
  • Who picks the image? You? Your Designer? Do they advise on which image would suit the genre you’re writing in?
  • How many design rounds are included? A design round is when the cover is sent to you, you suggest changes and it goes back to the designer. If alterations aren’t included in the price, how much are they charged at?
  • How many designs will be produced? Just the one or two/three for you to choose between?
  • Does the quoted price include VAT?

The above isn’t a check list of essentials, just a guide to help you better understand the service you’re paying for. If, for the quoted price, just one design is produced and alterations are charged extra, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad service. It’s just important to be clear exactly what you’re paying for.

When looking for a designer, always check their website for book covers they’ve created. You should be able to get an idea of quality from this.

Can you suggest an eBook cover designer?
Here’s a list of designers I recommended earlier when discussing print book covers:

In addition to this, Smashwords’ list of formatters also contains a number of cover designers. Few of them seem to showcase previous work on their websites. Whilst I wouldn’t discount them, I’d advise investigating fully and asking where you can find examples of their previous work before parting with any money.

Designing your own cover
Unless you’re proficient in design and have a really keen artistic eye, I wouldn’t advise this. However, if you’ve no other choice, the good news is that designing an eBook cover is marginally easily than a print one. You don’t have to worry about spine width calculations, bleed or a back cover.

You can buy a suitable image from as little as £7 on a stock website. You’ll find a list of them here. Study other books in your genre to see what sort of image, fonts and size of text are most commonly used. It’s important you get this right. Swirly italic writing might be fine for a romance novel but not so great for a technical text-book.

KDP has its own Cover Creator. This is slightly better than the Createspace one. It even boasts a little tool which shows you what your cover will look like on a black and white basic Kindle, a full colour tablet and as a thumbnail. However, the covers still have that clunky home-made feel to them.

If you’re going down this route, I suggest Canva as a better alternative. After sign up, you’ll be presented with a snapshot of a limited range of design projects. Click More…

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… and the number of projects will expand to several dozen. Scroll down to the Blogging & eBooks section and select Kindle Cover.

Canva will create a blank template of the right dimensions. You now have a number of options for how to create your cover.

You can pick a custom layout, using the LAYOUTS tab and alter font, size, text and even picture to suit your book:

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Alternatively, you can start from scratch: select a background, using the BACKGROUND tab and/or upload your own image (UPLOADS tab) before adding text (TEXT tab).

If you don’t have an image of your own, Canva has a stock library of thousands you can choose from. Click the SEARCH tab and enter a keyword to find relevant ones. Many are little more than uninspired clip art but there are a few gems amongst them.

Images, backgrounds and templates are either free or priced at just a dollar each. Once you’ve created your cover, you simply pay (if you’ve used any paid-for elements), download your design, then upload it to Kindle and Smashwords.

Canva makes it as easy as possible to create a correctly sized eBook cover. Their templates are better looking than the KDP ones and allow a great deal of customisation. However, what they can’t do is give you an eye for design or artistic ability. Unless you have these, there really is no substitute for hiring a professional.

Step One: Where to sell your eBook

SW_Vertical_Color.pngThe first step is to decide where you want to sell your eBook.

It’s both easy and inexpensive for self-publishers to distribute eBooks. There are two user-friendly sites (Kindle and Smashwords) which, between them, will see your book available at virtually every outlet you can think of. Both sites are free to use and make no charge for listing your book. Instead, they take a (generally) modest commission on each eBook sold.

The first of these sites, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), will see your eBook listed on Amazon. The second, Smashwords, distributes to almost every other eBook retailer: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo (WHSmith), OneDrive (supplies libraries), Flipkart and Barker & Taylor, along with a whole host of others I’ve never heard of.

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Given this, it would seem logical to sign up to both services. However, many authors choose to sell exclusively through Amazon Kindle. At first sight, it seems crazy to cut your distribution network down to a single outlet, as opposed to the dozens offered by Smashwords. There are, however, two very good reasons why you might decide to do this.

Firstly, Amazon may only be one outlet but it’s the king of eBooks, particularly in the UK, where it enjoys around three quarter of the total market. The next biggest provider, Apple’s iBooks, sells a mere fraction of this with Google Play, Kobo, Waterstones, Android and Barnes & Noble’s Nook lagging far behind.

Figures from the US are less clear. It appears that Amazon has a slightly lower hold on the market with Barnes & Noble and Apple doing a little better but even there, more than half of eBooks sold are through Amazon.

On a practical level, this means that most authors sell only a fraction of the eBooks on Smashwords that they do on Amazon. Notwithstanding, it would still seem logical to enable these sales, even if they only made up ten per cent of your total.

This brings us to the second reason why many authors only sell through KDP: Amazon, in a bid to strengthen its position at the forefront of the eBook market, offers membership of KDP Select in return for exclusivity. This gives authors access to a number of key benefits, including:

  • Amazon Countdown Deals: set a discounted price for a limited time. Your listing will display a nifty little countdown timer showing customers how much longer the offer is available for.
  • Free Book Promotion: run a giveaway for up to five days every three months. Giveaways are the life blood of self-publishing and one of the best marketing tools out there.
  • Inclusion in KOLL and Kindle Unlimited: KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library) allows Prime customers to borrow one eBook a month. Kindle Unlimited is an eBook subscription service. For a monthly fee, subscribers can borrow an unlimited number of titles. These help you reach new readers who might not be inclined to pay to download your book and you’ll still receive royalties. The economics of this are a little complicated. Every month Amazon sets aside a Global Fund of around twelve million dollars to pay royalties for KOLL and Kindle Unlimited. This is split between all the authors who had books borrowed that month, depending on how many pages the customer read. I won’t even try to do the exact maths on this but you should receive about $1 per every 175 pages read.

Smashwords, in turn, offers its own excellent marketing features. Its coupon system allows you to generate a discount code, which can then be offered to customers, either privately (in an email) or publicly (on your website). Smashwords coupon codes offer much more freedom than Amazon’s limited free promotions and countdown deals. You have total control over the level of discount and how long it lasts. You can even create a coupon which allows its recipient to download your book for free. Amongst other things, these can be used to offer free copies to reviewers or prizes in a competition.

Lastly, unlike Amazon, who sets a minimum sales price of 99p/$0.99, Smashwords allows you to list your eBook for free on a permanent basis. You may even be able to use the fact that your eBook is available for free at Smashwords’ distribution partners (Apple, Google books, Kobo etc.) to manipulate Amazon into listing your book for free as well (more on this later).

Most authors are horrified at the idea of giving their books away but it can be an excellent marketing strategy if, for instance, you have a book series. Once books two and three become available, you may choose to offer the first book in the series for free in order to grip customers who will then, hopefully, go on to buy the rest of the series.

Sadly, though, even with the freedom it offers, Smashwords simply doesn’t achieve the level of sales its rival, KDP, enjoys. Obviously, every writer should list their eBooks on Amazon. However, for me, it’s a 50:50 decision whether to also sell through Smashwords (for full market reach) or to remain exclusive to Amazon (in order to enjoy the benefits of KDP Select).

The good news is that, although KDP select requires exclusivity, it’s only for a ninety-day period. This means there’s some flexibility to switch between options, depending on what you want out of a service at a particular moment. For instance, you can temporarily remove your book for sale with Smashwords and sign up to KDP Select to run a big promotion. After ninety days, should you choose, you can opt out of KDP Select and make your book available on Smashwords once more.

My advice is to experiment with what works best for your particular book and remain open to changing your sales strategy, if it’s not working.

Ebooks: Introduction

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Image courtesy of Unsplash/Pixabay

If you don’t own an eBook reader and can’t for the life of you figure out why anyone would choose to read from a screen, you might be about to skip this section. Don’t! Selling electronic files may not hold the romance of seeing your work physically on a bookshelf but it’s an essential part of self-publishing.

Unlike traditionally published authors, most self-publishers sell vastly more eBooks than physical ones. Estimates of how many more vary and are dependent on genre but I’ve heard figures of between ten and a hundred times more.

Even without this incentive, selling eBooks is a joy. Overheads are small and the work involved is minimal. There’s no sitting up until midnight stuffing jiffy bags, no trips to the post office and no tripping over a pile of unsold books at three in the morning. Everything is done simply and easily online. Even preparing your file for eBook publication is far easier than typesetting a paperback.

A Little About EBooks and How They Work
EBooks are books in electronic form. They can be read on a variety of gadgets: a dedicated eBook reader (such as a Kindle or Kobo), a tablet, a PC or a Mac. Some people even choose to read on their smart or iPhones. EBooks are downloaded from the internet, either directly onto an eBook reader/tablet or via a computer. Purchase and delivery are virtually simultaneous, meaning someone could be reading your work within minutes of first hearing about it.

EBooks come in either fixed or reflowable format. The fixed format is often seen in PDFs downloaded from the internet, such as user manuals. You may well have read one of these without even realising it was a type of eBook.

With fixed format, much like the print copy of a book, the text and pictures are fixed on each page so that, for example, page ten will be identical, whatever size your screen. This can be useful for children’s picture books, cookery books, graphic novels or indeed any work where you need to guarantee the exact look of each page.

The disadvantage of this format is that anyone reading on a small screen will need to zoom in constantly to read the text. This can get annoying and isn’t usually suitable for books such as novels, where you want to ensure a smooth reading experience.

This is why most text-based eBooks come in reflowable format, meaning that the text rearranges itself (reflows) to best suit whichever screen it’s on. A small screen, such as that of a smartphone, may only hold a dozen or so words, whereas a large monitor could potentially display several hundred words per ‘page’.

The reflowable format also allows readers to set their preferences for font type and size. For example, on a standard 6” eReader, someone with a visual impairment could choose the biggest possible font and the text would reflow so that there were only a dozen large words per page whereas someone else might opt for the smallest setting and read several hundred words between page turns (usually achieved by tapping the right side of the screen).

In this environment, the traditional concept of a page changes. It’s largely the reader, not the publisher, who chooses what constitutes a page of any given book.

The most popular reflowable formats are EPub (used on virtually all eReaders except Kindles) and Kindle’s Mobi.

In 2011, Kindle also launched KF8 (Kindle Format 8) which includes support for fixed books, such as graphic novels.

Help! I’m lost already!
Before you start to think this all sounds a bit technical and you’re not sure you want to get involved in any of it: don’t panic. I include the above only as background information. You don’t need to know any of it to successfully publish an eBook. If you’re deeply traumatised and seeking therapy at this point, try to forget you even read this post. The step-by-step instructions over the next few weeks will show you how to list your eBook, simply and painlessly without the need for a degree in computer science.

 

All-in-One Packages: Case Study

Which Package-Providers Do You Recommend?

There are many reputable companies out there offering publishing services. Below, I use Matador as an example of what you might expect from a reliable all-in-one package provider. However, there are many other reputable services available, including York Publishing, Silverwood Books  and Thomson-Shore. I have no connection to any of these companies and take no responsibilty for any contract you may enter into with them.

If you think an all-in-one package is the best option for you, I’d recommend Giacomo Giammatteo’s How to choose a Self Publishing Service 2016. This reviews and compares dozens of popular companies, both good and bad, as well as providing excellent general advice about the sector.

Matador

Matador is the self-publishing wing of Troubador, an established publishing house. It posits itself at the quality end of the market, promising books that are indistinguishable from traditionally published ones. It actually turns down 30% of fiction and 10% of nonfiction. This is an impressive indication of the pride they take in their brand. Many companies are all too willing to take authors’ money, regardless of the quality of their writing.

In terms of the contract itself, Matador promises honesty and no hidden costs. You’ll receive a full quotation, written in plain English, with the promise to check with you first, should extra costs be incurred.

It’s clearly stated that you retain the rights to your work and own the PDFs to your cover design and internal layout. The contract is nonexclusive, meaning you can have any or all of the printed books sent to you to do what you want with. You can also terminate, at any point, and have the remainder of your books posted to you.

Services Offered:

Advice
Matador is able to fall back on many years’ experience in the book trade to guide you through the self-publishing process. You’ll receive constructive advice on issues such as design options, pricing, size of print run and the suitability of purchasing marketing packages.

The advice starts on their website with downloadable information sheets on every stage of publishing. Even if you don’t decide to publish with them, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting their site to get more information on self-publishing and the book trade in general.

Book Design & Pre Production

Matador provides a ‘pre-press’ package comprising the following:

  • Typesetting – includes proof revisions.
  • Cover Design – professional, custom design, not a template one.
  • ISBN and barcode allocation – also includes registration and management of your book details on Nielsen’s website and the dispatch of your book to the relevant copyright libraries.
  • Print Management

For most text-based books, this package comes in at £700.

Whilst printing is VAT exempt, design services, like this, usually carry a VAT charge. However, if you print your book with Matador, then the above services are counted as preparation for said printing and there’s no VAT to pay.

Editing
Copy editing and proof reading are optional but highly recommended extras. Matador employs full-time qualified editors and proof readers in-house. The fee for these services is judged on a book-by-book basis, depending on the level of revision needed.

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Printing
Matador uses industry standard materials and production techniques, ensuring your book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published one.

The printing costs are reasonable and in line with those from traditional printers, such as Clays and Biddles. To give you an idea, I’ve provided a few quotes based on a text-based book with the following specs:

  • Paperback
  • B Format (198 x 129mm)
  • 300 pages
  • Interior: B&W, text-only
  • Pages: cream or white 80gsm bookwove
  • Cover: 240gsm cover board with gloss or matt finish

matador-printing-costs

 

 

Matador also offers print on demand. The cost of this is a very reasonable £4.o4. This compares well to CreateSpace who charges $4.45 (approximately £3.50) for a lower quality product. Additionally, Matador’s postage rates are more favourable than CreateSpace’s, at least for UK customers. Postage is charged at cost. For a single copy, this will be around £3.

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Distribution
Matador offers a range of options:

Sell Your Own Books
At any point, you can have some or all of your books sent to you to distribute however you want. Postage for this is added at cost.

Sell Through Matador’s Online Bookshop
Matador sells its authors’ books through its own online store.

If you opt to make your book available here, Matador retains some, or all, of your stock and deals with sales, invoicing and fulfilment. Storage for up to 300 books is free. After that, there’s a modest fee on a sliding scale.

Matador takes a commission of 15% (of cover price) on books sold through their online shop. A brief look reveals fiction largely priced within the reasonable £6.99 – £9.99 bracket. They allow authors to set their own price whilst offering advice on sensible market levels.

Let’s take a look at the royalties you’d receive on a standard 300-page, text-only, B Format paperback. For our first example, we’ll assume that you’ve opted for print on demand, meaning the printing cost is £4.04:

matador-print-on-demand

If, instead, you opt for a small print run, your production cost reduces significantly. Consequently your per-copy royalty increases. The below is based on a print run of 250 copies:

matador-250

Obviously this is only a saving if you sell the entire print run, something which can never be guaranteed.

Whichever printing method you opt for, the buyer pays postage at £3 per book. This pushes the price up and makes it a less attractive offer for them. On the plus side, the website, when I visited it, offered some enticing discounts such three-for-two and coupons for money off individual books.

Matador sends royalties quarterly by bank transfer, along with a statement outlining sales, discounts and the number of books left in stock. In addition, you have 24/7 access to sales data on Matador’s website.

Wider Distribution
If you print a hundred copies or more, your book will be available for customers to order through bookshops (both online and bricks and mortar). This chance at wider distribution has obvious advantages. However, it comes at a cost. Most bookshops charge a commission (known as a trade discount) for selling your book. This will be anywhere between 35 – 55% of the cover price. In addition, Matador charges their usual 15% for processing the order. Let’s look at the economics of this with a £7.99 book which costs £2.35 to print:

Matador bookshop.JPG

Forty four pence might not look like much but at least you’re in profit. As discussed in my post on bookshop distribution, this is more than you’d manage if you were supplying bookshops as an individual. This is largely due to the fact that Matador covers postage costs. They’re able to do this as they’re a big company and part of Troubador, a traditional publishing house, meaning they have large consignments of books heading to major distributors and bookshops on a regular basis.

Matador is an excellent choice if you want to see your book stocked on the shelves of bookshops, rather than simply available for a customer to order in. Being part of an established publishing house, they have an in-depth knowledge of distribution and sales networks. They boast a dedicated sale team (Star Books) who hand sells books to bookshops, wholesalers and library suppliers. If you want to take advantage of this service, it costs £150 + VAT.

In order to be eligible for sales representation you must print under Matador’s imprint, rather than using your own ISBN. You also need to invest in a print run of at least 300 books and take out a Book Trade Marketing Package (£300 +VAT).

This service gives you the best possible chance of being stocked in UK bookshops. However, Matador doesn’t make excessive promises; they don’t claim that your book will be on central display at Waterstones up and down the country. Instead, they encourage authors to focus on local and specialist bookshops where they’re more likely to find success.

Royalties for books sold through bookshops will be received later than those sold directly by Matador. Bookshops operate on a sale or return basis so will only pay once a book has actually sold, not when they agree to stock it on their shelves. Even then, it could take up to four months for the payment to be processed.

Amazon
Amazon, is a huge marketplace that, as a self-publisher, you really need to access. However, selling through them is problematic due to the large commission they charge.

Amazon’s standard commission is 60%. On a small print run, it’s virtually impossible to make a profit on these terms:

matador-print-run-amazon

The only way to break even is either to increase the price of your book to unprofitable levels or print in the thousands, neither of which I’d recommend for a first-time self-publisher.

However, there’s a slight twist to this. Whilst Amazon takes 60% on titles sold through Amazon Advantage, they only charge 35% for print on demand books. As Matador has the facilites to produce POD books, they’re able to take advantage of this lower commission rate.

It’s still not possible to break even on our example £7.99, 300-page book:

matador-pod-amazon7-99

However, if you set your book price at £8.99, you can make a small profit:

matador-pod-amazon-8-99

£8.99 is a marginally higher than ideal but still within the bounds of what I would consider reasonable.

Matador recognises how hard it is to sell on Amazon in an economically viable way and gives you the opportunity to opt out of Amazon sales, if you so wish. I’d thoroughly recommend you do this and explore different methods of accessing this market, such as CreateSpace.

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EBooks
Matador offers eBook formatting, conversion and distribution services. Just as with your print book, the advantage of using a package provider is that they take the whole process off your hands and produce a professional-quality product. I’ll discuss the content and cost of these services in my upcoming posts on eBooks.

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Print Book Marketing
Matador’s print book marketing starts five to six months ahead of publication. This allows time to get review copies out, disseminate information to appropriate media and meet seasonal buying timetables. The packages below are all optional, add-on extras

Book Trade Marketing (£300+VAT)
The aim, here, is to get your book noticed, not by individual purchasers but wholesalers, library suppliers and bookshop buyers.

The cornerstone of the package is a professionally designed Advance Information (AI) sheet. Matador then uses its databases to create a bespoke list of targeted retail buyers to send your AI to, depending on your book’s genre and subject matter. In addition to this, you’ll receive twenty copies of your AI to use when visiting local bookshops.

Matador also undertakes to mention your book in one of its e-newsletters and give expert advice and access to marketing fact sheets.

Starter Media Marketing (£400+VAT)
The aim of this package is to get your book noticed by the media. Matador, however, is realistic and practical. They don’t claim they’re going to get their authors on prime time national television. Instead, they focus on local and, where appropriate, specialist media.

Just as the AI was the cornerstone of the Trade Marketing Package, the Press Release is central here. Matador produces a professional-standard document and uses its databases to create a bespoke list of either local or specialist media, as best suits your book.

They’ll then liaise with the media for you, should they reply with requests for more information or an interview. They undertake to keep your Matador book page up to date with reviews, events and endorsements and tweet about any media coverage you receive.

They’ll also help identify those most likely to review your book and, where appropriate, send them a copy, along with the Press Release.

The package includes 20 copies of the Press Release for you to use in your own promotional efforts and the usual advice and support.

Enhanced Media Outreach (£700+VAT)
If you’re really determined to enhance your book’s profile and gain national media coverage, Matador can hook you up with a PR company. This really isn’t recommended for the average self-publisher due to the cost involved.

EBook Marketing
As the internet is more direct and moves at a quicker pace than the print world, the marketing period for an eBook shrinks from 6 months to the 6 weeks immediately prior to and after its release.

The aim of the packages outlined below is to attract the notice of online bloggers and reviewers. In addition, Matador strongly encourages its authors to be proactive and get out on social media, themselves, to promote their books.

Starter EBook Marketing (£250+VAT)
This package offers information and advice on how to market your eBook, including links to awards and bloggers who might review your book.

It also boasts inclusion on NetGallery for four weeks. This is a site you’d find financially prohibitive to access as an individual. It’s basically a review marketplace, disseminating information about new releases to journalists, bloggers and booksellers and getting review copies out to the people you want to reach.

Extended EBook Marketing (£350+VAT)
This includes everything in the Starter package but also boasts the preparation of an EBook Press Release (EPR) and an extra week’s exposure on NetGallery.

Enhanced EBook Media Outreach (£500+VAT)
An expensive, specialised package, run through a PR company, for those with the potential to garner national media interest.

Starter Social Media Marketing (£300+VAT)
Social media is key to promoting your book. This package focuses on those who don’t know their way round Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and don’t feel confident enough to learn on their own. It sets up accounts, builds branded pages and follows relevant people.

It promises a week of daily tweets when your eBook’s released and then to tweet/post any material that you send for a further three weeks. At the end of this time, the pages are handed back to you with instructions on how to use them.

This is a useful service if you’ve not seen a computer in the last ten years and don’t feel confident on social media. However, I would argue that most people can do the work themselves, saving a lot of money, whilst more effectively building up genuine interaction with potential readers.

Social Media Consultation (£50+VAT)
This is a one off telephone consultation for authors who already have Facebook and Twitter pages. An expert examines your social media accounts and gives up to an hour’s input, advising you how to improve your presence and branding.

Further services
As well as these core packages, Matador also offers a number add-on extras, such as the production and dissemination of book video trailers, the creation of author websites and professionally designed postcards, bookmarks, posters and leaflets, all individually priced.

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The above is intended as an example, only, to give you a general idea of the services offered by a reputable package provider and how much it’s likely to cost. I have no connection with Matador and if you take this route to self-publishing, I would encourage you to investigate a range of companies to discover which best suits you and your book.

All-in-One Packages: Contracts

contract-1464917_640In this post, I’ll take a closer look at the terms and conditions you’re likely to encounter if you take out a contract with an all-in-one package provider. I’ll advise which clauses are reasonable and which you need to avoid.

Rights
Any company you work with needs certain rights over your book, such as the right to print and (if applicable) sell it on your behalf. However, never sign a contract which hands over all rights whatsoever. As the term suggests, this concedes total control over your book. This might include things such as film/TV rights and rights to foreign editions.

Although these are highly unlikely to affect the average self-publisher, there’s no reason why your package provider should have control over them. An all rights whatsoever clause may not be a practical issue in many cases but it is a red flag. It raises questions about the scruples and business practices of any company who insists on owning all rights to a book you’ve written and are paying them to publish.

I’ve heard it implied that you need to be the publisher of record (ie use your own ISBN) in order to secure your rights. This is nonsense. If you publish with a reputable company, there won’t be a problem. You simply need to make sure that your rights are retained and that the copyright is held by you, the author, not the publisher.

Another issue in this area is rights over other books. Make sure there are no terms giving your package provider the right of refusal on future books you may write. I find it hard to believe that any company would have the cheek to charge a thousand pounds to produce your book and have you sign a contract saying they have first dibs on any future work but it’s not unheard of.

Exclusivity
Any rights given should be non exclusive. A traditional publishing house invests a lot of money producing, distributing and marketing a book and can expect, in return, to be the sole publisher/distributor.

However, if you self publish, you’re paying for production and therefore, should retain the right to sell your book anywhere you want. Even if you decide to distribute via the package provider’s online bookshop, this should be a non exclusive deal which allows you freedom to sell your book elsewhere at the same time, should you so desire.

If you’re determined to publish with a company that insists on exclusivity, check how long it lasts. At the very least, it should be limited to a specific time period with the option to renew, should both sides wish to.

Termination
You should be able to cancel your contract, either immediately or within a reasonable timeframe (eg thirty days’ notice) without penalties and have all unsold stock returned to you. You may, of course, need to pay postage for this.

Ownership of Internal Layout/Cover PDFs
You probably paid several hundred pounds for these designs.  Therefore, they should belong to you, not the company who created them. Imagine if you hired a carpenter to make a table. You would expect to own said table at the end of the process and be able to use it however you liked.

Equally, your book PDFs should be sent to you on completion, not least so you can use elements, such as the front cover, for promotional purposes. Your package provider will retain their own copies to allow them to print your book.

If you terminate the contract, you should retain full ownership and the right to use the designs however you want. Always avoid contracts which state you have to return PDFs on termination.

The only slight caveat to this is that you may need to remove any imprint/logo or ISBN tied to the package provider. Unless you own software which can edit PDFs, you’ll need to hire a designer to do this for you. It should, however, be a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure.

And finally…
In addition to the specific points mentioned above, look out for just plain peculiar or blatantly unfair clauses. These might include the right of the publisher to edit your book without consultation or you being responsible for legal costs in any dispute, no matter who wins. Read through the contract and query anything that looks odd or unfair.  It may be that there’s a perfectly logical reason for it but if you’re unsure, always check before signing.

Above all, your contract should be written in plain English, not some legal jargon you’d need a lawyer to decipher. If you don’t understand something, ask and if you don’t get a clear answer or are made to feel stupid, look for another company.

If all of this talk of contracts makes you nervous, just remember most companies aren’t out to trick you. In fact, they take pride in offering a top-notch service. They want you to be happy so you’ll recommend them to others.

In my next post, I’ll focus on one of these companies: Matador.

All-in-One Packages: Marketing

marketingAside from book production and distribution, many self-publishing companies also offer marketing packages. These are usually a rather expensive, optional extra. Marketing is an area where many self-publishers feel out of their depth. It’s easy for unscrupulous companies to throw some flashy-looking materials at them and charge several hundred pounds in exchange.

Really good marketing packages are labour intensive. An experienced professional should spend time with you (in person or online), finding out about the project and planning how best to get your book noticed by the right people. You should get plenty of expert advice on how to launch and promote your book. Planning, particularly for print books, should begin several months before publication.

The Importance of Social Media
The internet and social media are where self-publishers generally make their mark, connecting with, and selling directly to, their readers. Ensure the company you hire is fully conversant in this area. If they’re sending out press releases, the mailshot should include online sites, as well as traditional print media. Check if the package provider itself has a strong online presence, both through its own website and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Do they use these sites to promote their authors or merely to sell their own services?

Attracting Media Attention
Well designed and eye-catching press releases should be included in relevant marketing packages. Your package provider should be skilled in putting these together, highlighting whatever special features about you or your book are most likely to attract media attention.

However, more important than the release, itself, is what you do with it. It’s no good if your package provider simply doles out a pile of press releases and expects you to take it from there. A good self-publishing service should also have access to, or be able to put together, mailing lists of magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs that are likely to have an interest in whatever genre you’re writing in.

National newspapers are not going to announce your book on their front page so knowledge of relevant specialist press/blogs or the ability to hunt them out, is essential.

Your package provider should either approach these people on your behalf or show you exactly how to do so yourself.

Marketing to the Book Trade
Think carefully about taking out expensive ads in magazines, such as Publisher’s Weekly, which are read solely by those in the book trade. You won’t reach customers and it’s highly unlikely a trade buyer will stock your book, merely based on a single ad.

If you really want to get onto the shelves of bookstores, then you need to choose a marketing package from a company who has strong links with the traditional trade distribution network and who are honest enough to advise if this is a viable option for you. A package provider with the ability to think imaginatively and steer you towards relevant specialist or local outlets is highly desirable.

Marketing packages aimed at the book trade will probably include the production of an Advance Information sheet (AI). An AI is an A4 flyer used when approaching bookshops. It serves a dual purpose: it provides the bookseller with the technical data they need on your book, whilst, at the same time, pitching it to them as a sales opportunity by highlighting those elements most likely to appeal to the shop’s customers.

What to Expect From a Package
Avoid companies who only give you:

  • Printed materials (posters, leaflets, bookmarks etc). You can create these yourself for a fraction of the cost.
  • General guides on how to market. Advice on marketing is available from inexpensive books and free blogs across the internet.
  • Templates for you to create your own Advance Information sheets and press releases. You can find free templates, yourself, using any search engine.

If this is all you’re getting in return for several hundred pounds, then you’re throwing your money away.

It’s the work self-publishers, themselves, do online which most often gets them noticed. Before taking out any paid-for packages, I would encourage authors to search the internet for free resources, instructionals and ideas, focusing particularly on social media.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by an excess of information, a good place to start is Smashword’s founder, Mark Coker’s, excellent free marketing guide.

Only take out expensive packages when you’ve ascertained that they offer services and/or expertise that you can’t access, yourself.

 

All-in-One Packages: Distribution

box-312388_1280.pngAfter printing, it may be that your books are simply delivered to you, marking the end of your contract with the package provider. However, many all-in-one companies have the facility to distribute books on your behalf, either through their own stores or other online/high street bookshops.

Distribution Through Their Own Stores
Firms providing self-publishing packages often boast their own online bookstores. Investigate these before deciding who to publish with. They should be prominent and well designed, indicating the company places great emphasis on selling their authors’ books, as well as producing them.

Usually the package provider will take a commission on each book they sell, although, occasionally, they simply charge a yearly fee instead. This is another area where authors need to watch out. Some firms take up to 50% commission. Other, more reputable ones, take around 15%, leaving the author with 85% of the royalties.

Please note: this isn’t 85% of the cover price but 85% of the cover price minus printing costs. There’s nothing unreasonable about this: printing costs need to be covered. However, look out for companies who artificially inflate them in order to increase their profit margins. It doesn’t cost upwards of £6 to print the average paperback.

Another area less reputable firms try to skim profits is by adding an unclear and inflated administration fee. The worst claim to offer as high as 100% royalties but have so many hidden charges that you’ll see very little of this.

Transparency is key here. These companies are providing a service by giving you space in their online stores and taking the hassle of distribution away from you. They’re going to charge for this. You just need to make sure you understand what that charge is and that it’s fair and reasonable.

A good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, is to investigate the price tag of the books they sell. Are they reasonable and in line with traditionally published books in a similar genre? Fiction paperbacks, for instance, generally carry a cover price of between £6 and £9. If the package provider’s store is full of novels priced at £12.99, this is an indication that:

  1. The authors have been poorly advised
  2. They have to sell their work at an artificially high price due to poor royalties/high administrative charges.

Don’t worry too much if you find the occasional quirkily-priced book. Whilst offering advice, the best package providers give self-publishers the freedom to set their own book price. You’ll always find the odd deluded author who insists on charging £15, despite all advice to the contrary. Focus on the most common price for each genre and compare it with books you find in shops like WHSmith and Waterstones.

Wider Distribution
A decent package provider will also offer you the chance to sell your book further afield. This should include both online and high street bookshops and of course, Amazon. To do this, your book will need an ISBN. In addition, your package provider should ideally have well established relationships within the book trade.

Check any assertions made with regard to distribution very carefully. Disregard blanket claims of your book being available in a huge range of bricks and mortar bookshops. This doesn’t mean it’ll be stocked on their shelves but simply that a customer can ask for a copy to be ordered in, to collect at a later date.

This isn’t an exclusive service only a specialised company can provide. Any book with an ISBN is entered onto a database which makes it available for bookshops to order. You could achieve this yourself by buying an ISBN from Nielsen for just £89.

As discussed in previous posts, it can be very difficult to make a profit distributing via bookshops and Amazon, due to their 50 – 60% commission rates. On top of this, package providers will, in all probability, charge a yearly fee or an additional commission on each book sold (in return for managing distribution). This can make it even harder for authors to break even.

However, there can also be advantages to distributing via a package provider. Bigger companies have huge consignments of books flying about the country to which they can add yours, at little additional cost. This means the postage (for getting your book to the sales outlet) is often vastly reduced, or even free.

Making a profit distributing via bookshops and Amazon is no easy matter. You need to investigate on a case-by-case basis to discover what’s most profitable for your book. A good company will offer wider distribution but also the ability to opt out, if it’s unprofitable for you.

Storage
If your package provider is distributing books on your behalf, they’ll also need to store them. Sometimes there’s a small extra fee for this but more often, it’s included as part of the distribution deal.

Of course, if you’re using the print on demand model, then storage isn’t an issue as your books will only be printed as and when an order is made.