The Fastest Way to Print High Quality Books

From LuluxPress:

Link to the rest at LuluxPress

PG wasn’t familiar with this site and hadn’t looked at Lulu for a very long time.

PG has no reason to question the honesty of either Lulu or LuluxPress, but, as always, read the terms of use, terms & conditions, etc., etc. before, not after, you use either service. Ditto for KDP, which reminds PG that he needs to review KDP for any changes, additions or deletions.

30-year-old retiree earned $97,000 in passive income from Amazon last year: Here’s how she got started

From CNBC:

In 2017, by age 24, Rachel Richards had already worked as a financial advisor and then as a financial analyst at a manufacturing firm. After picking up her license, she began working as a Realtor. No matter what kind of work she was doing, one thing remained constant: People in her life were constantly looking to her for help with their finances.

“I began to wonder, ‘Why aren’t they learning on their own? Why aren’t they reading books, or listening to podcasts or looking on websites?’” says Richards, now 30.

Then it dawned on her: Most of the financial books she’d come across were boring and esoteric, bordering on intimidating. And few were targeted toward young women. “So I thought to myself, ‘How can I make this topic sassy and fun and simple?’”

Richards began writing her first book, “Money Honey” in January 2017 and self-published on Amazon that September. By just about any measure, it was a massive success. In its first month, the book brought in $600. The next month it brought in $1,000. “After that, it was pulling in $1,500 a month pretty consistently,” she says.

. . . .

The robust income she earned from publishing didn’t hurt. All told, through the end of July 2022, Richards has sold about 25,000 copies each of “Money Honey” and her second self-published book, “Passive Income, Aggressive Retirement,” a 2019 release which details her strategies for early retirement.

In 2021, royalties from the two titles netted Richards more than $97,000 in profit. Here’s how she did it.

She self-published online

Richards, like many aspiring authors, dreamed of seeing her name in print through the window of her local bookstore. She also hoped that with a traditional book deal, the publisher would handle the labor-intensive task of promoting the book. That turned out not to be the case.

“The more I asked authors about their experience, the more I learned that publishers expect you to do 99% of the marketing and promotion,” Richards says. “If you’re an author with no platform, they’re not going to send you out on a national book tour.”

Once she learned she’d have to flog the book herself no matter what, Richards was far less inclined to give a publisher a big chunk of her royalties. “When you get a book deal, you earn a 10% to 15% royalty. When you publish on Amazon, you earn a 35% to 70% royalty.” (Royalty structures vary between different formats, such as e-books and paperbacks, and factor in costs such as shipping and tax.)

She also says that self-publishing guarantees creative control, even if it comes at a cost. Thinking her book wouldn’t sell and hoping to limit her losses, Richards spent just $561 to hire an editor and a cover designer for “Money Honey.” She says a more “realistic” minimum budget is at least $2,000 and ideally would include an interior formatter as well. She spent $3,500 putting together her second book.

Link to the rest at CNBC

Is Hybrid Publishing Ethical?

PG Note: He published this post prior to the one just following it chronologically. The UK study was talking about what are known in the US as vanity presses.

Vanity presses are shady operators who say they will “publish” an author’s book if he/she/they pay the vanity press a fixed upfront fee, which may sometimes be increased by additional “services” that cost more money.

In return, the typical vanity publisher will print up a few hundred books, list them for sale online, wholesale and retail, send out a canned press release, and provide the author with a number of copies of the book.

Typically, the vanity publisher only orders a short run of books because they know very few copies will sell. When the book doesn’t sell, the vanity press typically contacts the author to ask if the author wants to have the unsold books destroyed or shipped to the author.

It’s not unusual for people connected with traditional publishing to conflate vanity publishing and self-publishing, but, if the self-publishing author wants to make money, she/he/they need to spend some time learning how to do it reasonably well. All the information necessary to understand and execute the process is available online.

Although PG thinks some serious competitors to Amazon would help indie authors as well as encouraging Amazon to up its game a bit, at the moment, Amazon is, effectively, the place the indie author must be successful and the company provides financial incentives for an author to sell exclusively through them.

From Jane Friedman:

The publishing industry has been arguing for a long time about traditional vs. hybrid vs. self-publishing and which of these avenues are legitimate, and which are not, but a recent UK study that decries hybrid publishing as unethical has ruffled a lot of feathers.

Here’s the basic problem, in my view: these arguments ultimately conflate “ethical publishing” with positive ROI on a per-book basis. I’d like to take a closer look at that foundational premise, its inherent cracks, and offer a different paradigm.

Regardless of who pays for it, this is the cost to produce a book

My operating assumption is that you want to create a quality book—a book that will be on par with the quality of every other book on the shelf next to it. Regardless of who is fronting the investment (the publisher, in the case of a traditional publishing, or an author, in the case of hybrid or self-publishing), it can easily cost upward of $20,000 to create the thing.

Yes, there is variance based on the book’s contents (if you need a fact-check or an index or photo permissions clearance, for example), word count, or printing specifications. There is also a great deal of variance in terms of the pricing you can find these services for—but generally speaking, you’re going to get what you pay for. Good designers and editors have fairly standard rates, so I’m using those here to illustrate what I call the actual cost of producing a high-quality book. If you cross-check these numbers with a traditional publisher, you’ll find they expect to outlay about the same amount when such responsibilities are handled by freelancers.

Three-pass editing (Developmental, Copyediting, Proofreading): $7,500
Cover and custom interior design: $3,000

Finding great editors and designers is an important task—one that many self-publishers have no interest, ability, or time to do. Partnering with a reputable hybrid publisher or a publishing services firm who continually vet their creative partners removes the onus of team curation from the author.

Project management and back cover copywriting: $5,000

Self-publishers can and often do take on their own project management. It takes around 120 hours of professional project management to produce a book, more for the inexperienced. A lot of authors decide this is not how they would like to spend their time and hire out project management accordingly.

Offset print run (let’s assume a relatively small run of 3,500 copies, for example): $8,750

Total creative investment: ~$24,250

These costs do not include marketing and publicity. A full-scale publicity campaign, for example, starts around $10,000. The vast majority of traditionally published authors receive limited marketing and publicity support from their publisher, so regardless of publishing route, the bulk of a book’s marketing and promotion responsibility falls squarely on the author.

The earning potential from a single book

Publishers, as well as many individuals deciding on a hybrid publisher or on self-publishing, are concerned with turning a profit on the project. So, let’s look at how many copies a book needs to sell to earn out the creative investment alone on a paperback with a list price of $18.95.

  • From $18.95, we subtract the wholesale discount. If the book is being sold into bookstores, 40-55% is standard.
  • Then we subtract the distributor’s cut (18-20%).
  • The hybrid publisher and author split the net revenue (let’s call that $9.23 in this case) along the lines of their specific deal, and these vary widely. Sometimes hybrids take 15%, others take 50% of net revenues. We’ll use 30% for this example, making author earnings ~$6.46/book.

What this means is that, if all your books are sold through the brick-and-mortar channel, you would need to sell around 3,700 copies to break even on your up-front creative and printing investment. (Direct, non-retail-distribution-dependent sales channels earn more per copy.)

This sketch should shed some light on why traditional publishers are increasingly looking to acquire books that will sell more than 5,000 copies. It also suggests why publishers stress the importance of author platform: the author’s direct relationship with readers reduces the need to pile on marketing spend to reach sales goals.

Traditional publishers face ever-increasing printing costs and relatively stagnant retail prices (the market simply will not bear a $30 paperback novel, or even a $20 one). So they have little choice but to recover their margin with bulk rates for larger print runs. In other words, the sales projection threshold for a traditional publishing deal continues to move up, yoking publication to commercialization.

Is producing a book worth doing if it in and of itself is not a profitable project?

There is not a single right answer to this. For some people it is, and for some people it isn’t. A book does not always need to be an ROI-positive event to be worthwhile. Many thought leaders and entrepreneurs write book-production costs off as a marketing expense, since they recognize the legitimizing value of a byline to their authority. A book can function as a lead-gen tool to drive conversion to contract sales; a book can act as a compelling business card that helps net new clients or speaking engagements; a book can drive an individual’s community engagement and retention. Many authors prefer to work in a hybrid or fully assisted self-publishing model because those avenues offer them more control over their work and rights, greater speed to market, and increased potential for return on their intellectual property.

I echo Jane Friedman in saying that “Most writers, regardless of how they publish, are motivated not by money, but some other reason. Prestige, Infamy. Status. Visibility. A million other things.”

This insight applies not only to nonfiction writers, but to novelists, children’s book authors, and memoirists as well, for many of whom producing a high-quality book is a lifelong dream. The value writers get from publishing their book often has little to do with the royalties it generates. As Jane describes in great detail in the aforementioned article, “The writer who makes a living from book sales alone is the exception and not the rule in traditional publishing . . . what most frustrates me, year after year, is why we believe or assume that authors have ever earned a reasonable full-time living from publisher advances or book sales.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG was very interested in the costs estimates in the OP. He assumes that these are the costs that major traditional publishers accrue when they publish a book.

He also suspects that many of these costs are associated with getting printed books into physical bookstores – persuading the bookstore buyers to purchase a bunch of printed books (with the ability to return unsold books to the publisher for full credit) by touting all the money spent on publicity, taking book review editors to expensive Manhattan restaurants, etc., etc.

PG thinks that serious self-publishing authors are happy to get status, visibility, etc., but their primary objective is to make money from their writing via book sales through online bookstores, Amazon being the big dog.

Because indie authors sell their books online, they focus most of their efforts at gaining visibility for their books online via social media, websites, email lists, etc.

For PG, the last quote from Jane Friedman in the OP is the killer:

What most frustrates me, year after year, is why we believe or assume that authors have ever earned a reasonable full-time living from publisher advances or book sales.

So, are we to assume that everybody else in the traditional book business — publishers, employees of publishers, editors, agents, publicists, book distributors and wholesalers, traditional bookstores, Amazon — has a reasonable expectation of being able to earn “a reasonable full-time living,” while authors must have side jobs, wealthy spouses, inherited wealth, etc., in order to survive?

The author belongs at the bottom of the publishing heap?

The author is a peon and agents, editors, publisher gofers, book stores, etc., are the aristos?

Tor lands ‘masterwork’ by TikTok sensation

From The Bookseller:

Tor has landed a “masterwork” by The Atlas Six author and TikTok sensation Olivie Blake.

Publishing director Bella Pagan bought UK and Commonwealth rights with audio for Alone With You in the Ether from Chris Scheina at Macmillan US’s Tor division. It will be released in e-book by Tor UK and Tor US on 1st June and Tor UK will then publish in hardback and audio on 8th December.

The publisher said: “Alone With You in the Ether is a glimpse into the nature of love, what it means to be unwell, and how to face the fractures of yourself and still love as if you’re not broken. As Charlotte Regan works at a museum, and Aldo Damiani is a time travel-obsessed maths professor, it will appeal to just the same ‘dark academia’ audience who adored Olivie’s The Atlas Six.

Alone With You in the Ether has already been a self-published TikTok hit, with more than 13.5 million mentions of the hashtag #AloneWithYouintheEther. Atlas Six sequel The Atlas Paradox will be published this October and the last book in the trilogy will follow in 2023.

Blake is a pseudonym for LA-based writer Alexene Farol Follmuth. She said: “I wrote Alone With You in the Ether so that I, and others like me, could make sense of life from inside the constraints of a mood disorder, explore the vulnerability of art and time and wonder, and ultimately face our own fractures to find something worthy of love. I am honoured that this story has resonated with so many readers, and I’m unbelievably grateful that this book will now find a home with my incredible team at Pan Macmillan.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

This item raised the question in PG’s mind about whether he should try to be a TikTok sensation himself.

The OP does mention that the book was self-published.

A question arose in PG’s mind when he checked out the top-rated review of the book. For him, the photo used by the top-rated reviewer looked quite a lot like the photos of the author of the book, but PG could be wrong.

How to Upload Your Book to KDP, Easily and Correctly [Text Instruction + Screenshots]

From The Book Designer:

I recently published my 21st book to the KDP platform, having been self-publishing for the last 7 years. And as I was going through the self-publishing steps again, it occurred to me how the platform has evolved over the past decade. This text-based, step-by-step tutorial is your most current and up-to-date process to upload your book to KDP.

. . . .

Uploading Your Book to Amazon KDP: a Step-by-Step Process

Uploading your book to KDP is relatively easy. You don’t have to have a lot of tech know-how, and if you run into any issues, KDP support is excellent at walking you through the process, either by email or over the phone.

In order to upload and prepare your book for publishing on KDP, there are several key elements you need at the ready. 

  • Your completed formatted book (eBook and Paperback). The best formats are ePub file for Kindle eBook and a PDF for the paperback/Hardcover
  • Keywords for KDP as researched with Publisher Rocket
  • Categories list as research with Publisher Rocket (eBook and paperback categories)
  • ISBNs—purchased through Bowker.com

You can hire a professional formatter if you want, or you can format the book yourself. Here’s a guide that walks you through the formatting process for KDP.

If you plan to publish more than one eBook—or simply want to do the formatting yourself—you may want to invest in a user-friendly book formatting software such as Atticus.io. It’s a relatively low investment for $147.00, and it’s simple to use.

. . . .

Step #5: Write a Compelling Book Description

A compelling book description sells lots of books and builds your fanbase. This is why you need a powerful book description in order for potential buyers to read what the book is about.

Here’s why your book description matters:

  1. It is a sales page crafted to capture the interest of your reader.
  2. Amazon’s algorithm bots scans the book description for relevant keywords indexed by Amazon.
  3. It is the critical decision-maker for browsers to make a final decision on buying your book

Here is a great resource for learning how to create a compelling description: the Free Amazon Book Description generator by Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

For PG, this was a nice summary of the steps to indie publishing. He usually doesn’t include live links in the excerpts he posts on TPV, but he found the ones included in the OP were high-quality and helpful locations.

Universal Book Link User Guide

From books2read.com:

The internet is a great place to discover new books to read, but it can sometimes require a little work between hearing about a book you want to buy and actually reading that book. There are a lot of bookstores out there, so even when someone shares a link directly to the book you’re looking for, that link might not take you to the bookstore for your preferred reading app. (Or your local version of the page.)

That can leave you navigating to the proper store site and searching for the book you were already linked to. Sometimes the person sharing the link will try to help you out, sharing half a dozen links at once (one for each store she can track down).

That leaves you wading through a pile of links to find the one that’s right for you. Either way it’s a relatively small hassle, but it’s also an easily solvable one.

Here is where Universal Book Links Shine

When you see a Universal Book Link from Books2Read, you can trust it to get you to the store you want. That’s because a Universal Book Link can keep track of a book’s location at all of the major stores. The first time you click a Universal Book Link, you’ll see a page that looks like this:

Link to the rest at books2read.com

This service appears to be from the folks at Draft2Digital, who, among other things, make it quite easy for indie authors to create ebooks and print books for publishing anywhere because D2D’s formatting system creates non-proprietary files so you can easily publish wide instead of with Amazon.

PG’s impression, looking from the outside in, is that D2D has chosen to use some of their money to improve the publishing process for indie authors. Again, from the outside looking in, Amazon’s process for publishing ebooks seems pretty crude by comparison and has made only baby-step improvements since PG first used it.

How Writers Fail (Part One)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I keep forgetting that working in the arts requires a very specific sort of attitude. It’s an attitude that can be trained, but to do that, an artist must want to change. This is a complex and sometimes difficult thing to do.

First, the attitude itself.

It’s a combination of optimism and pragmatism, with a bit of cynicism mixed in. Yeah, I know, confusing. So let me give you the example that sparked this small series of blog posts.

Moving to Las Vegas four years ago now enabled me to get in touch with dozens of artists in very different fields. I haven’t had that experience on a daily basis since I left Wisconsin mumble-mumble years ago. When I lived in small-town Oregon, going to conferences and conventions provided some of the contact, and the openness of the internet both helps and hurts, but nothing replaces an in-person experience, particularly with other art besides writing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been taking a series of classes. Some of them are in disciplines that I wasn’t able to practice due to that West Coast move, although I kept my hand in through online study. Some I simply needed to do in person for me, to get the feedback that comes from an audience and/or from an onsite instructor.

. . . .

But, about a week ago as I write this, I sat in the first class of a discipline that has changed a lot in the past forty years, due to the internet and the connectivity of the world. I’m being deliberately vague about the discipline for a variety of reasons, not the least is that I don’t want a bunch of people (on Facebook or here on the blog) asking me why I’m abandoning writing.

I’m not. I’m just reviving some other parts of myself.

. . . .

What type of class we’re dealing with isn’t exactly relevant to the story. I was sitting next to another person who desperately wants a career in the arts. That person had confessed as much to me.

We sat through the same presentation. We learned a whole bunch of really cool stuff. By the end of it, my internal optimist saw so many opportunities that had I not already chosen a writing career, I’d have been jumping on all of those opportunities. As it is, I’m looking at how to use what I learned just in the first class in my own writing career. (You’ll see posts about this scattered throughout what I’m doing the next few months, as I learn more.)

I was so excited. I’m still excited. The entire class made me realize I had felt this way when the indie publishing movement started—the whole popcorn kittens feeling. That feeling is essentially so many cool ideas that it’s almost impossible to corral all of them.

. . . .

So many opportunities! So much choice! How can I best use all of this to the advantage of my various businesses? How can I add more without losing something that I want to do?

After the class was over, I turned to the person beside me.

“Wow, this is incredible,” I said. “I hadn’t realized there were so many possibilities.”

The person made a sour face. “I don’t believe any of it,” the person said. “They’re going to have to prove to me that these opportunities exist.”

Prove? Heck, it was obvious to anyone who looked. It was obvious through just by going through daily life. And the class itself was obvious: It was being offered by people who worked in that discipline. If there weren’t opportunities, there would be no class.

Instead, if the opportunities did not exist, those who had the expertise would jealously guard that expertise so no one else could even attempt to participate. That’s how doors close, particularly in the arts. You have to break them down or sneak in sideways or be even better than anyone already practicing that art.

That was how traditional publishing was back when I first broke in. It took work, perseverance, and a willingness to ignore the word no over and over and over again.

. . . .

So, I said, in response to this person, “Prove it? What do you mean? It’s obvious.” (And sometimes I’m oblivious.)

The person said, “[this particular discipline] has never been open, not when I first tried it years ago. I doubt it’s open now.”

We’d just sat through a long presentation about all of the opportunities, and the instructor even talked about the way this discipline was once the most difficult to break into in the country and is no longer.

I opened my mouth, closed it, and finally got a clue. This person did not want to hear that they had just walked into a place with a lot of opportunity.

I said something polite (God knows what) and turned away to talk to another person who wanted to reinvent themselves because they’d lost their job in the pandemic. That person was very excited, as was an artist in another discipline who joined the conversation. That artist was trying to figure out—as I was—how to blend what we had just learned with what we were already doing.

We didn’t see dollar signs: we saw opportunity.

The first person? Opportunity had just given them an hours-long presentation, and that person turned their back on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person does not show up to any future classes.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

5 Ways to Use Fiverr to Publish Your Book

From Self Publishing with Dale:

When I first decided that I wanted to write a novel I have to admit I was a bit naïve going into the process. I was fumbling my way through and asking questions to authors that I knew on a regular basis.

. . . .

As soon as I hit my word target I realized there was a lot more work to go just to get it to a point where I could consider publishing it. This is when I took to Fiverr and other freelance sites to find experts that can assist me with the post-writing work of creating a book.

The results were a mixed bag, but on the whole I highly recommend at a minimum getting ideas from sellers on Fiverr if you are writing a book.

. . . .

1. Finding an editor

I created a job on multiple sites (mainly focused though on Fiverr and Upwork) to try and find an editor that could take my rough draft and help me get it closer and closer to a finished product. I received a lot of responses from both sites and I quickly realized I needed to be asking more questions to help weed out all of the people responding to my gig.

I asked questions like: How many YA books have you edited? How many books have focused on fan fiction or Norse myths? I would recommend that you think about these things prior to listing your jobs so you can more efficiently get through what will be quite a large volume of people submitting bids or applying to your job.

I ended up paying $350 for the first round of edits on a 53,000-word novel (as an aside, the novel finished around 61,000 words). I got incredibly lucky or did a decent job of vetting the editors because the person I found was amazing, efficient, and literally made all the difference in the world to my book.

Most of the online services would have cost triple the amount of money and would not have turned the book around in three working days. This was an incredible value and I am extremely happy with the choice I made to list this job.

2. Creating a Book Cover

My next gig that I listed was to have a graphic designer help me create a proper book cover for my eBook. I decided to focus on just an eBook release so I only needed a front cover. The volume of responses that I got from this job was a bit overwhelming and there was a very wide range of prices.

I tried a couple of sellers for this and provided them with the information they requested to take a crack at the book cover. The results of this job varied wildly from really terrible designs to ones that were okay but unusable. I ended up creating my own book cover using Canva and some ideas that I picked up from the various Fiverr designs that came my way.

I ended up spending around $150 for these services in total and ultimately didn’t use the results other than to influence the final book cover design. In the grand scheme of things this is a small price to pay to get some creative ideas and I do think that you can get usable book covers this way although I think I would encourage paying on the higher end of the bids as this was definitely an area where I got what I paid for with each design.

3. Copy for my Amazon listing

As soon as I got through a few rounds of edits (each round cost me the same as I used the same seller). I was ready to publish my book. In order to do that you have to do things like prepare the copy for the Amazon listing which is almost an art in itself.

Ultimately, I ended up using the same seller that did the editing for my book to help write (really edit) the copy that would go up in all of the online bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

This was a modest cost of $50 and it made a huge difference in what I released. They expertly guided me through how to entice people to read the book by making it less of a short summary and more of a comparison piece to other similar books and shows that the reader might also like. I would not have thought of doing that without their assistance, but it makes complete sense.

Link to the rest at Self Publishing with Dale

PG would be interested in any experiences visitors have had, good or not-so-good, hiring help with writing/publishing from Fiverr, Upwork or other similar online service marketplaces.

The Author’s Guide to Fiverr

From Indies Unlimited:

If you’re a self-published author, there are chances that someone has suggested you get a cover or some editing on Fiverr. Upon learning the site Fiverr got its name because you could pay people five bucks for an assignment, you quickly dismiss whoever gave you that advice. You’re certain you can’t get anything good for that price. Well, don’t dismiss Fiverr so quickly. Just like a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, Fiverr is more nuanced than its name suggests.

What is Fiverr?

Fiverr is a marketplace where you can either buy or sell service. The name comes from the fact that services start at $5. Now, there may be some great services that you can get for $5, but I haven’t found many. The real benefit of Fiverr is as a marketplace. You can see people selling things you want–such as covers, artwork, and editing. When you log on to purchase an item, the product or service sold is called a gig.

What Do Authors Buy on Fiverr?

Authors can buy pretty much anything, even other authors to write their books (I’m not kidding, ghostwriting gigs are there). Generally, authors want to write their own books, so, on a practical level, authors tend to purchase editing, covers, artwork (for ads or extras), copy writing/blurb writing, and logos.

If It’s not $5, How Much Is It?

The prices vary, and a lot of the deals will look like they’re five dollars, but they’re not — in practical terms — that cheap. For example, the ghostwriting gig I linked to above is $5, and for that fee, the author will deliver up to 200 words. At that rate, a 60,000-word novel would run you $1,500. Editing is similar. A good editing gig may charge $5 to edit 500 words. For an 80,000-word book, that will come out to $800. However, the good thing about all gigs is there’s the option to ask for a custom quote. When you do that, you tell the person how long your book is, what the genre is, and ask them for a quote. They may tell you they’ll charge you $700 (a $100 discount on what you would pay if you tried to order 160 of the $5 gigs). Not all gigs start at $5. The better cover designers start their gigs at a minimum of $15, but usually run at least $35. You need to look at what you get with a gig. Most gigs come with three options: bare bones, middle ground, and the luxury package. For a cover, the barebones gigs tend to only allow you one cover image. It’s hard to get a good cover with a single image; usually it requires at least a background image and another one. Authors wanting a cover that follows traditional cover guidelines will want to pay more for a gig that allows at least a couple of images.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

From Brandon Sanderson’s Blog:

How Are You Going to Spend the Money?

I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me.  He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation.  But this question stopped me for a moment.  It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be.  I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.

I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money.  Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company.  (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans.  Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)

While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done.  Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books.  It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses.  More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.

That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards.  Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.

Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?

I did not.  I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.

My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea.  My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations.  This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  (I’ll talk more about that below.)  I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.

To pull back the curtain for you a little, Rhythm of War’s first week sales were somewhere around 350,000 across all formats.  (That week was 50% audio, 25% ebook, 25% print.)  Starsight’s numbers were around 80,000 copies across all formats for the first week.  (This one was 54% audio, 29% ebook, and 17% print.)  Those are US numbers only.  Note, these are both what I’d consider very successful projects.  Both of these books sold enough to claim the #1 spot on their respective New York Times bestseller list, for example.  And though Stormlight sold 4 times as much–it also took 4 times as much work.  (In the long run, because of its larger price point, Stromlight does earn more though.  Which is why it amuses me that people sometimes accuse me of writing the YA books to “cash in.”  Um, no, my friends.  I earn less on those.  Not significantly less, but still.  I write them because they are stories I want to tell.)

The first year for Rhythm of War was about 800,000 copies total.  Starsight ended up somewhere around 250,000 copies after one year.  (Rough estimates.)  It’s too early to tell for Cytonic on this second metric, which is why I used the previous book.

Now let’s look at a less successful Sanderson book.  Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds is my worst-selling recent book.  First week was under 10,000 copies–and it’s only sold about 80k copies so far in the three years it’s been out, with the first year being roughly in the 50k range.  These numbers weren’t surprising to me–it was not only a short fiction collection (which is a tough sell to a lot of readers), it was also in a genre I’m not known for and the first two novellas had been out in ebook for years, with quite good sales.  So while this isn’t the best comparison ever, another good thing to look at was the Way of Kings leatherbound, which had roughly 30,000 backers.

Together, this knowledge gives a rough idea of my readership.  It’s hard to judge apples to apples with this Kickstarter, as I am giving the ebook with the other editions–and it’s hard to know how many of those readers above are buying two copies instead.  But I could guess that the upper end of the number of people willing to show up to buy a Sanderson book in the first year of release is somewhere around 800k, while the lower end of people who will show up for one is around 50k.  That’s why I say I knew the potential was there.  If the 30,000 people from the original Kickstarter showed up and bought the lowest tier, we’d be right around a million for the Kickstarter.  We knew it would likely be bigger, but how much bigger?

Modern media consumption is, for better or worse, very platform-specific.  People don’t like to be moved from one platform to another–and I get it.  The convenience of having your media collection all in one place, of already having your credit card info stored, of not having to do much besides click a button (or grab something at the bookstore where you’re already visiting) is huge.  The question wasn’t if people would want to read these books.  It was this: Would they be willing to move from their comfortable platform to Kickstarter?  Would we be able to even make them aware of these books?

How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter?  Our guesses, it turned out, were way low.  But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience.  So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates.  We didn’t know what to expect, but assuming that we’d do a fraction of what a Stormlight book did in the same space (even if it was a reprint) was at least a reasonable baseline.

Note that if you want to consider a really daunting fact, realize that if all 800k first-year Stormlight readers showed up (these are the ones willing to buy the hardcover or the more expensive ebook, since the prices don’t drop to mass-market levels until after the first year) to buy these books on Kickstarter…  Well, our current average spend per backer is over $200.  So we’d be talking about a Kickstarter of $150 million plus, in that pie-in-the-sky case.

No, we’re not going to try to do that by releasing a mainline Stormlight novel in first run on Kickstarter.  The reason why has to do with the next questions.

Is This the End of Traditional Publishing For You?  Is That Why You Kickstarted These Books?

I know some of you know the answer to this, having read the sound bites I’ve put into various news media interviews I’ve done recently.  But if you’ll humor me, I want to go into more depth.  To do that, first let me tell you a story.  (Totally unexpected, I know.)

In 2010, Macmillan (the parent company of Tor Books) got into some finicky contract negotiations with Amazon.  The publishers felt that Amazon was selling ebooks at rock-bottom prices to move Kindles–something they wanted to do to dominate the market and control the reading platform.  During negotiations, Amazon–to put pressure on Macmillan and try to starve them out–stopped selling any Macmillan books.  (Except for used copies through the extended marketplace.)

This was within Amazon’s power; as a retailer, they can decide what they want to sell and what they don’t.  They used a common, if cutthroat, strategy here.  They had a flood of money during that time they actively didn’t want to turn a profit at the end of the year.  They knew that if they sold ebooks at a loss, Nook and Kobo would have to do likewise–and they weren’t flush with cash they literally needed to burn.

I don’t like that mindset, using our pieces of art as the thing sold rock-bottom.  But it’s not like the publishers have been angels in their treatment of Amazon.  The two have had a rocky relationship for basically forever.  Plus, the publishers have historically been backward-thinking about electronic mediums (see my next point).

The point here is that this event twelve years ago taught me something.  Amazon turning off the ability to buy books didn’t really hurt me in the long run. (Amazon, notably, picked the month of the year with the lowest book sales to do this.) But it did really hurt the careers of some newer authors who were releasing that month.  And it told me just how fragile my career was.  And it’s only gotten more fragile in the years since.

Judging how much market share Amazon has is famously difficult, as people keep sales figures close to their chest.  But many estimates put Amazon at around 80% of the ebook market, 90% of the audiobook market (they own Audible), and 65% of the print book market.  (You’ll sometimes see much lower guesses for ebooks, but I can tell you that at least for me, 80% is low.  It’s probably closer to 85%.)

So how many of those 800k copies of Rhythm of War did Amazon sell?  Probably around 650,000 copies–maybe more.  Somewhere around 80%, by my more conservative of estimations.  And in my most popular format, audio, they completely dominate the market.

This is deeply unsettling.

Now, it’s hard to blame Amazon for this, at least not entirely.  I absolutely blame them for their terrible treatment of workers.  And yes, they’ve engaged in some predatory practices, as I talked about above.  But I honestly think that the bigger factor is that they’re just really good at selling things.  Kindle has the best user experience, and was the innovation that finally broke open the ebook market.  Audible championed the credit model and finally brought audiobooks to a reasonable price point.  (Old people like me will remember the days of $70–$80 Wheel of Time audiobooks.)   Amazon’s delivery speed is incredible.  Their stock, near-infinite.

Beyond that, I have friends at Amazon.  I like the people at Amazon.  I’ve worked with them on many things, and the people there have universally been excellent.  Book lovers, passionate about their jobs, and really easy to get along with.

Still, their market share should terrify authors.  Innovation is strangled by market dominance.  And the problem with loss leading (like Amazon did over the years) is that eventually you have to start making profit.  And then the squeeze comes.  Indie authors are feeling this right now.  Amazon created the indie book market, quite literally.  Before it, indie publishing was an enormously expensive and risky affair.  One of my neighbors when I was growing up was a journalist who decided to try to indie-publish a book, and he ended up with the proverbial garage full of tens of thousands of copies he was unable to sell.

The ebook revolution, spearheaded by Amazon paying a whopping 70% royalty to indie authors who published on their platform, was huge.  (For reference, traditional publishing currently pays 17.5% on those same ebooks.)  This, mixed with authors having far more power to choose what they want to do with said books–including walking away whenever they want–created an extremely author-friendly boom that has legitimately done great things.  Smaller voices have a much better chance, the New York gatekeepers have lost some of their control, and there’s a feeling of democratization to publishing that has never existed before.

At least there used to be.

You see, since Amazon controls a huge chunk of the market, this gives them a lot of control.  For example, to get the good royalty, indie authors are forced to sell their ebooks under a maximum price chosen by Amazon.  (And that maximum price hasn’t changed in the last twelve years, despite inflation.)  The bigger problem, however, is how Amazon changed its advertising game–targeting indie authors with a kind of “advertise to sell” model.

You see, Amazon wasn’t making as much as it needed/wanted to from those books–in part because it insisted on keeping the prices low to maintain market share.  In part because it had promised kindle buyers this was their perk: cheap ebooks.  But it didn’t want to change its famous 70% royalty.  Otherwise it would look bad to indie authors.

So instead, it changed its recommendation algorithm and its page layout.  It moved organically recommended books down, and added advertisement slots across most book pages (particularly popular ones).  These slots were available for indie authors to buy.

If you go to the Way of Kings page on Amazon, you will find twelve advertisements between the top of the page and the reviews section.  Nine of these are for indie authors trying to sell their books to fans of the Stormlight Archive.  The other three are ads for non-book Amazon products.  This is better than it once was when Amazon first implemented this “feature” five or six years ago.  I once counted even more advertisements, and you had to go all the way to the bottom to find the traditional “books related to this one” list.  (This is the organically generated recommended books list, where other titles rated highly by readers of the book’s author could be found.)

These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon.  Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again.  To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books.  I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish.  Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon.  (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)

This might seem good.  Publishers spend to get their books in front of people, so it’s good for indie authors to have the same chance.  Except I think this system–as it stands now–takes power away from writers.  In the old days before this system, the primary way that you sold books on Amazon was by having people read them and like them.  If fans of the Stormlight Archive read your book (even in small numbers) and left good reviews, then your book showed up for free on my page.  Amazon might claim that it would be hard for indie authors to compete with traditional authors this way.  But if they really cared, then on the Stormlight page they could make a section titled something like “Independent authors liked by fans of the Stormlight Archive” and help them that way.

The truth is that while the people at Amazon are wonderful, Amazon itself doesn’t care about the indie authors as much as it claims.  If it did, it would let them raise their prices with inflation, and would promote them for free like it once did.  And we shouldn’t expect Amazon to be benevolent.  It is a corporation.  Indeed, this is exactly what we should expect Amazon to do in a system where it has a near-monopoly.  It lacks competition, and so where are these authors going to go?  There’s no other game in town.  So, now it’s time for Amazon to cut into what they’re being paid.  (With Audible, the move was more transparent.  Audible just dropped the royalty they’d been paying indie authors from 60% to 40%.)

This is a long-winded way of saying what many of you probably already knew.  Monopolies (or if you insist on being technical, near-monopolies and monopsonies like Amazon) are bad for everyone.  I insist this is bad for Amazon.  They could collapse this very market they created, and squeeze too much on both the publishers and the authors.  They could stagnate to the point that their user experience is bad, and we lose readers to other forms of media.

Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade.  I feel that the current system has a gun to my head.  Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me.  Poof.  85% of my sales gone.  And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not.  Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market.  And users like their platforms.  I mean, I’m as guilty of this as anyone.  I still haven’t gotten around to playing Starcraft 2, despite loving the first one, because I just am so used to Steam (where Starcraft 2 isn’t available) that I haven’t overcome the inertia to go buy it.

That said, even if Amazon weren’t a dominant force, there are some problems with traditional publishing that I’ve been fighting for years.  This is another reason for the Kickstarter.

Link to the rest at Brandon Sanderson and thanks to C. and others for the tip.

The OP includes substantially more of his thoughts and plans for the future together with past experiences, including some ways he’s tried to persuade his New York publishers to change.

PG was pleased with his perception that Sanderson doesn’t show signs of having this experience go to his head. PG didn’t agree with all of his thoughts, but admits Brandon has devoted some serious time to thinking about how he and other authors can be more successful.

L’auteur de Fantasy Brandon Sanderson pulvérise un record de crowdfunding

From ActuaLitté:

Brandon Sanderson s’est fait un peu plus qu’un nom dans le monde de la fantasy : son cycle des Archives de Roshar, ou encore la saga Fils-des-brumes traduits par Mélanie Fazi, se sont vendus à plus de 280.000 exemplaires dans leur seule version poche (données : Edistat). On lui confia même la suite de La Roue du Temps, laissé inachevé à la mort de Robert Jordan — trois romans pour clore l’œuvre et un prequel. Mais l’écrivain n’a pas fini d’étonner.

Link to the rest at ActuaLitté

From IGN Greece:

Ο συγγραφέα φαντασίας, Brandon Sanderson, ανακοίνωσε την νέα του καμπάνια στο Kickstarter για τέσσερα μυστικά βιβλία, η οποία κατάφερε να γίνει η καμπάνια με τα περισσότερα έσοδα στην πλατφόρμα.

Πριν τρεις μέρες, ο Sanderson, γνωστός συγγραφέας των “The Stormlight Archive”, “Mistoborn” και την ολοκλήρωση του “The Wheel of Time”, ανακοίνωσε στους fans του ότι κατά την διάρκεια της πανδημίας -αφού αναγκάστηκε να κόψει τα διάφορα ταξίδια σε conventions- εμπνεύστηκε και έγραψε πέντε νέα βιβλία φαντασίας, μέσα σε τρία χρόνια! Δεν αποκάλυψε τους τίτλους τους, παρά πόνο μια ιδέα των εξώφυλλων τους και ανακοίνωσε ότι τα τέσσερα απ’ αυτά θα διατεθούν μέσω της εκδοτικής του, Dragonsteel, μέσω καμπάνιας στο Kickstarter.

Link to the rest at IGN Greece

From Fantasy Magazine:

Sapevamo già quanto fosse popolare a livello mondiale Brandon Sanderson, autore noto sia per le sue saghe fantasy che per aver completato La Ruota del Tempo di Robert Jordan. Ma non si può negare che la cifra raccolta nel suo Kickstarter per la pubblicazioni di quattro romanzi ha dell’incredibile per un progetto letterario.

Ve ne parla Irene Grazzini (nel frattempo la cifra ha superato i venti milioni di dollari).

Link to the rest at Fantasy Magazine

From AD:

De schrijver trapte zijn Kickstarter-project af met een cryptische video op YouTube, waarin hij toegaf te hebben gelogen tegen zijn fans. ,,Sommigen van jullie zullen teleurgesteld in me zijn, terwijl anderen vast genieten van wat ik nu moet toegeven.”

Wat bleek: nadat Sanderson enkele jaren geleden zei minder hard te gaan werken, is hij stiekem juist meer boeken gaan schrijven. In de afgelopen twee jaar zou hij daarom vier geheime romans hebben geproduceerd, die hij in 2023 met behulp van een crowdfundcampagne op Kickstarter gaat publiceren.

Sanderson werd bekend met zijn fantasy-boeken in de Mistborn-reeks, waarin helden metalen inslikken om speciale krachten te krijgen. Ook bracht hij de Stormlight Archive-boeken uit en maakte hij de Wheel of Time-reeks af voor zijn overleden collega Robert Jordan. Hij staat bekend als een razendsnelle schrijver: in de afgelopen twintig jaar bracht hij tientallen boeken uit, meestal dikke pillen met honderden pagina’s.

Link to the rest at AD

Fantasy Author Raises $15.4 Million in 24 Hours to Self-Publish

PG managed to get round the NYT paywall today. The OP was published two days ago.

From The New York Times:

Brandon Sanderson, a prolific sci-fi and fantasy author, started an online fund-raising campaign this week to self-publish four of the novels he wrote during the pandemic. His goal: to raise $1 million in 30 days.

He blew past the first million in about 35 minutes. And the ticker kept rising.

In 24 hours, he raised $15.4 million, which the fund-raising website Kickstarter said was the single most successful day of any of their campaigns. By Thursday, two days into it, he had raised more than $19 million.

The eye-popping sum raises questions about what is possible for authors with major platforms who are willing to self-publish — and why the vast majority of big names stick with traditional routes to publication. But analysts, and even Sanderson himself, don’t see this kind of self-publishing as a problem for the industry or a desirable choice for most writers. Rather, for the right author, the two paths can coexist and help expand options for readers.

“Publishers need authors to be entrepreneurs these days,” said Kristen McLean, the executive director of business development at NPD Books, which tracks book sales. “This is just going to build his profile and continue to drive the backlist sales of all of his books.”

Part of why this project has worked for Sanderson, McLean said, is his unique relationship with his fans. He has sold 20 million print, audio and e-books, Sanderson said, including titles such as “Rhythm of War,” an epic fantasy novel about a coalition of humans resisting an enemy invasion. Like many authors of science fiction and fantasy, he has spent a lot of time in conventions and interacting with his audience. In 2019, he said, he was on the road for 111 days.

But self-publishing on the scale Sanderson is proposing is an enormously complicated proposition. Fundamentally, most authors want to write books, not run a publishing house.

Books require editors, designers and lawyers. Someone has to register the ISBN number and file for copyright. Someone else has to proofread the manuscript, then proofread it again. Printing thousands of copies of physical books, then storing and distributing them, is expensive and onerous.

To that end, Sanderson has built a company, Dragonsteel Entertainment, which employs 30 people including a marketing director, concept artist, continuity editor and human resources director. He also has a warehouse in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a short drive from his house.

Sanderson has been self-publishing e-books since the early 2010s, he said, and a 2020 Kickstarter campaign to fund a leather-bound reprint of one of his books served as a test run for this larger project.

“I am an artist who was raised by an accountant and a businessman,” Sanderson said in a phone interview from his office in American Fork, Utah. “For a lot of authors, this would be a bad idea because there’s a lot of management.”

Sanderson emphasized that he was not leaving traditional publishers, in part because he wants to be sure that bookstores can continue to have his work in stock. He is published by Tor, which is part of Macmillan Publishers, and Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and he has a book scheduled for publication later this year with each of them.

e also has no plans to use his company to publish other authors, he said. What makes him successful is his ability to appeal directly to his own fans, who may not necessarily want to buy work by somebody else.

One of his goals for this project, Sanderson said, was to experiment. First, he wanted to see what it might look like to poke a little hole in Amazon’s dominance. Amazon sells more than half the printed books in the United States, but it is even more powerful in e-books and audiobooks, which account for 80 percent of Sanderson’s sales, he said.

“If Amazon’s grip on the industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.”

He also wanted to play around with bundling and upselling. Traditional publishers, he said, offer few products and few options. The array of packages on Kickstarter range from $40 for four e-books to $500 for the four books in all formats, plus eight boxes of “swag.”

Other high-profile writers occasionally self-publish. Donald Trump Jr. took that route with his second book, “Liberal Privilege,” after releasing his first book, “Triggered,” with an imprint of Hachette. Colleen Hoover, a novelist who has three books on the New York Times best-seller list this week, continued to self-publish long after she became a hit maker. And there are certain genres, like romance, science fiction or fantasy, where self-publishing e-books remains common for signed authors.

“There’s a lot of hybrid publishing out there that is just happening quietly in the background,” McLean said. “It’s just the way sophisticated authors in genres manage their business.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

The author of the OP, Elizabeth A. Harris, is an NYT reporter whose beat is books and publishing. PG is not acquainted with her and, to the best of his knowledge, this is the first article written by Ms. Harris that he has read.

For 95% of traditional publishers in the United States and for quite a few commercial English-language publishers who sell their books in the US, The New York Times is an extremely valuable place to have their books be mentioned. A NYT Books and Publishing reporter is certain to have a great many excellent contacts in every major and a lot of minor publishers.

PG expects Ms. Harris may have contacted several publishers as she prepared her article. That would be the almost certain first step a reporter would have taken with a story like this. Yet, nobody who works for a publisher appears to have agreed to be quoted, even on an anonymous basis.

The one source identified in the article is NPD, a company that operates BookScan. BookScan’s business is providing information about the sales of printed and ebooks, mostly to traditional publishers. An interested observer might ask why a traditional publisher would need to pay someone else to track its sales, but, hey, publishing is a special snowflake and commercial concerns are for the beancounters who work somewhere in the basement and is a bit off topic anyway.

A chance for an executive of a major or minor publisher to be quoted in the New York Times would usually cause her/him to stop any business meeting or interrupt any lunch or vacation to speak with an NYT reporter. But nobody was willing to say anything, not even a catty remark, about Sanderson.

PG’s speculation is that everybody in New York (and maybe London) publishing hopes this is just a one-time happening that will never be repeated again. Everybody knows fantasy and science fiction authors are strange people anyway. Nothing to see hear, move on.

PG would appreciate it if any of the visitors to TPV discovers anyone associated with a traditional publishers commenting about Brandon Sanderson in print that they would send a link to PG via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

How Angry Should Other Writers Be About Brandon Sanderson’s $22 Million Kickstarter?

From Slate:

There’s nothing like the announcement of a fat book advance to set other writers grumbling in protest, whether the jackpot winners are Michelle and Barack Obama, who landed a staggering $65 million deal for two books in 2017 or such unsavory figures as right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose relatively modest $250,000 contract with Simon & Schuster caused enough uproar that the book was eventually canceled earlier the same year.

But the announcement today that fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of a four-book series had surpassed $20.8 million to become the platform’s most richly funded project to date presents an unusual challenge for critics of how publishing values books. Conservatives could complain that an overwhelmingly liberal industry had drastically overestimated the popularity of the Obamas and progressives could complain that a company like Simon and Schuster showed terrible judgment in promoting and lining the pockets of a troll like Yiannopoulous. But in Sanderson’s case, there’s no gatekeeper to blame.

Literary writers have long bemoaned the amount of money and promotional resources publishers have poured into books by celebrities, politicians, and the authors of formulaic commercial fiction. More recently, critics of the industry have demanded that publishers invest in more titles by authors of diverse identities. Since Sanderson’s Kickstarter made headlines, there’s been, unsurprisingly, some grousing on social media about whether such an already commercially successful author needs that kind of money. “Today is a really good day to support your favorite author who hasn’t made $18M in the last few days,” tweeted the fantasy novelist Natania Barron. Others have been frustrated that it’s a straight white Mormon man benefitting from this largesse: “There is so much excellent diverse SFF out there,” tweeted the critic Alex Brown, “and y’all are intent on giving that man millions of dollars.”

But it’s hard to take issue with a guy who’s simply selling his books directly to people who really, really want to read them. Sanderson wouldn’t have such a large following, of course, without the benefit of years of publishing conventionally, with the full resources of a traditional publishing house and its distribution networks behind him. (He also wouldn’t have that following if he weren’t reliably pleasing his readers.) And that $23.3 million won’t go as far as an old-fashioned advance, since Sanderson has to print, warehouse, and ship the books himself, along with the swag boxes and special collector’s editions that many of the project’s subscribers have purchased. It is, of course, a vast pile of money, but it’s not unprecedented: Dell paid Ken Follett about the same amount for two books all the way back in 1990 while Penguin paid a reputed $50 million advance for Follet’s Century trilogy in 2008. For that, Follett didn’t have to do anything but write.

A novelist as popular as Sanderson may even be taking a slight loss on this operation, compared to what he might net if he released these books through his current publisher, Tor. But Sanderson is interested enough in the business side of book publishing to try this experiment, and at a time of paper shortages, container ship catastrophes, and other supply-side headaches, to boot. Most authors of any identity or level of literary accomplishment aren’t interested in taking on such a project. And it’s not every author whose fans are willing to pay more for swag and for books printed on fancier paper with plusher bindings. This enterprise and its success is unique to Sanderson himself, and the track record he has with his fans.

There may be a handful of authors—Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin spring to mind—who could pull off something similar. There are authors who sell even more books, such as James Patterson or Diana Gabaldon, but whose fan base doesn’t care much about collectibles. And it’s entirely possible there are still other writers out there unfamiliar to me with fanbases so doggedly devoted that they might well be eyeing Sanderson’s $22 million haul and thinking, “I can beat that.” But I suspect not more than a handful.

It’s one thing to challenge publishers to provide readers with a wider variety of books by a more diverse selection of authors so that everyone can find more books to appreciate. It’s another to scold readers for their enthusiastic support of an author whose work they genuinely love because there are authors and books you consider—for whatever reason—more worthy. People don’t enjoy books simply because other people tell them that they should. And if I were one of those allegedly superior authors, I’m not sure I’d want to see my own work cast in the eat-your-spinach role against Sanderson’s French fries. Writers always seem to find a way to begrudge each other’s successes, but the case against Sanderson and his fans is based on sheer fantasy.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG was amused by the “Sanderson may even be taking a slight loss on this operation, compared to what he might net if he released these books through his current publisher,” statement in the OP.

PG suggests the author of the OP doesn’t really know much about the book business. Sanderson is making a huge boatload of money more than he would have received had he published these novels with Tor. The $19 million is just the start of the money he’ll earn. He’s going to sell a whole bunch of books to people who haven’t already bought them through Kickstarter.

Plus, he’ll almost certainly get some interest for a TV/video/movie deal. If PG were to speculate, he suspects that Netflix, Amazon, etc., are already thinking about how much they want to pay for video rights. Then there are t-shirts, toys, etc., plus foreign rights galore.

The author of the OP is a woman named Laura Miller who, according to her byline, is, “a books and culture columnist for Slate and the author of The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.”

PG checked on Amazon and found that Ms. Miller’s book was published by Little, Brown and Company in 2008 and currently has a Best Sellers Rank: #707,153 in Kindle Store. PG was not able to find any more recent books by Ms. Miller listed on Amazon.

Fantasy author raises $19 million on Kickstarter in two days to self-publish new novels

From CNBC:

Brandon Sanderson asked folks on Kickstarter for $1 million to self-publish four novels he wrote during the pandemic. They funded him in 35 minutes.

Two days later, Sanderson’s campaign has topped $19 million from more than 76,000 backers — and he’s still got 28 days to go. It is already the most-funded Kickstarter for a publishing project, eclipsing a previous Sanderson campaign that raised $6.7 million.

A prolific sci-fi and fantasy author, Sanderson is best known for creating the Cosmere fictional universe, in which most of his novels are set. This includes the “Mistborn” series and “The Stormlight Archive.”

Additionally, he helped finish the final three novels in Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” book series, which was recently turned into a television series by Amazon.

Sanderson’s Kickstarter offers backers four new novels, three of which are set in Cosmere, as digital e-books, audio books or physical copies based on their donation level. People who spend over a certain threshold will also receive eight monthly “swag” boxes of items related to Sanderson’s work.

As the owner of a small book company named Dragonsteel Entertainment, Sanderson used Kickstarter as a way to drum up enough funds to have enough books available to meet demand and so that he could offer a yearlong subscription box service.

Link to the rest at CNBC

PG wonders whether any visitors have heard of a fantasy author getting an advance of $19 million for a four-book deal under which he will be entitled to all the publisher’s revenue from sales of the books with no obligation to earn out the advance.

If anyone sees any interesting comments on this news from the traditional publishing industry, PG would appreciate a link or message via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

Draft2Digital to Acquire Smashwords

From Draft2Digital:

We’re betting that’s a headline you never expected to see, and we’re already anticipating the chatter this will cause in the indie author community!

We know this is going to feel a bit unexpected and out of the blue, but we’re very excited to make this announcement, and even more excited about what this means for you and the rest of the author community.

Since Draft2Digital was founded, in 2012, we have always believed that Smashwords was a vital and integral part of the self-publishing community. In many ways, Smashwords ultimately built the very industry in which we all work and thrive. Their work laid the foundation, and we’ve all been building on that foundation ever since.

And though Draft2Digital and Smashwords have always been cast as rivals in this little drama, the truth is it was, at worst, a friendly rivalry. In the end, we share the same goal: Empower self-published, indie authors and publishers to build and grow their publishing careers.

. . . .

So, what does this mean for our authors?
In terms of the service and resources you’ve come to expect from both companies, nothing really changes. At least, not right away. We will continue to offer the best author support there is, to all our combined authors, worldwide. And over time, authors and publishers will gain all of the advantages from both platforms, with a unified author dashboard and user experience.

The good news is that with our combined powers, all of us at Draft2Digital and Smashwords see myriad opportunities to build even more and even better tools and services, to help you build and grow your author career in ways you might never have imagined.

Among other things, the acquisition means:

  • Draft2Digital now serves 250,000+ authors
  • We now distribute 880,000+ ebooks and 11,000+ print books
  • D2D authors will also gain access to exclusive book marketing tools from Smashwords, including Smashwords Coupons, the patent pending Smashwords Presales tool, Author Interviews, and self-serve merchandising in the Smashwords Store

D2D authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • The Smashwords Store
  • Smashwords Coupons
  • Smashwords Presales
  • Self-serve merchandising
  • Author Interviews
  • D2D erotica authors will also gain access to the Smashwords erotica certification system

Smashwords authors and publishers can expect to gain access to:

  • Simpler publishing tools; tools for automated end-matter
  • Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists
  • D2D Print for POD paperbacks (Visit https://draft2digital.com/printbeta/ to be included in the beta)
  • D2D Payment Splitting for co-authors and collaborations
  • New payment options, including direct bank deposits
  • With the integration of the Smashwords storefront—combined with our Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists, as well as D2D Promotions—the opportunities to help our authors market and promote their books, and to find more new readers worldwide, just went off the scale.

And of course, we’re still dedicated to our core services—providing the easiest and best way for authors to automatically format and distribute their work to an ever-growing catalog of retailers and libraries.

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital and thanks to H. for the tip.

PG has been a fan of D2D ever since he had some interactions with the founders when the company was just getting started.

Since then, D2D has seemed, from PG’s outside-looking-in perspective, to be a quality organization that treats indy authors well. He wishes them the best of luck in the integration of two of the early pioneers in author-empowered publishing.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

From Writers in the Storm:

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. Part II continues with big picture things.

Know Your Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning was that I needed a system to ensure all the other tasks get done. I also wish I’d found the motivation to learn self-promotion techniques earlier.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

How Much I Made Self-Publishing 10 Books Through Amazon KDP

From Medium:

Back in 2013, I was offered a publishing contract with a small book publisher. They asked me to write ‘Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens’ – a 160 page book based on my success in specialist journalism.

The contract was royalties-only, but based on their expertise and enthusiasm, I had high hopes for the title. I expressed reservations because I thought the focus was too niche, but they didn’t agree. They pointed out that health is a massive growth area, food journalism is huge etc. Fair point. So I signed the contract.

After publication, reality kicked in. Sales were abysmal; marketing, non-existent. It got good reviews, but I only made £126 in royalties. It was a huge amount of work for £126.

. . . .

When I was ready to produce another book, I decided to self-publish and get a decent cut on each sale. ‘Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More,’ was born. It was a collection of my articles, most previously published in magazines, on how to succeed as a writer. I’d been writing for magazines for four years by this time, and was making a nice living from it.

I wrote new chapters to fill gaps. Over the next few years, I sold 140 copies and made about £250.

. . . .

Every time I had a slow period at work, I looked at my articles and considered whether a collection of themed articles would sell if I turned them into books. Still hoping for great things, I decided to publish more books.

Over the next six years I published:

  • The Little Book of Freelance Writing
  • Pagan Journeys
  • Healthy Inspired Living
  • Memories of the Second World War
  • A Grand Tour of Scotland
  • Writing Success
  • Candida Albicans
  • The Guinea Pigs’ Guide to Training Humans
  • Pestilence — an apocalyptic novel

With the exception of the last three, they were all collections of articles that I’d had published in magazines. Most of them were available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.

. . . .

To date, I’ve made just over £900 across all my titles. The writing books generated most of that income, although the most recent one flopped — I guess my readers have had enough!

. . . .

To be honest, I’m feeling Medium has more potential as a good earner if I publish regularly. Trying to sell books is very hard, unless you find a niche that sells itself.

. . . .

To keep my costs down on self-publishing, I created my own covers, formatted my own interiors and did all the practical work myself. I have MS Word and graphics software already, so the only investment required was my time.

Some people prefer to buy design and editorial services. But with modest incomes from books, you can see how it might be hard to make a profit if you’re paying out cash to cover designers, editors, and formatting companies.

Some people prefer to buy design and editorial services. But with modest incomes from books, you can see how it might be hard to make a profit if you’re paying out cash to cover designers, editors, and formatting companies.

. . . .

I’ve been disappointed by sales to date. The rewards seem to be diminishing. My writing books, which used to do well, aren’t selling now. The newest titles are selling in small numbers, but not enough to justify writing another novel, for example!

The novel was a huge amount of work and I’d hoped to sell 1000 copies, but I’ve yet to sell 100… despite running Amazon advertising campaigns.

. . . .

If you can get a publishing deal with an advance of £1000 or more, I’d grab it. I wrote another book in 2017, commissioned by a publisher, for which I received a £1500 advance. I’d consider that again.

Self-publishing however, is a bit hit and miss. Brilliant books get overlooked. Popular topics can do really well if they get noticed, despite flaws in the manuscripts.

. . . .

Cover design helps, but I’ve seen people use KDP standard templates and sell thousands! It depends to some extent on whether you have a ready audience.

. . . .

But for me, right now, I’m focused on growing my Medium profile, and obviously, the day job, writing for magazines. My next bestseller will have to wait!

Link to the rest at Medium

Independent Publishing: Off the Beaten Path

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Independent publishing, as opposed to commercial pushing (think Random House), is a terrific option for authors whose books don’t fit a literary agent’s idea of “saleable.” Authors of short story or essay collections, flash fiction, poetry, hybrid work and off-the-beaten-path novels very often seek out independent presses for possible publication, and they are right to do so: the world of independent publishing is an exciting one, full of terrific presses and excellent books.

I have written three collections of stories, two published and one forthcoming, all with independent presses, and I cannot overstate how supported I have felt, and how preciously my books have been treated.

My first press was very small—a “micro” press—that publishes only two books a year, so you can imagine the attention that was paid to every aspect of my book. I was treated as an artist and my book a work of art, and it was marvelous. Though my editor there wasn’t interested in publishing my second collection, I am indebted to her, and we are still good friends.

At the other end of the spectrum, my second publisher was quite large; my book was one of many and so did not receive the same attention, yet that press works with a larger distributor than a smaller press can, which means my book could end up on bookshop shelves—a big plus, as brick-and-mortar stores rarely stock small press books.

My third publisher lands between the first two in terms of how many titles they publish in a year. So far, my editor there is attentive and sensitive, and I foresee a good experience.

How do you find the right publisher for your book? 

. . . .

By now you’ve doubtless gathered that if you want your book displayed in the front windows of Barnes and Noble or to be an Oprah pick, independent publishing is not for you. There are downsides to publishing independently, and lack of exposure is one of them. Amazon will carry your book, of course, and bookstores will special order it on demand, but it will likely not be available to browsers and that will affect sales.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG has an alternate answer to the question in the OP, “How do you find the right publisher for your book?”

https://kdp.amazon.com/

How to Create a Book Cover on Kindle Direct Publishing

From Medium:

Below, I share how I created and formatted my book cover, with extra attention to detail on the nitty-gritty of formatting the book cover for a paperback versus an ebook.

1: Find an Artist

Why you should commission artwork for your book cover

Isn’t that expensive? Yes, it’s an investment: an investment to make sure your other investment — hours, months, and years spent brainstorming, researching, workshopping, editing, and writing your book — doesn’t go to waste.

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional publishing is that you don’t have control over anything except what goes within the covers of the book (and sometimes barely that).

Naturally, then, one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is complete control. Why not tailor a cover to your story?

Finding an artist

In my case, I scoured #PortfolioDay on Twitter, not just to scope out potential artists but, more importantly, to scope out different styles and get a sense of what I wanted. What would best convey the feel and theme of the book?

My story is a speculative Asian ghost story with culture and history at its core. I didn’t want straight-up anime but I knew I wanted an art style close to it. I saved images of wispy, hazy brushstrokes because I knew I wanted something ethereal to represent the magical elements of my story. I saved cartoon styles that were distinctly Korean — again, not quite anime, but close to it.

I then took screenshots of traditional Korean fan dance and drum dance, important elements of the story, to figure out how I wanted my main characters to be posing.

Towards the end of my research process, I cold-emailed two artists. One of them got back to me quicker.

Link to the rest at Medium

Reactions to Ingram Spark Post

PG has received several emails from visitors to TPV after his post of Mike Shatzkin’s article about Ingram Spark.

While the emails are are in no way a reflection of Ingram Spark’s performance pro or con, each of the emails PG has received describe in detail unsatisfactory experiences of indie authors/small presses with Ingram.

Feel free to share your experiences, good or bad, in the comments or, on a non-public basis with PG via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

The Publishing Ecosystem in the Digital Era

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

IN 1995, I WENT to work as a writer and editor for Book World, the then-standalone book-review section of The Washington Post. I left a decade later, two years before Amazon released the Kindle ebook reader. By then, mainstream news outlets like the Post were on the ropes, battered by what sociologist John B. Thompson, in Book Wars, calls “the digital revolution” and its erosion of print subscriptions and advertising revenue. The idea that a serious newspaper had to have a separate book-review section seems quaint now. Aside from The New York Times Book Review, most of Book World’s competitors have faded into legend, like the elves departing from Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Their age has ended, though the age of the book has not.

Nobody arrives better equipped than Thompson to map how the publishing ecosystem has persisted and morphed in the digital environment. An emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, Thompson conducts his latest field survey of publishing through a rigorous combination of data analysis and in-depth interviews. Book Wars comes stuffed with graphs and tables as well as detailed anecdotes. The data component can get wearisome for a reader not hip-deep in the business, but it’s invaluable to have such thorough documentation of the digital publishing multiverse.

. . . .

One big question animates Thompson’s investigation: “So what happens when the oldest of our media industries collides with the great technological revolution of our time?” That sounds like hyperbole — book publishing hasn’t exactly stood still since Gutenberg. A lot happens in 500 years, even without computers. But for an industry built on the time-tested format of print books, the internet understandably looked and felt like an existential threat as well as an opportunity.

Early on in his study, Thompson neatly evokes the fear that accompanied the advent of ebooks. The shift to digital formats had already eviscerated the music industry; no wonder publishers felt queasy. As Thompson writes, “Were books heading in the same direction as CDs and vinyl LPs — on a precipitous downward slope and likely to be eclipsed by digital downloads? Was this the beginning of the end of the physical book?” That question has been asked over and over again for decades now, and the answer remains an emphatic No. (Note to pundits: Please resist the urge to write more “Print isn’t dead!” hot takes.) But publishers didn’t know that in the early digital days.

The words “revolution” and “disruption” get thrown around so often that they’ve lost their punch, but Thompson justifies his use of them here. He recalls the “dizzying growth” of digital books beginning in 2008, “the first full year of the Kindle.” That year alone, ebook sales for US trade titles added up to $69 million; by 2012, they had ballooned to $1.5 billion, “a 22-fold increase in just four years.”

Print, as usual, refused to be superseded. Despite their early boom, ebooks didn’t cannibalize the print market. Thompson uses data from the Association of American Publishers to show that ebooks plateaued at 23 to 24 percent of total book sales in the 2012–’14 period, then slipped to about 15 percent in 2017–’18. Print books, on the other hand, continue to account for the lion’s share of sales, with a low point of about 75 percent in 2012–’14, bouncing back to 80­ to 85 percent of total sales in 2015–’16. (Thompson’s study stops before the 2020–’21 pandemic, but print sales have for the most part been strong in the COVID-19 era.)

For some high-consumption genres, like romance, the ebook format turned out to be a match made in heaven; Thompson notes that romance “outperforms every other category by a significant margin.” But readers in most genres have grown used to choosing among formats, and traditional publishers have for the most part proved able and willing to incorporate those formats into their catalogs. That’s a net gain both for consumer choice and for broader access to books.

. . . .

Thompson quotes an anonymous trade-publishing CEO: “The power of Amazon is the single biggest issue in publishing.”

It’s easy to see why. With its vast market reach and unprecedented access to customer data, Amazon has made itself indispensable to publishers, who rely on it both to drive sales (often at painfully deep discounts) and to connect with readers. For many of us, if a book’s not available on Amazon, it might as well not exist. “Given Amazon’s dominant position as a retailer of both print and ebooks and its large stock of information capital, publishers increasingly find themselves locked in a Faustian pact with their largest customer,” Thompson writes.

That pact has proven hard to break. “Today, Amazon accounts for around 45 percent of all print book sales in the US and more than 75 percent of all ebook unit sales, and for many publishers, around half — in some cases, more — of their sales are accounted for by a single customer, Amazon,” Thompson points out. That’s staggering.

Does Amazon care about books? Not in the way that publishers, authors, and readers do, but that doesn’t change the power dynamic. Amazon derives its power from market share, yes, but also from what Thompson calls “information capital” — namely the data it collects about its customers. That gives it an enormous advantage over publishers, whose traditional business approach prioritizes creative content and relationships with authors and booksellers.

Workarounds to Amazon exist, though not yet at scale. Just as authors have learned to connect with readers via email newsletters and social media, so have publishers been experimenting with direct outreach via digital channels. Email feels almost quaint, but done well it remains a simple and effective way to reach a target audience. Selling directly to readers means publishers can avoid the discounts and terms imposed on them by Amazon and other distributors.

. . . .

Authors can now sidestep literary gatekeepers, such as agents and acquiring editors, and build successful careers with the help of self-publishing platforms and outlets that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Self-publishing has become respectable; we’ve traveled a long way from the days when book review editors wrote off self-published books as vanity press projects. Newspaper book sections have mostly vanished, but book commentary pops up all over the internet, in serious review outlets like this one and in the feeds of Instagram and TikTok influencers. It’s a #bookstagram as well as an NYTBR world now. To me, that feels like a win for books, authors, and readers.

. . . .

Some authors hit the big time in terms of sales and readers without relying on a traditional publisher. Thompson returns several times to the example of the software engineer-turned-writer Andy Weir, whose hit book The Martian (2011) got its start as serialized chapters published on his blog and delivered to readers via newsletter. (Newsletters represent another digital-publishing trend unlikely to disappear anytime soon.) “The astonishing success of The Martian — from blog to bestseller — epitomizes the paradox of the digital revolution in publishing: unprecedented new opportunities are opened up, both for individuals and for organizations, while beneath the surface the tectonic plates of the industry are shifting,” Thompson writes.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

The Value of Book Distribution Is Often Misunderstood by Authors

From Jane Friedman:

During my career in publishing, several factors have led to self-publishing becoming a viable and profitable path for authors. These include:

  • The growth of ebook sales, which in some ways replaces the mass-market paperback
  • The rise of online retail: the majority of books are now sold online regardless of format—and we all know where, at least in the US
  • The advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology and distribution

This last one has been of tremendous benefit to traditional publishers and authors alike. It means that no one has to take a financial risk on a print run when demand is uncertain. Nor does anyone need to worry about warehousing and inventory management. Rather, the book is printed only when an order is placed, then it’s immediately dispatched to the customer.

As of 2021, most readers cannot tell if the paperback they’re holding in their hands is print-on-demand or from a traditional offset printer. Even hardcover print-on-demand is seeing an increase in sales and acceptance by consumers. Yes, print-on-demand carries carries a higher unit cost (and thus lower profits), and it has some design and production limitations. But for the average self-publishing author, this makes publishing more accessible and affordable than it has ever been. (The same is true for small presses, of course.)

As more and more books get purchased online, it doesn’t matter if your books are available on a physical bookstore shelf or not. You don’t need a bricks-and-mortar presence for your book to be discovered and purchased. All you need is a product page at the major online retailers. Readers won’t know how the book is printed or that it’s only printed when they order it, or they may prefer a digital edition.

Print distribution using POD can be set up quickly by anyone, at no or little cost, using Amazon and Ingram. Amazon KDP is the portal that self-publishing authors use to upload their book for sale in both print and ebook formats. Ingram is the biggest book distributor in the world, and authors can access its distribution network through IngramSpark. Cost is minimal, about $50 for initial setup and $25 per year after that. Ingram sells to anyone and everyone who buys books, including your independent bookstore, libraries, chains; it also has a global distribution network that reaches just about any country you can expect to sell in. Your book is available to be ordered at thousands of retailers once it’s active in Ingram’s system.

So quality distribution is not hard. It can be obtained by anyone by simply signing up and uploading printer-ready book files or ebook files.

So why do people talk about the need for “distribution” so much if distribution is essentially free for all?

Some people conflate book distribution with having a sales and marketing team.

There are two types of distributors in traditional book publishing. One type of distributor actually sells the book into retailers, in significant quantities. Sales reps pitch specific accounts or buyers. They try to secure orders for hundreds or thousands of books prior to the publication date. This makes a lot of sense in a traditional publishing model where there’s a print run and you’re trying to generate as much interest and demand as possible in the lead up to publication, to get as many books on shelves as possible. The print run might even be adjusted based on how much accounts order.

The other type of distributor simply ships books when they’re ordered. They take care of warehousing and fulfillment. They are not selling and marketing books, but they are also taking a smaller cut of sales than the type of sales-responsible distributor discussed above.

Ingram is a bit of a confusing character in all this because it handles both types of distribution. But for the purposes of self-publishing authors, it really only serves the latter role: it makes books available to be ordered. Your book is included in its database of thousands upon thousands of titles. But they’re not actively going out and selling or marketing titles to accounts, any more than Amazon has a sales force that sells your ebook or POD book.

If you’re investing in a print run, then distribution is in fact a major challenge

Imagine spending thousands of dollars to pay an offset printer to ship you 1,000 print copies of your book. The books have arrived at your front door on a pallet. Now what? How will you get these books into retailers’ hands? Where will you store them? Who will ship them? This is a big problem and it used to be that authors relied on Amazon Advantage to solve it. But Amazon Advantage is now closed to new accounts.

It is exceedingly difficult to distribute print books as an author when you do a print run. You really need to be working with a service company of some kind, or a hybrid publisher, or someone who can warehouse the books and fulfill orders for you over the long term, who has a relationship with Ingram, Amazon, and so on. There is no realistic way for a single-title author to work directly with either of those companies unless you’re using their print-on-demand services.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

There are a relatively small group of blogs and websites that almost always have information that PG thinks is quite worthwhile. Jane Friedman’s blog is one of that group. She sometimes has guest bloggers from time to time who also usually do a good job as well, but Jane is very consistently quite good.

Much recommended by PG: Jane Friedman

Selling and Distributing Your Book: What Self-Published Authors Need to Know

From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

The road to writing a book is fulfilling, but it’s often so much more work than people tend to give it credit for. Even once the rounds of drafting and editing are complete, that’s not the end of the road. Rather, it’s the beginning of the sales and distribution process that actually gets your hard-wrangled book into the hands of readers.

This can be particularly challenging if you’re self-publishing. You won’t generally have the expertise or connections that large publishing houses do or the marketing resources at their disposal. Yet, we live in a world in which technology has broken down many of the traditional barriers to publishing. As such, self-publishing is now not only accessible, it can be a viable form of business.

Let’s take a moment to explore a few of the things that you need to know if you’re planning on diving into self-publishing sales and distribution. What strategies and methods can work for you? How can you best go about reaching your audience?

Build Relationships

One of the most important things to remember when selling and distributing your book is that you shouldn’t go it alone. Yes, you may be an independent author, but attempting to take care of everything is a surefire recipe for burnout. This doesn’t mean that you need to hire a team, particularly if this is your first endeavor. However, it’s about building relationships with people who can make your publishing experience easier and more successful.

If you can make it to the big industry book fairs —  BookExpo America (BEA) in the U.S., Frankfurt and London, internationally — this can be a great opportunity to start cultivating relationships with distributors. BEA in particular has also started to see more ebook distributors attending if you are targeting the digital markets. Major and independent businesses alike will either have their own booths at these events, or they’ll have representatives. Make efforts to get to know them personally. Be interested in what their goals are and how you can help. Even if these distribution representatives can’t take on your book, they may be able to provide you with advice and introductions that can help you move the process forward.

However, you should also make efforts to cultivate relationships with independent bookstores. If your book is in print, booksellers can make a huge difference in where it is featured on the shelves and whether it is recommended to readers. Reach out to stores, particularly if you plan a small tour with readings and events to promote your book. If you’re attending festivals, make inquiries with independents about stocking some copies and the potential for putting together an event at the same time. These relationships are mutually beneficial — you get your book into stores, and independent sellers can compete with the online marketplace.

Focus on Marketing

One of the challenges of selling and distributing your self-published book is making sure that people actually know it exists. This begins with increasing your online presence. Make a clean, professional-looking website that also has personal touches. This should certainly include a blog that you update regularly. Make sure that you are not just present on social media, but active. One of the mistakes too many self-published authors make is to just self-promote their books on their platforms, targeted at no one in particular. Engage with your followers on social media, make content that they actively want to consume — perhaps about the genre you write in or even the writing process itself. Reply to commenters, invite responses to your tweets, and go out of your way to join discussions with other authors in similar fields.

As an independent operation, you have the freedom to take your marketing down some more creative avenues. Merchandise can be a fun method here. Creating t-shirts and other apparel featuring your book’s characters or a witty quote can both cultivate a sense of fandom and also be talking points when people see other readers wearing them on the street. It’s a form of guerilla advertising. Selling and delivering apparel doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, either. If you’re printing items in bulk and shipping them yourself, you can usually save some money with prepaid postage and boxes that are provided by the shipping company. You certainly don’t want to risk paying for damaged items, either, so take the time to pack clothes securely, with the garment protected inside a polythene bag.

Diversify Everything

One of the many things you’ll learn as a self-published author is a need for agility. Without the ability to adapt to various challenges and even roles, you are unlikely to get very far. As such, you can benefit from taking the attitude that you need to diversify everything.

This should include:

●     Your Income

When you’re just starting, you’re unlikely to make a livable salary from your book. As such, it’s worth taking on freelance writing work that you can perform around your publishing efforts. There are additional challenges this presents. Negotiating pay requires some research into the current markets, not to mention confidence to advocate for yourself. You also need to devote time toward outreach to ensure you have enough work, and administrative tasks like invoicing. However, this is largely a matter of good organization, and this can diversify your income in a way that allows you to keep prioritizing your book.

●     Your Distribution Methods

When you don’t have resources, you’ll need to be more agile about how you get your book out there. You may have to make regional deals with smaller distribution companies, rather than conglomerates that also take care of overseas territories. You might also have to take care of ebook publishing on each platform. If you can’t sign an exclusive deal with a provider, this means you need to capture your ebook readers wherever they can find you.

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

For quite a while, PG has operated under the belief that the ebook royalty rates Amazon pays for indie authors who are exclusive with Zon outweigh the extra money indie authors can make by going wide (remembering that every distributor has its own royalty structure).

In other words, a given indie author could make more money from ebooks (the large majority of the money indie authors make are from ebooks) by exploiting the higher rate Amazon pays than using other reputable ebook distributors (Draft2Digital is the one PG hears/reads the most about.)

As PG was reading the OP, he wondered if his belief was still correct or if something has changed with ebook purchasers, ebook distributors, etc., that make going wide a more profitable approach.

PG is happy to hear opinions and would be particularly interested in seeing blog posts and stories from successful indie authors that compare the costs and returns of going wide vs. Amazon.

PG also admits that he is a bit cautious with articles on independent websites focused on information for indie authors like the OP because he’s concerned they may have affiliate income or advertising deals with other ebook distributors that they don’t have with Amazon.

But PG could be wrong about that in more than one case.