Tag Archives: Independent publishing

The Importance Of Book Awards For Independently Published Books And Writers

7 May

The digital age has made it dramatically easier to publish high quality books and authors no longer need to seek publication by one of the big six publishing houses to get their work out there for anyone to purchase and read. This has led to a rapid expansion of small, independent publishing houses and also to the self-publishing revolution which is currently going on around us. Indeed, self-publishing, once seen as the last resort of those who couldn’t string two words together, is now being seen as a savvy business move by many authors. After all, why give away 90% of the money your book earns to publishing houses who seem to be doing less and less to promote their books (and be expecting the writers to do more and more), unless they have been written by a well-established author with a pre-existing fan base?

However, this publishing revolution has a down side. There are now a phenomenal number of books available, and the numbers are expanding rapidly with each and every passing day. For example, there’s apparently over 40 million books in Amazon’s catalogue, rankings of as low as 5 – 10 million (books only get a ranking once they’ve had at least one sale), and almost 300,000 books are officially published in the US each – not including those self-published digitally on things like Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords). This means that it can be difficult to make even the best book stand out from the crowd so that people are willing to part with their hard-earned money to purchase it. This is particularly true for new authors who, almost by definition, don’t have an existing fan base out there. Think about it for a minute, when was the last time you took a gamble and brought a book by a complete unknown?

Of course, you can build a reputation through the reviews section on Amazon, or on sites for avid readers, such as Goodreads, but you still have to get people to buy a copy of your book before they will post a review. In addition, until there as a reasonable number of reviews, there is always the worry in the back of the would-be purchaser’s mind that the single glowing five-star review might have been written by the author’s mother and so might not be completely unbiased (whether this is true or not is irrelevant, it’s just how people view such individual reviews).

So, how do you get round this? This is where book awards come in. Book awards are competitions which are run, usually by an organisation of some kind, which you can enter a book into, and have it critically evaluated and compared to other similar books. There are a wide range of book awards out there, some of which are specifically aimed at independently and self-published books. Yes, it usually costs money to enter a book (typically around $25 – $100 dollars), so there is some outlay, but the returns can be phenomenal if you are selected as a finalist, given an honourable mention or, even better, win. This is because receiving such awards gives your book and your writing credibility, and you can use it to help advertise and sell your book. For example, on Amazon, there is a specific section for editorial reviews, which allow you to add statements about awards and other plaudits that your book has won. In addition, those who run the competition will often post information about your book on their own websites, put out press releases, promote it in their own advertising and international book fairs, and so on. This can give you a level of publicity which you simply couldn’t afford to pay for on your own.

Of course, if you do well, there’s also the nice happy feeling of being able to describe yourself as an award-winning writer, and if you win something for one book, it can help promote not just it, but any others that you write. After all, readers are much more likely to take a chance on a book which is described as ‘written by the award-winning author of …’ than if is just says ‘written by the author of …’

So, what book awards are out there? Well, in short, loads. This means you need to be quite careful about which you choose to enter, otherwise you could end up spending a lot of money. You need to read the rules and make sure you’re eligible, and you need to make sure you complete all the paperwork properly. Finally, many awards will have multiple categories, so you need to make sure you enter your book into the right one.

In terms of ones I’d recommend, here’s a few:

First, there’s the ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Award, which is open to all independently published books and offers a wide range of categories. I’m not recommending this just because I happen to be a finalist in the horror section of this year’s competition, but also because it’s a genuinely influential award to win.

Second, there’s the Independent Book Publishers Award, or IPPY for short. Again, this is an award specifically for independently published books.

Thirdly, there the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, which offers as part of its prizes that the winners in every category (and there’s some 60 of them, including ones specifically for first novels) will be passed onto a New York literary agent for consideration. There’s no guarantee this will come to anything, but it could lead to potentially valuable representation, connections and deals. And it’s way better than having your book languishing in some slush pile somewhere. Interestingly, this competition is described on Wikipedia as the ‘Sundance’ of the book publishing world (a reference to the renowned Sundance film festival. I have not idea of how true this is, but it certainly would be a nice thing to be able to describe your book as having won.

The final award I’m going to consider here is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. This is run by Createspace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm, and the grand prize winner will receive a publishing contract and a $50,000 advance. Book which have already been published aren’t eligible, but if you have an unpublished manuscript waiting in the wings, then it might be the one for you.

This is just a sample of the awards that are out there, but there are many others too. One useful list of book awards you might want to consider, which also provides more information about why it is good to enter and win such competitions, can be found here on the pages of the San Francisco Book Review.

Of course, all this talk of book awards and what they can do for your reputation as an author, and indeed sales of your books, doesn’t change the fact that to be in with a chance of winning, you first need to write a really good book, complete with a great premise, realistic, likeable characters and a good plot filled with gripping drama. You also need to ensure that your book is properly edited and proof-read to ensure that it is of as high quality as possible. Finally, if you are self-publishing, many of these competitions require that you don’t just have an electronic edition, but also a printed edition of some kind (although this is rapidly changing) which can mean more effort on your part to typeset a printed edition, create a cover etc, and you need to find somewhere to print it (Amazon’s CreateSpace is something I’d recommend for doing this quickly and cheaply – It’s a good service, although there’s still something about Amazon’s business model that leaves me feeling a little queasy). In short, book awards are great for publicity, but it doesn’t mean that you can skimp on the writing and production process as you won’t win if you don’t have a good book in the first place.

Of course, there is also the flip side. If you don’t enter, then no matter how good your books it, it isn’t going to win anything, is it?

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Getting A Book On Sale At Amazon

13 Jan

In just a few short years, Amazon has become one of the most powerful players in the publishing world. If you’re book isn’t available on it, you will lose out on sales. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but unfortunately, at this moment in time, this is how the world is. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, the chances are that they will make sure that your book is available through Amazon, but what if you are an independent publisher or are self-publishing a book?

There are a surprising number of options for getting independent or self-published book available on Amazon, each of which will be suited to different circumstances. Some of these are well-known while others may be less familiar.

The first, and probably the best known, is Kindle Direct Publishing. This allows anyone to publish an e-Book and have it on sale through Amazon’s Kindle store. It is relatively straight-forward to do, and you can simply load up your manuscript as a word-processing document and it will be converted into the Kindle e-Book format. This makes preparing your manuscript for publication relatively easy since you don’t need to worry about things like page layouts and cover designs, although you do need to make sure that you have formatted it correctly. You can also set the price to pretty much anything you wish (although the royalties you will get for each sale will vary with the price you decide upon). In terms of a financial return, since you do not need to pay for any books to be printed, there are no real upfront costs and the royalties will be between 35% and 70% of the price that you set for the book, giving a reasonable return per unit sold. However, this ease of publication means that books that are only available as e-Books through Kindle Direct Publishing have developed a reputation for low editing standards and for being of poor quality.

The remaining options all involve selling printed books rather than an e-Book. For the self-publishing author, this can often seem a frightening prospect and many are put off by tales of having to pay upfront for large print runs that then spend the rest of their lives cluttering up your spare room. This is an out-dated point of view and because of advances in digital printing, this is no longer the case as even print runs as short as 50 to 100 books can be done at a reasonable per unit cost. The main issue here is that you will need to know how to do things like page layouts and sorting out your cover design. In most cases, you will also need to sort out things like ISBN numbers and bar codes. This means it is not for everyone. However, if you go down this route, how do you then get your book on sale on Amazon? There are three options here. These are becoming an Amazon vender, becoming an Amazon seller and using Amazon’s print on demand service (called CreateSpace).

Selling books as an Amazon vender means that you supply Amazon with copies of your books that they then sell them on. The easiest way for a small publisher or a self-publishing author to do this is as through the Amazon Advantage programme. However, in order to be eligible to join this programme, you will need to be registered as a publisher and have your own ISBN numbers. Your books will also need to have machine-readable bar codes. This shouldn’t put you off. ISBN numbers can be obtained from your national issuer, such as Bowker in the US and Nielsen in the UK, while bar codes can be generated using a free online services such as the Online Barcode Generator. The terms used by Amazon for its Advantage programme are very inflexible and can seem very harsh. For example, in the UK, they will require that books are supplied to them at a 60% discount on the cover price and that the seller pays for postage and packing both to supply them with any books ordered and for any that are returned. Books will typically be ordered by Amazon a few at a time. This means that if you are working with short print runs (i.e. less than a few hundred books), you may struggle to make any money on any sales unless your book has a relatively high cover price, which in turn may put people off buying it.

Selling books as an Amazon seller is different from selling them as an Amazon vender. As a seller, you will sell your books via the Amazon marketplace direct to the buyer. While you still have to pay up front for your books to be printed, you do not need to pay for them to be shipped to Amazon, or sell them at a 60% discount. Instead, all you pay is a fee to Amazon whenever a book is sold (click here to find out what they are). In addition, you can charge for postage and packing (albeit at rates set by Amazon). This places you in much tighter control of the selling process and you can control the price that it’s sold for. Since you also get a larger proportion of the money from each sale, you are more likely to make a profit from any sales that you generate. However, when viewed on the Amazon website, your sales presence will be tucked away under the More Buying Choices option at the right hand side of the page, meaning that some people may miss it.

The last option for selling physical copies of your book is CreateSpace. This is Amazon’s print on demand service. While you still need to worry about things like the page set up for your book and the cover design, you don’t need to pay any upfront printing costs (with the exception of paying for a proof to be sent to you if you select this option). In addition, if you wish, CreateSpace will provide you with an ISBN number and generate the bar code for you. CreateSpace books will be available to purchase direct from Amazon, or you can set up your own e-Store through CreateSpace. You can set the cover price to whatever you wish, and CreateSpace is very clear upfront as to the amount of royalties you will receive per sale, meaning that you can set your price based on what you would get. The royalties themselves vary depending on exactly what sales channel you select (and there’s a range available meaning that your book is available through more sales channels that just Amazon itself), but whether selling through Amazon itself or your own CreateSpace e-Store, they are quite reasonable. However, if you’re based outside of the USA, you will find you have to do a few bits of fiddly paperwork or Amazon will hold back 30% of your royalties to pay US tax on them.

So these are the options for getting a book on sale on Amazon. While they undoubtedly make it easier for self-publishers or small publishers to make their books available to a large audience, I am still uncertain whether this is actually a good thing for publishing as a whole, or for writers. Part of me worries that Amazon has too much power and that it exerts too much control over those who wish to sell books via their store. Another worries that they will gradually push other publishers and book sellers out of the market, and that will only increase the power that they have other the whole industry. Finally, I think there is potentially an issue with the whole Amazon business model. Amazon only seem to care about the number of books and not necessarily the quality of the books themselves. This is because they make the same money selling a million copies of one book, or one copy of a million books. As a result, there is the potential for the market to become flooded with poor quality books, making it all the more difficult for the high quality ones to receive the recognition that they deserve. To some extent this is what has already happened with e-Books sold via Kindle Direct Publishing, and CreateSpace may go the same way, although because it is more complicated to produce a printed book (even a print on demand one), this may act as a kind of quality control filter. I guess, as with many things involving Amazon, only time will tell.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

There’s More To Modern Publishing Than The Mainstream Vs Self-Publication Debate

9 Nov

With the advent of publishing programmes such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space, there has been a great deal of debate about the relative merits of mainstream publishing and self-publication. Yet, this debate has primarily focused on what could be considered two extremes of modern publishing frequently brushes over other publishing options that fall between them. In this posting, I’ll take a very quick tour through the full range of alternatives and put them in the context of the more familiar mainstream/self-publication extremes.

Firstly, it’s important to realise there’s more to mainstream publishing than the ‘big six’ (Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan, The Penguin Group and Hachette). There are also many mid-sized, and well-respected, publishers out there. Some of these are widely recognised publishing brands in their own right (such as Bloomsbury, the publisher of the Harry Potter books), while others will be less familiar. If they become successful, mid-sized publishers may get bought up by one of the big six, but a good number remain publishers in their own rights for many years. The important thing to remember here is that just because your book is published by one of these companies, doesn’t mean it can’t be successful (just ask J.K. Rowling!).

Next on the list are the independent publishers.  These are ones that are not associated in any way with the big six and are unlikely to ever be targeted for takeover by them.  Independent publishers come in a variety of guises. First, there are the small presses, some of which may specialise in quite specific areas. Small presses usually publish a more limited number of titles than mainstream publishers, and may lack many of the publicity resources available to larger companies, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be considered second-rate. This having been said, many can be precariously perched on thin divide between financial success and failure, meaning there is the possibility they could disappear suddenly and without trace.

After this, comes niche publishers. Niche publishers can be thought of as small presses which specialise in a very specific subject matter or market.  An example of this is Permuted Press which almost exclusively publishes books with an apocalyptic (and often zombie-fuelled) theme.

From niche publishing, we move onto micro-publishers. These are usually one or two person operations, and are often run by authors who use them to publish their own work and those of a small number of other authors who are already known to them. Some micro-publishers may, indeed solely publishers their own work.  They differ from self-publishing in that they are set up and run as small publishing operations (including having their own ISBN numbers for the imprints). This means they make use of free-lance editors, cover designers, proof-readers and copy editors to help maintain high standards for their work. To confuse things further, not all independent publishers fall neatly into one of these classifications, and some may straddle two or even three. For example, while Permuted Press started out as a micro-publisher, it was (and indeed remains) a niche publisher. However, it now has a sufficiently large catalogue of titles that it is probably best classified as a small, rather than a micro, press.

Self-publication can also come in a variety of guises.  This can include those who produce their own books and publish them through outlets such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s CreateSpace and Lulu.  Self-publishers differ from micro-publishers in that the authors are generally solely responsible for all aspects of their books ranging from editing to proof-reading, cover design and copy editing, rather than using external free-lance specialists for these specialist jobs.

At this point it is also worth mentioning vanity publishers, just to complete the picture. Vanity publishers as ones that, unlike all other types of publishers considered here, require payment upfront from an author to publisher their work.  As such, their business model is to make money from authors rather than from books sales.

While we might all aim to be signed up by one of the big six, with the associated possibility of large advances, this is extremely difficult to achieve, especially for an author seeking to get their first book published. This means you might wish to consider some of the other options mentioned above. If you do, you will quickly find yourself asking, ‘Which is best for me?’  Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this question and it will vary from author to author (and indeed from book to book).

If you just want to see your book in print and are not particularly interested in making a reputation for yourself as a writer, or indeed selling any books, then vanity publishing might be the one for you.  If, however, you are even remotely interested in becoming a recognised writer, you’d be better to stay clear of such publishers. Instead, you could consider one of the independent publishing options. If you are confident you can cover all the skills required to successfully bring a book to market on your own (such as editing, typesetting, cover design and so on), then self-publishing might be a good way for you to go. This is usually the cheapest option, as there may be little or no layout in advance (especially with ebook publishing).  If you do decide to go down this route, you have to be brutally honest with yourself about your abilities otherwise you risk getting a reputation for publishing sub-standard work (and this is something that has tainted the self-publication market as a whole).  If your editing skills aren’t up to scratch, or your design skills are not quite as good as they could be you need to admit this to yourself.  If you find yourself lacking certain essential skills, consider whether you should, instead, go down the micro-publishing route and make use of free-lancers to cover the gaps in your abilities. Yes, this will cost you money, but if it improves the quality of your published work, it should mean it’s more likely achieve sales, get good reviews and/or get a reputation for producing good work. Either way, if you decide to self-publish or micro-publish you will almost certainly be wholly responsible for publicising and marketing, and, assuming you have written a good story, its success or failure will very much depend on how well you handle this aspect of the publishing game. Since you can’t really on the skills and resources of a large publicity machine, you’ll have to box clever on this front, but you’ll also need to be careful not to over-do it.

If you’d rather steer clear of everything associated with getting your book from a manuscript to something that’s actually on sale, you might want to consider submitting it to a niche or small press. These presses are more likely to accept unsolicited manuscripts direct from writers, however, there are also some nightmare stories out there from authors. This means you need to do your research before you consider submitting a manuscript to one of these publishers. There is also the issue that, by their very nature, these publishers are more likely to fail, potentially trapping your book in the limbo of liquidation. This having been said, if you can find the right niche or small press for you, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to have a greater input into things like the cover design and the internal layout.

If none of these options seem like your cup of tea, then you will probably need to find yourself an agent who can submit your manuscript to a medium-sized publisher, or maybe even one of the big six. However, be warned, getting an agent can be a struggle in its own right. If you succeed in going down this route, you will benefit from all the expertise that these bigger companies can throw at your book. This won’t guarentee its success, but it is potentially more likely, and while you will still need to do some of the publicity and marketing, these companies will have many additional resources you can draw on.

So, this ends my whirlwind tour through the full gamut of options available in the modern publishing industry. For the new author, it can all seem very confusing, but hopefully this has provided a few hints that might help push you in the direction of the solution which is right for you.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with any of these different publishing options, please share them by commenting on this article, especially if you think you can help other decide what publishing approach might be right for them.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.