Remember, once you go down the road of selling your book, you are entering into business with a publisher or becoming a business owner. To self-publish is to open a business with your book (or books). It is a daunting task that we are working to make simpler and improve the path for authors to get a well-articulated piece of work into the world.
There are a lot of different things that go into selling a book. There is more than the simple printing cost involved. You have to look at the cost of editing your book, designing your book, printing your book, converting your book to ebook and audio and marketing your book. Imagine for starters that all of the services you utilized (before you printed the book) totaled $10,000 (not a far-off number). The average self-published author only sells 250 books. The average traditional author sells 3,000 copies. Successfully selling your book means that somewhere along the line you need to make your investment back and profit. For example, one of our bestselling books costs $5 to print. When listed for an industry-standard 14.99, there is a $10 profit (assuming the book isn't discounted). That means if you don't spend any money on marketing, you need to sell 1000 books to get the initial investment back.
Don't get discouraged. The simple math of it can seem daunting, but that's why we are here and why we've created a new approach to make services prior to printing more affordable with our Book Puma Services Platform. That is why at Blue Handle Publishing, with our Book Puma Platform, we are looking to drastically cut that investment down to manageable costs. If we can control that, it frees up more funds for marketing and increases the ability of the author to see a royalty quicker.
In addition to Kindle Publishing, Amazon offers a program called KDP Select. KDP Select allows authors to tap into more expansive Amazon benefits for their eBooks, such as the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). Having your book enrolled in KDP Select automatically makes your eBook available on the Kindle Owners Lending Library. This program is open to Amazon Prime subscribers that offers members who own a Kindle one free download per month. KDP Select also offers marketing opportunities such as Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotion in effort to help your book reach a wider audience.
The downside to enrolling your title in KDP Select is that if you choose to do so, your book will not be available for purchase at other retailers. This is when you want to consider whether to go “wide” with your distribution or tap into the KDP Select extra features and sell only on Amazon. This commitment to exclusivity applies only to the digital format of the book, and authors can still sell and distribute the print format of the work on channels other than Amazon. There have been successful authors who have gone “wide” and successful authors who have worked exclusively with KDP Select.
With Amazon being one of the largest retailers out there, Amazon publishing is worth considering when trying to sell and distribute your book. To put it simply, your book needs to be available for purchase on Amazon, somehow, some way. They have a fairly easy process for publishing through Amazon, but remember, if you choose Amazon publishing it will only be available for purchase and distribution through their site. If you want wider distribution you may also need to go with a company like Ingram. This goes back to the decision of distribution and what you feel you need as an author. Amazon self-publishing has an easy-to-use portal and is user friendly with plenty of how-tos and information should you choose to self-publish through Amazon. If you end up being lucky and publishing traditionally, most traditional publishing companies have their own printing warehouses that ship to all channels, including Amazon
Book Distribution is a broad term which essentially means making your book available for purchase in the various book channels and markets. A wide distribution would mean a book is distributed and sold in independent bookstores, mass stores such as Costco and Target, distributed through wholesalers like Ingram (who also sell to book retail stores) and also sold online in both eBook and audiobook formats.
An even wider distribution would involve selling internationally, but that typically (with print books at least) requires a traditional publisher that has an international rights team. For print book distribution, Ingram is a great place to start if you want to be able to send and sell books to multiple book retailers, not just Amazon. Ingram has the largest, non-Amazon, distribution network and covers the most ground. Creating an Amazon account to help distribute your print and eBooks through their site is also ideal to ensure you can be added to Prime Shipping and Amazon Kindle, which is the largest eBook platform in today’s industry.
There are many book marketing services out there. The first tools you can utilize are paid-for social media marketing and advertising services that platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer. This is an easy way to reach potential readers directly. That being said, it all costs money unless you post organically. You can also employ Amazon advertising and marketing services, as well as the services of other companies such as Bookbub.
Bookbub offers submissions for featured down-priced deals as well as regular advertising at a minimum of $1 per day. Another way to find marketing opportunities for print books is through the Independent Bookstore Regional Associations. Each association represents a handful of states and the independent bookstores that operate within that region, and consistently offers marketing opportunities for publishers or authors to reach booksellers directly within the targeted regional market. There are a lot of marketing services and opportunities out there to take advantage of, but the hard part is finding the right marketing mix for your book and your budget.
You might ask, what exactly is metadata? And specifically, what is book metadata? This question is not uncommon. Metadata, simply put, is a way to categorically distinguish your book from others and encompasses all the details that surround the title aside from the work itself. Think of the actual written work as the data, and the categorical elements (title etc.) as the metadata. It is essential embedded information about your book from basics like title, author, ISBN, publisher or imprint, genre, and price, to more detailed information like author bio, book cover, book description, quotes, target audience, and reviews.
All of this information allows both readers and retailers alike to categorize and find your book. Readers depend on metadata, and if the metadata is incorrect it can affect its findability, and in turn its salability. Without good metadata, nobody can find and purchase your work. In order for readers to find what they are looking for in their next read, a book needs to have accurate metadata in order for the title to come up in relevant search results.
Bookmarks and Posters are a bit old school, but what avid reader doesn’t love (or need) a good bookmark? Unless you are doing a book tour and have the proper contacts, we might suggest you save your money with these. However, having cool bookmarks or merch to send to your readers or bookstores when they purchase from you is a cool perk. If you have the money and the resources you might want to think out-of-the-box on the type of extra promotional materials you send out to bookstores and readers. Blue Handle does just this. On our swag store you can find cool coffee mugs, t-shirts and other items for purchase that have the Blue Handle Logo or the author’s logo on them. The author logo is one branding strategy that Blue Handle employs that no other publisher does. We value our authors and like to establish their work as a brand, creating a logo for each writer that signs with us to stimulate excitement and buzz. We then place the brand on different merchandise to send out when we do bookstore mailings and giveaways. The key is to think outside of the box, have fun, and create a conversation about your work. Having cool swag and other fun merchandise that promotes your book and your writing can never hurt. Even if it is just a bookmark or a poster.
E-book distribution is the process of getting the digital copy of your book up for sale on one or more digital platforms. The primary retail eBook platforms are Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook, Rakuten Kobo and Google Play. There are also library eBook platforms with the two largest being Overdrive and Hoopla. These companies partner with local libraries and library networks to allow readers to borrow digital copies of the book for a specified amount of time. There are also commercial subscription eBook services like Scribd. Amazon has their own version of a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited. For subscription services, users pay a fixed amount per month to have access to a list of titles that the companies have agreed upon with publishers or authors.
If you are self-publishing, there are a handful of companies that can help you get eBook distribution to one or all major platforms, with two of the most popular ebook distribution services being Draft2Digital and Smash words. Keep in mind that if you choose to enroll your e-book in KDP Select, which offers more marketing services through Amazon versus just Kindle Direct Publishing, your book will not be able to be distributed across other platforms. This is important to consider and think about as an author or publisher. It can be tricky for eBooks, deciding whether or not you would like to go with a wider distribution or stick with something like KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited that garners a lot of traffic through one site.
Typically, larger publishers tend to only put deep backlist in subscription programs like Kindle Unlimited, and prefer to keep their front list and other bestselling titles out of subscription programs since, likely, they are still making money off of the titles through normal distribution and sales channels. The larger, traditional publishers, however, have a bigger budget and deeper backlist, therefore more flexibility to pick and choose which titles they’d like to enroll in subscription programs than any given self-published author.
Facebook ads are not just for authors but can be employed by publishers as well. These ads put your book or company in front of social media users that you feel you can convert or will purchase the book. In general, having proper social media accounts (for publishers and authors) in this day and age is smart, and learning how to effectively advertise through social media channels is even smarter. Whether it's Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the ads need to point back to a website or a place where the book can be purchased. Each channel will have image specs that you need to adhere to when creating an ad. With Facebook and Instagram you can set a daily budget and target your posts to certain age groups and demographics. Often, working with Facebook Ads and other social media ads can feel like trial and error, but you can test it out, see what works and what doesn’t, in effort to help you refine your Facebook and social media campaigns to get the best results.
Kindle is the largest and most widely used eBook platform out there. If you want your eBook to sell, we highly recommend making your book available for purchase on Kindle. If you want to publish your book directly on Kindle and through Amazon, then you need to use Kindle Direct Publishing (also known as KDP). Anyone can create a login and it is free of cost. Once you have a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account, you have access to your Amazon “Bookshelf” where tools and tips are provided for uploading titles, covers and pricing your book. It’s quite easy and user-friendly, and most people can complete uploading a book in under an hour if they have a completed manuscript.
With KDP, you can manage all your titles through the Amazon bookshelf and it is a central place for you to view all your titles, covers and the related metadata. Kindle Publishing is a great tool for an author looking to self-publish and get their book out into the world. There are also lots of helpful forums and discussions for you to review on the KDP website and online to help you through the process
A book program, or a partner program is where a website or company will work with an author (self-published) or a publisher (hybrid or traditional) to sell the books for them. The idea is similar to a traditional book store, or store front who sells books for a profit. If you are looking for a partner program and love books as much as us, you can reach out to us and ask us about our book partner program. You can sell books through your site to ours, where we handle the transaction and you simply get a cut for aiding in the marketing and direction of sales.
Print on Demand (also known as POD), is a method of effectively maintaining print inventory. That is, only printing when there is demand from the market, or when a bookstore orders, to lower costs. This eliminates the problem of overstock issues. You pay to print each book so you want to make sure you are printing the right amount. The primary companies that offer Print on Demand services in the current publishing industry are Ingram Spark and (of course!) Amazon Self Publishing. All you need to do is create an account with a POD company, make sure they have the files necessary for your book to print and voila. You can print on demand.
Before printing, you will also need to make sure that you have an ISBN and copyright to go with each book you desire to print. If your book begins to sell, the companies (Ingram and Amazon) may begin to carry inventory in effort to speed up service to customers. Most book retailers have access to Ingram ordering, as Ingram is a wholesale distributor, and often choose to order from Ingram versus directly from the publisher as stock is often guaranteed and the service is reliable