Small Publishers and Independent Authors

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Small Publishers and Independent Authors

For writers focused on the entreprenuerial side of the writing industry to share innovations, pitfalls and business models.

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Why did you decide to work with a small or independent press?

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In this conversation it would be interesting if you also answered any one of the following questions:Did you have an agent or did you represent your own work to these publishers?What is the most…Continue

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How many distribution channels do people use?

Started by JF Garrard. Last reply by Shelley Buck Mar 30. 12 Replies

Hi everyone, I'm new and will be publishing 3 books in 2014.Looking at distribution channels: Amazon Kindle, Amazone Createspace, Ingram Spark and Smashwords.Can I use all of them and will I get into…Continue

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Comment by Shawn Lamb on March 1, 2012 at 5:26am

Louisa, I'm both, traditional with book 1 of my fantasy series and self for the rest. And I write genre fiction - YA fantasy and historical, so the statement it does better isn't total accurate. I actually sell better at events than online, so for me paperback is my bread & butter not e-books. Kindle and Nook are something I offer for others, not depend upon for sales.

I agree about the 99 cents, which only gets 30 cents royalty. I thought to try it during the holidays to help highlight my new historical fiction line. However, with seemingly every author on the Amazon Planet hawking their books, only a few can break through to capture readers' attention. It was just a blimp on the radar, despite an aggressive promotional campaign.

Which leads to my point of 'devaluing'. By constantly running sales, freebies or deep discount, readers will come to expect it and wait. Also, I've been told point blank by readers how they view certain pricing, and it is opposite what you said about the 40% discount at B&N and the book being a steal.  Yes, they are looking for lower prices, but many, many equate cheap( $2.99 or less) or free with low quality writing and indie authors. Also, the desperation I mentioned earlier is another term readers used to describe 'freebies'. This perception is one reason traditional publisher gave for raising their price of e-books, to show quality of their authors over indie. (I'll have to look for the article link.)

With 6 books out and a 7th awaiting release, I'm already established, so that desperation move isn't helpful for me, and my experiment in December proved it.

If an author solely relies on Amazon for sales - as they are obligated to when joining Select - then yes, they must utilize the 5 free days to their advantage. But limiting oneself to a single outlet is foolish. Sorry, if that sounds harsh, but any marketing guru or sales team will advise an author to get onto as many sites, book outlets, distributors as possible, NOT place all their hopes on 1 site, even for 3 months.

Granted, I don't sell as many Nook as Kindle, but I've heard many complaints from those on Nook who feel short-changed and I have gained sales when Amazon pushes it programs and more authors jumped on-board Select. What does that say to readers who don't own a Kindle? They are worth an author's time and effort?

So, I look at the whole market and plan my strategy accordingly, not a sole outlet.

Comment by M. Louisa Locke on February 29, 2012 at 5:58pm

Dear all,

I am not saying that all books will benefit from free promotions, but that authors shouldn't feel that it somehow devalues their work to offer it for free if it is a way of finding the audience for that book. My books, based on my doctoral research, are over 120,000 words, and while they are light reads-yes there is romance and mystery (no sex), it would be hard to read the book quickly and as another old lady,  the older women in the books are some of my favorites.

But Joanne Barney is correct that genre fiction does better, but I think that this is in part because literary fiction/and or contemporary fiction are huge categories on Amazon that are hard to compete in. Hard to find your book when there are 20,000 or more other ebooks in a category. But that is why offering a book for free is a useful strategy, it gives it a better chance of becoming visible. When a bestseller is discounted 40% at a Barnes and Noble, do you say, "oh, I won't buy that book, it mustn't be very good?" No, you say, "what a steal, I had been meaning to check it out, I think I will give it a try." Same goes for a free ebook. 

As for price, if you are traditionally published, probably your royalty percentage makes making the price too low problematic, besides the fact that traditional publishers are reluctant to lower prices. But if you are an independent author, I can't see why you wouldn't give free a try.

Although this post does deal with genre books, it reveals real differences between traditional and self-published books, but it also shows different patterns between two different genres. http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/02/28/genre-surveys-part-2-science...

Publishing is in such transition, that I all I am suggesting is that if you have ebooks, and the majority of your sales are on Amazon (or you are simply not selling much any where), that thinking about making your book less than $5 (I don't advocate 99 cents for full length books-you lose to much in revenue by losing the 70 royalty), and offering it as a free promotion may actually widen your audience which could give a boost to your sales. 

If you are selling very few books a day-what do you lose from putting the book out as free? If you are selling lots of books, and are satisfied by the money you are making, then maybe you don't need it.

M. Louisa Locke

Comment by Regina Y. Swint on February 29, 2012 at 5:53pm

I love all of the opinions on this thread, and I'm taking them all in.  I can see the very good points about why some do not wish to sell or promote books that are low-priced or free; but I also see the potential benefit of having more visibility by offering books for low prices and for free.  I agree that we all have to try and see what works for us.  I don't think that giving books away or selling them for a low price is a indicator of the book's value or quality, but I guess many of us instinctively  subscribe to the "get what you pay for" theory.  I happen not to subscribe to that theory.  As an indie-pubbed author, and soon-to-be new publisher on the block, I plan/hope to build my audience by exposing myself and my work as much as I can, and if low-priced or free copies helps with that, then all the better.  I'm confident in the quality of my writing, and I hope that readers will see past the low price to give it a chance.  We've seen some examples where it works, and some where it doesn't. 

But of course, to each his/her own.  Happy writing, publishing, and selling (or giving away) to everyone.  :)  And thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences and ideas.  It's very helpful.

Comment by Joanne Barney on February 29, 2012 at 5:34pm

Seems to me that the kind of book one writes is the determinant on whether to offer it free or at 99 cents.  From what I've seen, the successful low-priced books are fiction (for the most part), written for an audience that has the capacity and desire to read a book a day (maybe an exaggeration) and loves romance/mystery/ quick reads.  A non-fiction book with a thoughtful cover and a thoughtful message, or a literary novel with old ladies and not much sex might not sell even at 99 cents without a solid marketing plan.  Since I write about old ladies (now that I am one), and I write with solemn themes rippling through the many pages, I don't think that free/cheap books will work for my books.  Not sure what will, but I"ll keep trying to find out. As we all will, with our various hope-filled offerings.

Comment by Shawn Lamb on February 29, 2012 at 3:58pm

Louisa, you are an exception, not the rule. I can't begin to tell you how many authors joined Select in December and after an initial bump from 'free' downloads haven't sold since.  I did the a short run of 99cents for the holidays, not good. I got 1 review from the 100 copies sold. That's right, only 100 sold at 99 cents! I've actually none better with my historical fiction at $4.99 since then.

Like you said, if it works for you fine, but don't make your good experience as the rule - it's not. For every author that made money from the free download offers, more failed! At least 15 to 1 that I know of, failure to success - and the last count I saw was 47,000 authors signed up for Kindle. Not great odds.

Comment by Zetta Brown on February 29, 2012 at 2:35pm

Having the ability to set your price is a good thing in a free (no pun intended) market. If you want to give your book away or charge 100s of $£ for it. Every strategy isn't going to work for everybody, but they are free to try, and if it works for them, keep doing your thang.

Auctions and auction sites are interesting. I don't shop a lot on eBay, but I have. Auctions are a prime example of where buyer and seller meet. The seller can set a reserve price and the buyer can meet or exceed it or there is no sale. On the other hand, the seller can just put their product out there and see who wants it at whatever price (if any).

Publishing these days, especially with the surge of self publishing, only drives this point home...at least to me, anyway.

Comment by M. Louisa Locke on February 29, 2012 at 1:45pm

I disagree with the idea that putting your book up for free for promotional purposes or  putting a short piece up at 99 cents, or pricing your book at $2.99, particularly if you are a relatively unknown author, devalues your work or books in general. My goal as a writer is to get people to read my work, and since I believe my book is good I believe that once people get a chance to read my work that they will value it and then buy other work by my.

I have written a piece on why I think "free" is a good strategy in my latest blog post http://mlouisalocke.com/2012/02/28/why-i-dont-worry-when-people-rea...

My own experience as a self-published author has demonstrated that when you have control over you own pricing, when you can plan when you do promotional opportunities, when you can get royalties at 60-70%, then low books prices, free promotions make sense. My historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, has sold 20,000 copies-at $2.99-since it was published in December of 2009. After a free promotion of it for 2 days at the end of December 2011 (when nearly 16,000 people downloaded it for free) the book went on to sell 5500 copies in January, and the sales of my sequel more than doubled. I put both books up for free twelve days ago,  and 26,000 copies of the books were downloaded, and in the ten days since the promotion ended 5800 people have bought one or the other of the two books. This proves to me that people don't devalue your books if you offer them for free. They appreciate that you are giving them a gift, and when they like the book, they tell your friends, they write positive reviews (I have had nearly 30 positive reviews on Amazon since the free promotions began), and it makes your book more visible to more people as it rises in the best seller lists. 

You know that there is a reason traditional book publishers pay to get their books at the front of bookstores (which is of course lost revenue), they do it because no one is going to buy a book they don't see. Free promotions make your ebooks visible. No one is going to buy an ebook they don't see, no matter what its value, and all the promotion in the world by me or any other author isn't going to have the impact of being on the top ten best selling lists on Amazon for mystery, mystery-women sleuth, historical mystery, historical fiction, and romance, which is where my free promotions put my books.

I am sorry to be so adamant. But I hate the idea that authors of good books that should be read by the public might forgo at least giving free promotions a try. If they don't work for you. ok But every time I get an email from a reader who tells me how much they enjoyed my book (which is almost daily), how they have given a copy to their grandmother, how it helped them get through a bout of chemo, or prompted them to look up their families history, etc etc etc, I know my book is valuable, whether offered for free or $2.99.

M. Louisa Locke

author of Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits

Comment by Zetta Brown on February 29, 2012 at 1:05pm

I must admit that I offered the ebook version of my novel at $.99 for part of the last quarter of last year.In fact, I just reset it to its original price of $3.99 today. 

I haven't done much writing in the last few years because I've been editing and publishing others, but I wanted to try it and see what happened. I didn't shout about it. I just made a few announcements and left it at that. My book has been selling steadily on its own without my doing much direct promo for it, and while the last 4 months have shown an upswing in sales for the title, it's not that much different for the ebook sales overall. For the last 12+ mos ebook sales have been zooming past print sales.

I can understand people wanting to offer a title for free or for a very low price for a short period of time, but I wouldn't base my entire price scale that way. Everyone likes a sale or a discount and we don't mind doing it for our authors--for a limited time. But if it goes on for too long, yes, it's going to look cheap and you get what you pay for. 

Others may and will have success with this model, but there is a lot to be said for perceived value.

Then again, ebook publishers who have been publishing ebooks LONG before Amazon, et al got into the game discovered their sweet spot for pricing ebooks, and in my opinion, there's no reason why an ebook should cost the same as print. 

Comment by Shawn Lamb on February 29, 2012 at 10:56am

I have disagreed with the "free" KDS practice since the frenzy began. Giving 'free' or 99 cent only serves to bring down the entire market value of books. In fact, traditional publishers raised the price of their e-books to distance their authors from self-published authors. It also shows a sense of desperation to give 'free' books with no thought to whom or what type of people are actually taking advantage of the offer. 

I know a fellow author who admitted to download 700 books during December! Won't be needing any books in the near future with that amount. There are 700 author who just gave her hours, months, years of reading enjoyment and gained nothing in return.

Comment by dianejwright on February 29, 2012 at 10:38am

Lynne, I couldn't agree more. We at Seedpod flat out refuse to discount our titles for this very reason. Having had a career in packaged goods marketing, I can tell you there is substantial research to back that up. In fact, we're seeing one of our titles growing in sales month after month with zero marketing effort whatsoever (see what I did there ;) ) It is my belief that our collective value is indeed reduced by this price battle. Just look at any other commodity or dollar store model for proof. It works when you can produce very, very cheaply and sell massive quantities. Hello Target.

Sorry, Jennifer. No offense meant. Just disagreement.

djw
co-founder & publisher
seedpod publishing

 

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