Many authors want to get their self-published books into physical bookstores and libraries as well as being allowed into literary organizations. In today’s interview, I talk to Debbie Young about how this can be done.
In the introduction, I talk about speaking on the Shetland Islands, my article on the rollercoaster of being a writer, and that One Day in New York is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Kobo and iBooks.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you for your support!
Debbie Young writes short stories and flash fiction, as well as non-fiction on various topics. She is also the Commissioning editor for SelfPublishingAdvice.org, the blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She’s also the co-author of Opening up to Indie Authors: A guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors – which we’re talking about today.
- How Debbie got started in journalism and PR and then working for a children’s reading charity. She ‘fell into’ self-publishing by writing a book on marketing for Silverwood Books, a partnership publisher. Debbie had been blogging for a while and all this led into writing her own books, and getting involved with the Alliance of Independent Authors.
- Misconceptions around how professional self-publishing works – both from authors as well as on the trade side – led to Debbie and Dan Holloway writing Opening up to Indie Authors: A guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors. The book is divided – the first half is aimed at people in the publishing industry, to educate them about indies, and the second half is for authors, to help us understand how the trade side works. Debbie talks about the problems in diplomacy.
Quality standards are critical for indie authors
- Your product must stand alongside any traditionally published book in the bookstore or library. It must be professional.
- You must leave behind any sense of entitlement. You are making a bid for a place on the shelf alongside any other players in the industry. Having written a book is just not enough anymore. You have to understand why a bookseller or a library might even want your product. Put yourself in their shoes.
The reality of a bookstore
Many authors don’t understand how bookstores work and this leads to misconceptions. Here are some of the main aspects.
- Booksellers want a 40% (or significant) discount because they need to pay for their store costs, staff costs and all their other business costs from the sale of books. It is incredibly hard to run a bookstore with the slim margins.
- Ease of administration. Compare the problem from their perspective of dealing with independent authors individually and invoicing each and returning each book etc, with dealing with a distributor who represents hundreds or thousands of books per month. The bookseller can order in bulk, invoice in bulk and deal in economies of scale.
- They have to operate under sale or return. If the books don’t sell, they have to return them. New books come in every month and new stock replaces the older stock. If you’re an indie you either have to pick them up yourself or organize shipping.
If you want to get your books into physical bookstores
- Decide on whether you want to go that route in the first place. Check the financial options as most indies make more money from ebooks and print on demand. It’s definitely worth doing print for marketing and price comparison on your Amazon page, but print on demand won’t leave you out of pocket, whereas a print run may do so.
- If you self-publish on Ingram Spark or LightningSource, you can check a box that accepts sale or return which means you’re more likely to get bookstores ordering from you. Bookstores generally won’t order Createspace books as they have no returns. I mention Barbara Freethy’s deal with Ingram Spark for print books.
- You’re more likely to get into bookstores if you develop a relationship with your local bookstore and organize events with them. Being a customer of the bookstore will help!
Getting into libraries
- Libraries are going digital and you can get into library digital catalogues through OverDrive on Smashwords (which is one of the reasons I publish on Smashwords)
- Understand the clientele of the different libraries e.g. specialist academic libraries vs school libraries. They’re not all the same. Target as you would any other specific market. For example, children’s authors speaking in libraries can be a great way to reach a market.
On literary organizations opening up to indie authors
- I mention that the SFWA has just opened up to indies, and ITW, RWA etc already are. We talk about how indies have to examine the level of professionalism they are displaying. We have to demonstrate our excellence through books and our behavior. This is the only way to get parity.
- Switch your head around and think about the viewpoint of the bookstore, the library and the literary organization. What can YOU offer them, as opposed to vice versa.
- We also talk about the Alliance of Independent Authors and what we both get out of the organization. Primarily, it’s about companionship on the journey, a supportive environment and people to learn from as you go through the process of writing, publishing and marketing. There’s also education on various aspects – from the impact of EU VAT laws to publishing on Apple, to the intricacies of marketing. Plus, we are stronger together and we represent indies to media and trade as well as lobbying. It’s well worth joining us here We do Google hangouts as well as a monthly Q&A with me and Orna Ross on the last Tuesday of the month. ALLi is a global movement that is growing every month – we live in exciting times!
You can find the fantastically useful Opening up to Indie Authors: A guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors on Amazon and all the other ebook stores. It is also available for free for Members of the Alliance of Independent Authors and will soon be split into various parts, so you can buy the section that is most applicable to you.
You can find Debbie at her site, Author Debbie Young, and her books on all online stores.