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.
Transcription of interview with Debbie Young
Joanna: Hi everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com and today I’m here with Debbie Young. Hi, Debbie!
Joanna: Great to have you on the show. So just a little introduction, Debbie writes short stories and flash fiction as well nonfiction on various topics. She is also the commissioning editor for selfpublishingadvice.org, the blog for the alliance of independent authors, and she is also the co-author of Opening up To Indie Authors – a guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors. It’s a hell of a title, but we’re talking about it today.
So Debbie just start by telling us a bit more about you and your writing journey. And how you became an indie?
Debbie: Right. Okay. Well it took me a very long time really to get around to it. Because I’d always wanted to write books from when I was very little. And it is something that I always enjoyed writing stories, and when I went to university to do an English degree because I’d seen the obvious next step to do, wasn’t quite sure where to go after that. I thought about journalism and my first proper job really was in journalism. And sort of fell into a career of different kinds of jobs that all involved writing in some form or another, for marketing, promotion, communication, sort of spreading information first of all as a journalist then as a PR consultant. Then latterly in a children’s reading charity.
So everything always seemed to lead back to the written word for me, and it was really only when I was working for the children’s reading charity, that purely by chance, I met the wife of somebody who I used to work with years ago when I was in PR consultancy, and she’d set up a self-publishing services company. And that was Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, who offers all kinds of services to help authors who don’t want to go the total DIY route to publish beautiful professional standard books. Got chatting to her about it, by that time I had started blogging. I really enjoy blogging because it’s a way of writing which I wanted to write rather than writing commercial newsletters or magazine articles or whatever. Really enjoyed that and got chatting to her about it, and she was telling me about the problems her authors faced when they produce this beautiful book that how challenging it was for authors to go. This is a few years ago. How challenging it was to find readers for their books and how she wants to give as much help and encouragement to her authors as possible to promote their books.
And the upshot of it was that I said “What you really want is — you’re a publisher you need to publish a book about book promotion and she said “Well, would you like to write it?” So walked into that one, then I wrote a book called Sell Your Books, which was drawing on my sort of PR and communication experience really, to help her authors particularly to market their self-published books. Researching that, I’ve learned so much about the way that self-publishing was going and I had encounters with people who had gone through the old fashioned vanity publishing route in the past, and dismissed that. Never quite had the patience or the time, really, to pursue writing the books that I’d always wanted to write, and to go the traditional route.
But when I heard about the self-publishing route I thought “My goodness. How lucky are we to be born at this time and we have this at our disposal?”
It’s such a Godsend, really, such a wonderful thing to be able to be involved with. Found out that about the alliance of independent authors that Orna Ross was just founding as you well know, and started to become involved with them. Not long afterwards, I was invited by Orna to get involved with running the advice blog. I’d written some guest posts on various topics there, and really was enjoying being part of the community and enjoying the buzz and the companionship that came out of that and finding it was such a great way to learn all about it, as well as having latched onto your website and all that you do. You could see that the people like yourself really leading everybody along in the whole sector. And I just really wanted to be a part of it and really it’s started to take over my whole life now.
Joanna: It tends to do that.
Debbie: It’s addictive, yes.
Joanna: Yes, so you definitely jumped in and it is really a fun community and why I wanted to talk to you about this book is it is a brilliant resource for authors, and I would say the second half is aimed at authors.
The first half is really aimed at that sort of getting events and bookstores and things to open up to indie authors, but the second half is all about how authors can get into bookstores and libraries.
So first up why did you and Dan Holloway write the book? And why do you think the opening up to indie authors idea is so important?
Debbie: Well, it was becoming very apparent from the various conversations online, partly on the ALLi forum and in responses to other blogs and all the various resources online but there are an awful lot of people who had a lot of misconceptions about the way that self-publishing works, about the standards that are required, the way that it operates. And people on both sides of the fence. Authors had a lot of misconceptions about how the trade viewed them. And the trade had and still does have a lot of misunderstandings about how self-publishing works and the quality standards, particularly that the best self-published authors are able to achieve.
I think particularly because I heard about communication and in public relations and building relationships between different parties. It was very clear that somebody really needed to get in there and bring the two together. Sort of almost like being the diplomat bringing together not quite warring factions but making people understand each other better. And once they understood each other better then they would be able to work together more effectively. And Orna had wanted to produce a book like this for some time, and I think I happen to be in the right time, at the right place with the right background to be able to do that and all of these things need to be phrased very diplomatically as well so as to avoid offending or upsetting or making the situation worse rather than better. I’m a diplomat. That was the other thing that I wanted to do when I was younger was to get into diplomatic service.
Joanna: And you know it’s really funny you say that because last year, the year before, I was speaking at a lot of publishing conferences and I also really wanted to be a diplomatic go between. And then something happened and I put my hands up and I gave up. I found however much we talk about quality standards, you mentioned independent authors as opposed to self-publishing which to me independent author kind of implies the professionalism.
And I just got to the end of my tether of defending us, and just wanted to just get on with what we do.
It’s almost– when people are religious and the best way of showing your faith is by your behavior not by preaching about it. I got to that point, and then your book which I think is perfect and diplomatic, and wonderful, and should be more widely read by people in the industry. Anyway, I think what I’m saying is thank you for writing it.
Debbie: Somebody had to do it.
Joanna: And I also think it’s very useful for authors who want to continue approaching these kind of groups. It helps understand their language. So I do kind of want to ask about that because you did mention there, you said the quality standards that the best self-publishers can achieve.
What standards are you asking Indies to have when they approach libraries, bookstores, etc.?
Debbie: Well, the most important thing is they have a book that looks like a professional book that reads like a trade published book in the best possible way. So I always say that if you have an identity grade of books that are taken off the shelf of the library or in a bookshop. You don’t want to be able to spot the self-published one.
And if yours is obviously self-published, you know a homemade, Blue Peter job type of approach then you’re doing something wrong. So first and foremost you’ve got to have a product that will fit in that professional environment. Because bookshops, libraries, festivals, all of these players, they have the highest standards. They are trying to serve their audiences with the best possible goods.
So you’ve got to do all that you can to make your book the best it can possibly be. You’ve also got to leave behind you any sense of entitlement.
You’ve got to be prepared to take your place in the market place, effectively making a bid for the space on the shelf or in the festival program, or in the library shelf alongside the rest of the players. You may feel fantastic that you’ve written a book, and quite rightly so. Because there are so many people out there who always say, “I’ve got a good book,” but never actually do it. Yes, it is a wonderful thing to have been able to write your book and to get it out there, but you have no entitlement to expect people to read it, to buy it, to borrow it, to want to talk about it, unless you’ve given it your all.
And when you go in to deal with any of these players with any of the book buyers, festival organizers or whatever, you’ve got to recognize that they are getting great approaches from people who are as good if not better than you all of the time.
And you’ve got to really have something. You’ve got to have your case, make your case very well, and be prepared to have to make your case. I hear speaking to book sellers, to owners of bookshops who are simply there trying to make their living out of selling books. I hear of so many cases where authors have taken their book into the shop in the middle of a busy Saturday almost expecting the proprietor to snap up copies on the spot to put on their shelves, having no grasp of what they are really asking the book seller to do, not really understanding how they operate, how much administration they have to do, how difficult it is to deal with a one off supplier. And not understanding that the book seller has to make money out of their book. There are even authors who are quite surprised to find that the book seller wants a cut of the price at all. And you thought “What planet have these people been living on?
Joanna: Let’s talk more about that because the reality of a bookstore I’m always surprised that most authors don’t actually realize what the reality of a bookstore is.
So maybe you can just talk about returns, how fast the turnover is, and that discounting element.
Debbie: Yes. Okay. Typical book sellers will expect around 40% discount off your list price, off your recommended retail price. That’s an enormous chunk of your bottom line, really. Why do they expect that? Well, they have their own cost. They have staff costs, they have their rent, their rates, whatever it’s costing them to run their shop. How they are paying for the running of the shop is from the sales of books, and that has to come from somewhere. They are not there as charities. So people don’t really think about the economics of how much it will cost.
To put the boot on the other foot, if an author wanted to try and do sort of the economic sums of how much it would cost them to set up and run a bookshop, they would soon become quite incredulous as to how anyone ever makes profits out of running a bookshop at all. How do so many bookshops stay open? I know that we’re losing a shocking number of independent bookshops all the time. It’s a shrinking marketplace.
Quite honestly, I’m surprised there are still so many shops trading. That’s another campaign that we are going to be looking at this year. Perhaps come on to that a bit later. We wanted to try and encourage authors and try encourage everybody to use bookshops, high street bookshops so much more so that we can help them continue to sell books of all kinds. Not just self-published books but just to keep them on our streets, and keeping our culture thriving really. Sorry, I digressed completely there, but yes, so they are looking for a 40% discount. They are looking for ease of administration if you’re supplying a bookshop with just your book and nobody else’s book. So all the books they sell for you, there’s going to be paperwork involved.
Now I’m very, very lucky I live very close to three independent bookshops, and talking to the proprietor of two of them, Hereward Corbett, Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury and Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. I went in to see him one day when I was researching for this book and he said, “You caught me at a good moment and it’s quiet here. I’ve just had somebody coming in to pitch to me today from one of the big publishing companies with 100 books that are most likely to be the bestsellers within that publisher’s list for the next six months. Ten seconds a book, fully up to speed, I’ll get one invoice for all of those. How good is that?” And you think “Gosh, yes. That is so much simpler than dealing with 100 authors individually, which would just be a diabolical nightmare administratively to have to deal with them all individually.
So not only have you got to make your case to the bookseller for your book being good and saleable but you’ve got to make it worth his while to go the extra mile, and do that extra admin around your book to sell your book, and then if you’ve got your book selling for say 10 pounds, which is quite expensive for paperback, and he’s only getting four pounds per copy effectively. I use those numbers because they’re nice and simple to calculate with, then all he’s getting for doing all the paperwork surrounding your book, and giving you your check, or your cash or backs payment or whatever, to finding it a space on the shelf, keeping it on the shelf, keeping an eye on it, remembering to pay you at the right time or taking it out off the shelf if it’s been there long enough and he doesn’t think it will sell, to let you know that you need to collect it because it’s on sale or return. Well all of that for four pounds is an awful lot of work per book and that’s if he sells any at all.
Most book sellers will only take a couple of copies. If they take 10 copies from you, you are doing very well indeed.
If they are replicating that sort of activity for every book on the shelf, that’s an awful lot of work. They have to operate on the basis of sale or return because if they don’t sell your book then what are they going to do with it? They run on such tight margins and on such tight budgets that they can’t afford to buy books they are not sure of selling. And like in other business like newspaper retailing, magazine retailing it operates on the same basis. The shop will order in newspapers and magazines. If they don’t sell however many copies of The Times that day then The Times will take it back the next day and credit them for it.
It has to work in the same with bookshops or else even more bookshops would be going out of business. The trouble with sale or return is that if books are returned to you unsold they are not going to be in as pristine condition as when you took them in there. So you may not be able to resell them either. So if you are going to sell into physical bookshops you have to really be committed to either accepting that you’re going to collect them in a slightly, well not necessarily battered condition but in a not quite as good condition as you took them in.
Joanna: And you say, “collect.” They’re assuming that people are physically collecting books.
Debbie: Yes, it’s–
Joanna: Otherwise you actually have to pay the shipping if you use a distributor.
Joanna: So, you can already be out of pocket even for just returns.
Debbie: Yeah. Even if you happen to live flat over a bookshop it’s still. . .
Joanna: And then it is also your time. This is the thing.
Debbie: Exactly, yes.
Joanna: Your time involved.
But can we just also stress the fast turnover of books in general. How long does a book normally stay in a bookstore before the next lot of stuff comes in?
Debbie: Oh, they have books coming in all the time.
Joanna: It’s like a month, isn’t it?
Joanna: A month? Six weeks?
Debbie: Yes, and there’ll be…
Joanna: Even if you have a traditional publishing deal your book will be in and out of the bookstore, generally, unless it’s Fifty Shades of Grey, will be in and out within a month to six weeks.
Debbie: Yes, because there will be lots more books coming along to take its place, and lots more that are more current, that are being more talked about, that will be the subject of the next film that’s big in the cinema. And there are always more coming to take their place. For a lot of self-published authors, the game isn’t really worth the candle.
Joanna: Yeah well that’s why I don’t have print as a business model myself. I use print on demand, but after a massive mistake I made years ago when I bought 2000 books, and then ended up putting them all in the landfill. I decided not to go that route. But I know some people do have that dream.
So what are the options for people who do want to do the physical bookstore thing?
Debbie: If you’re publishing through IngramSpark or Lightning Source you can tick the box when you are putting your book up there to accept sale or return. In which case you’re taking a punt on it, basically, saying you are prepared to fund the cost of the shipping and to accept the books returned.
That is quite a big risk, but at the same time while you’re making your books available through those channels to the book sellers it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily going to order them. Because whereas the big publishers will be having reps going round to all the shops pitching, making a case for those books all the time, the only way really that a book seller is likely to order in your book through that route is if they have seen something online or in the media which will prompt them to order in stocks of your book, or if they are local shops that you’ve built up a relationship with.
So if you live close to bookshops and you go into those bookshops a lot, you are a good customer, and you have built up a good relationship with the staff then there is the possibility that you will persuade them to take your books, and that’s fantastic. If you do, terrific, in which case they can order them in that route or if you’re going in there as a customer anyway then why not just plan it? Say you take your books in, take your stocks in when you are going in to do your usual shop or going in and looking as if you’re doing book shopping even if you don’t buy books all the time. That’s the other risk. If you decide that every time that you are going to deal with local bookshops, and do your deliveries by hand, and do the little tour in your car, every so often take your books around. It’s awfully tempting to spend all your potential profits buying books.
Joanna: Your four pound profit.
Debbie: Right. Yes, I must admit I’m guilty of that.
Joanna: I think this is the interesting point. We must say that the biggest Indies like Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey do have print deals. And Barbara Freethy is now with IngramSpark, who are distributing her books, but she is the biggest indie author and in romance as well. So, maybe we are seeing a change in people doing this but certainly it doesn’t stop people doing print on demand as default.
Everyone should be doing print on demand as a default position.
Joanna: It’s just that print run and the bookstore thing that may be more questionable.
Debbie: Yeah, I think it’s always good even if you’re not going to go into bookstores at all, it’s still worth having some printed copies through print on demand or through short print run or however. Because received wisdom is you sell more books, more eBooks, if you’ve got the physical book to show people because it gives you a bit of credibility. People this “Oh, so she is a real author? She’s got a print copy.”
Joanna: And it’s great for marketing.
Debbie: Oh gosh yes, and there are lots of other opportunities where a physical book will come in use. At fairs and festivals or just going to author events, to have a few print copies in your bag, although there are all sorts of whizzy ways to making it easy for people to order your eBooks, like giving them a key code on your business card or whatever or giving them a book that they can buy on a memory stick whatever. It’s still really nice to be able to show the physical book.
Joanna: No, definitely.
So, what about libraries? Because I’m actually more interested in libraries first of all because you can get into Overdrive through SmashWords so you can get eBooks into libraries, and also libraries are moving digital.
Joanna: Which is interesting and I know of a start up by some indies who were going direct to libraries, going to be putting eBooks directly into libraries. So what about indie authors getting into the libraries?
Debbie: I think it’s a similar situation in a way to the bookshops in that you still have to convince them that your book is worth giving their shelf space to, and that they would do better to have your book rather than somebody else’s book. Although librarians don’t have the same responsibilities financially in a way although they don’t feel them as directly as a bookstore proprietor will because they are not worrying about whether they have enough income today their mortgage from the book sales.
They still have a sense of huge responsibility for keeping the shelf space at its most appealing, to keep luring in the punters because if they don’t have people, members of the public coming in to use their library then they will not have a library for very long. So their first duty really is to their key borrowers to keep the shelves looking good and to have an alluring stock in there.
So different libraries all over the world will have different ways of organizing their buying, and the best thing really to do is to make inquiries out to local level to find out what your local libraries are doing.
And I think as with all marketing, really, if you start off local and you build your confidence awareness locally then you can roll out what worked. You can find out what about your particular books excites people, excites bookshops and librarians and then roll it. Fine tune a larger campaign to roll out further afield. I think libraries are also quite misunderstood by a lot of authors in the same way as bookshops are. People don’t realize that in the same way that different bookshops will have different clientele and different bestsellers, and different product ranges. Different libraries will do as well, and it’s also easy to forget that just because you don’t go into specialist libraries. There are lots of specialist libraries that might be relevant to your books, academic libraries, school libraries, professional libraries. They are not all the same. So it’s worth really drilling down and just looking for opportunities that are particularly good for your kinds of books.
And I think people also need authors to spend more time in libraries. I’m always astonished at how many authors I speak to who never really set foot in a bookshop, and equally never set foot in a library. And then they wonder why they have trouble making themselves understood, getting on the same wave length as booksellers and libraries. Well, they’ve got to there just to sort of acclimatize and get to understand just feel how their little world works. And so much of it is down to really building communication and mutual understanding.
Going back to bookshops for a second, I’m always horrified to hear tales from book sellers about people going into bookshops, and asking for information, making all the inquiries, getting recommendations for books and then when the book sellers says, “Well okay is this the book that you like to buy?” They say, “No I’ll get it on Amazon. It’s all right. Don’t worry.” I think the same happens with libraries people don’t really connect as they also need to do to get the best out of the relationship. So I’m hoping that our book will give a bit of a wakeup call to them in both spheres really.
Joanna: Yeah it is interesting and I think like you said you have to think about the demographics, and who’s the market for your book also so each author has to consider what they want to do with their time. So I know for example. . .
Joanna: Karen Inglis who’s been on the show and who’s a children’s book author. People who write children’s books in particular I think do have to be looking at schools and bookstores and libraries because that’s great way to reach children and their parents. Whereas if you are writing more regular genre fiction like myself and your business model is not around that then you have to make that decision for yourself.
Let’s talk about organizations because I’m really interested. We just heard that the SFWA the Science Fiction Writers of America is now opened up to indies office, and the organization I’m in the ITW International Thriller Writers is open and so is RWA, Romance Writers of America. A lot of these are American organizations you notice where some of our British ones still are not which I think is classic literary snobbery — it really is brilliantly British.
What do you think about the professional organizations? How can Indies help these organizations let us in as such?
Debbie: Again it is a question of proving themselves, proving themselves and their books to be of equal worth to those of their traditional sort of call members which more and more indie offices are able to do because the standards are raising all the time. But again, they have to make sure that they don’t have a sense of entitlement, and they don’t develop a victim mentality, which some of them do. It’s too easy for somebody to go into a little sort of self-destructive spiral saying, “Oh they won’t let me in because I’m an indie author or because I’m self-published, and they are just being snobbish.” Without actually really examining their book and lost some of them. Where if they examine that book they will realize that actually they don’t stuck up.
So they’ve got to make sure their books are of admissible caliber. Because that actually why these organizations have been slow to embrace self-published authors. It’s because they are trying to maintain the caliber of the books that they are all about.
It’s not a personal thing. It isn’t really discriminatory against the people. It’s against the product at the end of the day. I think that the organizations that I’ve been involved with and I don’t have the same degree of involvement that you have because I have written as many genre books as you have. I’m a bit sort of narrow niche with my short stories and flash fiction. I was going to speak to the Romantic Novel Association in Shropshire, I think somewhere very nice it was sort of place they were meeting at the one of their agricultural universities. Just lovely and I was half expecting to have tomatoes thrown.
I was going to talk about self-publishing because I’ve heard they are not that welcoming of it. But actually talking to them I was really taken aback. A lot of the authors that I spoke to they really got it. They understood what it was all about. A lot of the trade published authors who had great success in this very price selling genre had been through the standard process with trade publishers.
And having the less popular books, their older books being delisted, taken out of print, and they were finding that, once they got their rights back they could self-publish their and do very nicely out of them and by trying to match them to the standards of the trade published books. To the reader, they didn’t know or care who was publishing them. They were just clicking to get hold of books written by their much loved authors, and these authors were finding that not only will these books going down well, but they were also making well money out of them per copy than of their latest best seller, which was very interesting.
So in a way, those organizations are slightly sort of reforming themselves from within because the authors as the individuals are having that experience.
And the authors themselves seem to be very open minded about it and we quite happy to entertain the idea. But like everybody they’d also all seen lots of examples of very badly self-published books. That made them wary of accepting more together sort of us alone. And I guess that’s as it should be really.
Joanna: Yeah and I agree I think these organizations do have a line set in the ITW you have to kind of prove your sales numbers. Which is hilarious because if you are traditionally published you don’t have to prove any sales at all. You just prove that you’ve got a book published which is as we know very different thing. But also it is interesting you say that because this is the second year I’m judging. Well, I picked a panel for Bristol Crime Fest which I know you know about. So a lot of people submitted for the panel and so for two years now I’ve had a look at all this people who’ve submitted and been able to see the dramatic increase in quality. In just a year.
The first year I found it quite difficult but the second year it was a real struggle to pick people because the quality was so high across the board. So I think this quality kind of mission is getting out there as people are realizing. And while you were talking I was also thinking that what you’re basically saying about libraries book stores, organizations is the author has to put their mind in the mind of the recipient. These are like classic marketing. You have to think like a book seller. What is easiest for the bookseller? Or think like the organization. So you have to switch your head around and stop thinking. . .
Debbie: Yeah absolutely.
Joanna: About me the author and think about them.
Debbie: Yes the more they can do that the easier they will find it I’m sure.
Joanna: I was also laughing because I’ve accepted to speak at the Stratford Literary Festival, which as you know, the home of Shakespeare. I was fully expecting this to be the final bastion of tomato throwing at indies. So that will be interesting. That’s later this year, and I think if Stratford Literary Festival has opened up to Indies we possibly won the open up campaign.
Debbie: Yes splendid
Joanna: Which is cool?
Debbi: It doesn’t get better than that.
Joanna: Yeah, so I also wanted to ask you about the alliance. What are some of the benefits that you get from the organization and that you see coming?
Particularly around this book I know there’s some things we are doing with this book as well as other things.
Debbie: Lots of benefits. I’d say the biggest single one that everybody would find it there who joined it is the companionship and the moral support, and the feeling they are not alone in their quest. It’s a very warm, supportive environment not all of their members are on the Facebook forum. But the Facebook forum which has about 700 people engaged with it now all over the world. I think that just by being part of that forum alone justifies the membership because whatever question or problem that you have with your book or even just if you’re being a little bit discouraged, you can go on that forum any time of the day or night. There will be some indie author somewhere in the world, who’s on there, and you could put your question or share a view, and do surveys, poll people about whether they like your book cover, or your blurb, whatever. And you will always get passionate, but honest and kind responses. Some people will be different degrees of frankness …
Joanna: Tough love too.
Debbie: Yes but everybody has the same basic ideals really.
Everybody wants each other to succeed, and for the sector to succeed, and that’s very helpful for everybody who is going through what is still a challenging process.
So that’s sort of more kind of emotional benefit in a way but there are lots and lots of practical benefits. You get discounts for all sorts of services and events. You can get free eBook copies of the guide books that we offer. There is an affiliate marketing scheme whereby if you have your membership logo on your membership badge on your website or on your email photo or whatever and somebody clicks becomes a member through your affiliated code then you earn what seems to me to be a very generous affiliate fee.
A minor benefit compared to the advantages if the companion shared best practice. Meeting also new friends, bonding with people who are writing in the same genre as you are. Sometimes you can feel very isolated or just have a really interesting contribution to the blog this week by somebody who is writing magical realism. And suddenly there’s a whole cluster of people saying, “Oh, yes I write that, too. Do you know about this person?” And it is lovely. It’s really embracing. You do feel part of the community. But it also because we have lots of professional high achieving advisors like yourself who are contributing to the level of knowledge, and the standards of practice within the group. were trailblazing best practice and showing people really how it should be done. So you feel as part of the group, you feel like you are at the cutting edge, and there is just so much you can learn from the more experienced and even if you join it as somebody who is still writing a book. You can do that. You can join as an associate member. You can just absorb knowledge almost by osmosis, so much knowledge on there. Hard to imagine how it’s all there.
Joanna: There’s a number of free eBooks once you are inside the member thing. I think what we are saying we can ALLi any question you like about being an indie author. And there will be something that will answer your question or someone. And we have monthly Q and A me and Orna do that, Google hangouts. We just had one last– was it last night on the EU VAT law
Debbie: Yes huge issue. Nobody wants to fight that one alone.
Joanna: Yeah exactly so we’re trying to educate as well as have the community side of things. We agree with you it’s brilliant. Tell us what is happening with the book breaking in terms of breaking into smaller pieces.
Debbie: It is available free of charge to members. Non Members can buy it for a reasonable charge through the usual sources. But we’re going to split it down into individual chapters, and then build up each chapter into sort of a mini eBook like Kindle Single type book, which will also have specific sort of added bonus features. So with the little book on how to get onto book sellers into bookstores, there will be things like templates of producing a book information sheet. And so bits and pieces there will be more material that we’ve assembled since the book was written, the latest blog post, links to the latest blog post that will expand on the information that’s in there.
Because the eBook has a number of different chapters about very specific niches, people will pick and choose which piece they want according to what their current goal is. So somebody so having a campaign if they feel they’ve got bookstores and libraries sorted. But they really want a home and they are getting places speaking of literal festivals and they can just buy the bit with the Literary Festival information, and with sort of an expanded version of each chapter. Well the mini book, and that would also have obvious advantages and making it more discoverable for anybody outside of the organization who has not gotten involved with ALLi, hasn’t heard of ALLi yet then they will still go to find it through search engine.
Joanna: I think it’s like a brain trust you guys and what’s so great I find it brilliant is I totally admit to you not being particularly even interested in print books with bookstores, and libraries and stuff. That’s not where my interest is, but then there’s people like yourself and Piers and Karen and Orna, people who are doing this and are experts in different areas so it kind of brilliant that there are people who are doing all kinds of different things.
So whatever you are interested in there will be other people who want to do that too. And people who’re writing all kinds of books and it is a really diverse genres, and I also wanted to make sure people understand you and I are British but this is an international organization. So I don’t know if you know how many countries we have members in?
Debbie: I don’t know from the top of my head how many countries there are. We have Orna and other team members who drive. We have a meeting every fortnight. And I’m always very pleased to feel that I’m a part of a global organization and because those meeting really bring it alive because we have people joining the conversation Berlin, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, everywhere. Through the miracle that is Skype, we can do these things. But we do have growing membership in Australia, India all over Europe well everywhere really. We ought to actually have a little map. That would be fun.
Joanna: Yeah we should have a map and I think that’s what’s also exciting because it demonstrates that this is a global movement.
The indie movement really is one and for music, and film and other creative arts as well as books, really is a global thing across industry.
I think even the startup culture, the fact that millennials would much rather start their own business than work in a big corporate. I think this movement will continue and both of us hopefully be in the forefront with ALLi and in fact anyone listening as well. Since we are talking about ALLi, I will point people out to thecreativepenn.com/alliance which is my link. First of all, tell us briefly if people are interested in your flash fiction or short stories and your writing, where can people find you and your books online and your blog?
Debbie: Everything essentially on my author website about me and all this I do with links going off all directions, which is authordebbieyoung.com. And I’ve recently, it’s only just last month started a book blog as well which is separate, which is debbieyoungbook.com, a very obvious title. I like a simple life, and people can also find me on the ALLi website because I write probably one or two blog posts a month on there. But I’m no there every day looking at comments just wanting to comment and posting out new posts. We have a new information post guest post every single day. I’m on Twitter @debbieyoungbn. The bn is for by name because my blog is called Young By Name and that’s a subset on my author website.
Joanna: All right Debbie it’s been fantastic to speak with you and you are a fountain of knowledge about many of these things. So I urge people to check out your website, and that book and the Alliance of Independent Authors. So thanks for your time.
Debbie: Well thank you very much it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be part of your podcast, thank you.