Big News for Audiophiles

HRD Audio coming soonAre you a fan of audiobooks? If you are, then I have big news for you. The Harry Russo Diaries are coming to audio!

That’s right, I have just signed a deal with Tantor Media for Harry’s first three adventures. Tantor will be producing and distributing the audiobooks with Dead and Kicking set for release on September 13, 2016!

I can’t wait to hear the finished product which is being narrated by the very talented Dara Rosenberg. Check out her audio samples. I think she is a great fit for Harry. How about you?

 

Pick Your Platform, part three

The final topic I would like to speak a little about is third party distribution.

THIRD PARTY PUBLISHERS/DISTRIBUTORS

When discussing third party distributors, I’m just going to look at two, Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords. There are others out there, but I have decided to only look at these two because they are the main players. Also, even though D2D offers a distribution channel via Createspace to allow for POD, I’m only looking at these two platforms for ebook distribution. This goes back to what I said when discussing Kobo, if you can deal directly with a seller rather than use a third party, it is better for your return. Since I plan on using a POD platform directly, I won’t be using a third party distributor for printed books.

You may be asking yourself, why do I even need to use a third party if I am already planning on publishing directly with Kobo and Amazon (Kindle). Just using those two platforms does cover a large chunk of the market. But there are still a couple more possible sales avenues that I can’t get to without a third party distributor: Apple and Barnes & Noble.

B&N only allows Americans to use their NookPress (the direct method of self-publishing with them) and Apple requires files to be uploaded from a Mac (I’m a PC). Both D2D and Smashwords also offer access to other sales markets, but I think that they will be negligible for sales for me so I don’t feel it makes a difference if one has more channels than the other (as long as they both offer the same access to the big ones).

 

SMASHWORDS

Smashwords has long been the goto for self-publishing for non-Amazon (i.e. epub) ebooks and offers the widest distribution. They also have a great set of guides that you can download for free to help with editing and formatting your ebook. On average, they offer about 60% of list for your royalty.

One thing Smashwords has that D2D does not offer is a retail store that lets you sell your book directly on your own website, allowing you to earn a larger royalty (80% of list price). It’s dated though and if you ever peruse the titles available, you’ll see that Smashwords is also a haven for massive amounts of erotica/porn so if seeing your book on the new release list sandwiched between My Uncle’s Barn (a book that contains non-consent and MMF) and something called Taboo Wet Peach (I don’t even want to know), then this might not be a big selling feature.

Smashwords has both positives and negatives. On the positive side, Smashwords is free (there are some third party platforms that have set up fees and other upfront costs, although the two I’m discussing here don’t) and seems to be easy to use. Just format your manuscript following their guide (available for download for free) and then submit it to the ‘meatgrinder’, what they call their epub conversion process. This is supposed to generate your epub for you.

On the negative side, I have read comments from users that it is not as easy as it sounds and that the meatgrinder sometimes lives up to its name, grinding out a less than pleasing format for your ebook, especially if you haven’t followed their formatting guidelines to the letter. Smashwords also slaps ‘Smashwords Edition’ onto your copyright page. Not a big deal, but it does automatically identify your book as self-published and some people prefer to avoid self-published books because of a prejudice towards them. In addition, many users complain about the poor sales reporting they get from Smashwords and that Smashwords only pays out quarterly on royalties. Finally, there have also been concerns about the speed (or lack thereof) at which books get published to partner sites. One hindrance to getting full distribution of your book with Smashwords’s partners is that it must make it to their Premium Catalogue, if it doesn’t it will not be distributed beyond Smashwords own ebook store.

 

DRAFT2DIGITAL

D2D is a relative newcomer on the market, founded in 2012 and based in Oklahoma. Although it does not offer as many distribution channels as Smashwords, it does offer the top ones (B&N, Apple, Kobo and supposedly in talks with Google). It is also a free to use platform, with no upfront costs. One big positive they have over Smashwords is that they offer epub conversion from several different file types (.doc, .docx, .rtf) and they have no strict formatting requirements. They will even put together your front-end matter like your title and copyright pages. If you are like me and want to generate your own .epub, you can upload that instead as well.

D2D appears to have better sales reporting and pays royalties monthly. Like Smashwords, you get paid 60% of the list price, although they don’t have an online store for you to sell directly from your own website.

They also have great customer service. I know this for a fact because I have used it twice already, emailing questions and getting a reply often on the same business day or the next (which probably was more a result of me sending my query later in the day than a lack of service).

 

So there you go, self-publishing in a nutshell. This is by no means an exhaustive list. As I said, there are more platforms out there, but these are the ones I’m considering.

Pick Your Platform, part two

In part one, I gave you a basic overview of ebook publishing. Today I want to look at printing your book. Even if you don’t plan on offering your book in print and want to stay with ebook format only, it is nice to be able to print a physical copy of your work. Who doesn’t want a paperback of their own book sitting on their shelf?

At one time, the only option was what many called ‘vanity publishing’, a system that allowed you print out a hard or softcover book but also required you to order a minimum number of copies. Often requiring you to put out a lot of money up front. The printing landscape has changed now that print on demand is more prevalent.

PRINT ON DEMAND

For print copies of your book, print on demand (POD) is the way to go. Gone are the days where you had to order hundreds of copies of your book and hope to be able to sell them. Now you just set up your manuscript as a PDF or EPUB and upload it to a POD publishing platform and you’re set.

Amazon is a big player in the POD side of things as you would expect. Their Createspace platform allows you upload and modify your manuscript before publishing. They also offer free and paid services for editing, formatting and cover design. Once your manuscript is ready to be published, it will be made available on Amazon.com. You can set your own price although there is a minimum price in order to cover costs. Because of the added cost of printing the actual book, your royalty is much lower, just 30% of the list price (of course you would also be selling your print version for more than the ebook, so you can offset this a bit).

Uploading to the standard distribution (which pays 30% of the list) only reaches Amazon.com. This is great for Americans, but not that helpful for international writers. If you want to get your book out to the rest of the world, you have to use Amazon’s expanded distribution channel (EDC). According to Amazon, this gets your work out to the rest of the world, provided the rest of your world only includes Europe, the UK and Australia.

There are two problems with EDC. First, Amazon.ca is not included so there is no guarantee selecting it will get your book into Canada. It seems to be hit or miss, from what I have read of other writers’ experiences. Second, even if you do get your book on Amazon.ca, you will only see 11% of the list price as a royalty.

Another big player in the POD category is Ingram Content Group and their IngramSpark platform. Ingram is the world’s largest wholesale book distributor (even Amazon uses them). Their IngramSpark platform is geared towards the self-publisher and is similar to Createspace, but there are a few differences (see chart below).

CS vs IS

The big difference between Createspace and IngramSpark is that there is an upfront cost to use IngramSpark of $45 USD. There is also a yearly fee (currently $12 USD) to keep your book in their catalogue and, therefore, available for order. I haven’t actually compared a book printed by Createspace to one by IngramSpark, but supposedly, Ingram is the winner with a better print quality. They also offer the option of creating a hardcover, something you don’t have with Createspace. Finally, because Ingram has worldwide distribution with printing facilities in many countries, you can ship almost anywhere at reasonable prices and expect delivery in a reasonable time frame. Createspace falls short in the international shipping department (that Amazon mentality that the US is the only country in the world coming to play again?). One funny bit of information is that CreateSpace actually uses Ingram for international distribution so your book may end up being printed by IngramSpark even if you don’t choose that platform.

When going with a print book, you have to consider the discount cost (which is why the royalty per list price is so low). If you want your book stocked in a physical brick and mortar store, then not only does the distributor need to be paid, so does the store selling your book. This all cuts into your return of course. For example, on a $15 sale, Createspace takes $9 and you get $6. From that you need to deduct the cost of the book, which is $4.55, leaving you a profit of $1.45. From this example, you would think that the bookstores get $9, but they don’t. They don’t even get close to that. Createspace passes on about 45% of the discount to Ingram (who they use for distribution) and then Ingram takes their cut. The result is that the stores receive about 25% as a discount. That’s not enough to make them even consider stocking the book, but they will order it if a customer asks.

If you don’t care whether or not your print book ever makes it into an actual physical store (i.e. is only available online) then it pays to use IngramSpark and set your discount at 40%. This will ensure you get the most return on your book no matter where it is sold. With Createspace, you take the big hit with their EDC for international sales.  The chart below outlines this.

IS is better than EDC

Basically, IngramSpark pays you the same royalty, no matter where your book goes.  Createspace grabs back another huge chunk of your payout in order to use their EDC (which is actually so they can pay IngramSpark!).

Next time, I will talk a little about third party distribution.

Pick Your Platform, part one

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the various self-publishing platforms. There are quite a few of them out there, and, no surprise, trying to compare them, is often like comparing apples and oranges. There are a few main players though, and I thought I would take some time to give you a quick overview in a three part series.

In part one, we will look at publishing your eBook.

There are two main formats that you need to have if you want to get your ebook out to the widest audience possible: .mobi and .epub.

.MOBI

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Amazon is a big player in the self-publishing world. No surprise there really. In most ebook markets, the Kindle, Amazon’s eReader which uses the proprietary .mobi format, holds the largest market share. Most Kindle ebooks must be bought from Amazon’s Kindle store and can only be read using an Amazon device or the Amazon eReader app (provided free by Amazon for most platforms: Android, PC, etc).

Since Amazon is going to be one of the bigger sales avenue (if not the biggest) for my book in eBook form, I will certainly be publishing to Kindle. This is made simple (or at least that’s what they say, I haven’t tried it yet) using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Once your book is uploaded and published, it will be listed across the Amazon empire, including Canada (Yay!). You are able to set your own pricing and you can earn up to 70% of the list price.

.EPUB

Most of the rest of the eReaders in the world use the .epub format which is an open industry standard maintained by the International Digital Publishers Forum (IDPF). The .epub format is accepted and distributed directly by most major ebookstores, including Google, Apple’s ibookstore, Barnes and Noble and Kobo (again, Yay for Canada).

You can directly publish your .epub to Kobo using their Kobo Writing Life platform.  It seems to be pretty straightforward. You can set your own pricing and you earn 70% of the list price.

There are several third party distribution platforms that will distribute your ebook to other ebookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Apple so if you want to reach more than just Kindle and Kobo, you will probably have to look at this option as well. (There will be more information on Third Pary Platforms in part three).

Many of these third party companies will also distribute to Kobo for you, but from what I have read, if you can deal with Kobo directly you are better off doing so. Not only will it allow you to set your own prices across their various markets, you have the opportunity of taking advantage of being part of limited time sales, thus getting your book in front of more readers.

In the next instalment, I’ll look at printing your book.