Gradually Expanding Sales Channels

I finally got listed on Barnes & Noble. That means my participation in expanded distribution is kicking in. On the one hand it’s good, because it means more options for people. The way the expanded distribution is set up, however, it means lower royalties. No matter, the point is to sell books. Not that I’m expecting to make my fortune, but getting it into the hands of others who like it is a rewarding feeling.

I also signed up to participate in Amazon Associates affiliate program. Apparently quite a few CreateSpace authors do this. It means that if someone clicks through on the book link on my blog or website and purchases the book, the associate gets a small percentage. The percentage is calculated on the entire purchase, which could be nice. For selling one to seven items through that link I can get 4%. If I sell a total of 8 items, I can get 6%. I confess I have mixed feeling about monetizing my blog, and have turned down every request for an ad or guest post I’ve received. Since this is my link, or links for products I’m pointing out to others, I’m going to give this a try. Again, no fortune, just content with every little bit that helps.

Selling Books The Long Way Around

Recently I learned about a site that will track down books from online sellers based on the book’s ISBN. The site is GetTexbooks.com. I check it occasionally for new listings of my book. I add these to my Kikobian website so folks can see their options.

The other day I found it was now listed on AbeBooks.

AbeBooks_listing

Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the price.

List price US$ 12.95
Price US$ 23.73
Shipping US$ 9.83
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.

Would anyone really pay almost double the retail price just to get it shipped from overseas when it can be printed here at home? Needless to say, I will not be adding this one to my list of “Where to buy.”

So Far So Good

It was a week ago today that I made the official announcement on my blog about the release of my book. I have to say that the response has been encouraging, humbling, exciting, and a relief. To date, I have sold a total of 38 copies; 34 through Amazon.com, 3 through Amazon.co.UK, and one through Amazon Europe, although I don’t know from which one, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy.

I have my homesteading blog to thank for those sales. Since the book is based on my blog, there is a somewhat ready-made market there. Still, it is a niche book and won’t be of interest to everyone. Even so, the feedback I’m starting to get is encouraging. I knew I wouldn’t make a lot of money at this, but my goal was to encourage others with similar interests. I tried to do this by telling our story, of our ups and downs, and what we learned from them. So much of homesteading is breaking new ground in terms of knowledge and skills. I learn a lot from others and hope others can learn a lot from me.

Besides my two wonderful reviews on Amazon (so far), I’m going to make a “What readers say” page on my publishing website. I can link to that from both this and my homesteading blog. Promoting one’s book is a huge task but makes the difference between sales or no sales. My hope is that my book has enough merit for folks to recommend it to others, gift it to others, and help spread the word.

I should mention that collecting royalties requires a minimum before they are paid out. I can’t find the exact figures for all of them, but I think it’s a minimum of $10 in royalties to receive it from Amazon US. It’s similar for the other channels, so it’s entirely possible to sell books but never get a cent for them because the royalty threshold has never been met.

Expanded Distribution: The Ins and Outs

With a few exceptions, people who write books want to sell their books. Making a fortune may not be a primary motive, but it’s a delight and encouragement to see those sales. Options for the self-publisher include selling from a website, via shows or other public gatherings, or even door to door. To reach the widest audience, however, one needs to sell through distributors. These include book selling though online book stores as well as traditional book stores (referred to as “brick and mortar”).

POD (print on demand) printers offer different ways to do this. Usually they will have a package deal of some sort. The only two I’ve looked into are CreateSpace (the publishing arm of Amazon.com), and Lightning Source Ingram. I started with CS because, as a beginner, I understood their process to be more user friendly and proofs less expensive. CS is geared toward new, independent authors. LSI, on the other hand, is geared toward professional publishers although many independent authors use their services as well. More recently, they have opened Ingram Spark as a resource for self-publishing authors. Here’s what I’ve learned about all these.

CreateSpace has no set-up fees and offers a standard distribution package for free as well. This standard package includes Amazon US and Amazon Europe (with listings on their UK, German, Italian, Spanish, and French sites), plus a CS eStore. Their extended distribution used to cost $25. Since LSI started offering Ingram Spark, the extended distribution package is now free. This puts one’s book listing in catalogues available to other online book sellers (such as Barnes & Noble), also those brick and mortar stores, big box stores, etc., plus a venue called CreateSpace Direct, for registered resellers. For those using one of CS’s own ISBNs (also free, but lists CS as the exclusive publisher) there are listings for libraries and educational institutions as well.

LSI (and Ingram Spark) has a $49 set-up fee per title. Their distribution channels (markets) include all of the above for an annual $12 per title. One advantage to these, is that the publisher can choose whether or not book stores can return unpurchased copies of their books. Of course you pay them a refund, but it does make the books available in those stores. Unfortunately, traditional book stores are not interested in self-published books, which means they probably won’t order them anyway.

The other thing retailers expect, is a wholesale discount. Obviously they cannot pay full price for a title and make a profit at that same list price. To truly entice them, this discount apparently must be at least 50%. The author’s royalties are what’s leftover after printing costs and whole sale discount have been subtracted. With LSI, the publisher sets the discount. It can be as low as 20% on up. With Ingram Spark, the wholesale discount is a mandatory 55%. With CreateSpace/Amazon, it depends upon the distribution channel.

  • Standard distribution through Amazon US or Amazon Europe – 40%
  • Standard distribution through the book’s CreateSpace eStore – 20%
  • Extended distribution – 60%

So let’s crunch some numbers. What does all these mean to me, as an independent author selling her book for a list price of $12.95? The forumla is:

list price
– printing costs
– wholesale discount
author’s royalty

Printing costs depend on several factors: size and page count, color or B&W, hard cover or soft. These vary depending upon the printer.

With CS, the printing cost for a 262, 6 x 9, black and white interior paperback book is $0.85 per book plus $0.012 per page. For my book, that comes to $3.99 printing cost per book. Plugging all that into the formula to sell on Amazon US or Europe (40% discount) …

$12.95 (list price)
– 3.99 (printing cost)
– 5.18 (40% wholesale discount)
$3.78 author’s royalty

If I sell through my own CreateSpace eStore

$12.95 (list price)
– 3.99 (printing cost)
– 2.59 (20% wholesale discount)
$6.37 author’s royalty

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Even so, most CS authors opt to direct traffic to Amazon rather than their CS eStore. Why? For several reasons: to build reviews (available only on Amazon), consumer trust in name recognition (CreateSpace who?), free shipping for orders over $35, plus folks often already have an Amazon account.

For their extended distribution

$12.95 (list price)
– 3.99 (printing cost)
– 7.77 (60% wholesale discount)
$1.19 author’s royalty

So for every book sold through someone else rather than Amazon, I’d only make $1.19 per copy.

Now let’s take a look at Ingram Spark. They calculate their printing costs for the same book accordingly – $0.90 per book plus $0.013 per page, which would be $4.31 per book. Plugging that in with the 55% discount…

$12.95 (list price)
– 4.31 (printing cost)
– 7.12 (55% wholesale discount)
$1.52 author’s royalty

Well, that still seems like peanuts, but it’s a little better than the $1.19 from CS’s extended distribution. Or is it? CS offers extended distribution for free. With Ingram Spark, I’d have the $49 title set-up plus $12 per year listing fee. That means if I make $1.52 per book,  I’d have to sell 41 copies my first year to break even (with a profit of $1.32!). Those same 41 copies through CS would have netted me $48.79. Then I’d have to sell 8 copies each year to pay for keeping my book in Ingram’s catalog listings. The only advantage might be the possibility that a couple of libraries might pick up copies for their patrons.

Is it worth it? Well, how many books do I think I can sell? I’m fortunate that I have a niche audience via my blog, because with independent self-publishing, promotion and marketing fall entirely on the author. Figures vary quite a bit, but most self-published books are said to sell less than 200 copies in their lifetime, with most of those purchased by the author her or himself, family and friends. Since my niche is not a huge market,  what can I realistically expect?

Dear Reader, what would you do if you were me?