In Your Corner: How do you get your books in bookstores?

Despite the evolution of ebooks and ereaders, as well as other changes within the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this brick-and-mortar presence, authors are able to reach readers that are passionate about books. Think about it—people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to visit a physical bookstore. Most likely, they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance of going home with them.

Campus Bookstore at University of Pennsylvania

But … how can self-publishing authors work toward getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores? Is it a matter of luck? Can we make the cut? What does that even mean?! Well, the good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a lucky streak, it’s still possible to place your book on the shelves of bookstores. You must, however, have a solid plan in place to do so. You must, for example:

  • … make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, you are requiring the bookstore to assume a great deal of risk—and many of them simply won’t be interested for that very reason. If they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year and they cannot return the extra copies to you, they lose money. If the books are returnable, though, the store can simply send the books back that don’t sell for you to find better and more successful placements. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book … and as a necessary component of setting up a healthy long-term relationship with the bookstores which will sell not just this one book, but all of your books, present and future.
  • … offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s a sufficient discount? Typically, I recommend discounting your books around 50-55% (or higher) for brick-and-mortar booksellers. Of course this does cut significantly into your profits per book, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves … and sell more books in total. No incentive? No sales.
  • … prove that your book is desirable, and has legs. This is probably the most difficult—though not insurmountable—part of brick-and-mortar sales, as authors often have a biased view of their books. The best indicator of a desirable book isn’t opinion … it’s exponential sales figures! If the amount of books you sell doubles, triples, or quadruples month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. But we’ll tackle that in a separate blog post, since it’s a whole other animal unto itself. Stick around next week for my musings on how best to reach out to reach out to the stores, once you have published your book and are on the path towards wrapping up your publicity campaign!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 7.4.2016

happy 4th of july independence day

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

Here in the United States, we’re busy celebrating the hard work done by many people all over the world to ensure our freedoms, and planning how best to continue that work in the years to come. Now, we know it’s not Independence Day for everyone–and that many still live in poverty and even in modern forms of slavery–but we hope that what we do here on this blog every day throughout the year contributes, in some small way, to building hope and cultivating the conviction that independent thought and action is something to be admired, and supported.

And now for the news!

This week in the world of self-publishing:

This June 30th article by Catherine Dunn for Digital Book World continues a series being published to that website regarding the ins and outs of the self-publishing experience.  The whole series, as we mentioned last week, is worth checking out and exploring–it’s packed with insight and thoroughly researched–but this week’s is perhaps more pertinent than ever, given that the topic is marketing.  (And we really like talking about Marketing here on Self-Publishing Advisor, if you haven’t noticed!)  This week, Dunn taps into some of the fundamentals of the marketing process: getting reviews, getting creative, leveraging social media and giveaways to meet your needs, how to watch your budget while marketing, how to keep the momentum going, and what to do next once you launch your book into the “real world”.  All in all, it’s a tightly packed little essay on the process of marketing for indie and self-publishing authors, with a good dollop of common sense and a large serving of innovative thought.  But what else would we expect from Digital Book World?  We love those guys.  They’re awesome.  You can read the original article here.

This piece by Caitlin Rosberg went live on The A.V. Club on June 30th as well, and from its title you might have guessed that it has a little something to do with the world of self-published comics–a growing market niche we’ve commented on here and there at Self-Publishing Advisor in months past.  According to Rosberg, our attention has been well-allocated, since changing the way comics are published (or at the very least, providing a viable “other way” for them to be published) benefits everyone involved in the self-publishing industry, from authors to illustrators to readers.  Spurred by her dissatisfaction with this year’s Eisner list of award nominees–none of which were self-published, for reasons we’ve discussed elsewhere (*coughcoughSTIGMAcoughREPUTATIONcough*)–Rosberg unveils a few of her favorite self-published comics as well as the ways in which they’re changing the comic landscape.  She drops a lot of names (Smut Peddler, anyone?) and her points hit home.  To read the full article, drop on by The A.V. Club article here.

What we have here may be something less than an article and something more along the lines of a press release, but it’s big news nonetheless: on June 28th, Barnes & Noble declared several groundbreaking (and ground-shaking) changes to its lineup of products and services.  The main event is the unveiling of NOOK Press, which B&N is launching in order “to provide NOOK Press authors with an easy-to-use, self-service program that enables them to create hardcover and paperback books for customer purchase.” The new platform will allow eligible NOOK Press authors (conditions apply) to “have the opportunity to sell their print books at Barnes & Noble stores across the country on a local, regional or national level, and online at BN.com. Authors can also qualify for the opportunity to participate at in-store events including book signings and discussions, where they will be able to sell their print books and meet fans.”  There’s a lot to chew on here, but the moral of the story seems to be: if Amazon does something for half a decade and finds success, maybe it’s time to take note and jump on a similar train.  To read the full press release, follow the link!
happy 4th of july independence day


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part V––iPads )

I started off this series by examining the Kindle, and then the NOOK, and then the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  This week, I’m going to take a (quick) look at the whole suite of Apple products that have by and large eroded any hold the dedicated e-reader held over the general reading public.  I’m talking about the computers you carry around in your pockets and backpacks, the mobile forward operating bases and command centers of your life, the little devices that have had a big impact on how we interpret our lives and arrange our days: the iPhone and the iPad.  Apple manufactures laptops, too, though making room for more traditional computers in this conversation might lengthen it to a mere century or two in length.  You might say that I could “talk for hours” about the changing role of the home or personal computer in everyday life.  I’m just going to allude to the fact that you can use an Apple Air or its predecessors to read e-books, using the same apps you might use on your mobile device.

It’s possible. It’s just that a laptop tends to not be the preferred device for most consumers who own more than one kind of Apple device.  And there are a lot of people who own multiple Apple devices.  In 2012, USA Today reported that roughly half of American households had at least one Apple product.  And the numbers didn’t end there; the article also stated that: “Americans don’t stop with just one device. Homes that own least one Apple, own an average of three. Overall, the average household has 1.6 Apple devices, with almost one-quarter planning to buy at least one more in the next year.”  And that was in 2012!  And when it comes to the iPad specifically, there’s even more reason to be hopeful: according to a report from the Stamford Advocate (drawing upon a longer piece for the Business Insider)  that’s so hot off the press it might smudge if you even look at it, Apple Inc just reported its quarterly earnings and the outlook for iPads remains good, despite a slight decline in total global tablet sales.  The Stamford Advocate’s Jay Yarow records Apple’s CEO Tim Cook as saying: “70% of people planning to buy a tablet plan to buy an iPad, per [a] ChangeWave survey.”  Seventy percent!  And that’s on top of the 200+ million units sold prior to 2014.  So, in summary … there are a lot of iPads out there, and there will be plenty more, as Apple continues to dominate the tablet market.

steve jobs with ipad

But what does this mean for you as an indie, hybrid, or self-publishing author?  Do people really use iPads the way they would use dedicated e-readers like Kindles and NOOKs?  As illustrated by this article for PC Magazine, the matter of what constitutes a dedicated e-reader and how it’s different from a tablet like the iPad has grown steadily more confusing.  Everyone more or less admits that they like the look and feel of the dedicated devices (which eschew backlighting, making for a more comfortable experience) but they are more likely to purchase a tablet like the iPad because of its versatility.  An iPad can simply do more, the general opinion runs, even though many devices like the new Kindle have a whole suite of apps a la tablet, and many tablets (including the iPad) have Kindle apps to sync a person’s reading experience via the Cloud.

In theory, it would be entirely possible to own a Kindle, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook laptop, and move seamlessly from one device to another, picking up on one where you left off on the other––including if you happen to be listening to an audiobook version on your iPhone and use the WhisperSync function.  WhisperSync means you no longer have to worry about trying to find your place, even if you’re switching back and forth between reading and listening to a given book.  (Have I mentioned that I “nerd out” over technological innovations like this?  Ones that actually make life easier?  I do.  Often.)

So, yes, people really do use their iPads as their primary reading devices, in part because they’re so easily integrated into a larger “reading experience” as designed and made possible by Apple’s entire product line.  And because the iPad runs on an app-based (or “application-based”) operating system, you as an author need to know how best to make your books discoverable to the average iPad user.  Consider this list by ZDNet of top ebook apps as downloadable through the App Store:

  1. iBooks (Apple’s own signature e-reading app)
  2. Amazon’s Kindle app
  3. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Library app
  4. The Kobo Books app
  5. The Google Play Books for iPad app
  6. The Bluefire Reader for iPad app

… and it’s worth noting, before even discussing the pros and cons of each app, that all of these apps are downloadable for free through the App Store, even if the content for them must be subscribed to, purchased, or loaned (in the case of both Bluefire and the Overdrive Media Console app, which are favorites of many public libraries which offer downloadable ebooks in addition to their physical lending collections).  Books with half a century under their belts are (for the most part) available under Public Domain, and many of these classics are available for free in a variety of formats.

Now, don’t get me wrong, but even while all of this is great news for readers, it doesn’t necessarily make for light work for you, the indie author.  Why?  Because, with so many reading app options easily available on the iPad, the chances of readers discovering your work diminishes with every app your book is not available through.  Not to mention, you probably want to make a profit, so a library’s free ebook loaning system doesn’t benefit your bottom line at all––unless readers run out of time and end up purchasing a copy in order to finish (which does, on occasion, happen).  In summary, it’s a good idea to cover all of your bases and not just the “big three” of ebook sales (Amazon, Apple, and B&N).  Google Play has been on the uptick ever since its creation as the primary sales conduit to devices running Android operating systems, but now it’s emerging as a contender for iPad owners as well, after the development of an attractive and intuitive app for iPads.  The Kobo Books app and the Adobe Reader app should also be kept in mind––many readers enjoy the streamlined experience of opening .PDF files with the Adobe Reader app, so you should not rule out offering a .PDF download of your book through some online retailer or your own personal website.  Basically, the more places a reader is likely to see your book, coupled with more ways and editions and formats in which it can be downloaded, the more likely that reader is to spend hard-earned currency on purchasing your book.  Balancing expense (of time, energy, and money) against discoverability is, perhaps, one of the trickiest of self-marketing arts that you must master––but you’re not alone.  We’re here to help, and to be a sounding board for your own strategic plan!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part III )

Did you know that Barnes & Noble sells an e-reader?  If you haven’t stopped by one of their brick and mortar stores in the last few years, you might never have known.  This is because the tablet in question never quite got the sales momentum that its primary rivals, the Kindle and the iPad, had automatically built in.  (More on that in a moment.)  And the NOOK, as Barnes & Noble has dubbed their creation, already seems to be on the way out.  I stopped by a Barnes & Noble while driving through central Montana, and … gone are the enormous beautiful displays, the wide sweeps of banners and posters emblazened with larger-than-life-size images of the tablet, its logo, and cheery recommendations on what ebook to read next.  It looks as though we’re back to basics when it comes to our favorite (by default, since it’s our only) big brick and mortar bookstore!

But what about the NOOK?  Should you as an author care about the rise and fall of this non-gargantuan piece of technology?  The short answer is yes.  The reasons why can never quite be summarized as a “short answer,” but I’ll do my best to stick to the important bits.

William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble, holds up the new Nook Tablet at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York

The first NOOK was launched in October 2009, almost exactly six years ago.  By 2011, the NOOK had captured approximately 13.4% of the total global market share for e-reading devices.  But as 

The NOOK store still does brisk business.  This is in part because readers still love a good physical book in hand, and B&N is now the only large remaining bookseller, and therefore it has both a solid built-in captive audience for its internal promotions.  It may also be attributable in part to the parent company’s deft hand at package deals and perqs.  (If you bring your NOOK into a B&N store, you have free access to their entire ebook collection while there!  Who knew?  Not me, until I started researching for this blog post!)  Here are the numbers according to number-crunching website Statista.com:

NOOK sales according to Statista

As you can see, NOOK sales are certainly, shall we say, “plunging.”  But Statista still reports approximately $263.8 million dollars in sales for 2015 to date, and that’s not an insignificant percentage of the total ebook market.  The real concern, for you as an indie or self-published author, is whether any of those sales translate into profits for authors outside of the traditional Big Five publishing houses.  And that data simply isn’t available, though anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the NOOK store is not the most profitable place to publish your ebook.  Which is not to say that it’s not a worthwhile place … however, it’s far more likely you’ll connect with a greater number of new readers through the Amazon Kindle store or through Apple’s iTunes/iBooks interface.  This is because most search engines and indexing algorithms will promote results in these two digital stores over that of Barnes & Noble, for whatever reason (and there may be several reasons, some shady and some legitimate, and some mere rumors).  And although Kindle sales have fallen and tablet sales seem to have plateaued across the entire global market, Amazon and Apple have both proven innovative and flexible enough to roll with the punches, and their devices have held up better to changing market demands.

Half of your job as a self-published author is to tackle matters of self-promotion and marketing with the business acumen of an entire PR department and the ruthlessness of a CEO.  Is a strategy proving ineffective?  On the chopping block it goes.  Is one particular edition of your book not selling?  Out the window, sayonara.  Is a social media platform or blogging interface sucking up more of your time than seems worthwhile when balanced against outreach to new readers?  It may be time to refocus.  This is why it’s so vital that you know what’s going on with the NOOK before you decide whether or not you want to pay a hybrid publishing company to publish or spend hours of your own time agonizing over the creation of an ebook edition to sell on the NOOK Store.  If your book is already moderately successful, you may find that it helps round out your total bundle of offerings.  But if you’re just starting out and you don’t have much of a budget, you may want to stick with options that are guaranteed failsafes.

Don’t despair for the NOOK.  Just don’t be sucked into thinking that, just because Barnes & Noble has been around a long time (and now enjoys a certain kind of monopoly over the physical bookstore market), readers will pay back your investment in the NOOK store with any kind of enthusiasm.  As the ebook and ereader markets mature, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: more iterations of the same device will not equate to more ebooks sold and read.  In fact, readers are turning back in droves to the physical book … and that’s not such a bad thing, in the long run.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.