Print through Barnes & Noble

I still hesitate to make the big leap and buy my own ISBNs and use IngramSpark. It’s $500+ up front for me to do that and I’m just not convinced it would pay for itself because I’m not convinced that enough bookstores would decide to order my books if I did it.

So I tried a little experiment, which was to use NOOK Press to publish a few of my books through Barnes & Noble online rather than let those books reach B&N via Amazon via IngramSpark. B&N also provides free ISBNs so it was just my own time and effort involved.

And…

One thing I do like is that I can put spine text on much skinner books than I can with Amazon. I have a lot of titles in the 80-90 page range that have no spine text through Amazon but can through NOOK Press. So that was an improvement.

The colors in the covers were more washed out looking to me for the four books where I did this.

The paper quality is lower. I could see text through the page on my black and white books and it doesn’t look like I have a choice to use their heavier paper option if I’m just doing black and white interiors.

I had adjusted the outer margin based on their specs, but the inner margin was a little tight. Not so much it warranted going through the whole process again, but enough that I’d adjust inner margins on any books going forward.

They don’t have a handy-dandy cover creator like Amazon’s so I had to make my own. Once I’d done it for each trim size it was pretty straight-forward.

I will now make more on any sales of those four paperbacks that happen through Barnes & Noble. But not as much as I make per book when sold on Amazon. For example, I have ones that sell on Amazon that pay me $5 on Amazon and $1.50 on B&N through Expanded Distribution that will  now pay me $3 for a B&N direct sale.

Expanded distribution sales have never been a significant part of my sales. And if I discount my mother bulk ordering books from B&N, they’re even less. So I’ll also be watching to see if this means more sales on B&N than before. It doesn’t get physical store placement for me. That requires more ebook sales than I’m going to have there probably ever. But I have noticed with each platform that I’ve gone direct with my ebooks that I did see a small bump in sales along with it, so we’ll see if that holds true for print as well.

If not, I probably won’t do more this way, mainly because of the paper. I just don’t like the paper being that thin and not having the option to choose to pay for a heavier paper. It’s just balanced out by the spine text for me. But just.

Print Books for Beginners is Live

Print-Books-for-Beginners-Generic

Obviously I couldn’t keep publishing a book called CreateSpace for Beginners now that CreateSpace is going away and being replaced by KDP Print. And I figured that it no longer made sense to focus on just one print distributor exclusively, especially since about 2/3 of that book related to formatting and not to one specific distributor.

So CreateSpace for Beginners is now Print Books for Beginners and is live or will be live everywhere except Google within the next few days. (I don’t publish my non-fiction to Google because of their habit of basically letting a clever person read your entire book for free.)

If you already had CreateSpace for Beginners no need to buy this one.

I did publish the print version of the book through KDP Print and didn’t have issues during the approval process although I know others have. I used the KDP Print interior and cover templates, which probably helped. They look about the same as the CreateSpace versions with the exception of the file name on the interior files. It is nice that the titles will be linked more easily since I always had to email to get my author names that used initials to link. But I’m still bitter about the extra 30 days until payment on print sales.

Once the changes to AMS settle down you can expect a new book there as well. But I’m not pulling the old one because it’s still at least 90% accurate at this point. Although note that AMS is no longer AMS it’s now Amazon Advertising and the website addresses have changed to reflect that. If you access AMS through your KDP dashboard you won’t even notice that change.

That’s self-publishing for you. You never know what will change, but you can be guaranteed something will.

I Beg to Differ

One of the challenges of self-publishing is that it’s so broad and so different that it’s almost impossible to see the whole picture and the different possibilities. Which is why I really hate absolutist advice.

I’m probably guilty of it myself from time-to-time, but I try to caveat what I say with “this is my experience” or “this is how things work for me.” And because I have books published across non-fiction, romance, and fantasy I can see that things work differently depending on what you’re publishing, which maybe helps me keep things in check a bit more.

Perhaps.

Anyway. I was at a conference this weekend and there were a few times I wanted to raise my hand and say, “I beg to differ.” I didn’t. I probably made a funny face, though.

So since this my blog, let me have those imaginary arguments here.

Debatable Point #1: You won’t really sell paperback copies as an indie.

I beg to differ. Last month I made over $1,000 on the sale of paperback books. It was almost as much as I made on Amazon US for the month. Now, is that normal? No. Absolutely not. My romance paperback sales are still under twenty copies sold ever.

But for non-fiction (in my case) and middle grade and folks who really work the convention circuit but aren’t good at online sales and for picture books and gift books, it’s quite possible to sell a good amount of paperbacks.

I even want to say I saw a romance writer on Twitter who posted a screencap that showed $30,000+ in paperback sales. (I have no idea what she sells in ebooks to have that number, but I do know my jaw hit the ground.)

So what I would say is: You are more likely to sell ebooks than paperbacks as an indie. In general. But there are definitely categories where print will sell better. And the more you sell overall, the more paperback sales you will have and that amount can add up to a pretty penny. So don’t neglect print. And don’t assume print sales aren’t possible or profitable.

Debatable Point #2: AMS Are Too Complicated and You Shouldn’t Use Them Unless You’re an Analysis Junkie

Once more, I beg to differ. Yes, you can get very analytical with them. In Excel for Self-Publishers I get obscenely analytical with them. But you don’t have to. Most days all I do with my AMS ads is check in a couple times a day to see if any have exceeded their daily budget and up the budget if they have. (I like to start all ads at $5 in spend each morning.)

When I started my last AMS ad for a new title this is what I did: It was non-fiction so I did a search on Amazon for the subject matter and listed the names of the top fifty or so books that came back in my search results plus a bunch of generic search words like the one I’d used. And then I occasionally checked in on the ad. If it wasn’t moving, I upped my bids. If it was and I was getting sales, I upped the bids for those words that were profitable, and pulled back for those that weren’t. I paused keywords with lots of impressions but no clicks and lots of clicks but no purchases.

That’s it. There you go. That’s what you do.

For fiction I would’ve used author names instead of book titles. Otherwise, it’s the same process.

Can you get a lot more in depth with your analysis? Absolutely. And I have. But 90% of the time, what I just described is all it takes. I have 20+ ads running on a daily basis and I maybe spend five minutes on them daily.

(Keep in mind, my approach to AMS is to use a single Sponsored Product ad per title that I try to keep running long-term by tweaking the ad as needed. Other approaches may be more analysis intensive.)

Debatable Point #3: You Should Only Run AMS If You Have Ten or More Books or At Least a Trilogy Completed.

I beg to differ. Look, I get the point. The more books you have for readers to go to, the better off you are and the more profitable an ad will be. A weaker first book can still result in a profitable ad if you have ten books for readers to go to afterwards. And maybe there’s an idea behind this advice that you shouldn’t be wasting your time early on with ads but should instead be building up a product base.

Fair enough. But here’s the deal: Self-publishing can be soul-destroying. You put out a book that you think is well-written. It has a nice cover. People who read it like it. But no one is buying it. Maybe three people a month. You just worked hundreds of hours on something and you think it’s good, but…sales say otherwise.

Do you know how easy it is to give up at that point? To never write that trilogy? To circle back and try to fix your “mistakes” or decide that writing is just going to have to be a hobby for you?

It’s so, so easy. I know a guy who put out a book about four years ago and set it to free because no one seemed to want it. He quit writing because why bother? And then he started running AMS ads on it. And got reviews. And switched it back to paid. And made $25,000 in less than a year on that same novel that no one had bought. Because the issue wasn’t his writing. It was visibility. People can’t read what they can’t find.

So, sure. Best practice is to wait until the last possible moment to advertise because you’ll get that much more of a bang for your buck. But in reality, sometimes those initial sales are what keep you going. And AMS is the best way I know to get long-term full-price sales. So why not try them?

And this idea of needing ten-plus books before you dive into them? Why? Because of the learning curve? It’s not that hard. Trust me.

Yes, I run ads across more than ten books, but I know many authors doing well with the ads with far fewer titles. Does it take some tweaking? Yeah. Does it take some money up front? Yep. You pay now, you get paid two months from now. But why would you not give it a try? It just makes no sense to me.